SuicaEng vs Suica App Reviews and UI Design

App Store user reviews are not always about the app. They also reveal problems users are dealing with that might not have anything to do with the app itself. The differences between the SuicaEng and Suica app reviews on the US App store are an interesting example of that.

The reviews are less about the apps and more about using Apple Pay Suica and issues they have with it. In retrospect it would have been better if JR East had released SuicaEng app instead of the full Suica app on App stores outside of Japan for people who just wanted to add Suica to Apple Pay. Why didn’t Apple and JR East just put a ‘Create Suica’ option button in Wallet and be done with it? There’s a downside with too many choices.

As the negative Suica App reviews make clear, more choices and functionality confuses users. Good UI design should only show what the user needs to see at any given moment. It’s a design issue covered extensively by Ken Kocienda in his excellent book Creative Selection when he was creating the iPad software keyboard.

In this case it comes back to Apple Pay Region settings, filtering out unnecessary choices and eliminating potential problems. If you live in America and want to add a Hop card on Apple Pay after it becomes available this summer, which Add > Card Type screen is less confusing? A bunch of choices that have nothing to do with the country a user lives in might look cool but are an invitation to trouble, like the negative Suica App reviewer who deleted $150 worth of prepaid balance but doesn’t know how to retrieve it. Clutter means user confusion and potential problems.

China transit cards can created in Wallet without using an app, so why does Suica require one? JR East played it safe by keeping virtual card creation on a separate app the user has to download, even though the feature could have implemented in Wallet. Doing it in an app also has the bonus of less complication by doing away with Region settings. Until Apple Pay Wallet comes up with a better way to add virtual cards from different regions without a Region setting, I think one time use apps like SuicaEng make sense, and keep support issues at a minimum.

I also like weird ‘SuicaEng’ app name. Most people assume that it’s just Japanese using weird English, but it’s a very conscious choice that has nothing to do with English ability. Japanese language loves to condense things and Suica + English = SuicaEng immediately sets the app apart from the full featured Suica app, while playing on the odd similarity: you can guess what the app is about without knowing anything about it. Most of all, the strange name keeps it memorable. After seeing it, you’ll never forget it.

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