Last Nov. 19, I attended Day 2 of the UXSEA Summit 2018 held in the LEVEL3 co-working space in Singapore. Day 2 of the summit had the theme of “Experience Design in New Technologies”, and it was a full day of talks from various speakers about UX and tech.
There were a total of 8 sessions, each being around 30 minutes to 1 hour long. Here’s a short summary of what happened in each session, and what my main takeaways were:
Borrys Hasian on Design Leadership
Borrys Hasian is Singtel’s Director of Design for their international products, and he has over 11 years of experience in the field of UX design. Last year, he gave a workshop on Design Sprints. This year, he gave a talk on Design Leadership, which is a hot topic these days.
Design leadership can be defined as leadership that leads to innovative design solutions. In this talk, Borrys shared some of the lessons he had from 5 different products he’s been a part of in building, and the pros and cons in how each product was built.
Things I Learned:
Borrys had a nice summary of the lessons he learned from the different products he’s helped launched. These are certainly “high-level” insights that apply mostly to design leaders and product managers. But even for lower-level designers like me, there’s still a lot to takeaway from this. Here are two of my takeaways:
- Every team and every product will have its own failures and flaws. And early on in your career, you usually have to experience these on your own and learn from these failures. Borrys shared how one of his first products that he helped built was a mobile communication app like WhatsApp, but because they were focused on engineering and not on design, the app never really took off.
- Every designer should be looking on how they can be more like a design leader, even if your role doesn’t ask you to be. Being a design leader is about “leading” the way to innovative design solutions, and anyone can lead no matter their position. To me, leading is about being bold, making the right decisions, and ensuring product success, regardless of your role. So even if you’re a low-level member of the design team, you can be a design leader through implementing any of Borrys’s advice above.
Gideon Simons on Designing Artificial Intelligence
Gideon Simons is the Emerging Tech Product Lead at Firemark Labs, a hub for creating next-generation products in the insurance space. Gideon’s talk was about Designing AI, which was a recurring topic in the Summit’s sessions. He gave an overview of what people are saying about AI now, what AI can offer, and the current limitations of AI.
Things I Learned:
- The world’s leaders in tech are divided about if people should be scared or excited about AI development. From what I see though, more people should be worried. Given that I’m from the Philippines, and because a large part of our economy are from our call-centers, AI services like Google’s Duplex can wipe out tons of jobs in this industry, and there’s not much being done to prepare for this. I think more individuals, governments, and organizations need to be thinking about how they can best prepare for AI and work with it, instead of being outworked by it.
- The main place we see the power of AI today is in voice assistants (VA’s), such as through Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. However, there are still two roadblocks to VA’s becoming more widely used — their stickiness and proactiveness. This is because the assistants are still quite passive in how they wait for instructions, and they don’t try to form a habit for the user to use them. Thus, they’re currently more like a cool gimmick than a necessary tool.
Caitlin Robinson and Matt Lambie on Designers, Dungeons And Dragons
Just before lunch, Caitlin and Matt from MoneySmart, a financial portal operating in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Indonesia, gave a talk.
Their talk was about their love for the tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated as D&D), and how the game, and its hallmark of cooperative storytelling, can help design teams bond more and ship better products.
Things I Learned:
- Product teams, like teams in D&D quests, should ideally have a diverse mix of skills, knowledge, and experiences. This is so more innovative ideas can be formed, and more synergies can be created.
- Boardgames, especially role-playing games like D&D, can be a great way to bond teams and people that don’t usually get to bond or work with each other. Matt from MoneySmart shared about how in their previous D&D sessions in the office, he got to know and bond with team members he doesn’t normally work with. He also shared to me how D&D can even be played remotely through Skype.
Prakriti Parijat on Keeping it Human in a World of Automated Everything
Prakriti is a Research & Insights Lead for DBS Bank, the largest bank in terms of assets in Southeast Asia. She also has a Ph.D from Virginia Tech in Human Factors and Ergonomics. She shared in her talk about how to keep experiences “human” as more things are automated, similar to Joan and Yan’s talk the day before.
Things I Learned:
- In 2014, Rafael Calvo and Dorian Peters published a book on the topic of the “design and development of technology to support wellbeing and human potential” — a topic they labelled as Positive Computing. It’s a very interesting concept, and I really agree that new technologies should be designed to make us happier and healthier as much as possible.
- One way technology can help humans be happier and more productive is to help users discover blindspots. One example of this is how some banking apps, (like DBS Bank’s app, I believe), have a feature that tracks your recurring subscriptions, and lets you easily cancel any of them.
Aditi Kulkarni on It’s not AI! Designing for Automated Conversations
The next talk was by Aditi, the Head of Design of ReferralCandy, an e-commerce store plugin that helps you get more sales through word-of-mouth referrals. Aditi was previously the VP of Design of Postman, an app that helps developers build APIs faster. Here’s what I learned from her talk on designing for automated conversations:
Things I Learned:
- A chatbot (especially one with set responses to set queries) is not AI, and it shouldn’t really be called AI. It’s really more of a tree of if-then statements, and you shouldn’t glorify or overhype your chatbot.
- If you built or are building a chatbot, don’t make it look like a human! People might get more frustrated if they think they are chatting with a human, only to realize that it’s a bot. So make sure that the icon and the greetings are clear that they are automated or from a bot.
- “Trust is fragile in an automated conversation. Be honest, transparent that it’s just a bot and is limited.”
Panel Discussion — UX Research in Southeast Asia
My favorite session of the day was a panel discussion on UX Research in Southeast Asia, with 4 leaders in the field of UX Research. The 4 panelists were:
- Khai Seng Hong, head of Foolproof Singapore(an experience design agency)
- Lishan Soh, co-founder of AGENCY (a human-centered design firm)
- Ramda Yanurzha, head of research at GO-JEK (the popular ride-sharing app founded in Indonesia)
- and Samantha Yuen, Design Research Lead at GovTech Singapore (the Government Technology Agency of Singapore)
All 4 of them have impressive backgrounds, and I learned a lot listening to the insightful questions asked by the moderator, Priscilla Nu, head of design at SP Group. Many topics about UX Research were covered, such as the panelists’ favorite research methodologies, quantitative vs. qualitative research, and the future of UX research in Southeast Asia.
Things I Learned:
- There is no “best” research methodology that will work across problems — you need to pick the right one based on what your goal is. So even if the panelists were able to mention a “favorite” methodology, such as participant observation, contextual inquiry, and sacrificial concepts, they know that the method that should be used varies widely depending on the context.
- During interviews, the quality of your questions, and how you conduct interviews, are extremely important. Each of the panelists shared some of their favorite questions, and they were very insightful. Lishan’s is simple but powerful: “How was your day?”, as it helps the interviewee ease in to the discussion but open up a bit. Meanwhile, Samantha called her favorite question as the “50 Shades of Why”, which means she has a toolkit of different ways to find out the reason behind certain actions of her interviewee. Examples of this would be: “What made you…” or “What drew you…”, or “What caused you…”. This is because starting a question with “Why” might get the interviewee to become defensive or insecure.
- If you’re doing user research in a country where you don’t speak the language, make sure to get a great translator. Lishan mentioned how they got a translator for the United Nations before for a research project, but it was really worth it for her.
- Research still has a long way to go before its value is fully understood by board members. Right now, design is starting to get a seat on the table in companies, but research hasn’t reached that far just yet. It has to be the role of design leaders, UX designers, and UX researchers to push forward the field and show to business leaders that research is an important part in improving their products and creating more success for the business.
Ilker Yengin on Talking to Your Driverless Car
After the panel, Ilker, who gave a workshop the day before on building conversational UI, gave a talk this time on “Talking to Your Driverless Car”. I assume this is a project or topic that he encounters at Ola Cabs, the ride-sharing company in India that he works in.
Things I Learned:
- Ilker loves showing videos during his talks, especially movie clips wherein the characters are interacting with technology. He showed us clips like Batman talking to the Batmobile, and Captain Kirk interacting with an AI in his workshop the day before. I think playing video clips are a great way of capturing the audience’s attention and offering some entertainment.
- Ilker gave 5 main tips on designing voice interfaces for driverless cars. These were to: 1) support different conversation topics, 2) give users the right amount of choice, 3) let users speak, 4) have the interface regularly suggest things, and 5) have the interface be able to “reflect” (be critical).
- This wasn’t in the talk, but I was able to speak with Ilker before his talk, and he gave me some advice for my design career. He asked me something along the lines of: “Have you thought of a 3-year plan for your career? What are you looking to be in 3 years, and how will you get there?” Even though I plans and think about my career a lot, I struggled to answer this. I didn’t have a set plan in mind, and Ilker was suggesting that I be more strategic about what skills to learn and what companies or roles to aim for. I see his point, and it’s something I should be thinking of more.
Mitushi Jain on Designing for the Invisible
The last talk for the day was by Mitushi Jain, a Senior UX Designer at Visa’s Innovation Centre in Singapore. Her talk was on “Designing for the Invisible”, which was about how to design products and services that seem almost “invisible” because of how seamless and easy-to-use they are. This talk was quite similar to the talks on keeping things human by Prakriti earlier that day and Joan & Yan the day before, but it was still interesting to listen to.
Things I Learned:
- When designing a service, you should start by setting a clear purpose to it, such as by creaing a “vision statement” and “vision evolution” for it, as Mitushi recommends. This is so you and your teammates are clear on what you’re trying to do.
- After setting a clear purpose, the next step is to have design principles for your team, or for that product. Mitushi reiterated a good design principle to remember: “Don’t make me notice what I’m doing. Just make it simple.”
- After identifying the purpose and principles, the next step is to identify the “micro-moments”. These just mean the actions the user takes through the journey. But what Mitushi wanted to highlight here was that even the small moments or details, such as motion animations, can help make the product/service feel more invisible and lovely to use.
- The last step in designing for the invisible for Mitushi is to map out the service. This can be done through a customer journey map, or a service blueprint, which was taught by Ben Bowes in the workshop the day before. This helps the team truly make sure that the product/service is seamless and truly “invisible”.
All in all, Day 2 of the UXSEA Summit was just as insightful as day 1, and I loved how each speaker had stellar yet diverse backgrounds. I made sure to look up each of them on LinkedIn, and I even spoke to a couple of them (and got to connect with them on LinkedIn).
I was really amazed at how interesting most of their career trajectories were. I really saw how there can be varied ways of achieving success and expertise in the fields of UX Design and UX Research. It made me realize that I can forge my own path into this field, and that there are many avenues in which I can learn and practice UX design and UX research, whether it’d be in consulting firms, fast-growing startups, or large corporations.
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