Conference seeks to empower designers, plug brain drain


Posted at May 30 2018 12:01 PM

Instead of complaining about poor user experience, why not do something about it?

This, said UXPH Design Conference co-founder Elymar Apao, is a challenge that he and his colleagues hoped to pose to the country’s young designers when they started the conference last year.

They have so far been doing well, with this year's 320 conference-goers exceeding their initial estimate of attendees, which was only restricted by the size of the venue. Encouraging, he said, because the conference is more than work for them—it is also an advocacy.

"We were seeing lots of unsatisfactory experiences in the Philippines. Instead of just complaining about it, let's do something about it...It’s an advocacy, communicating that there is such a thing as design thinking, [and] better customer experiences," he said in an interview on the sidelines of 'UXPH2018: Navigating Design Crossroads' at The Globe Tower in Taguig on Saturday.

L-R: UXPH Board of Directors member Ian Pestelos, UXPH Co-founder Elymar Apao, and UXPH President Dr. Jennifer Teves. Handout

The conference was also a way to make user experience (UX) design more accessible, and to try and reverse brain drain, said UXPH President Dr. Jennifer Teves.

"It would even the playing field for everyone to get the learning that they need. Potentially if jobs like these would open up in the country, we would have people with the skills to apply for them—not anymore bringing in foreign people to fill those jobs in our own country," she said.

The opportunity to hone their skills would also possibly prepare attendees for any shifts in the technology sector due to the rise of artificial intelligence, said UXPH Board of Directors member Ian Pestelos.

"We are trying to elevate what innovation an bring for us…We have to look at the customer side of things, not only what was handed to us as a process, or a set of tasks we have to execute. We are going beyond the task-based approach [with the design approach]," he said.

Bringing user experience to the forefront would also give Filipinos an opportunity to better serve their countrymen.

"In the simplest sense, design thinking is giving them a different way of looking at [a problem]…The issue with…looking at [a problem] from only one point of view, you tend not to be open to all potential solutions. Maybe the solutions that you've tried didn’t work, but you keep using them over and over. It’s not really a solution," she said.

The importance of user experience was seen in the recent merger between two ride-sharing services, said Pestelos. Users who liked the way one app worked expressed mixed views on the other, sparking a campaign to build a better relationship with disgruntled customers.

DICT Undersecretary Mon Ibrahim delivers his keynote during the UXPH2018 in Taguig. Handout

Extending for 2 days, UXPH2018 featured a range of experts on various topics intended to improve designers' work, and also introduce newcomers to the finer points of the trade. Workshops were also staged during the second day to hone practical skills.

Featured as keynote speaker was Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Undersecretary Mon Ibrahim, who stressed the importance of changing the mindset of government officials towards user experience design as a way to revolutionize service.

More information about the UXPH Design Conference can be found on the UXPH website and Facebook page.

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