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Feb 2006 Contents

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A Report from User Friendly 2005: Shanghai

By Qin Lin
Shanghai ETU (easy to use) User Interface Design

Qin Lin works for ETU (Easy to Use) China, providing user research, UI design, and usability testing services. She has worked as a user interface designer and usability expert at Lenovo, Motorola, and UTStarcom. Qin is the founder of the Usability Professionals Association China chapter and has worked on the committee to formulate ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals (ISO 9241 - Part 10 and 11). She also owns a patent regarding remote control and set top box interaction.


There's a lot of usability activity in China these days. As Chinese companies seek to build global brands and foreigners aim to boost sales in the mainland, they're transforming the country's design business. Chinese manufacturers realize they need better products if they want to break out of China and beef up their margins on sales abroad.

User Friendly 2005 BannerThis interest in better products meant many conferences and events in China in 2005. For World Usability Day, UPA China organized events in three cities at the same time -- Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou. UIGarden, a bi-lingual web site, also organized “Making it Easy - World Usability Day” on Nov 3 in Beijing. The European Usability Network presented a training course and there was a conference, “Design for the New China Markets” organized by Illinois Institute of Technology on Dec 11 - 12.

Among all of these events, User Friendly 2005 organized by UPA China was a very special conference. More than 250 attendees came from big companies within China and from international companies, including EBay, Yahoo, HP, Sina, Baidu, ZTE, and Huawei.


UPA China currently has 130 members. Over thirty of them, from both Beijing and Shanghai, organized the conference. It was hard work, with phone calls starting as early as 7:00 am. But the work paid off in the energy and excitement that the attendees showed. The organizing team deserves a lot of applause.


I learned a lot at this conference. The first day featured talks on a variety of topics: Politics of Usability, Brand and Usability, Mood Theory, Designing for Diverse Consumers, and case studies from E-bay and The DNA.

Whitney Quesenbery presenting a talk on The Politics of UsabilityWhitney Quesenbery presented a talk on The Politics of Usability, and how to deploy UCD in your company. “How can you persuade your stakeholders to adopt user experience design?” “Can UCD save costs in the development process?” These questions are difficult ones that designers face all the time, and that are difficult to answer. Whitney’s speech was a guide to help designers bring UCD into their current work.

Bob Barlow-Busch talked about the relationship of brand and usability. He gave a sample of a credit card system that a restaurant waitress doesn’t know how to use. Because he can’t leave without paying, the system makes the waitress feel stupid. “Marketing makes the promise, but product development keeps the promise! That is why our work in usability can have a huge impact on brand.” We need to ask ourselves: “Does your product keep the promise of the brand?” We need to consider usability from the company’s brand point of view in addition to considering the UCD process.

Amy Nicholls explained Mood Theory, a segmentation model that considers how to enhance the emotional user experience. There was a lively discussion in the conference about this theory. The psychologists in the audience doubted that mood can be separated into just four dimensions. And from a practical point of view, user researchers wondered how this theory could be used in the segmentation model. As a result of this discussion, I learned that Mood Theory will help me to consider news ways of defining user segmentation.

Michael Summers talked about designing for a diverse consumer audience. He focused on special segments, such as older users, lower literacy users, and users who speak English as a second language. As usability specialists, we need to consider these factors more than others. This is an important issue in China, because there are so many people who do not receive higher education. Usability researchers have to consider how to provide service and products to this user segment.

Jared Braiterman focused on cultural factors for business success in China. Jared showed some video clips from an interview for a mobile phone project. We can see how these younger students use their mobile phone in China, and see that it is definitely different from other cultures. If you want to have business success, the cultural factor is a key one.

Jianming Dong and Paul Fu from E-Bay talked about research approaches they use in their projects, including both qualitative and quantitative. For qualitative data, we can use usability testing and customer support to get the data. For quantitative data, we can use site tracking. But the real problem is how to ensure the credibility of your work and persuade stakeholders to use your user research results. They demonstrated good ways to report your results and present recommendations.

The DNA had a special case study. Kimchee (pickled vegetables) is a popular food in Korea. It’s so important that many houses have a special refrigerator just for this food. Mr. Lian showed a case study of how to design and market a kimchee refrigerator in Korea. They had to consider more than just usability, because the business need included many factors. But usability really can help to win the market share and customers’ loyalties.

The second day of the conference was workshops. People who attended all said that the workshops were very practical. The EU team from AliBaba (a local Internet portal) are already using the card sorting skills they learned from Gerry Gaffney.

Workshop 1    Workshop 2


Usability in China is a new market and it is growing up now. Just a few years ago, when I was working as a user interface designer, the industry was very small, and it was hard to find colleagues to talk with about the discipline. But since we founded UPA China, we have found a lot of potential in usability as an industry. The chapter has grown. Our first conference started with 100 attendees. Our second conference, User Friendly 2004, had about 180 people, and there were almost 250 at User Friendly 2005. It’s growing fast.

In order to continue the growth, we need to foster the market, and educate companies about usability and UCD.

Map of China

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