Challenge 7 of 52: RoketSMS

This week entry is a bit different. Rather than describing design flaws around me and the proposed solution, this time I'll share about a project Abi Dzar and I work on. This week we released RoketSMS - a simple SMS marketing system. We rolled out to those who had pre-registered the week before.

What brings us to create this particular web app? Isn't there already a lot of SMS and marketing apps out there? Why SMS?

One strong drive that leads us to create this web app is the increasing frenzy of Internet companies to find and manipulate choke points. Facebook had flexed its muscle in monetizing the choke point. On average, only 10% of a FB Page fan will see any new updates. Need more reach? Pay Facebook.

Gmail also starts to follow suit by introducing the Promotions tab - a feature dreaded by email marketers. Open rates are down and adding salt to the injury is Google's audacity to sneak ads that looks like email right in the Promotions tab.

Apart from direct mail, SMS seems like the only convenient and affordable solution. Robo-calls are also available but I think that's too annoying to be an effective marketing medium.

So we set out to build a web app that help to collect mobile phone numbers and then send SMS broadcast to those who signed up. My experience with email marketing software such as Aweber and GetResponse reminds me to keep things simple. Businessmen and marketers wnated to connect directly with customers, not to be bogged down with bloated software.

Thus, our project is modeled after TinyLetter, effectively making the concept of RoketSMS as TinyLetter for SMS. This app is extremely simple, no autoresponder, no segmentation, no nothing - which is actually a good thing.

With no outside funding, Abi Dzar coded the web app during his free time. Marketing started in earnest after the Eid holidays and after 10 days (or so) we are open for users. 

That's our story so far, if you read Malay head to for more in-depth story on this project. 

See you guys next week.

Challenge 6 of 52: Toll Gate Jam

Living in Klang Valley, means that I regularly pass through tolls. I can face up to 5 toll gates crossing from my parents-in-law place to the city centre. Thus, I also see the same pattern again and again. All the cash lanes are clogged up, some people at the TnGo lane and a few passing through SmartTag lane.

At first, I thought this pattern is only applicable to interstate travels where people can't easily buy and reload TnGo cards. But then I see the same pattern in inner city toll gates. Most glaring example is Ampang Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway. The toll fee is only RM1.50 but why on those commuters put up with the slow cash lane everyday?

True, the SmartTAG is expensive. At RM120, it's a luxury item for many low to medium low income earners. They are better off using that money to fill up their small cars full twice rather than splurging on a gadget that help them pass through the toll gates faster.

How about TnGo card? It's only RM10 and the minimum reload amount is RM10. Sadly, the economics of surviving with a meagre salary in a big city means that is also quite out of reach.

What's the solution then?

  1. Give the TnGo card for free with a purchase of RM10 reload
  2. Lower the minimum reload amount to RM5
  3. Make it easier to reclaim credit if the card is lost
  4. Add more outlet to buy and reload cards
  5. Discount for using TnGo

Moral of the story - if you have a TnGo card and a SmartTAG you are rich.  What more if you have two active cards. At the very least you are richer than many people in Kuala Lumpur.

Challenge 5 of 52: Medication Compliance

For this Eid Mubarak edition of the challenge, I'll feature a UX Innovation by my cousin. This week had been chock full of travels and I barely have time to post this entry. Conveniently, one of my cousin is on duty this festive season and posted what she did on Facebook.

Let's jump straight to the problem. Patient medication non-compliance is a persistent issue in health. It presents in various forms such as irregular dosage, skipped dosage, or not taking the medicine at all. It is critical especially for medications to manage hypertension. I once followed my father to do medical outreach in the rural area and almost the whole day is spent on consulting patient one by one how to really take their medicine.

It's convenient to point the finger to patient's lack of discipline but medication instruction are also partly responsible for this inefficiency. The instruction are opaque and don't reflect the real requirement. For example, what most medication require is for patient to take it at a regular interval (8 or 12 hours) with a full or empty stomach. 

However, most medicine come with instruction simply stating 2 times daily after meal. Usually, this will lead the patient to take it after lunch and dinner. However, the real requirement is to take it every 12 hours. So the real time should be 8am and 8pm - not 12 pm and 8pm!

My cousin took the initiative to graphically spell out the time it need to be taken. Patient can now clearly know the required interval. She even went further to individually pack each dosage. This way, the patient's caretaker can easily see whether he complied or not.

Challenge 4 of 52: LRT Ticketing Machine

Well, back to LRT again for the fourth design challenge. I didn't take the LRT everyday but I'll take one whenever possible especially when going to the city centre. On average I'll take one round trip per week.

Usually I'll use the TnGo and rarely have to contend with the ticketing machine. But then when you think about it for a moment, who's really using the machine anyway? Most likely it's not the daily commuters but tourists (international and local) and locals who usually get around by private vehicle. Simply put, the machine is to be used by those who are unfamiliar with both the machine in particular and the LRT service in general.

Let's check out the machine:

There's the touch screen, coin slot, card reader, and the rest. Not forgetting the LED scrolling display on top as well.

The focus today is on the screen and the map displayed. It is capable of interactivity but somehow underutilized. It even lacks audible and haptic feedback when tapping on the buttons.

The map is also unhelpful to unfamiliar users. It only display the station names and interchanges but no context whatsoever. People wanted to go to a specific place to shop, meet friends or do business not just going to a particular station.

For example somebody might want to go to KLCC Mosque. For those unfamiliar with the route might assume they need to get off at KLCC station. The truth is it is nearer to Ampang Park station compared to KLCC station.

So what's a better screen should look like? I propose that when the user click on a particular station, it will zoom in and show relevant landmarks around the station. That will give a better sense of direction and context to users. 

Why just stop at landmarks? It is also possible to display ongoing events. Many people will take the LRT to go to exhibitions, conferences and concerts. In fact, they'll even come by the bus loads! The more they came, the more the confusion so every little bit of help matters.

On a side note, I've supervised a simple solution for a similar problem in Penang. Knowing that the Armenian Street heritage area lacks pedestrian map, my mentees came up with a prototype and install it on site. Here's a video of the little experiment.

That's it for now, we'll return to LRT 'problem' again in the future. Wish you guys a joyful Eid next week. I'll try to do a posting next week but no promise since I'll be busy traveling across states.
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