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Mobile for Development

By Julia Burchell

Meet the UX Champion: Ann Mei Chang on successful user experience design

Ann Mei Chang on successful user experience design

There’s less than a week until we announce the winners of our Design Challenge next Tuesday 26 February 2013 at our Seminar in Barcelona. In the next of a series of interviews with our selection panelists, Ann Mei Chang, Senior Advisor for Women and Technology, Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues at the US Department of State, shares her thoughts on successful user experience design.

1. Why is user experience design so important?

A great user experience can make or break a product.  Just take the iPhone as an example.  Before the iPhone, many smart phones had similar capabilities, but were cumbersome, complicated, and confusing to use.  The iPhone broke through with a design that was not only intuitive, but delightful.

2.  What characterizes a successful design?

A successful design is one which becomes seamless for the target users.  It takes the unique capabilities of users and their conditions into account and delivers a solution which is natural – and ideally fun too.

3.  How can UX design improve women’s lives?

Women have busy lives and many competing responsibilities.  As such, they can be less inclined to invest the time to adopt new technologies when it involves tedious experimentation to learn how to use it effectively.  UX design can make mobile phones and other technologies much more accessible, enabling women to more easily take advantage of all the benefits technology can bring such as increased productivity, access to a range of both lifesaving and business enhancing information, and a greater sense of empowerment.

4. What is the role of research in UX design?

Research is critical to truly understand the users a product is being designed for, especially if all the users don’t think and interact just like you.  Good research can provide insights ranging from how a new tool might solve existing challenges to specific interaction models that will be most effective.

5. What are some examples of innovative UX design in emerging markets?

Sometimes the best UX can be simply providing rich voice messages rather than text, to avoid literacy challenges while also providing a more personal touch.  For example, Mobile MAMA has found their voice delivery to be much more popular in Bangladesh than SMS.  Another interesting innovation has been the experiments with pictorial-based interfaces for composing simple SMS messages, such as easySMS.

6. Why should the mobile industry invest in women as customers?

Women make up roughly half the population and can both benefit greatly from mobile services as well as being a significant revenue opportunity.

7. Why is the Design Challenge a worthwhile initiative?

Women in developing countries typically have less access to education and thus lower literacy rates.  Smart phones and internet access hold the promise of dramatically greater utility than basic feature phones, which currently dominate in developing countries.  However, the more complex functionality was designed for fully-literate, sophisticated users.  The Design Challenge tackles this issue head on by incentivizing innovative new interfaces designed with semi-literate audiences in mind, with the potential of opening up entirely new markets for smart phone usage.


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