UX Comparison: How to Hold your Drink

As a fellow alumna of the User Experience Design Immersive once mentioned – once you learn about user experience, you end up analysing all sorts of things unconsciously in the UX frame of mind. Is it easily usable? Is it useful? How can it be improved on these two fronts?

And recently I’ve been thinking about the matter of holding your drink, after you buy it from a shop. It’s the sort of thing people don’t really think about, not until it goes wrong; in that respect, it’s a little like opening doors. (Which is a process marred by lots of bad design, as this video shows). So how, in Singapore, are drinks held?


At first glance, this should be a pretty simple task to design for. Off the top of my head, some requirements include:

  1. The drink container should be easily portable.
  2. Additionally, it should be comfortably portable – especially for hot drinks.
  3. The drink should be easily accessible while in the container.
  4. There should be minimal risk of spillage.
  5. The container should be easily ‘putdownable’, for when you finally get home/to the office/wherever you’re going.

Of course, there are also the business needs – cost, for one – and environmental issues to consider. But for now, ease of use will be the key concern.


Design 1: The (normal) Bubble Tea cup

Thin, flimsy and cheap, the usual bubble tea cup is worth it mainly for the deliciousness it holds. The heat-sealed plastic top leaves very little headroom for the drink, while the cup itself is easily squeezable.

This is a recipe for disaster. Punch your straw through the top, accidentally squeeze the cup, and the tea spurts out, oozing out on the plastic sheet. Were it most other beverages, that would be disgusting. But since it’s bubble tea, it’s… uh, mainly a pity I’m wasting some of it.

… wait, you people do get this, right? I’m not the only klutz who squeezes my drink right as I punch the straw in and makes a geyser of things, right?



Design 2: The (improved?) Bubble Tea cup

The impetus for this article is actually a conversation that I had with the managing director of the company behind LiHO. (Full disclosure: I was invited to a tasting, and I’ve written a review of their drinks.) He went into some detail on the design work that went into their cup design, which is based around their primary selling point – a rich foam, based on cream and cheese, that’s ladled on top of the tea.

So. Cheese on top, tea below: that’s two separate things they need to access. The answer is a cup with two openings – one rounded, for the straw; the other smaller, so you can slurp up the foam. The shape of the two is a clear differentiator, so you know where to put the straw.

Then again, I wonder if people will realise what the non-straw opening is for after all. Given a straw, won’t users just do the default thing – pull it almost all the way out and sip around so you can skim the top of the drink, where the cheese is? I can’t tell whether I’m the one overthinking this, or LiHO’s designers.


Besides the cover, the cup itself is more user friendly – solid, to prevent squeezing and to generally be more sturdy as well. Because the plastic is thicker, you don’t get your hands frozen when you hold the cup either. My main concern for this is environmental, because it feels like quite a bit more plastic to me…

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