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Usually more extended thoughts by Michael Camilleri.

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I’m at a loss as to why some electronic user experiences in Japan are so great and some are so terrible.

Contradictions in Japanese User Experiences

It would be trite to begin an article about a Westerner’s experiences in Japan by saying something like ‘Japan is a land of contradictions’. But, damn it, Japan is a land of contradictions. There are well-trodden fields where this observation has been made many times over and catching the train home today it occurred to me that electronic user experience (E-UX)1 can be added to the list.

E-UX in Japan is a total crapshoot. At the most egregious end of the scale are Japanese banks. In the year of our Lord 2018, not one of the three banks with which I have an account has a mobile app that allows me to check my balance and transfer funds. Not one. Were it not for Moneytree, I’m not sure how I’d survive.

On the other end, is Mobile Suica. This electronic stored value card is rock solid and works across every form of transport I can ride or hail in Tokyo. It does clever things like recognising when I exit one station to catch a train at a different station so that I’m not charged as much as if I were taking two completely separate trips.

What explains this? Why is the experience with hardware so much superior to the experience with software? What are they serving in the cafeterias of Japanese transport companies that they’re not serving in the cafeterias of Japanese banks? I’d love to know. ✺

  1. The term ‘user experience’ is a term so potentially broad that it could conceivably cover everything from a vending machine to a trip to a remote hot spring. Since I’m discussing the experience of a user interacting with an electronic device, I’ll refer it to by the ugly abbreviation E-UX.