User Experience in India

By Afshan Kirmani

Published: January 22, 2008 “Whether you are an individual contributor, manager, or the CEO of a company, you need to know what is happening in the larger world of UX.”

The usability and user experience communities of practice are experiencing great growth and have emerged in countries throughout the world. These developing practices have brought about a huge economic boom in the UX market as both customers and clients are beginning to understand the business benefits they bring. In India, we have undoubtedly seen the growth of these practices. Indian UX companies are delivering designs that satisfy users’ needs to their clients.

This article shares some experts’ thoughts on the Indian UX market. Through interviewing several international UX experts, I have gained deeper insights into the growth of user experience in India and its future development path from here. These insights have changed my perspective, my beliefs, and the way I think.

Whether you are an individual contributor, manager, or the CEO of a company, you need to know what is happening in the larger world of UX. If you want to learn about the culture and the growth of user experience in India, this article is for you. The Birth of User Experience in India

As most companies became aware of the emerging UX market in India, in 1999, several companies like Cognizant, Honeywell, Oracle, Phillips, Siemens, and so on, had already begun establishing their

” says Sarit Arora. Human Factors International. who began focusing and specializing in vertical markets. “In fact.” Companies like Intuit thrive on the value the financial domain provides.” says Parameswaran Venkataraman. Few companies practice an entire usability lifecycle. Today. The creativity this practice brought to India engaged engineers as well as designers. several user experience and research-oriented companies like Design For Use. Our Primary Focus: The Delivery of Services That Drive Revenues “Few companies practice an entire usability lifecycle. . there are almost 5000 designers and analysts working in the Indian UX industry who are providing business value to customers. Most companies provide merely a part of the whole gamut of UX services to their clients. The benefits are substantially received once our clients have seen the end result of research. CEO of a startup firm called Onward Research. as the focus of clients is mostly on heuristic evaluations and usability testing. User experience began in India with just a few people who were excited about the idea of user experience design. But the Indian consumers don’t seem to demand user friendly technology as compared to the global market. On the other hand. our clients have found the essence of user experience in the financial domain that seems to be widely taking advantage of our expertise.” With respect to the varied product domains that exist. Project Director at Human Factors International. the retail market also seems to be adopting UX services. as the focus of clients is mostly on heuristic evaluations and usability testing. Indian banks like ICICI have now begun to consider user experience design after they have recognized that the financial domain seems to be integrating such services. several Indian UX companies have found that the financial domain seems to bring in the most revenue.. “The space for user experience in the retail business is growing rapidly. With the potential these multinational companies offered. Ltd. Soon after 2000. and Onward Research began to realize their missions to engage users and satisfy user needs. Indian software companies like Infosys and MindTree Consulting Ltd. took the opportunity to globally integrate their offerings as well. with Indian clients discovering the need to observe users in their natural environment. Soon after the dot-com crash. as they primarily concentrate on the delivery of user-centered design to their customers. “The market is an important factor that influences the inflow of business in the industry. Kern Communications Pvt.operations in India.

this mindset is definitely changing and creating demand for user experience.wellsfargo. In India.” says Michael. and the American bank Wells Fargo. “The more complex and varied the features included. compare the personal banking and the corporate banking pages of the ICICI Bank in Figure 4—Wells Fargo corporate banking page Let’s look at another example that shows the inherent scope for usability in India. the lack of consistency between the pages of ICICI Bank can make users cringe.The Need for User Experience With several companies beginning their UX design practices. Apart from any inherent usability problems. Comparing the Web sites of railway systems in Europe and India gives us a clear idea of this potential. shown in Figures 1 and Figure 2—ICICI Bank corporate banking page Figure 3—Wells Fargo personal banking page on www. . the more I would try and figure out how to use it. users in India were unaware of the benefits that user experience brought. Looking ahead. clients expect to receive valuable business solutions that enable return on investment.icicibank. For example. Figure 1—ICICI Bank personal banking page on www. the need for UX professionals in India has begun to grow tremendously. the Indian Railway System has huge potential for improved user experience. Prior to the year 2000. an ICICI Bank user. In this market. people were fascinated by the thought of complexity rather than simplicity. As the market realizes the need for user experience. shown in Figures 3 and 4.

In fact. but don’t have the time or the budget to invest in the initial user research that would help them develop an understanding of users before providing design recommendations. This user experience is hugely important in India.” says Deepa While 20% of existing companies have usability labs. a usability practitioner from Intuit. Current Client Demand Companies that run their UX operations in India have observed that clients demand three things: value to business—Clients expect UX designers and analysts to provide value to their businesses rather than a process that will lead to solutions. users need to move through a series of pages and a registration process to find out the cost and the schedule for a particular train Another problem crops up when clients demand UX services. as more than 60% of Indians prefer to travel by train rather than by air. users are compelled to book their tickets at the counter rather than online. Alternatively. domain knowledge—It is crucial to have domain knowledge before entering a long-term engagement. Is Usability Testing Always the Best Approach? . The need is to understand users.You can see that the Web site of the European railway usability labs—Potential and existing clients expect UX companies to conduct usability testing and assessments for them on projects that have good Figure 6—Indian Railway home page at www. This is what should be given most importance. The practice of contextual inquiry seems to be the most underrated tool we could potentially use to understand users. Every potential client expects a designer to have both a vertical and a horizontal portfolio. most of the other 80% are planning to build one in order to compete. they might outsource usability testing to a third party for unbiased results. shown in Figure 6. Figure 5—Rail Europe home page at www. They need solutions up front that can profit their businesses. there are cities in India you can’t get to by plane! The usability of the Indian Railway site is so poor. shown in Figure 5. On the Indian Railway Web site. is clearly a step ahead of the Indian Railway System with respect to booking functionality.indianrail. “Most companies today lack the understanding of a core usability practice.

On the other hand. They begin their evolution by creating a unique selling proposition (USP) for their company. The Potential for the Growth of UX in India There is a huge amount of scope for the global UX industry in India. which will harm the growth of business procurement. If we do not push for a relationship.“Clients often demand that UX professionals conduct usability testing to discover any usabilityrelated issues in their products or services. they sometimes forget to evaluate the essential value of these services to businesses. IT companies in India find ways of achieving the process-oriented delivery of UX services that are integrated into the software-development lifecycle. “My company solely concentrates on research that brings light to end user needs. The top services in hot demand include research heuristic evaluation information architecture ethnographic studies wireframing visual design Companies today are yearning to find a space for themselves in the market. While most companies provide a gamut of services. including opportunities that provide benefits to users as well as customers. “Companies must focus on providing value to business. Testing is not always the right solution.” Clients often demand that UX professionals conduct usability testing to discover any usability-related issues in their products or services. my client requests testing when a Web site can get rid of usability-related problems with the help of a quick evaluation. I have chosen to concentrate on this niche segment of user experience. Observing users in their natural environment is the best form of understanding users. Sometimes usability testing is not the right service to provide.” says Parameswaran. as it provides an edge over other companies. Here is where an honest relationship of trust and expertise in consultancy lies. Space for Niche Markets As is common in global practice. Sometimes. . and my clients have understood the value of it. CEO of Design For Use. services will only lead to a give-and-take model.” says Nishant Jain. As the money such projects bring in is alluring to the companies that provide these services. companies that solely provide usability services are moving toward a specialized segment of the market that helps them with client consultancy.

educating clients—Companies have begun providing training for their clients to give them a better understanding of user experience. During training sessions. . beginners. training UX professionals—Companies conduct training sessions to educate designers and analysts and contribute to their growth professionally. and telephone support. UX professionals are specializing in specific vertical markets to help gain domain expertise. UX community meetups also provide a means for UX professionals to meet potential employers. They also invite world-renowned people from the UX industry to present such workshops. designing products for India—Since India is the country with the second largest population after China. However. interviews. UX professionals participate in meetups where they can share career experiences with their peers. companies hire user-centered designers who can contribute the entire gamut of user-centered design services. and users understand what we do. customers have begun to realize that creating products for the Indian market requires an understanding of users from a local perspective. They hold training sessions to drive business benefits. employees participate in the rigorous analysis of industry case studies. customers show they value relationships that bring them gain. once every 3 months. What are employers and UX professionals doing to promote the growth of user experience in India? hosting seminars—Employers host seminars to facilitate discussion forums for people in the UX industry. Employers find expertise in their domain an advantage and are moving toward hiring specialists in their markets. Today. Companies in India are now waking up to the benefits this opportunity brings. By investing in a company that clearly understands the Indian culture. UX companies are consciously spreading awareness of the need to use simple language and avoid jargon throughout the UX industry to help clients. By educating employees in effective communication. some companies educate their users through discussions. UX companies can ensure clients and users will no longer feel alienated by this field. specializing—In response to client demand. avoiding the use of jargon—People need to understand that user experience evolved for one reason: making things simple to use. Some hold seminars across the county. educating users—User experience remains unheard of by most users in India. organizing workshops—To help build the emerging UX practice.analyzing cost versus benefit—There is always a cost/benefit analysis when customers invest in services from the Indian market. employers hold workshops in various cities to make employees aware of industry best practices. participating in community building—Several companies today organize meetups to help build community awareness of user experience and its best practices. hiring specialists—Most employees enter companies with expertise in a certain domain.

Experts should also conduct sessions at educational institutions that would make students employable in the future. They join mailing lists. and analysts share their experiences through case studies. subscribe to newsletters and magazines. innovation in delivery seems to be lacking throughout the UX industry. educating startup firms—It is most crucial to educate startups. because there is a huge scope for knowledge building. Designers come together to host workshops. the government must provide an adequate education to all students in India. Experts in the industry should strive to understand startup companies better and help to define their businesses. as their progress defines the UX industry of tomorrow. contribute to online publications. This sharing of knowledge occurs both internally within companies and externally at publicly held seminars. creativity is taking a backseat when it comes to delivering what is right to satisfy user needs. which helps them gain a better grasp of the cultural nuances in different countries. This consultancy approach helps clients to understand UX practice better and also build trustworthy relationships that can last a lifetime. as follows: discarding the process-oriented approach—Most UX companies today rely on a process-oriented approach that has its delivery benefits. UX practice is achieving greater heights. others are now taking the lead by providing services that offer the right solution at the right time. there seems to be a huge gap in employee training. doing internal employee training—Some companies conduct internal training sessions. getting involved with educational institutions—Since students are always potential employees. as there are no specialized masters courses in Human Factors or Human/Computer Interaction. Through partnerships. making global connections—Employees want to connect with other people in the UX industry throughout the world. students are discouraged from exploring opportunities in UX. It is important to provide solutions before providing a process. If companies develop internship programs. . I gained several insights that could help UX practice in India grow further. providing internships—With only a handful of companies providing internships in user experience. they can contribute to the education of students in UX. but not enough of them. While interviewing people around the world. building innovation—With companies aping their competitors.sharing knowledge—Many UX designers and analysts contribute actively to seminars. but some needs remain unmet. As companies churn out products and services. While most companies practice this approach. India is lacking in education for UX professionals. With only one company providing a certified course in usability in India. contribute to blogs. Unlike the other parts of the world. and so on. A Worldwide View: India Must Yet Strive for Betterment In India. creating partnerships—A few firms do partner up with usability consultancies globally.

Some user-centered designers and analysts have the skill to produce the best designs. without going into the finer details. clients need to see the changes to help build a trusting relationship. heuristic evaluations. Most projects concentrate on wireframing. It does offer industry training programs. Once clients become convinced of the progress from the first to the last iteration.companies have opportunities for further education of their employees and can develop a practice together through an environment of mutual learning and collaboration. Concentrating mainly on technical education. but the need to effectively communicate their ideas curbs their creative thinking. it’s always about the value we can bring to business. the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) in India must endeavor to contribute to the industry boom. ultimately benefiting users. there should be meetups across the country to help them gain contacts and share knowledge. as the need for it might be at best minimal. For example. and visual design. They don’t adequately communicate the benefits they offer in providing solutions to clients and the value that a methodology provides to business. UX professionals in India will find it necessary to segregate the job responsibilities of a designer and an analyst—though this is not currently the norm. Usability analysts and designers aren’t the only ones who stand to gain. showing design iterations to clients—With each design iteration made on a project. as companies must understand the need to focus on a particular business direction. educating clients with a specific focus—Most companies just describe the entire gamut of usability services they provide. Building a usability testing lab would then serve no purpose. Simple terminology will go a long way toward helping them to understand UX. refraining from just following competitors—As companies emerge as champions in the industry. NASSCOM needs to help build awareness and education about UX. it is common for companies in India to follow their practices. Education about UX should span engineers. and project managers. a company might focus solely on user research. building communication skills—The need to develop communication skills has become paramount as India goes global. demand for UX services continues to grow. This approach is a mistaken one. developers. because it is important for clients to understand every step of the delivery process. organizing all-India meetups—To ensure UX professionals all over India can connect with one another. . involving NASSCOM—Since the demand for software is high. UX companies must ensure they talk their clients’ language. As the demand grows. An awareness of the importance of understanding users is lacking. involving users—Most projects don’t encompass understanding users. It isn’t just the definition of usability that matters. people can develop skills to help the industry to grow further. By ensuring that schools deliver adequate education in communication skills and having employees engage in debates. talking clients’ language—At every meeting with clients. but not on the user experience front. Clients need to the see the evolution of their projects.

” says Sagar Paul. If we make our products tangible enough for users. I can better understand the expansion of the UX industry across the global economy. we now need to help the disabled connect with the broader world. Even if your company doesn’t currently work in India. Watching the disabled use your service or product should be the most satisfying experience of a UX professional. Through your comments.” emphasizes Anshuman Singh.displaying case studies—Companies must deliver case studies in which a compelling user experience has influenced the outcome of a project. user experience has a positive journey ahead in the Indian market. we must always have the yearning to know more and continuously learn from our colleagues. User experience in India is going global. Two untapped markets that promise to gain momentum in the future include user experience involvement in legacy software and product design. “The market will continue to expand once we put our mind to the future ahead of us. Please tell me about your experiences across the gamut of user experience in India. developing a passion for learning—As UX professionals contributing to the evolution of the practice of UX. promoting social responsibility—While we proceed with projects within a corporate culture. . If the above-stated gaps are met. the scope is never ending. as customers demand the presence of companies in various countries. Program Director at MindTree Consulting Ltd. The Future of User Experience in India “If the above-stated gaps are met. user experience has a positive journey ahead in the Indian market.” The industry of user experience is growing and will continue to do so. because of the emerging scope for cultural studies. They can exhibit these case studies both internally and externally. Senior User Experience Consultant at MindTree Consulting Ltd. “Most of our clients demand that we hold a presence in their country to understand their users closely in conjunction with the culture. understanding the Indian culture can be beneficial for the future of your company.

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