With one fifth of the world’s population, China’s market is divided into Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Hong Kong and Taiwan are considered distinct markets within Greater China, as each have their own spoken and written language. Therefore, products looking to meet the needs of these two markets will have different creative, design, and language considerations. How these customers interact with your products or services from end-to-end can vary quite significantly between these populations and the majority that resides within Mainland China.
When choosing customers to sample from in Mainland China, four city tiers are often considered alongside other demographic, psychographic, and behavioral variables. Most brands choose to conduct research in Tier 1 cities like Shanghai and Beijing, so they get a sample of the largest and wealthiest cities; plus the cultural, political and, technology center of China. However, if the goal is to understand user experience across China and build customer personas, you might consider sampling from China’s other 10 megacities[i] to validate learnings from Beijing and Shanghai. Research on the competitive landscape and how it impacts the user experience must account for different distribution channels and customer access to products across urban cities.
Brands that want to be successful in China have been doing research in Tier 2 and 3 cities. Combined, these tiers have 6x the number of households in Tier 1 cities. In the last decade, many brands have also gone in Tier 4 and even Tier 5 cities to better grasp and map the customer journey.
Appreciating cultural and linguistic diversity is critical to successful data collection in China. There are five major dialectical groups that are mutually unintelligible and covers 200 individual dialects. Experienced Chinese moderators and translators will likely be fluent in two dialects and have no problems distinguishing between local access and comprehending native expressions (common Chinese idioms). For example, a southern Chinese person from Shanghai may often have problems understanding a northerner in Beijing when one speaks too quickly or vice versa. Participants can also be more sarcastic in certain cities over others. Use local moderators and translators whenever possible, particularly as you move beyond testing in Beijing and Shanghai only.
Allowing more time between interviews for mini-debriefs with moderators and translators is also helpful. Often, there is hidden meaning beyond the literal translation, so don’t be afraid to pause between sessions and ask if there is an alternative explanation. An experienced researcher in China will be able to explain the differences in expression, and identify if there is double meaning. Example, use of sarcasm versus someone politely “giving face” and avoiding direct criticism.
Finally, with analysis and recommendations, researchers need to consider that foreign companies are not allowed to wholly own companies in China, which then has an impact on product development and services. Global and regional stakeholders may have limited visibility and control over local implementation. So, whether you’re conducting a study to inform a product launch or market positioning, spend more time in understanding where the research needs are coming from. Particularly with multinational companies, understanding the makeup of your local, regional, and global stakeholder groups will help inform the types of recommendations that have impact and at which level. Otherwise, your recommendations may be interesting but fail in being “actionable”.
Partnering with a larger research agency can help to assure a sense of quality and a more familiar level of service for “new-to-China” companies. As a young industry in China, however, smaller research agencies are often more agile and able to produce research at a lower cost. Fortunately, a number of competitive options have increased dramatically over the last few years.
To identify potential partners, start by joining UXPA China (http://www.upachina.org/en/), which is formerly known as UPA China. Since 2004, this organization has early roots in user experience and can provide a rich network for global companies seeking local partners. The industry is still young and growing in China, providing greater resources for all companies looking to improve their experiences with Chinese customers.
Key Lime Interactive is a global partner with UX Fellows. For more information on conducting global UX testing with our team, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Not looking for a usability partner at this time? Email us to say hi, anyways.
[i] China’s megacities range from population sizes of 5-20+ million each
Love your job? Chances are if you work in UX, you do.
My recent trip to UXPA 2014 offered me more than the opportunity try authentic Fish & Chips. It gave me great insights to the UX industry and as it turns out, great perspective on the people that make up the industry. Perhaps the most interesting aspect was the consistently, inconsistent career & educational backgrounds of UX professionals. After nearly a dozen conversations that described incredibly diverse paths to their current role, I decided this warranted a closer look. After some digging it turns out that not only are UX professionals incredibly diverse in their educational backgrounds, but their career satisfaction ratings were noticeably high¹. In order to understand why our colleagues were rating their job satisfaction so highly, I decided to first look at the characteristics of successful researchers. I wondered how current growth within the industry and optimism on future developments within their profession shaped their feelings towards their job.
In order to answer these questions I first looked at the qualities that make up professional UX research associate. I asked participants at UXPA2014, employees within Key Lime Interactive and colleagues across the industry to chip in. I received some pretty interesting opinions. Most success stories were based on educational backgrounds. Some of the responses described researchers as having “solid computer programming skills, a background in Anthropology or Psychology and some exposure to Human Factors training.”
To test the validity of these statements, and in true UX fashion, I conducted some ethnographic studies on some unsuspecting colleagues and UXPA2014 delegates. Knowing their education background and comparing it to the “suggested educational paths” would allow me to determine if it was their training or other inherent qualities that make great researchers. It turns out that only about half of the participants I observed were trained in the previously mentioned disciplines. So what was the common thread between the greater population? It seems that at the heart of almost all UX professionals lies a naturally inquisitive spirit, the willingness to pursue a career of lifelong learning and excellent communication skills.
Armed with this information I wondered how such a diverse group of men and women would describe their job satisfaction. Would they express optimism towards the future of their industry? According to a study conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group, UX professionals rank their job satisfaction a 5.4² on a Likert scale. They also ranked pay/benefits satisfaction as a 5.2³. But does earnings truly correlate to higher job satisfaction? Harvard Business Review author Tomas C. Premuzic argues that “there is less than a 2% overlap between individuals pay and pay satisfaction”⁴. This leads us to infer that job satisfaction and satisfaction of pay are independent of each other. So what other factors could be driving the overall satisfaction from such a diverse pool of workers? Nielsen researchers noted that after polling over 1,000 UX professionals, the core activities of a UX researcher included: presenting solutions/concepts, persuading others and critically analyzing tasks or activities, which strongly correlates to the qualities observed during my impromptu ethnographic study.
As a whole, the UX industry finds itself in a period of tremendous growth. With more than half of all UX professionals living in the United States⁵, other markets will soon look to qualified professionals for expertise and guidance. So ask yourself this, do you feel well-rewarded and highly valued? Do you see your work as being intrinsically good for humanity? Do you enjoy being engaged and being able to use many of your skills on a daily basis? Then smile, you are probably a UX professional.
1. Nielsen, Jakob, and Susan Farrell. “User Experience Careers.” User Experience Careers. 2013. Web.
2. Nielsen, Jakob, and Susan Farrell. “User Experience Careers.” User Experience Careers. 2013. Web.
3. Nielsen, Jakob, and Susan Farrell. “User Experience Careers.” User Experience Careers. 2013. Web.
4. Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas. “Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research.” Does Money Really Affect Motivation. Harvard Business Review, 10 Apr. 2013. Web. 28 Aug. 2014.
5. Nielsen, Jakob, and Susan Farrell. “User Experience Careers.” User Experience Careers. 2013. Web.
I recently had the opportunity to represent Key Lime Interactive at the UXPA 2014 Conference in London. This was my first official conference representing Key Lime so I was a little apprehensive. I wanted to impress my bosses and contribute in any way I could. As the new kid on the block I was feeling more than a little responsible for the trust and financial investment in my attendance. Adding to this self-imposed pressure was the fact that I was traveling with a UXPA veteran, self-proclaimed user experience Ninja and VP of Research, Eugenio Santiago. (You can follow him at @TheLimeNinja).
Whether you are reading this as a UX novice or have 10+ years of experience in the industry, you know the benefits of attending top-notch conferences. Not only do you get industry training, the latest trends, best practice review, and team building exercises; you get those awesome little pastries that seem to be on every dining cart. Ultimately, it’s all about the networking. I’ve learned that the user experience community is a small one. It’s a tight-knit group of professionals with long standing histories and crossed career paths, which can definitely be intimidating to newcomers. A pleasant surprise for me was the camaraderie and wonderful sense of humor we all share. Everyone is equipped with quick wit and good-natured jokes – most of which are aimed at web developers. Truth be told, I don’t know those jokes. It got me thinking…. What else I could learn before heading to the next conference? What tips could I share with you, the reader, on maximizing your experience at any professional conference? Here’s a few that come to mind: 1. PRE-CONFERENCE PREPARATION IS KEY
As my university professor used to say, ”Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. Have a list of target companies, vendors, and individuals that you would like to connect with professionally and personally. Most conferences will have a fan page on Facebook or a list of sponsors/attendees on their website prior to the event. Use that information to your advantage. It’s a great way to maximize the short coffee breaks between sessions. You may want to contact people in advance and set up a time and place to rendezvous and talk shop. Be sure to leave time in your schedule to allow for organic conversations. This is particularly true for training sessions where you’ll probably get to know your fellow attendees fairly well in a smaller group. 2. HAVE A 140 CHARACTER ELEVATOR PITCH
I wonder if the founders of Twitter ever envisioned their platform being utilized for virtual conference attendance? When used effectively, Twitter is a powerful tool to converse with speaker and other conference attendees, maximize corporate/personal exposure and start new business conversations. You can even schedule some tweets based on your planned itinerary. Be sure to follow the conference hashtag to extend your conversations beyond the conference walls. 3. DON’T BLEND IN
Don’t be afraid of wearing the “new guy” badge. The organizers will literally put it under your name on your conference badge so you won’t really have a choice anyway. Own it. There’s no reason to be shy. In fact, your “newness” is a great ice breaker. Everyone will be excited to see a fresh face. This is your opportunity to ask questions, stimulate discussions with panelists, and build equity amongst your peers. My advice for first time attendees, or for any professional looking to learn more about the UX industry, is to start a conversation whenever you find yourself in a crowd. Helpful hint: You are never “off-duty” while at a conference so be aware of who’s in the room during designated social hours. You might meet that industry player who you’ve been hoping to meet.
My theory going into my first big event with Key Lime, was that a novice and a ninja might look at a conference in very different ways. I imagined we would each have different definitions of a successful conference. As it turns out, our success metrics weren’t all that different. We each learned a lot during the five-day event, got some great tips to inform our research back at the office and met some incredibly smart people along the way.
After the closing keynote, I sat down with the ninja for a debrief. We compared notes and talked about some of most exciting takeaways. The ninja nodded at me and confirmed that we both had great experience. He had one piece of final advice for me. I eagerly pulled out my smartphone, ready to capture these final words of wisdom. He was going to give me the inside scoop. I was eager and thrilled to be a part of this secret knowledge. As he motioned me to come a little closer he said “So rookie, did you hear the one about the web developer walking into a bar…..He didn’t like the table layout”
To set the stage for a recent webinar on behavioral personas, Key Lime Interactive called upon our colleagues at UX Fellows to share some stereotypical “personas” for each of their respective nations. The results were pretty creative and quite humorous!
Here’s what they had to say….
The UX Fellows is a global network for quality research. It is a circle of specialized user experience research agencies around the world that is dedicated to providing professional international user experience and usability testing.