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UXers in China

December 2017 – Jay Speakman

In an exclusive interview with UXswitch, Junior UXer Jay Speakman talks to us about his observations about the use of technology in China and about the prospects for Western designers there.

As an American working in China I’ve become quite very familiar with how popular mobile is for pretty much running your life. Mobile phones have become an extension of our intelligence and part of who we are. They aren’t part of us-not yet anyway-although according to Ray Kurzweil that is likely to change in the near future as we will be connecting to the cloud via our neo-cortex (how will Verizon monetize that?) But I digress.

A Banana Cart and an Opportunity

One day I was jetting about the city on my cool electric scooter when I came upon a man with a small cart selling fruit. He had bananas and I needed some. However, I quickly realized that I, like most people here don’t carry cash anymore. I apologized and told him I had no money. Smiling, he pointed to his phone and said Weixin (WeChat). He scanned my QR code and very quickly, I had bananas and was on my way. Incredible. This man was probably in his 70’s and a happy adopter of mobile payments. As such he was able to capture a sale he otherwise would have lost and I got fresh bananas for a cheaper price than I would have paid at the supermarket.

Of course this is not an isolated incident as I’m sure the scenario is repeated millions of times a day across the country. In fact, many small vendors and mom and pop stores don’t even bother with cash registers as keeping money in a shoebox and making small change on the fly is the norm. Increasingly more common however is the cashless transaction whereby the vendor scans the QR code of the customer and the sale is completed in an instant. Great for the customer and merchant. Not so much for the banks.

Bank? What’s that?

Chinese banks have struggled since 2015 to roll out a mobile payment technology that would keep them in the game but they’ve been largely left out of the mobile market having lost nearly $23B in transactions fees to Alipay and Wechat in 2016 alone. These Chinese tech giants attracted top designers and developers, built engaging, simple to use apps and captured a huge segment of early adopters. These folks come from a broad cross-section of Chinese society, from every age bracket and income level. And in a country of 1.35B people that’s a lot of mobile transactions. And while $23B is a huge number, it’s chump change in the grand scheme of things as this market is embryonic and growing. The bigger number and perhaps more troubling to the banks is the amount of data they are losing as they are not able to track consumer behavior if bank issued cards aren’t used for the transaction. Only Alipay and WeChat can see that.

The fruit vendor was quick in realizing the means to capture a sale by instructing his western customer in how commerce is done at the street level. And while commercial banking is booming in China (as in the U.S) consumer banking has taken a major hit. So much so that the government is considering placing restrictions on WeChat and Alipay at the behest of the banks. WeChat is especially troublesome in that it ostensibly functions as an incredibly far-reaching social network that also has a powerful mobile payment feature. And with over 750M users in China it’s not likely that the government will push too hard.

Why Go Elsewhere?

WeChat is an example of what many apps will become in the future. This indispensable (and free) portal makes it easy to connect with friends and family via text or voice message and also offers free international voice calls. People can place photos in their “Moments” section, share video, read news feeds and follow their favorite entertainers, sports teams and brands. Oh, and they have that money thing going on too.

Do you think Facebook and Twitter would like to capture a percentage of each consumer transaction conducted on their site? If the point is to keep users engaged and spending longer amounts of time on site then why would you want them going elsewhere to pay vendors or send money to friends?

I would imagine U.S. banks have lobbied hard in order to prevent something like this from happening lest they see their dwindling consumer “walk-in” business dry up completely.

The writing’s on the wall. And if Instagram can figure a way to do what WeChat has managed to pull off in China by including a mobile payment feature as a convenience to users it would be an incredibly compelling and lucrative value add.

Innovation and Opportunity

So how would someone go about finding a job in UX design in China? It’s not as difficult as you might imagine. Simply do a quick search for UX Design in Shanghai for example and you’ll find several pages of jobs. Most in fact, with companies with familiar names. China openly embraces people from different cultures and has for many years; especially in education as the majority of foreigners working in China are teachers. But China has long-standing relationships with companies such as Volkswagen, GE, GM, Ford, Siemens, Philips, SAP and many more. And domestic players such mobile phone makers Huawei, Oppo, VIVO and Meitu are driving innovation, pushing Apple and Samsung and hiring Western designers as well as home grown talent. And while it’s definitely to your advantage to speak a little Mandarin or Cantonese (the dialect of southern China) English is the language of business and, especially with Western companies, is what’s spoken in the workplace.

And the requirements and tools are the same whether you’re working for Volkswagen in Germany, the U.S. or Shanghai. You’ll be using Sketch and carrying a MacBook and speaking English.

For those who may be feeling the pinch in cities like San Francisco, New York and London a stint working for a Western company in Shanghai or Shenzhen or even a Chinese tech giant like Tencent could be a very rewarding experience. Having lived in China for a number of years I can honestly say that Shanghai, while huge, isn’t that much different from any other large, international metropolis. But one may be surprised at how much more affordable it is compared with some of the aforementioned cities. And Starbucks here is the same as it is in San Francisco or New York; minus the long lines as the Chinese still haven’t taken to coffee. You may in fact find yourself all alone on a Saturday or Sunday with only the staff and ambient tunes flowing from the sound system to keep you company. Heaven.

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Source link http://www.uxswitch.com/tales-from-an-american-uxer-in-china/

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