Highlights from Day 2 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 first day, click here.

1. The Next Era of UI Design

The first speaker we have for day 2 is Matthew MacLaurin, current Program Manager at Microsoft and previous vice president of Product Design at PlayStation.The design of the original Macintosh was very different from the design of the Nest thermostat, the Facebook App, and the PlayStation 5. As products and cultures evolve, what design asks of its practitioners must evolve too. In Matthew’s talk, he shared about the different eras of design and shared some tips about how the attendees can prepare for the next era of UI design.

From 2013 till today, Matthew noted that design is largely driven and could be easily validated. Large companies can make design changes and very quickly have millions of people testing it via A/B testing. Designers in this era have to balance between experimentation and being intentional about their design changes, deciding between testing and failing fast or taking time to thoroughly plan their design changes. As the design industry matures, he also noted that there seems to be a contraction and standardization of skill sets, with new designs looking similar to each other. 

Looking forward to 2030, Matthew predicts that design will become more:
  • Instrumented, incorporating tons of real-time signals from the real world
  • Ubiquitous, with a more direct connection to information in your environs. It will no longer be about an individual’s phone, laptop, desktop or headset, it’s all of them at the same time, with an experience that follows them across devices
  • Generative, with UIs being dynamically “invented” to fit the exact situation. Designers will likely make use of AI to design UIs that can be modified to fit different individuals.

To prepare for the next era of design, Matthew’s recommendation is to get as close to code as possible. He believes that visual and diagramming skills are critical, but would no longer be a key differentiating factor. In the future, there would likely be breakthroughs in machine learning, natural language and machine visions, which are not areas you can design with visual prototyping tools, so getting to know code is crucial.

Image: Matthew MacLaurin, current Program Manager at Microsoft

2. A Holistic Approach to Automotive Experience Design

Our next speaker is Benjamin Kuhn, Senior Manager (UX/UI Design) at Mercedes-Benz. During his session, Benjamin gave an overview of the state of automotive UI design in general and in particular how the classic design process is transforming into a more integrated and holistic approach. New trends and technologies are informing the collaboration between designers, engineers, and researchers while successful teams will increasingly have to strike the right balance between a highly specialized skill set and the trust in their own instincts. 

Some of the key takeaways from Benjamin’s session are:
  • Innovation vs usability: Not everything should be replaced by touch functionality, there are some functions that are better if it is buttons. The designer should keep in mind the balance of brand, design, innovation and on the other side how users understand the use of buttons and do rigorous testing before implementing changes.

  • Decoration vs innovation: Some companies care about heritage, but some are new companies that are starting from scratch and can be more adventurous and redefine the instrument.

  • Heads-up display and car as a character: There are huge possibilities of innovation in the space of head-up displays to provide more information for drivers on the windscreen and voice AI to assist drivers as they drive.

  • Tools keep changing: Traditionally, car models are build using clay in order for designers to visualize the concepts. However, in recent years, the rise of technologies like VR has made this process completely virtual and more interactive. 

  • Holistic Experience Design: There is a need to balance between the users and the brand. In the automotive industry, the brand plays an important role as people often associate certain brands with the brand experience, which invokes certain emotions and feelings in line with their heritage.

For car design, perfection is expected with no room for failure. Hence, testing is even more crucial and it is important for designers to fail early. A good car design all comes down to human experiences, answering questions on how do users build memories, recreate pleasant experiences and how designers can create excitement but also peace, trust and a feeling of safety.

Image: Benjamin Kuhn, Senior Manager (UX/UI Design) at Mercedes-Benz

3. From Individual UX designer to scale the UX team – the key sauce of ResearchOps

The third speaker of the day is Aldrich Huang, CEO and Co-Founder of UXTesting.io and main event organizer of the summit. In his keynote, he shared some tips on how to group your alliances in your organization, the importance of Research Operation in order to scale and shared some relevant case studies.

Some key takeaways from Aldrich’s session include:
  • Before applying for a UX role, check the maturity of the company: The maturity of the company is extremely important to minimize mismatch in expectations for the job scope. Some less mature companies had different understandings of what UX actually is.

  • Speak the same language as others: Make use of simple language to allow other stakeholders from different departments to understand what you are talking about.

  • Important soft skills for UX practitioners: Some soft skills that UX practitioners found useful are communication, empathy, active listening, teamwork and problem solving

  • UX researchers are taking up too many roles: Many UX researchers are caught up with roles like participant data management, calendar management, participant no-shows, teach participants how to use tools, send incentives, internal financial processes instead of focusing on the users.

During his keynote presentation, Aldrich also revealed the in-house ResearchOps tool, PanelSheet, for the first time. PanelSheet allows UX practitioners to seamlessly integrate participant lists, manage multiple calendars, manage individual participants and distribute incentives globally. Aldrich also shared two case studies where his team used PanelSheet to optimize the user research process for a Japanese and European client. 

At the end of his session, he left the attendees with 5 key tips for UX practitioners, which are:
  • Understand your priority and situation
  • You should have your own operation playbook (If not, make it now!)
  • Every company could have a totally different process and culture
  • Don’t underestimate the ResearchOps, it will influence your performance
  • Find your alliance in your company
Image: Aldrich Huang, CEO and Co-Founder of UXTesting.io

4. Career Management - Whose Job is it Anyway?

The next speaker of the day is Shiran Bloch, Director of Product Design at foodpanda. In the past organizations used to own career development for their employees. There was only one route offered and if you keep your head down, work hard and long enough, you'll get promoted. That is no longer the case, and yet, many people would consider Career Management as the manager's job. In her talk, Shiran explored the roles and responsibilities for career management, while sharing examples from the career journey creation process her team went through at foodpanda design.

Shiran shared 3 main lessons during her keynote session:
  • Lesson 1: Don’t have a career plan, know what motivates you
    The destination is a mirage, quickly gone once you reach there. The journey is your actual career. Therefore it is important to find out what keeps you coming back every day, to allow yourself some flexibility to try new things and to not let your job title define you. 

  • Lesson 2: Find ways to help you give and receive feedback
    Feedback is something that is difficult for everyone, yet is crucial in helping you keep track of your performance. It is also important to note that feedback goes both ways; try giving your manager feedback about the way they give you feedback. When seeking feedback, ask yourself how often you can digest it and how it can be given (sometimes people might find casual feedback settings more helpful than formal ones). It is also important to ask for specific feedback that ties in with your goals and in areas where you think you can provide value.

  • Lesson 3: Don’t focus only on core skills
    Focusing only on core UX skills is not enough. It is important to find and share your strengths with others. When you’re in your element, you feel comfortable, confident and in control and would be in a better position to add value to your team and organization.
Image: Shiran Bloch, Director of Product Design at foodpanda

5. People, Government and Design in Taiwan

Next up, we had Haoting Chang, Design Consultant at Public Digital Innovation Space, Taiwan Government. The Public Digital Innovation Space is an innovation lab in the central government in Taiwan. In her talk, Haoting introduced how people and the government engage with design in various projects, methods, and how design has transformed the way to engage with public affairs.

The Taiwanese government employed a few strategies to engage its citizens for design such as:
  • Collaborative meeting: This collaborative working style is inspired by design thinking and its main purpose is to look for alignment between the citizens and the government. It allows regular citizens to be partners with the government instead of agencies.

  • Open API: The government also made use of open APIs to allow anyone with an idea of how to better improve government service to get involved. This strategy allows everyone to be a service provider and can also be implemented in rescue systems and navigation.

  • Build, test, repeat: The government also makes use of the double diamond design process to gain a deeper understanding of design problems and test their solutions.

A case study brought up by Haoting was the hiking permit project. Her team made use of the double diamond design process and listened at scale with polls. They involved all stakeholders including mountain guides and travel agents to make sure that everyone who would be impacted by the change is involved in the discussion. They also invited youths to redesign the hiking permit system and invited many users to test it.

Image: Haoting Chang, Design Consultant at Public Digital Innovation Space, Taiwan Government

6. Designing for and with Developers

The next speaker on the lineup is Christie Lenneville, Vice President of UX at Gitlab. In her keynote, she talked about what developers want from a great user experience in their work tools and gave some insight to her experience around how UX designers can work more effectively with their own development teams to create great products. 

For her keynote presentation, Christie interviewed some developers she worked with and collected interesting insights about how designers can make better products for developers. Some of the key insights are:
  • Never forget to design for beginners: Many developers are at the beginning of their career. Even for experienced developers, they may not be familiar with your product. Therefore, the onboarding process is very important to help people navigate through the platform.

  • Offer sample scripts: Offer developers sample scripts to test your product, don’t assume that they have codes lying around to test your new features

  • Be conscious about design changes: As experts, developers have muscle memory for the way they do things, so make sure you account for that when making design changes. Constant changing of the workflow can be very disorientating for developers.

  • Visualization: Make use of visualization to overcome the visual fatigue of looking at lines and lines of code as humans can grasp relationships more easily,

  • Don’t forget about Mobile: Mobile can be important for developer tools with over 50% of Gitlab respondents saying that it is important

  • Dark mode: Dark mode is one of the most requested features and many feel that dark mode is easier on the eyes

  • Accessibility isn't a feature, it is a necessity: When we design for accessibility, we’re giving everyone a chance to excel in their career 

Towards the end of her sharing, she left the attendees with a few tips to work with developers such as involving them in user research (if they have no time, summarise your research clearly and precisely with action steps), be clear and concise, ensure designers and developers are aware of the constraints each other is working under and to really take time to learn the tool you are designing for.

Image: Christie Lenneville, Vice President of UX at Gitlab

7. Why Mobile User Experience Matters

For the last speaker of the day, we had Billal Qureshi, Head of User Experience (Mobile + Apps) at Google. In his keynote session, Billal will walk through why it matters now more than ever for companies to invest in good mobile experiences across both mWeb and app. 

Mobile has become an integral part of many people’s lives, yet the mobile experience can sometimes still be frustrating. Some of the key points shared were:
  • It is easier to start from mobile experience then upsize it to a desktop experience than go from desktop experience to mobile experience
  • Some companies do mobile days where people can only use mobiles for work, this allows employees to feel the pain of the mobile experience which leads to them optimizing it. This is a good practice for product companies.
  • Never sacrifice speed for design. A slight speed increase of 0.1s leads to an increase in conversion rates and average order value (research by Deloitte). The recommended load time for mobile sites: 3s or less

Billal also shared his 5 principles to nail mobile experience, which are:
  • Page weight <1,000kb
  • Remove automatic image carousels: No mobile site should have this, remove to reduce load time
  • Prominent search: Use an open text box and auto correct for any typo. Users are 200% more likely to convert if they search for something using the search bar.
  • Social proof + urgency: Have indication of scarcity. List.com added “selling fast” on some of their listings and it got 17% more conversion
  • Faster checkout: Adding options like PayPal or Apple/ google pay, guest checkout
Image: Billal Qureshi, Head of User Experience (Mobile + Apps) at Google

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. Moreover, a special thank you to our associate sponsor O'Reilly and Axure as well as our 75 community/media partners for showing their support.

This article summarized the key learnings of the first day at Savvy UX Summit 2021. If you are interested in reading more about the third day, click here.


Shi Ning Peh
Marketing at UXTesting