User experience research in Asia: The authentic local experts

A changing, ascendant Asia means aspirations have never been higher for many millions of people. An explosive ecommerce scene is leading more Asian businesses to go digital to capitalise on the mobile-first environment. Meanwhile, broader and deeper technological penetration is bringing huge traffic to social media platforms and apps of every kind.

InsightAsia works with global social media and ecommerce companies to help them understand how this new way of doing things in Asia came about, and how it differs to the digital West.

By conducting user experience (UX) research on the ground, we’re helping developers and designers from numerous companies narrow the gap between their imagined audiences and real people who use their products, as well as uncovering ways to help those people get even more from the interaction.



What does UX mean to us?

In Asia, international brands have come to realise the value of conducting Asian UX research alongside the work they do for their native markets.

It’s no longer just about taking an existing design and ‘Asianing it up a bit,’ it’s about building a whole new experience from the ground up, to better cater to new contexts and unique digital behaviours.

With that in mind, clients are refining their own in-house approach to design and product development, which inevitably leads them to picking up on any gaps in their knowledge. We step in to help plug these gaps with a mix of different methodologies.

By curating field trips, we act as local guides for UX teams who want to immerse themselves in Asian culture. We help organise and direct these trips so designers can get a real feel for the day-to-day reality that shapes a consumer’s needs.

That might mean spending time with local families and getting to understand how they share a phone between them and use multiple accounts. It could involve dropping into local schools to see what information young people are most comfortable sharing with one another. All of these tiny nuances go towards informing a designer on how to create a truly user-centric experience.

Direct observation of consumers in their native environment can help give teams a functional understanding of how their products get used. What’s it like to try and use a popular app on an older phone with poor connection? What apps do people choose over others, and how does a person’s environment dictate that choice? We can direct clients to the best places to find these answers in an authentic context.

Usability testing helps stakeholders pinpoint the fine details which can make all the difference. How does a more ‘official’ translation compare to the local slang which people actually use on social media, for example? Even the logic which might apply to selecting a font and the size of that font in one context wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny in another.

By taking cameras into the field, we can conduct and stream interviews to UX teams and let them see how real consumers go about their lives in real time.

These are just some of the many methods we employ to clue our clients into UX findings which are comprehensive, relevant and authentically Asian.


Global experts. Local flavour

No matter how we go about getting the info our clients need, we pay meticulous attention to doing so in a way that’s backed up by a deep understanding of local context. At the moment, a lot of clients are opting for remote research techniques to cut down on the time and resources needed to carry out a study.

That’s all well and good, but we angle our approach to incorporate as much of our local insight as we can, within the confines of the brief. Often, designers get swept up in the vision of a modernised, aspirational Asia, and double down on including all the bells and whistles onto their latest builds. That works fine, until they realise that the penetration of high-speed internet outside of the largest ASEAN population centres can be hit and miss.

By keeping design teams grounded in the reality of different Asian cultures, we enable that sense of aspiration by bridging the divide between designers’ vision and what consumers actually need.

The tiniest nuances can have big repercussions for established digital business. Knowing in detail how different cultures ask questions and provide answers can dramatically improve the outcome of a group discussion. Understanding how people respond to problems in one culture can affect UX decisions surrounding troubleshooting.

Even concepts of time and space can become subjective to an extent. Show a person a road map of London and they can gauge roughly how long a car trip between two points would be. Show that same person a map of Manila and the same ‘distance=time’ logic just wouldn’t apply thanks to the differences in how countries handle traffic.

For this reason, our approach to UX research stays as rooted in Asian culture as possible, from how we hold discussions, down to inviting designers to spend time experiencing life in local rural cities. It’s an approach that gets results.

How is UX helping evolve your products? What challenges are you facing, and how can we help? For more Asian insights just like this, get in touch and let’s talk about moving your business forward.