Category Archives: Reading Responses

Reading Response – Sidewalk City


This reading delves into the intricacies which lie when cities plan to redevelop their existing spaces. City planners and government bodies have to carefully evaluate and balance the scale to conduct the redevelopment process. The dilemma comes when they have to choose between heritage and progress. To what extent should they sacrifice each aspect?

In this reading, the author, Annette Miae Kim describes her experience living in Ho Chi Min City and how she and the locals view and interact with sidewalks. As HCMC is a developing country, the traffic infrastructure has not been redesigned to face the influx of vehicles. Street vendors are quintessential in providing the HCMC experience as it is where the spirit of the city lives. People from all walks of life turn to street vendors as the source for their meals and it has been embedded in Vietnamese culture, to the extent where it becomes almost a symbol for Vietnam. Because of this culture, many people depend on sidewalks for their survival, operating their businesses along these streets. As plans and laws roll out in hopes to revamp the streets of HCMC to make way for wider and less congested roads to facilitate smoother traffic, these laws leave the locals who make their living off these streets in disarray as their livelihood is now at stake. Strict laws prevent vendors from operating on busy streets because of spatial concerns and thus, forcing them to leave the trait.

As a result, the essence of Vietnamese culture is slowly disappearing as these vendors are forced to evict from their spaces. Streets are becoming less vibrant and bustling, and locals and tourists alike are greeted with monotonous streets and inaccessible buildings. Locals have adapted to sell their goods through their vehicles, however, this would only benefit a select group of vendors, namely ones selling non-perishable goods.


This reading has made me consider the lengths to which our Singapore government has implemented such a strategy. How did we find the balance (if we ever did) and to what extent was it successful? Stories of my parents enjoying food which was along the streets of their old houses, and how locals and store owners would interact with each other to form a personal bond. All these were uniquely Singapore experiences, but how has it changed through the years? For one, the government created a localised venue to house all of the food vendors and owners who were affected by the urbanisation of roads. These localised places are now known as hawker centres and coffee shops. Singapore has not removed all of these places as street vendors still exists at places such as lau pa sat market. I would say that our government managed to strike a good balance in terms of redeveloping our sidewalks as the essence of hawkers can still be felt, while also paving the way for economic development.

The Design of Everyday Things – Reading Response

I view this book as the gateway into the world of User Experience and design. It gives us – budding designers a glimpse of the problems which consumers face when dealing with day to day interactions. Be it physical objects and apparatus, or using software or complex hardware, we as designers have to ensure that what we create has to be as intuitive and as easy to use, much like how we would use it.

This reading encapsulates human centered design as it covers the main components which make up a good user experience. A user’s experience can range from the sense of touch, sight, smell and sound, which would be covered with more depth along the reading.

“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible, serving us without drawing attention to itself. Bad design, on the other hand, screams out its inadequacies, making itself very noticeable.”

We begin with breaking down the elements which make a good design and user experience.

Firstly, affordance – it refers to the relationship between a physical
object and a person.  Affordance is the immediate response an individual receives when they first interact with an object. The user may intuitively be able to use the object based on interactions with similar objects in the past. These can be as simple as a bottle cap, a door handle or a light switch. However, as the design of these simple mechanisms can change, and when that happens, it disrupts any form of perception the user may have of the product.

A good example of this disruption would be bottle caps used on containers which store medication. These caps require the user to push down on the lid before applying the twisting motion to open the container. This disruption is especially useful when it comes to preventing children and toddlers from accessing the contents of the container. However, an additional signifier would be required to inform the users of the additional feature which this cap contains.

Other example would be sliding or folding doors. These can often disrupt the user as they would be unsure what direction would be needed to operate the door. This is especially confusing if the hinges of the door is not visible, thus the user would not be able to deduce the direction needed to open the door.  In many of these cases, when there is a deviation from conventional design, and additional signifier would be required.


Signifiers – they are there to fill up the gaps where affordances may lack. They provide additional information to the user on how to operate a product or mechanism. This would often come in the form of texts or images, targeting the confusion users may face. Signifiers can also be incorporated into the design by considering the size or colour of different segments of the object.

For example, colours can be used to draw attention to a specific part of an object. Whether or not it is to deter users from accessing or interacting with that area, or it could encourage users to interact with it depends on the choice of colour and it would also be subjective to the object.

This water hose is an example of colours and shapes being used as signifiers for the usability of an object. The red would highlight the importance of that handle, while the cut out of the device would signify that it could accommodate a hand.

Mapping & feedback are especially important when it comes to designing complex systems such as control consoles or a website. Mapping refers to the linking of a control or adjustment feature to an object. This could be light switches or the buttons on a steering wheel – whereby, due to the various number of potential outcomes which could happen in an event of pushing these buttons, it is important that the user is able to identify the result of pushing any of these buttons.

Feedback is often overlooked in designing these systems as it signifies to the user that the interaction is successful. It completes the experience for the user and leaves them with a peace of mind that the task is complete. More often than not, when we do not receive any feedback from an interaction, it is common for us to continue interacting with the object till some form of acknowledgement can be seen. Feedback can be in the form of sounds such as a beep. Sight, which could include information displayed on screen or a small LED lighting up. The sense of touch can also be used through vibrations. Companies are starting to better utilise the vibration motors in phones introducing the feature of haptic feedback for interactions such as, typing on the keyboard or sending a text message.

Overall, I find myself becoming more critical and analytical to my surroundings. These skills can be transferable from the physical world to digital when it comes to designing an interactive site or application as these minute details would further enhance the experience of the user when they interact with the page. I must understand that when I design a system, I must ensure that despite it being usable to me, it may not hold true for others as functionality and affordance can differ from people.




Chipchase Reading response

The image Chipchase portrays on our daily lives leaves you wondering, how much of user experience and design has influence on our daily routines? Terms such as centre of gravity, we treat it as a spatial mnemonic device whereby we naturally gravitate towards when we are in search of essential objects vital to be able to function in society, such as our keys which give access to where we store our valuables, our wallet as it contains forms of identification, money as well as our various cards. Lastly, we have our mobile phones which is crucial for communicating with our peers, however, the functionality of our mobile phones has grown in leaps and bounds to encapsulate a much larger ecosphere outside of communication.

However, sometimes our spatial mnemonic devices may fail and we could forget to bring essential items along with us. To counter this, we have a failsafe which aims to eliminate the case in an event where we may have neglected our key belongings. This is called the point of reflection, where individuals perform a mental checklist of our valuables, most often before we leave the range of the centre of gravity. The point of reflection is not only limited to our physical belongings, but can also come as the form of checking of required balances for our cards, storage spaces in our digital media. It is intriguing to view this as a point of reflection as it functions the same way where we view our physical belongings. We would not want to travel on public transport without sufficient balance as it would involve inconveniences such as being rejected at the terminal. 

As much as we would want this event to be avoided,  it is impossible to completely eliminate the possibility of such an event happening. Thus, we carry redundancies such as a spare to avoid facing a situation like this as we would always have a backup in an event of a failure.

Undoubtedly the most important concept brought up by Chipchase was the range of distribution. How far would you allow your belongings to stray away from you?  There are many factors which would affect the range, primarily the physical properties of the space, familiarity, presence of familiar people, density of strangers, social activities engaged nearby and general cleanliness of the area. However, this is not only limited to physical objects, as in the digital realm, the range of distribution changes as you are able to make changes to your virtual surroundings almost immediately. Lets say you are uncomfortable with your assets being placed in a certain bank, you can simply transfer your money in an instant. Thus, you can manage multiple strings at once when things become digital. This accessibility and convenience is what makes technology so amazing as the range distribution is much more personal and we do not have to worry about unnecessary redundancies such as  being in the wrong environment when managing our belongings.

The information disseminated through this reading has a plethora of applications, such as web design. Using concepts such as a centre of gravity to give the user a sense of familiarity when viewing a new page encourages the user to be more comfortable with the lay out, allowing them to explore the page with more ease. Another concept that can be applied is the point of reflection. By having such a feature implemented in your web, you are able to give the user a sense of assurance that whatever they may have accomplished in your website has not gone to waste and is always readily available for them. This is crucial feedback to allow ensure the retention of the users of your website. Something as simple as showing the number of items you have in your online cart is a sufficient feedback to show a point of reflection.