Sunday, April 17, 2011

Technology Trends: Square and UI innovation

I personally think Square (https://squareup.com/) is doing a good job building an attractive product. What are they doing? Changing the way people pay (or receive money, to be precise).




I've been seeing the product many times on news and few times in real life, and seems that it's getting some traction. It is now processing more than $1M every day as of Mar 2 2011.
And why do I think it's cool? There are three things.


1. It's a User Interface innovation for the payment world
People usually don't associate user interface or user experience innovation to the payment. Payment doesn't sound sexy. But, take a look at the video below. You plug in a small gadget to the earphone jack of your iPhone/Android, enter the amount and swipe a credit card. It's a super-easy, sleek way for making transaction with credit cards. Recent hits in tech world show that UI/UX matters a lot. Very intuitive, easy-to-use, sleek interface attracts people. Square is making personal credit card transaction an order of magnitude easier.
Also, I think the physical interaction of swiping the card makes a lot of difference. Unlike paying online by pressing buttons, the experience is intuitive and feels real.


2. It's enabling what was impossible before
If I (an individual who doesn't have a cash register) want to accept a credit card payment, what option was possible a year ago? Nothing. I could use paypal, but it's a lot of hassle for the payer. What if the payer doesn't have an account? What if the payer doesn't have a smartphone?
With Square, you can make the transaction right there immediately. This opens up tons of new possibilities for individuals.


3. Unique idea of using the earphone jack as the hardware interface
Inventor of the stereo audio jack would never imagined that the interface will be used for processing signals for credit card payment. The audio jack is ubiquitous. All smart phones have one, and all of them work in the same way. Using it for interfacing a hardware is a very smart idea.


Having said that, I'm not using it for my personal transactions yet, because the transaction fee of 2.75% is too much for personal use. Still, I think it's quite useful for really small businesses or receiving payments at conferences etc.


As the last note, we could think beyond this particular case. Thinking about making experience drastically easier in something currently painful is one way of creating a new idea, I think.



# This post shares my personal view on technologies, and does not represent opinions of any organizations I belong.

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