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Challenge 9 of 52: Pedestrian Bridge

Every week, the source of inspiration for the assignment keep changing. I rarely read physical newspapers these days but since my father-in-law regularly buys them so I still stumble upon it. An article few weeks back clearly grabbed my attention.

The headline screams “Need for pedestrian ‘map'” and “Pedestrians fear for safety on deserted bridges”. Furthermore, the image featured shows a familiar sight – the pedestrian bridge that connects from Ampang Park LRT to The Intermark. I saw it every time I exit the LRT to get to the virtual office space at Troika. 

So, let’s address the complaints highlighted in headlines. First, “Need for pedestrian ‘map'”. I don’t know why the journalist put air quotes for pedestrian map. It is a legitimate map, even though it is for pedestrian use and not for drivers
I decided to check out the newly opened Jaya Grocer at The Intermark and buy a head of Iceberg Lettuce. My starting point is the Ampang Park LRT and end at level 2 of The Intermark. There’s a sign pointing to Doubletree by Hilton at the start of the route. Seems good, but unfortunately that’s the lone sign I encounter along the way.

Since I’ve been to The Intermark, it’s not a problem for me to get to the supermarket. After buying the lettuce, I immediately head back to The Troika. There’s no signboard on the way back either. In fact, I saw a tourist asking the security guard for direction. 
The solution? Well, just draw up a map and print it out! Show the route and the landmarks. Here’s my sketch below.

With the first complaint busted, let’s move on to the next one – “Pedestrians fear for safety on deserted bridges”. How deserted is the pedestrian bridge? When I went to the supermarket, there’s hardly any people and I can count them with my fingers. However, on the way back it’s a different scenario as it’s already lunch time. Throngs of workers ply the bridge in both direction to go to eat. There’s definitely good food on both side of the bridge.

Deserted bridge
During lunch hour
So, the real complaint is that the pedestrian bridge is deserted outside peak hours (eg; start and end of office hours, plus lunch hours). As I stated earlier, there’s already a security guard stationed half way along the route. That helps a bit, but not by much.

A tourist asking the guard for direction
What really qualifies as deserted? In the documentary Urbanized, a space of 100m by 100m is the maximum dimension that is comfortable for human cognition. Bigger than that, it is perceived as too wide open and invites a feeling of vulnerability. 
The route is L-shaped and each side is roughly 50m long. Thus, it is only 50m by 50m – half (or is quarter?) of the said maximum area. Perhaps, this perception is relative. Compared to other spaces around the bridge it is by far the widest expanse of area. 
The solution? One option is to divide the lane with signboards – it can display maps or advertisements. At least it will cut the perception of vastness on one side of pedestrian field of vision and bring it to a more manageable level.  A more expensive option is to enclose the bridge with tinted glass similar to the one that link KLCC to Pavilion. It’s a longer route but didn’t feel quite as vulnerable as the Ampang Park – The Intermark route. 
I’m looking forward to next week as it will be the 10th challenge. Personally, seeing the number cross over to double digit is a great breakthough. It also meant that I’m almost 20% through. 
If you have any product, service or outlet that need some UX insight, I’m glad to offer a free one hour consulting and feature the proposed solution in this blog. Just email me at [email protected] for further info.

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.

Challenge 1 of 52: Emergency Instruction

To kick this year long challenge, I pick this humble emergency fire extinguisher notice. I found this in the LRT when I’m meeting up the Tandemic team to go to Penang. I always thought of doing something with the LRT for the first challenge so this is will be a good start.

This particular notice draws me for several reason. First, is the extreme condition when you actually need to depend on this particular instruction. If you need to follow it then there’s something burning in the LRT. Gasp, it might even be the LRT itself. Considering the fact that you are in a confined space make facing a fire in an LRT a nightmarish proposition indeed. So a clear instruction and a working fire extinguisher will be a welcome relief.

This bring us to the second point which if you see closely, there’s a non-instruction among the three steps. No. 2: Alarm will SOUND. What does that supposed to mean? It’s interesting to note that the Malay version doesn’t capitalize ‘berbunyi’. Sound is not an action for you to take. You are only supposed to pull the handle and remove the extinguisher.

But then, not telling ahead the alarm will sound will make the user panic. He will think, what else have gone wrong? But at the same time the non-instruction muddles the instruction.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll present the proposed solution just for the English version of the instruction:

The whole idea is to make the instruction clearer and not overwhelm the user in emergency. So at the outside panel it simply states there’s an emergency fire extinguisher inside and instruct the user to pull to open. The handle is highlighted red to emphasize the instruction.

Once opened, there is the next instruction to remove the extinguisher. Notification about the alarm is put in a distinctively different panel to differentiate them. This tells that it is not an instruction – just informing that the alarm will go off.

Well, that’s it for my first challenge. Looking forward for a new one next week. Do leave your feedback after reading!