Photos of NetDragon Websoft in Fuzhou

Space ship campus

When I first started considering qn opportunity at NetDragon, there wasn’t a great deal English language information about the company, it’s facilities, and surroundings. So I am hoping this image dump of unprocessed iPhone photos of the ChangLe campus might fill in any gaps in related Google searches. I may add more photos overtime, but upstream bandwidth in Fujian is pretty limited (think Kb/sec not Mb/sec). If you happen upon these images and have any questions, please get in touch.

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We get some fog here

We get some fog here


“The deepest form of understanding another person is empathy…[which] involves a
shift from…observing how you seem on the outside, to…imagining what it feels like to be you on the inside.”
Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project, Chapter 9, “Empathy is a Journey, Not a Destination,” p. 183.

Designing something requires that you completely understand what a person wants to get done. Empathy with a person is distinct from studying how a person uses something. Empathy extends to knowing what the person wants to accomplish regardless of whether she has or is aware of the thing you are designing. You need to know the person’s goals and what procedure and philosophy she follows to accomplish them.
from the book Mental Models


Products are realized only as necessary artifacts to address customer needs. What Flickr, Kodak, Apple, and Target all realize is that the experience is the product we deliver, and the only thing that our customers care about.
From book Mental Models


New ideas come into play far less frequently than practical ideas — ideas that can be re-used for a thousand variations, supplying the framework for a whole body of work rather than a single piece.
Art and Fear – by David Bayles and Ted Orland


“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”
— Jessica Hische


Surprises

sheep's foot

With regards to food, living in Taiwan, and now China, for the past 17 – 18 years I’ve just about seen it all. Living and traveling throughout the region has opened my eyes to all kinds oddities, but I still get surprised now and again. This past weekend when visiting for what passes as a high end grocery store here, I noticed tucked amongst the neatly packaged pork, a pair of hooves. It would be interesting to know what kind of recipe calls for sheep’s feet.


Negative Emotions and The Creative Process

“Rigor is the key to overcoming obstacles and completing tasks—and good mood doesn’t improve problem-solving, which involves judgments that almost by necessity won’t feel good: critique and evaluation, experimentation and failure. The stress that arises from problems may be unpleasant but it also motivates us to complete tasks, Davis says. In other words, negative emotions are actually beneficial to the creative process.”

Scientists explain how happiness makes us less creative


As we craft increasingly complex designs for a growing variety of digital devices, remember that interaction design is not about the behavior of the interface; it’s about the behavior of people.


Long deliverables

I was about to launch into my normal rant about how 30-page research presentations and enormous PowerPoint decks full of qualitative data are horrible wastes of time and how they must be avoided at all costs, but I’m tired of giving that speech. Instead, I sat down with the person and started asking questions. What I came up with was this framework.

At the start of any project, or when entering a new project, I always spend a considerable amount of time on some kind of research. Whether that is combing the internet for related research (mining data from documents), reading blogs, articles, case studies, becoming familiar with the full range of competitors products or more formal methods like interviewing users. I attempt as quickly as possible to become as much of an expert as I can be within this new realm — this way I feel I can give a greater contribution and perhaps use this data to inform design. But most companies I have worked with don’t have a robust system for sharing this knowledge and it seems selfish to keep it all to myself (and rather selfishly I also want to give teammates some indication that I did this work in the first place), so I end up writing long briefs with all the accumulated knowledge. I’m received some push back to this habit, as many people don’t have the time to read pages of briefs.

I feel that combining illustration with hyper-summaries would help but my poor illustration ability would only make the results less clear. I’m still working on an ideal solution that works for me and the people I work with.

Laura Klein has some ideas on how to organize your ideas on the topic in her article Creating effective UX research deliverables.


Natural sound is as essential as visual information because sound tells us about things we can’t see and it does so while our eyes are occupied elsewhere. Natural sounds reflect the complex interaction of natural objects; the way one part moves against another, the material of which the parts are made. Sounds are generated when materials interact and the sound tells us whether they are hitting, sliding, breaking or bouncing. Sounds differ according to the characteristics of the objects and they differ on how fast things are going and how far they are from us.
Bill Gaver


I forget where I got this, perhaps from the Experience Economy.

A goods business charges for distinctive, tangible things.
A service business charges for the activities you perform.
An experience business charges for the feeling customers get by engaging it.


Creativity isn’t linear

I die sitting at a desk all the time, and despite most of my favorite ideas coming at times I’m not even at work, I must sit there for at least 8 hours a day. Many don’t truly understand the following, and prefer a factory model of employee productivity and value.

… let’s remember that research shows human productivity does not follow a linear continuum with time. Specifically, according to Pareto’s principle, people produce 80 percent of what really matters in approximately 20 percent of the time they spend at work. So when I hear clients complain about summer hours, coffee breaks, or employees’ short days, I always remind them of the result of the study. Timesheets for employees are a relic of the past. They made sense in the industrial era when the scientific management of labor was implemented to organize work in assembly lines. But in today’s global economy more and more companies rely on their employees’ creativity for their success. Because creativity does not follow a linear relationship with time, time management for creative employees shouldn’t either. For instance, great advertising copy can take weeks or even months to be worked and reworked to final edit, whereas, conversely, a brilliant slogan may come to mind in just a few seconds. Time spent on copywriting is not a guarantee of success. So when Google provides employees with space and resources for a break, relaxation, or a massage they actually are managing the 80/20 rule of human productivity very well. They know that at some point in the day it inevitably becomes useless to require employees to sit at their desk. From this article which is excerpted from Francis Cholle’s The Intuitive Compass, Jossey-Bass


People need to feel in control

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From Close door buttons on elevators are designed to be utterly useless, which reveals how elevator close door buttons and pedestrian crosswalk buttons don’t actually map to any function. Pushing buttons, even when they don’t really do anything, makes us feel better. Psychologists believe the perception of control is beneficial in helping to reduce stress.

Dr. Albert Bandura, an influential social psychologist, coined the term “self-efficacy” to describe people’s internal beliefs about their ability to have an impact on events that affect their lives. Your self-efficacy is your belief in your own effectiveness as a person, both generally in terms of managing your life, and specifically with regard to competently dealing with individual tasks. In the context of stress, self-efficacy describes your beliefs about your ability to handle stressful situations. A large amount of research has demonstrated quite convincingly that possessing high levels of self-efficacy acts to decrease people’s potential for experiencing negative stress feelings by increasing their sense of being in control of the situations they encounter. The perception of being in control (rather than the reality of being in or out of control) is an important buffer of negative stress. When people feel that they are not in control, they start feeling stressed, even if they actually are in control and simply don’t know it. Another reason that people feel stressed is when they feel out of control because they do not possess the appropriate coping skills, resources, etc. to adequately cope with the situation.

When a given demand (e.g., passing an exam, winning a race) is perceived as something you can handle because you expect you will do well based on preparation or past experience (e.g., because you have studied for the exam or trained for the race), you are likely to perceive the demand as a challenge and as an exhilarating experience. After the event is over, you may even have a resulting boost in self-esteem because you worked hard to meet the demand and succeeded. If, however, the demand seems beyond your abilities, you will likely experience distress. Across time, feeling unable to respond effectively to stressful situations can further decrease your sense of self-efficacy, making you even more prone to experience distress in the future.
Self-Efficacy And The Perception Of Control In Stress Reduction

Think of this the next time you are designing a UI or task flow, especially when the UI or task may involve a certain amount of stress in your users (I don’t mean give them useless buttons to push). Giving users the feeling of control, proper feedback, and a feeling of accomplishment will increase the positive feelings they have when using the product.


The 3 keys to unlock the door to usability

There are three keys to unlock the door to usability: frequency, sequence and importance.

Frequency says that things the customers do most frequently (e.g. next, back, search etc) should have a prominent position in the sequence.

Sequence says that activities that occur in sequence should be presented in sequence (i.e. you pay at the end of a transaction, not in the middle).

Importance means that important pieces of information need to be given clearly and at the right time (e.g. if you only ship within the EU, then a customer trying to buy from India needs to know this early on –not at the end of a six-page check-out dialogue).

Understanding the customers’ mental model and applying the frequency, sequence and importance rule will crack most of your usability needs. But, beware, like all rules, you cannot follow them blindly, and there are always tradeoffs that have to be made between these elements.
This is Service Design Thinking


Benchmarking definition

I was required to do this activity, albeit in a far more informal way, numerous times in the past. It often is used in conjunction with competitive analysis, but in my experience was often used alone.

Vorhies & Morgan (2005, 81) define benchmarking as “market-based learning process by which a firm seeks to identify best practices that produce superior results in other firms and to replicate these to enhance its own competitive advantage.” The purpose of benchmarking is to gather various types of business knowledge for the company doing the benchmarking. The objective of benchmarking is to apply the gained business knowledge in to business decision-making. By doing so the company can improve the business decision-making and thus improve the business performance of the company. Therefore, the competitive advantage of the company becomes stronger. (Prašnikar etc. 2005, 257-275.)

Vorhies & Morgan (2005, 81) also state that benchmarking has potential on becoming a vital learning tool for identifying, building and improving market abilities to deliver lasting competitive advantage for a company.


Melody Roberts: Modernizing Service With Style

It takes a leap of faith to think one can design – or redesign – a culture, with all it’s nuance and complexity. Melody Roberts shares culture design principles she and her colleagues are discovering as they innovate around the customer experience at McDonald’s restaurants.

Melody Roberts is the global senior director of experience innovation for McDonald’s Corporation. She and her team focus on the five- to ten-year horizon, envisioning and prototyping practical, scalable solutions to complex customer and employee experience challenges. In her nine years with the company she has helped to shape the long-term global service strategy, to implement modern retailing practices, and to define the potential of digital commerce. Prior to McDonald’s, she spent seven years in design consulting, including two years with IDEO, helping clients foster a culture of customer-centered innovation within their organizations. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in American studies from Yale University and a Master of Design in human-centered product design from Illinois Tech.


Exploratory research

I was looking for this explanation earlier this week. I literally forget everything if it isn’t some db somewhere.

Exploratory research is an approach where the researchers are not seeking full answers or conclusive evidence. They try to find information about the research problem and to gain more knowledge about the researched phenomena. An exploratory approach helps the researchers to better understand the field they are studying. This approach gives a better understanding of the problem but it does not give the one and only solution to the research question. It leaves room for further research and multiple solutions. The researchers have to be willing to change the way of their thinking if this approach gives them solutions towards totally new ideas.
(Research Methodology, 2016.)


Make the text easy to read for all

When I started designing for the web many many years ago this was an issue. It’s still an issue now. There can be nothing more fundamental than allowing people to be able read that which is delivered via the screen (I’d also add, the freedom to make that text selectable, another pet peeve, and usability problem). I find it an increasingly serious problem on mobile, but it’s still rampant on the large screen as well.

And it’s to just a problem of contrast as stated in the article linked to below, but also there seems to be a tendency to return to ever smaller type sizes, which on mobile becomes not just unreadable but also makes user interaction al the more challenging.

There’s a widespread movement in design circles to reduce the contrast between text and background, making type harder to read. Apple is guilty. Google is, too. So is Twitter.

Typography may not seem like a crucial design element, but it is. One of the reasons the web has become the default way that we access information is that it makes that information broadly available to everyone. “The power of the Web is in its universality,” wrote Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web consortium. “Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
But if the web is relayed through text that’s difficult to read, it curtails that open access by excluding large swaths of people, such as the elderly, the visually impaired, or those retrieving websites through low-quality screens.
How the Web Became Unreadable

And I have to practice what I preach here, the text size is become too small.


Product experience is about the quality of tangibility. The fundamental concept to embrace when you design a service is that perceived quality is defined by the gap between what people expect and what they actually experience.
Service Design:From Insight to Implementation


The struggle of process

Have you heard the story of the architect from Shiraz who designed the world’s most beautiful mosque? No one had ever conjured up such a design. It was breathtakingly daring yet well-proportioned, divinely sophisticated, yet radiating a distinctly human warmth. Those who saw the plans were awe-struck.

Famous builders begged the architect to allow them to erect the mosque; wealthy people came from afar to buy the plans; thieves devised schemes to steal them; powerful rulers considered taking them by force. Yet the architect locked himself in his study, and after staring at the plans for three days and three nights, burned them all.

The architect couldn’t stand the thought that the realized building would have been subject to the forces of degradation and decay, eventual collapse or destruction by barbarian hordes. During those days and nights in his study he saw his creation profaned and reduced to dust, and was terribly unsettled by the sight. Better that it remain perfect. Better that it was never built.

The story is a fable, but its main idea — that a thing’s ideal state is before it comes into existence, that it is better to not be born — is equal parts terrifying and uncanny, especially today, when progress and productivity are practically worshiped

From the NYT: Why Do Anything? A Meditation on Procrastination, I see this as much a parable on the struggle of taking great concepts, perfecting and delivering them so that they stand over a length of time. Or perhaps the emotional turmoil that issues when you realise that they idea you have, will never exist in it’s idealised form.


Robert Hoekman Jr.’s User Experience Tenet 1

“User experience is the net sum of every interaction a person has with a company, be it marketing collateral, a customer service call, or the product or service itself. It is affected by the company’s vision and the beliefs it holds and its practices, as well as the service or product’s purpose and the value it holds in a person’s life.”
Robert Hoekman Jr.’s Tenet 1

This is an old one, the idea that every interaction with a company or it’s service is part of the product, part of the experience. I used to talk about this extensively years ago when introducing UX to nonpractictioners, especially when considering how every interaction was important for us to consider (at that time it was about spending time on the experience of getting support). I used to spend time analysing various experiences I had with services and how the really great ones, that I still 13 years later can remember, at every step seemed considered, thoughtful, and almost perfect. I’m sure most could come up with a few great examples.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the hiring practices of companies in Taiwan and China, and how that reflects on their culture. How could companies so financially committed to design, totally neglect this part of their experience?


Cabin Fever

Campus

I’m very much the classic introvert, I love to talk and discuss all kinds of things, love being around people, but at any party, or room full of people, unless necessary, I would never naturally gravitate towards the centre. My voice doesn’t boom and I don’t seek out the attention of others (to a fault – you need to sell yourself). Often this is called shyness, or more rudely anti-social. I just explain that I like to be quiet, listen to, and observe others. Qualities I think also coincidently are good when being concerned with design.

I love my time alone and one of the benefits of being an avid runner is that I often get at least an hour everyday to recharge my mind, body and think through various situations or problems. Walking during lunch has the same or similar benefits, and I believe also improves a persons ability to think creatively. Unfortunately, creative ability hasn’t been in demand in Taiwan these last few years, and so I have no real proof of it’s effects. No correlation, or A/B test.

Being alone here is a state of mind, a perpetual choice, and an occasional imposition, a burden, and a gift — and sometimes the very best way to meet a fellow stranger. “Every form of human expressiveness is on display,” Vivian Gornick writes of walking the streets by herself, “and I am free to look it right in the face, or avert my eyes if I wish.”
Link

But though I love my alone time, these days I am amazed at how strong the effects of being constantly alone have been on me. It’s feels like being stuck in a cabin in the woods in winter.

I left Taiwan over 3 weeks ago, part of that time has been spent in Hong Kong and Fuzhou, places teeming with people. These last 12 days have been spent at the company campus, where they had placed me (dumped) just before the long holiday. The campus is isolated, and though the facilities are first class, there is absolutely nothing to see or do. And no one to talk to or run in to. I think this just might be the first time in my life that I have felt being lonely for any significant period of time.

I don’t seek people out, I am terrible at striking up conversations with strangers and I am happy exploring a strange city alone. I don’t seek out political discourse with opinionated cab drivers or boozy bonding with locals over beers into the wee hours. By the time the hours get wee, I’m usually in bed in my hotel room …
Link

Being away from family is a contributor (attachment theory), and all of the support system I have built in Taiwan over the past 17+ years. People are generally friendly here, in a different way than in Taiwan, they just naturally assume you speak Chinese and go from there. People in Taiwan don’t often greet you, and will not often speak for fear of a misunderstanding.

The effects have been noticeable, with a more general gloomy outlet and decreased productivity. It’s nothing serious, if anything it’s disappointing.

I’ve often dreamed of having an extended period of time alone where I could focus on getting things done. This was a small part of the motivation to come to China in the first place. Focus now so that later we might reap some kind of reward. When in music we would call it woodshedding, and I would often tell stories of how my trumpet instructor spent a long period of time in cabin alone relearning to play his instrument. He came back renewed and a new musician.

Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to work with me. Without some kind of social activity, or the inspiration of colleagues, the pressures of public failure, I don’t seem to function at 100%. There aren’t even many distractions here, during the day the connection to the outside work (VPN) is all but unusable.

Like many experiences this has been a great learning experience and a reminder of the importance of getting out and being around people. And the importance of having people nearby you to inspire and push you to do more things.


Dave Gray on prototyping

I haven’t seen prototyping represented this way before – it’s a neat model. Taken from Prototyping – A Practitioner’s Guide by Todd Zaki Warfel

Practice makes perfect. Champion sports teams practice constantly. Zen masters will tell you that the only way to achieve enlightenment is practice. Practice is at the very root of learning. As you practice, you learn, and as you learn, you improve.

When you prototype, you allow your design, product, or service to practice being itself. And as its maker, you learn more about your designs in this way than you ever could in any other way.

So make prototypes and break them, test them and learn from them, model your ideas when they are still in their infancy, and continue to make and break them throughout the design process. Trial and error and continuous re nement—this is the way we learn as children and continue to learn as adults.

And let’s not forget this: Prototyping is fun! It’s a playful, social way to develop your ideas. It’s in direct opposition to “design in a vacuum” or “design in an ivory tower.” It’s design with and for people. It’s play. And play, like practice, is a learning activity. Play is a rehearsal for life.

Dave Gray
Founder and Chairman of Xplane