Highlights from Day 1 at Savvy UX Summit 2021

UXTesting.io hosted their fourth Savvy UX Summit this year on 17-19 of September 2021. The summit was three days long filled with insightful talks from User Experience experts across several industries. From hospitality, tech, automotive, and consulting, invited speakers shared their expertise and experience in their respective fields on the best User Experience practices. In total, the event welcomed over 1,500 attendees from over 70 countries, with the support of sponsors, community and media partners.

This article recaps the highlights from Savvy UX Summit 2021 day by day. To read the highlights from the second day, click here.

1. Researching in Japan

To kick off the summit, we had Kiyo Yamauchi, current Senior Director at MarketCast and previous Head of User Experience at Twitter Japan.

In his session, Kiyo shared some challenges international companies face while conducting user research in Japan, which includes language barrier, shyness of the Japanese testers and concerns about privacy violations. 

He also gave the keynote attendees some practical tips when conducting user research there such as:
  • Avoiding Japanese holidays
  • For students, housewives of house husbands, do your research during the day on weekdays
  • For Japanese with full-time jobs, do your research during weekday evenings or weekends
  • If you are doing user research with women, it will make the research participants to have a female transcriber with you if you are a male researcher
  • Reassure users that this is not a test and that they are the expert
  • Allocate more time to bilingual studies
  • Hire an interpreter if the team does not have anyone who is fluent in Japanese
  • Compensation should be around 7,000 yen per hour  for students and 10,000 yen per hour for adults
  • Be 20-30 minutes early for in-person interviews and 5-10 minutes earlier for remote interviews

Image: Kiyo Yamauchi, current Senior Director at MarketCast

2. Unleashing the power of Design, Data and AI

In the next session, we had Dr Eva Deckers, Director of Data-Enabled Design at Philips who presented a keynote presentation about how Philips made use of design, data and AI to improve healthcare products.

Dr Eva shared that Philips sought to understand the value of data and AI for users and ensure that propositions that encompass data and AI are meaningful. The company treats data as creative material to work with and seeks actionable insights from them.

During the session, she also shared several examples of how Philips made use of data to improve its products. Here are some examples:
  • In the field of oncology, visualization of the clinical outcome of various treatments can help doctors and patients decide the best course of action and treatment
  • For infant care products, Philips made use of a housing with temperature sensors and other sensors that detects the pull when the infant is being fed and the feeding time to improve the bottle-feeding experience  
  • In the fitness industry, Philips made use of data from activity trackers, weighing scales, smart pop sockets and worked with hospitals in the Netherlands to come up with long-term personal care for their users
  • For personal care appliances, Philips also built a system that integrates various appliances like toothbrushes, shavers and facial devices with fitbits to better understand their user’s environments.

Image: Dr Eva Deckers, Director of Data-Enabled Design at Philips

3. Getting started with ResearchOps

Next on the agenda, we had Brigette Metzler, ResearchOps Lead at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (Australian Government). Brigette drew on her experience as a Research Ops specialist and shared with the attendees more about operationalizing user research in organizations.

She introduced the attendees to the Eight Pillars – the broad areas that researchers need to be in place to allow research to happen, to allow researchers to scale the impact of their craft. These pillars remain the same, whether you’re just ‘getting organized’ or are doing research at scale. The components of the Eight Pillars are: Environment, Scope, People, Organizational Context, Recruitment and Admin, Data and Knowledge Management, Governance, Tools and infrastructure

She also shared more about the Pace Layers. The layers in the framework represent depth and pace and it helps an organization to understand more of their research methods. The layers are fashion, commerce, infrastructure, governance, culture and nature. The further you go down the layers, the slower things move.

To conclude her session, Brigette also gave examples of how organizations can apply both frameworks together to identify where their organization is in terms of research maturity and how to move forward from there.

Image: Brigette Metzler, ResearchOps Lead at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (Australian Government)

4. Assessing & growing teams in a multicultural environment

Next up, we welcomed Jaime Zamorano, UX Designer at Amazon to the virtual stage. Jaime previously worked as Product Design Lead where he was in charge of engaging with businesses and building products in a quick and efficient manner at Rakuten Inc, Tokyo.

In this session, Jaime shares lessons he learned when managing a multicultural team at Rakuten Inc. in Japan. And most importantly, look for indicators to evaluate yourself, your team and act upon them. Jaime’s talk addressed three main topics: 

  1. Understanding culture
    Culture can be viewed as languages, customs, beliefs, rules and collective identities by members of social groups. But why is culture important in the workplace? Jaime discussed the importance of culture in the workplace and shared real life examples using the culture map of Erin Meyer. This map shows 8 dimensions of culture: communicating, evaluating, leading, deciding, trusting, disagreeing, scheduling, and persuasion. For example, it can vary across cultures whether people give direct or indirect feedback.

  2. Making sure your team works
    In this part, Jaime discussed several challenges Jaime experienced working in a multicultural team. The SPLIT framework helps discover and understand these challenges in your teams. SPLIT stands for structure, process, language, identity and technology.

  3. Assessing and growing your team
    In the last part of the session, Jaime talked about how to assess and grow your team giving several practical tips. This combined insights from the previous two parts. 
    • On an individual level, think back about the 8 dimensions of culture. Are there any barriers the team or individual needs to break? It’s important to establish trust by setting up 1-on-1 meetings and working together with team members to create goals. 
    • From a team point of view, you need to ask yourself first what are goals? Is it to solidify position or expand boundaries? Or is it to assess growth in the organization? In this case, you can use the SPLIT framework with your team and do affiliate mapping to discover areas of improvement.

Image: Jaime Zamorano, UX Designer at Amazon

5. Pragmatic Product Design: Keeping Your Priorities Straight and Enabling Your Team
For the fifth session, we were joined by Chris Stair taking us along his career journey and sharing the challenges and failures he faced along the way. Currently, Chris is a product design manager at J.P. Morgan Chase. He spent his UX career in finance where he designed everything from an insider-trading-hunting dashboard to credit risk modellers to a cryptocurrency-aggregator.

Starting off at the beginning of his career, Chris shared that many mistakes he made were valuable lessons. Firstly, he needed to learn how to deliver value. One method to do this is using storytelling. Your message will carry further and convey to more people if it’s packaged in a good and compelling story. But the story is only part of the puzzle. It is also important to focus on design thinking and user-centred design. To do this, you will need to conduct research and interview people.  

Another lesson learned is about understanding what your position entails. Chris introduced the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) framework as a way to frame your work. Theory by JTBD implies:
  • People buy products and services to get a “job”
  • Jobs are functional, with emotional and social components
  • A Job-to-be-Done is stable over time and is agnostic
  • Success comes from making the “job” rather than the product or the customer. 
Chris further shared his strategic project that had led to failure. In retrospect, it was due to failure of vision that led to confusing strategy and lack of tactical execution. The people in control of the budget who set the vision were far removed from the work that’s actually been done. Hence, as a practitioner understanding how vision, strategy, and tactics relate back to your work can be difficult. The key to success if those three levels of priorities work seamlessly together.
  • Vision is about being what you want to be. 
  • Strategy is a high-level plan of how you’ll get there. 
  • Tactics are what you do on a concrete level that helps support the other two. 
After working on many projects over the past decade, Chris concluded that the best outcome he looks for in projects is that they are delivered on time with minimal stress, the users are happy, as well as the team he works with. Chris try to accomplish this by bringing the user’s perspective into his project, developing empathy and strong working relationships with his team and managing the expectation of his organization.

Image: Chris Stair, VP Product Design at J.P Morgan Chase

6. The benefits of constraints: Best Practices and Lessons Learned From A Year Of Doing Remote Research

The last speaker, Anna Zavyalova, Head of Research at Daito Design talked about remote search. The past year has forced UX practitioners around the world to rapidly adapt to a reality where ‘contextual’ and ‘immersive’ parts of our toolkit were largely inaccessible. This talk considered top remote contextual research strategies that have allowed the UX research sector to thrive despite the ongoing obstacles caused by the pandemic. Anna shared what she learned from a year of doing remote research and explored the benefits of this evolved toolkit even as we’re slowly beginning to go back into the field.

To start off, Anna pointed out an important distinction between remote work and remote search. Remote work and remote search are two different things. As the team at Daito Design worked remotely before the pandemic hit, for them conducting remote research was something new. 

User research past and present
  • Before the pandemic, Anna travelled many miles, conducted interviews at research labs, and in the workplace from usability testing, focus groups, diary studies to observations. The only constraints she had to deal with came down to budget. 

  • However, at present after the pandemic, several challenges arose in the user research industry. One of the most obvious being, research was solely conducted remote using Zoom, Google Hangout meets, Microsoft Teams etc.

The world of user research was disrupted unevenly. The qualitative and generative types of research have negatively been affected by the pandemic. Methods that were suspended, simply because researchers were unable to use them included field studies, lab studies, shadowing, observations, ethnographies, and contextual studies. Overall you can see that quantitative methods were not affected as much by the pandemic. 

Benefits of constraints: lesson learned
In this part of the talk, Anna focused on the silver lining, the unexpected benefits and virtues of not being able to do the things we would have kept doing if not for the pandemic. Constraints can be great since they force us out of our comfort zones and to use our imaginations. 

  1. Missing context
    Constraints: No direct access to “thick” data
    Benefits: Intentionality (focus on what really matters) and Inclusivity (expand the sample)

  2. Reduced toolkit
    Constraints: Limited range of activities
    Benefits: Evolution (experiment and innovate) and efficiency (keep things simple)

  3. Lack of nuance
    Constraints: Non-verbal cues are often missing
    Benefits: Confidence (make the user feel at ease) and candidness (empower the user to speak their mind)

  4. Communication challenges
    Constraints: Rapport can be hard to establish
    Benefits: Context (small-talk about big things) and collaboration (make use of observers)

  5. Interruptions
    Constraints: Technology causes friction
    Benefits: Authenticity (don’t fight it too much) and automation (make smart use of digital tools)

Lastly, before ending her session. Anna shared five practical tips for attendees to takeaway. 

  1. Don’t replicate, but adapt and evolve. 
  2. Things will go wrong, so always have a plan B
  3. More is more, expand the sample
  4. Products are complex, hence make research simple. 
  5. You will make mistakes, learn from them.

Image: Anna Zavyalova, Head of Research at Daito Design

With the ending of the sixth keynote, Savvy UX Summit continued further on the networking platform, Gather. Attendees had the opportunity to engage in further conversation, visit sponsor booths, or ask more questions directly to speakers.

We would like to thank our Platinum sponsors (Daito Design and PanelSheet), Gold sponsor (Foodpanda), and Silver sponsors (Balsamiq, Agoda, and MURAL) to help make this summit a success. Foodpanda and Agoda are actively recruiting at this moment, so head over to their website if you are interested in applying for a design/research position. Lastly, we want to extend our gratitude to our associate sponsors O'Reilly and Axure as well as our 75 community/media partners for showing their support.

At UXTesting.io, we provide remote user insight solutions to enterprises that can help further your UX research. For questions or more information about how UXTesting.io can help your company, please contact us on social@uxtesting.io.


Yang Mei Asscheman
Marketing Manager at UXTesting
Shi Ning Peh
Marketing at UXTesting