Getting to Know You: Elaine Ann

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Current Role: President/CEO at Kaizor Innovation, Instructor for User Experience Design at GA
Twitter: @kaizorBUZZ
Personal website: www.kaizor.com

1. When did you first get into UX design?

I’ve been a designer for 18 years. I first started learning about “UX” when I was still studying at Carnegie Mellon in the early 90’s. The term UX actually did not even exist back then. It was called GUI (Graphical User Interface) or just Interface Design. Those were the days when Photoshop only had one layer and the first websites were gray background with a huge jpeg on Mosaic browsers. (Post 80’s and 90’s won’t know what I’m talking about!)

2. What is “UX”?

User Experience means many things to many people even among industry practitioners. Some people understand User Experience as web interfaces, however UX is really much wider than that. The scope of UX can be every single interaction the user has with a company. In my view, UX is actually a work process and cultural change in organizations that focuses on the end-user.

3. What are some common misconceptions about UX?

I think many people are not aware that User Experience is not one single role. In large companies, User Experience includes:

  • User Experience Strategists who work with business/product managers to discover and define the users and strategy of the product
  • Interaction Designers/Information Architects who design the behavior or the navigation of the site/product
  • Creative Director/Visual Interface Designers who define the brand and carry over that brand language to the interface/product designs
  • UX Developer who can do front end coding and communicate with programmers to make sure the integrity of the design is kept throughout the process to production.

4. What does UX design mean to you?

When most people hear “design,” they often think it means art, decoration and making things pretty. If you say you’re a “designer”, most will relate it to fashion design or interior design. But UX Design is really another animal. I think traditional design is a lot about style and personal expressiveness, while user experience actually takes a very different philosophical stance.

The focus is on the user and not really on the designer. UX designers have to have more of a logical mindset to design navigations and behaviors that make sense for the user. In a way, I think User Experience is an inter-disciplinary field merging psychology, aesthetics, technology, business and really is the glue between all those discipline.

5. Why is it important to know UX in Hong Kong?

In Hong Kong, User Experience is integral to startups. For startups, your product is your company, and its a do or die situation. Hong Kong is undergoing industry transformation and we’ve seen a large startup community bubbling up in the last 18 months.

6. What do you find exciting about being a designer in Hong Kong?

There are a lot of new startups here as returnees and expats come to Hong Kong looking for the next big thing in Asia. However, most user experience designers in Hong Kong are either employees of large companies or independent consultants, so there are not enough UX designers who want to join startups and sometimes startups don’t completely understand what UX really can offer.

I think the market will mature as more successful startups grow in Hong Kong, and the tide is already starting to turn. Here are a list of startups in Hong Kong, many which need UX help, and a Forbes article about the rise of the Hong Kong startup scene.