UX Scene, Taiwan Style – 3 Things I Learned

Dec 14, 2013 | Event

Last week, I attended the event HAPPY UX Design Conference 2013 in Taipei. It was indeed a great event that was collectively organized by the local UX community, UserXperHPX Party and IXDA Taiwan.

The event featured 5 keynote speakers from Canada, U.S., Singapore, Taiwan and China. There were also 2 panel discussions where 6 UX experts came to discuss on the latest UX issues – mainly on UX Education and UX Promotion. Below were the keynote speakers of the conference:

  • Melora Zaner-Godsey, Senior Director of Y!design, Yahoo! APAC
  • James Wu, UX Team Director of Kobo (Canada)
  • Raven Chai, the principal at UX Consulting.Co.(Singapore), the host of UXSG 2013
  • Albert Chen, CEO of Pebbo
  • Fangyu Xia, Managing Partner & X-Strategy Director of Tang Consulting Co. (China)

Panel Discussion:

  • Hsien-Hui Tang, NTUST Industrial & Commercial Design Associate Professor
  • Chih-Hao Tsai, User Experience Consultant at UserXper; Director of UiGathering
  • David Chen, AJA Creative UX Director, UiGathering Managing Supervisor
  • David Liu, UX Assistant General Manager of 104 Corporation

I would like to compliment the organizing committees for their hard work & genuine courtesy provided throughout the event. The content was very well-packed & was presented by inspirational speakers who shared on hot UX topics in Taiwan and Asia. I decided to share my experience by summarizing the 3 main points that I learned from the conference, with the hopes of benefiting the non-Chinese speaking UX community & practitioners.

The subsequent points I am bringing forth to readers are solely based on my own understanding and interpretation from the event; I apologize beforehand should there any ambiguity or inconsistency arise between my perspective and the content generated through the conference.

1. The importance of collaboration while implementing UX practice

‘Collaboration’ could be the highlighted keyword of the event as it was coincidentally presented by 3 keynote speakers along with a picture of the hit movie, The Avengers which appeared quite frequently among the slides prepared by the speakers.

UX team - Avengers

UX team – Avengers

When it comes to implementing good UX practice within the organization, everyone should think beyond their titles. “Does one’s role really matter?”, Chai questioned. As shared by the speakers, UX should not be a sole responsibility of the designer or UX practitioner; other personnel, namely engineers and product managers should hold the responsibility too.

In fact, engineers and product managers are also ‘designers’, as they are the ones who design resources. The old school or ‘Silo’ kind of design process – where everyone sticks to their ‘own responsibilities’ as interpreted through names of their titles, is killing effective communication & innovation instead of delivering a meaningful experience.

Less Me, More We

Engineers, designers, and product owners should come together to learn from users in order to best deliver good user experience while designing the product. Two key elements for great internal team collaboration would be ‘trust’ & ‘more goals, less role’. Great teams develop great products that make people happy, “Less Me, More We”, a very great statement shared by the Yahoo team.

As a whole, when you have a great team that is empowered to be user-centric, they will build meaningful products that fuse well with daily habits of users which may also lead to revenue increment. Wu also cited that everyone in the organization is stakeholders to create great UX, as they strive to solve a single problem with different perspectives.

Undoubtedly, corporate culture is the most difficult thing to change. While working with corporates (usually for UX consultancy service providers), there are 4 stages suggested by Chai. They are the skepticism stage, the curiosity stage, the acceptance stage & the partnership stage. We must understand that a very common problem that always occurs in big corporates is the politics among departments.

This will certainly cause trouble to the corporate website design, as different departments might have different ideas or preferences of layout design that best suits their own interest. Therefore, building consensus between opinions is compulsory to heighten partnership & relationship to move forward to deliver great UX.

From Chen’s perspective, organizational culture is created by all people involved. Like it or not, being a big corporate is like a coin with two sides, you either shine or fall in delivering good UX.

2. Understanding the user, go in-depth or create crap!

How do we create a great product?

“Do not rush for the answers, but find the right questions to ask!”Chen suggested. The answers are certainly available from the customers or users. However, one should constantly be reminded that “User-centered design is not just about giving users exactly what they want”, as Xia suggested.

It is also possible to create great user-centered designs by understanding things that users do not like or want. It is a common goal & great challenge for all designers to provide meaningful user experiences and making it a daily habit for users.

Melora shared on ‘Next Generation of Web Experience’, stressing that content is important and it is something emotional too. “How’d you feel?”  “Do you enjoy it?” These were some questions thrown to us in his content. With today’s reliance of people on doing things on the internet, the internet is now equal to our ‘oxygen’. The experience in our daily routines will also be personalized in the future.

Wu also mentioned that ‘the best UX is personal’, just like how users don’t care much about which music player or app they use but would rather focus on the content (music,video etc) itself. The problem with current tablet UI’s is that people mistakenly think that tablets are all about the apps. In actual fact, tablets are about finding, organizing, and consuming contents.

In order to create great products for the users, we need to be inspired by users and to stay connected with them by understanding users’ daily habits. To understand users well, we should walk in their shoes of daily lives.

For instance, if your product is optimized for youngsters, you should visit the night market, their favourite place or even try out their favourite sports & activities. “Go out and be Curious!”, exclaimed Chen. Xia also pointed out that a product that looks simple (e.g., remote control) does not mean that it is user friendly, its navigation and user journey might be painful for users.

It is essential not to ask only “Why” but “Why’s” so that it will prevent us from missing out the ‘real’ user insights. If a user claimed that he likes certain colours, the questioning shouldn’t be stopped there. Instead, a more in-depth question should be followed, such as “why do you like THIS colour?”.

It will definitely improve one’s decision on product planning & development. When it comes to user testing in a short time, it is always possible. The prototype itself does not have to be perfect to test with users, even a low-fidelity prototype helps much to seek the value of users.

Users might not understand certain functions of one’s products, and that is where usability testing serves its role in helping us figure out the flaws & potential improvements that can be made.

According to Wu, there is also no special approach while conducting usability testing in Kobo, but the main point is that they do testing regularly, which I personally believe is the main force behind Kobo’s success in delivering great user experience for readers, as Kobo is one of the world’s fastest-growing eReading services.

3. The potentials of UX

Designers are often quiet without realizing that they have the potential to change the world, so designers should be cool, confident and brave enough to speak up!

The fast growing pace of technology is changing the way people live and even has the power to ‘change’ governance. UX practitioners must be flexible and adaptive to different dimension and changes. Xia shared many insights on the multiple potentials of UX in businesses with many interesting case studies.

Design is not just about figuring out the problem, but solving the problem. We need to rethink UX and utilize UX to make life better. UX has the potential to have great impact and influence in businesses and organizations, and thus, should be well managed in each phase of the development process.

For instance, UX practitioners not only work on improving the user experience of a product in the early stage, but they also have the opportunity and ability to restructure the organization department in the later stage.

Chen indicated that prototyping and testing in the early stage helps much when it comes to customer validation, ‘Fail early, fail often, fail SMART’. Should any user preference or problem be identified, immediate remedial action can be taken. If not, the more you procrastinate, the more money will be wasted.

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