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UX STRAT Asia 2021: Human-centered design in evolving contexts

by Si Ying Wang
13th January 2022

This year’s UX STRAT Asia was all about rediscovering human-centricity across the spectrums of business, technology and users.

Here are some key learnings that surfaced from the conference, comprising seasoned industry practitioners specialising in product, research, design, strategy, and innovation. 

#1: To build the right things in the right way, businesses first need to set up the ideal conditions

Championing a human-centered design ethos within businesses often requires code-switching from the language of design to the language of business.

Angel Brown, Group Director of Experience Strategy in Digitas Health, offered great advice on how to gain buy-in from C-level stakeholders, and specifically, how to achieve a shared view of reality between designers and C-level business decision makers. She proposed the idea of using strategic narratives, supported with both declarative and behavioural insights, to cut across complex artefacts which might not always resonate with stakeholders.  

Being aligned on the same page also requires a conscious effort from all parties to take a step back and determine whether initial objectives are met – the secret sauce for ascertaining if the business is building the right thing. Building the right thing right is what comes after; and it is during this phase where continuous experimentation and testing of hypotheses should come through to shape the conditions for innovation – as advocated by Kevin Boezennec, Director of CX, Product and Innovation of Singapore Bank.

Doing this well means striking a balance between both user and business objectives that serve to deliver signature experiences which drive the value for users.

#2: In times of remote research, capture the local user needs and nuances

Localising research can bridge purported gaps between researchers and users, ensuring products/services complement the context in which they’re used. 

Dr. Tiane Lee, Staff UX Researcher at Google, shared some valuable tips on her experiences in research localisation, particularly when interacting with Novice Internet Users - people who might not be as experienced in using digital products or services. 

She mentioned the importance of “de-abstracting” in local contexts - unpacking digital terms and concepts that might be unfamiliar to users by substantiating with concrete, colloquial local examples. For example, “marketplaces on the Internet” could be used to explain the term “e-commerce”.

Another tip is to enlist the help of local experts or ambassadors to engage with participants during research, given their ability to build trust with locals and troubleshoot in cases of tech hiccups - a note also echoed by Veena Sonwalkar, Associate Design Director at frog.

Ensuring meaningful research localisation would guarantee authentic and representative insights.

#3: When designing for AI and immersive experiences, adopt a human-centered approach

Beyond being a prediction engine assessed based on performance and precision, AI should be designed with intentionality, through the lens of human-centricity.

Sudha Jamthe, AI Instructor of Stanford University, explored the importance of approaching AI design from a character-based perspective. Determining the AI’s core characteristics serves as a solid starting point for building unique behaviours that tie in with its pre-defined characteristics.

With voice being a key facet of interaction for immersive experiences, designing for conversational interfaces like chatbots and virtual assistants would require deep understanding of the natural language. Josephine Scholtes, User Experience Consultant from Microsoft, shared the importance of understanding and disambiguating user intents from conversations with AI interfaces. Doing so can shape experiences that form lasting connections with users. 

Immersive solutions must be built with human-centricity so as to elicit trust and form meaningful connections with users, thereby driving AI adoption. Gideon Simons, Senior Director of Product Design & User Research in Zinier, cautioned against overfitting these solutions, without first identifying real user needs. Sander Bogers, Design Consultant from Philips, shared case studies from Philips to explore the same idea, that what matters most in design is identifying core user needs.

Thank you to UX STRAT, for broadening my perspective and understanding of human-centred design. I’m excited to apply this knowledge to future project work.

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