World Information Architecture Day (WIAD) 2017 in Singapore

One afternoon (18 Feb) I and another UX designer were among the ~85 attendees at the World Information Architecture Day, held at Singapore’s General Assembly.

WIAD: When I Adore Data?

So what’s WIAD, you may ask. In fact, I myself had not a single idea what it’s about until recently. Our new UX researcher shared the event info in our team group chat. And so I read on their official site:

World Information Architecture Day is dedicated to the empowerment of local leaders. Our celebrations inspire the global growth of information architecture as a community of practice and we value diverse thoughts and thinkers in our celebrations. World IA Day is jointly produced by a network of global, regional, and local volunteers with support from the Information Architecture Institute.

It’s not the first WIAD event in Singapore, and I have to say it wasn’t love-at-first-sight to attend this on a Saturday (creative minds have their occasional day-offs!). And information architecture is a field that I haven’t delved much into, although it’s understood that IA intertwines with and is prominently relevant to everybody: designers, content editors, even developers.

Anyway, I was checking out its speaker list from big names such as Grab, DBS, Honestbee, Foolproof… it kinda sparked some curiosity not easily dismissed, because these names put big dollars in UX research. Really, some insider insights and processes are picked up during this kind of event. It’s where I realign mindsets and sometimes provides reassurance to my ‘ah.. that’s what I thought too!’. So I know that I am on the right track in cultivating mindset similarly to how the industry practitioners think.

..or that I am as human as to anyone else in the room.

Event Day: Introduction by Vasu Kolla

Got these cool sticker freebies at the registration booth

At the introduction, Vasu asked if we knew about T-shaped professionalism. Needless to say most hands were up. He continues, nowadays a shape of a broken comb is more relevant now. Each comb tooth represents a skill. Therefore, instead of a single, deepest level of expertise like the letter T, a person masters a few mandatory skills. And each length of tooth is different, to represent the varied level of expertise/interest/passion of an individual.

Source: https://spin.atomicobject.com/2013/06/27/broken-comb-people/

Interesting metaphor. It’s rare to see millennials who are not multidisciplinary anyway because of abundance of resources that are easily made available at our fingertips. I dug up more reading on letter-shaped model employee and discovered many, many more shapes. However, I do believe an all-star or a single brightest star hire, depends on circumstances or needs. In the end, it’s the vision or commitment of an individual to make the world a better place, that counts.

Design for Clarity

- Yong Hwa Liow [Grab]

Sometimes the most boring design is the most difficult.

That’s her quote that I first noted down. These days, we are in constant state of sensory overload, she says. Too many apps, too many notifications, too much visuals to digest and many more. Presenting information in its simplest, minimalist form is a challenge.

Adapt or Be Gone

Kodak → Instagram / Blockbuster → Netflix /
Tower Records → Spotify / Borders → Amazon

Brand demises due to lack of innovation and that market context has changed.

Less is More

Yong Hwa mentions about Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice. According to jam experiments, theorists say when people are presented with more choices, they tend to buy less. Freedom of choice does not necessarily mean more satisfaction. Although this theory is debunked by another psychologist, we can’t deny that ‘less is more’ principle is already a platitude society widely accepts. (A reminder to this story).

Source: www.loadedspring.co.za

The same principle also applies to space. In typography context, more space and less text, for example, will induce readability and enhance clarity.

Referring to the white space, Yong Hwa says,

Types also need to breathe.

Humanising forms

Jacob Nielsen from Nielsen Norman Group once said that people rarely read webpages word by word; instead, they scan the page.

Despite that forms are banks’ most common touch points, we lament on the long form fields that can be tedious. During her previous experience at OCBC, Yong Hwa was involved in the process of restructuring, digitizing, and simplying forms. From paper to digital UI, while effectively improved on the user-friendliness a form can offer.

Emotional design is memorable

Source: http://www.amusingplanet.com/2010/11/creative-and-funny-toilet-signs-from.html

This toilet sign lets someone to stop, observe, and laugh. Humor is pretty much a versatile communication instrument that transcends cultures. Dun pray pray.

Design transforms organisations

Yong Hwa recognises 4 working levels: process (most complex) → information/content → flow → aesthetics (simplest).

She reinforces that designers wear multitude of hats (not only focusing on pure aesthetics) and how they should position themselves and look for ways to improve overall values in their organisations.

Everything around us are and need to be consciously designed. A good design is solving a problem and making things work beautifully for people. An exceptional good experience design is marked by beautiful stories that people remembered.
- Yong Hwa

Design that Saves Time: Online Grocery Shopping for Busy Moms

- Hyunju Lee [Honestbee]

Honestbee has food delivery service now. You’d ask: In the market there are players like FoodPanda, Deliveroo, UberEATS.. why this venture? Hyunju, VP as well as Head of Product & Design at Honestbee, says the food delivery service conforms to their current market demands as an one-stop platform. Basically you can have your online wet market and access vendors from fresh groceries, medicines, laundry services, home fix to food delivery. As a frequent Taobao user, I can relate. All the things I can do and shop within an app is a marvellous technological advancement.

Cultural awareness makes a difference

Hyunju proceeds to share how their search engine caters to different keyword suggestions due to the cultural differences in countries Honestbee operates in. For example, in her previous perception, ‘tissue’ refers to something you wipe your face with. ‘Toilet paper’ is, well, what you use in the bathroom. However, she discovered in some countries people tend to key in ‘toilet tissue’ in the search engine. The engine could not recognise the term and therefore produced no result. Honestbee has since expanded the search terms and it was part of their process of restructuring product hierarchy, information and navigation systems.

Building world-class product starts with getting to know thy user

In their restructuring process they employed a few user research methodologies:

Source: @WIADsingapore
  • Reverse card sorting (tree testing) to understand what and why things did not work.
  • Data analytics
  • Field study where local supermarkets such as Giant, Fairprice, Sheng Siong, Market Place, Cold Storage were scaled and aisle plans were drawn out to understand the segmentation for food and non-food products.
  • Competitive landscape comprises 10–20 local or worldwide competitors analysis.

With such informed insights, Honestbee managed to streamline the original 23 categories to 16(!), product hierarchy from 6 levels to only 3.

Sprints for fast iteration

Product development and improvement is a never-ending process, says Hyunju. Honestbee adapts design sprints for quick iterations and their sprint length varies by departments — one to 2-week cycles.

Winning Mountain of Data after User Research

- Prakriti Parijat [DBS]

Source: Wikipedia

The story originates from India, about 6 blind men facing an elephant. Each of them touches different parts of the elephant, compares notes and disagrees with each other’s finding. One claims that it’s a snake, upon touching the elephant’s trunk, and so on.

In today’s context, as much as we value every data gathered, looking at individual data might not get the story right and accurate.

Practice collaborative process of sense-making. Synthesise, not analyse. Start data analysis early. Always memo-ing.
- Prakriti

Value Proposition Canvas

Source: https://strategyzer.com/canvas/value-proposition-canvas

Value Proposition Canvas is where a company’s product offer meets consumer’s desires, from business perspective. With this a company identifies personas, understands what they make and why people buy it.

Finding vs Insights

Finding is factual, the actual data and research. Insight is making sense of the underlying reason for the finding.

True insights are findings that can quickly tell us about the context, behaviours and the implication.

Regardless, I think any data representation should revolve around the following fundamental questions:

Why should someone want to read about this? What story do I want to convey?

Creating Signage foGlobal Masses

- Irene Infante [Foolproof UK]

Irene was the last speaker of the day, and my, just realised all the keynote speakers were females ! Didn’t realise our gender is gradually taking over the IA world. Kidding. Well, to be fair, we have 2 data scientists at my workplace, one of each opposite of sex.

Irene, being a Spanish but a UK resident herself, questions if signages around the big cities are adequate to guide global visitors. She explores and presents samples of different subway signage systems, while commends the Japanese railway naming convention. Tokyo indeed has one of the most complex railway systems in the world, yet with its meaningful lettering, numbering and associated colour codes, it’s not that hard to make informed decisions to navigate around.

Source: http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~eg6f-tkhs/tetu/touzaisen.htm

Irene’s Design Principles:

  • Use universal variables and maintain them
  • Present key information at the right time
  • Consider whole experience instead of immediate success of one part of journey

The End of the World

…IA Day 2017

My age. Kidding. It’s the draw ticket number

Phew. Before we knew it Vasu concluded the insightful event with the exciting giveaways — Proto.io licence, Sketch licence, Axure.. and so on, thanks to the event’s global sponsors.

Surprisingly and coincidentally, almost all numbers in the 40s swiped clean all the prizes.

Not to fret, the mingling session accompanied by assorted Délifrance savouries and other delicacies (credit to Foolproof!) made a good amend.


You’ve made it through the end! I recently picked up writing again and hope you enjoy it as much I did writing it. I tried my best to cite my resources to the best of my knowledge and if you find any discrepancies please let me know :)

Happy practising UX, if you are!

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