Poster made by the UXSEA Summit Team
Group photo in ! (Photo is from ’s FB page)

Last November 18–20, 2018, I attended the UXSEA Summit held in the LEVEL3 co-working space in Singapore.

The event gathered over 100 design professionals and enthusiasts to learn about “User Experience and Emerging Tech”, which was the theme of the Summit. The 3-day event was a great avenue to meet other designers and learn about new trends in technology and UX design. This is an article about Day 1 of the UXSEA Summit, which was a full-day of hands-on workshops.

There were 5 sessions held that day, each about 90 minutes long. Each session had a keynote and a hands-on workshop to be done as a pair or group.

I really loved that each session had a hands-on activity, as this let us apply the lessons being taught immediately. All of the sessions were insightful, so here’s a short summary of each session, and the main takeaways I got from each one:

Gunjan Sobhani and Ilker Yengin’s Workshop on Building Conversational UI (User Interfaces)

Gunjan and Ilker posing after the talk

Gunjan and Ilker are from the UX research team of the company Ola Cabs (ANI Technologies). Ola Cabs is a very popular ride-sharing app in India, and it’s their local competitor to Uber.

They gave a workshop about principles and tips in building conversational UI (user interfaces). These include designing voice interactions, like with Alexa and Google Assistant, and chatbots, like on FB Messenger.

They had us do an activity of choosing a problem to solve with conversational UI, picking a personality for our bot, flowcharting the conversation, and creating scripts for it. It was quite insightful, and here’s what I learned:

Things I Learned:

Gunjan and Ilker shared this sheet that helps you figure out if your problem is worth making an AI assistant for.
  1. Make sure what you’re creating a chatbot/voice UI for is worth making one for. Gunjan and Ilker note that your AI assistant should be intuitive to use, actually saves the user time and effort, and lets users multitask and speak freely. If it doesn’t do these, then you might as well use a website, app, or a human to let the user interact with instead.
  2. Your chatbot/voice UI should also have a personality, as if it were a human being. Gunjan and Ilker gave us a list of the Myers-Briggs personalities, and we had to decide which personality we wanted. For them, one of the recommended ones was an “ISTJ” — an introverted, sensing, thinking, and judging AI. By thinking of what personality you want your bot to have, you can then streamline its’ responses later on.
  3. Don’t just make your bot answer “Yes” or “No”. Make sure the bot is clear with what it is saying yes or no to, and it should be polite and respectful.

Joan Cheong & Yan Lim’s Workshop on Humanizing Digital Experiences

Joan Cheong of Standard Chartered Bank

Joan and Yan are both from Standard Chartered Bank, and they gave a talk on how we can ensure that the products and services we create do not become “robotic” and not empathetic to the needs of humans.

As part of the talk, Yan also conducted the “Design A Wallet” activity, which is a workshop popularized by Stanford’s to teach design thinking principles.

Even though I’ve organized this workshop already before, and have also participated in an activity like this before, it was still insightful to do it again. I paired up with Zo-ee from Malaysia, and it was great that we really delved deep with the questions we asked to design a wallet for each other.

  1. Aside from technical advancements, it’s the seamlessness and ease-of-use of technology for humans that makes them so powerful and widely used. And we humans have adapted our brains because of these technologies. This is why smartphones have helped make our attention spans even shorter.
  2. The first thing we need to do with our products and services is to build trust. Joan and Yan discussed the “triangle of trust”, a concept that says trust is composed of empathy, authenticity, and logic. All three of these things have to be present in the first few interactions with a product, or else users won’t trust and use your product.
  3. Localization does not just mean translation. If you’re trying to expand your product/service to a new country or locale, it’s not enough to just translate your UI. You need to build proper trust in the new area. One way of doing this is to set up a physical presence that makes the company feel more tangible and trustworthy. An example of this is the food delivery service HonestBee setting up a new retail store in Singapore.

Designing For An Exponential World — A Workshop by Aleph-Labs Singapore

Erik Posthuma, Chief Growth Officer at Aleph-Labs

After lunch, Erik Posthuma, Poon Wen Ang, and Miridhani Tamba of Aleph Labs then gave a workshop on how to design for an “exponential world”.

They discussed how things like the phenomenon of Moore’s Law have made technologies grow at an exponential rate. However, this makes it more difficult to design for the future.

They then ran us through an activity that had us list what things we think would be “ridiculous” 25 years from now, and it was quite insightful. Our group thought of some problems today that might be solved in the future, such as how ridiculous it might be if we’re not able to upload information straight to our brains, and if same-sex couples were not able to have a baby that has their genes.

We don’t know if these can be solved in 25 years (or if they’re possible to solve at all), but we can never know with the fast rate that tech is progressing.

Things I Learned:

Aleph’s “Barbell” framework
  1. Innovation should be planned for and prepared for. If you focus on just short-term gains, you can easily miss out on the far-out, innovative ideas that can help your business reach the next level. It’s when people sit down and imagine a better future that great ideas can be imagined. Just look at how Amazon was able to diversify with the popular Amazon Web Services.
  2. To plan for the future, we can use Aleph’s “Barbell” framework. A picture of this is included above. The left side of weights represents today’s context for your target users, while the right side represents what the ideal future might be like for them. Then the bar in the middle are the steps needed in order to bridge the present to the future. As designers, it’s our job to help shape that bar and bridge the gap between the present and the future.

A Workshop on Designing Smart Chatbots by Abhinav Ajitsaria & Marcus Chia

Abhinav Ajitsaria, Software Engineer at UXArmy

After Aleph Labs’s workshop, next came Marcus and Abhinav from UXArmy, a Singaporean firm that does UX research, software development, and builds usability technology. UXArmy actually built the chatbot for the UXSEA conference, which the attendees used to find recommended people to network with at the event. I used it myself, and it was quite cool.

Abhinav and Marcus had us do a fun activity of “training” our own bot manually, which means we assigned someone in our group to be a bot, while the rest planned out what questions might be asked to the bot, and what the bot should respond to each. Each bot was then tested by another group. I volunteered to be the bot for our group, and it was a fun experience.

Things I Learned:

  1. Make sure to have a high-quality fallback message in case the user enters an unfamiliar query to your bot. The fallback message should be kind and offer some other way of helping the user. An example could be “Sorry, I didn’t understand that. Maybe you can find the answer to that at [].”
  2. It’s fairly fast and easy to make a chatbot that can give set responses to questions or options that the user can choose from. What’s harder is when you want the chatbot to be able to do Natural Language Processing (NLP), which is when you want the user to be able to type any request, and the chatbot would guess how to answer it on its own. However, there are services that help achieve this though already, like

Ben Bowes’s Workshop on Creating Service Blueprints

Ben Bowes, Product Design Manager at Pivotal Labs

Last but definitely not the least was a workshop on Service Blueprinting, by Ben Bowes. Ben defined service blueprinting as this:

“Service blueprinting is the activity of planning and organizing the orchestration of people, infrastructure, operations, communications, and interactions of a service in order to improve its quality.”

Below is a picture of what a service blueprint looks like. It basically maps out what actions a user does with a service, what touchpoints the user interacts with, how the staff interacts with the user at that stage, and what the backstage actions and processes are to service that action.

The 5 components of a service blueprint are divided into frontstage and backstage processes.

After learning about what service blueprints are, why they’re important, and how to make them, we then tried creating one ourselves. We formed groups of around 10 members, and were tasked to make a service blueprint for the process of ordering using a self-service kiosks in McDonald’s. These kiosks are widespread in Singapore, so it was an interesting activity.

A sample of what the self-service kiosks look like. Only 1 branch in Manila has these so far. (Photo credit)

Things I Learned:

  1. Service blueprints can be a great way for a company’s designers and employees to gain more empathy and perspective for both users and the staff that interacts with users. Through service blueprints, employees can have better clarity on what goes on in each step of the way. Hopefully, this leads to solving bottlenecks and improving user experience.
  2. To make a service blueprint, start with mapping the main stages in the user’s journey, then fill out the actions under each stage. Since we had a lot of space for our service blueprint, we filled up every action while ordering, from picking between take-out/dine-in, to browsing the menu, to going to the bathroom to pee after eating.
  3. It’s important to be specific with a service blueprint — such as being specific on which staff roles are tasked to support the frontstage process, and which specific screen the user is interacting with in a given moment. These things help make a blueprint more comprehensive and valuable since it shows the role of each person and each screen.

All in all, the whole day of workshops was quite fun, and I’m glad we were seated in groups of 5–6. I happened to sit in a table with Zo-ee, a Malaysian UX Strategist, and 3 other designers also from Manila like me. I learned a lot from them and definitely enjoyed working with them.

Selfie with my tablemates at the workshop day!

We got to work together in building and training chatbots, designing wallets for each other, and planning for an exponential future. I would highly recommend that more design talks have hands-on activities like these, as this lets the attendees bond more and practice what’s being taught immediately.

That’s all for the Workshop Day of UXSEA Summit! Stay tuned for my next post on what happened on the next 2 days of the UXSEA Summit.

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Brian Tan is a UI/UX designer and writer from Manila. You can view his portfolio at and other articles he’s written at Follow him on Medium to stay updated on his articles.

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