Key Considerations to a Successful UX in SEA

Kyara Tan 13.02.2019

6 considerations to a successful UX design within SEA.

It has been a while since my team embarked on a specialist recruitment model. Through the years, we have observed a major shift in companies across industries, particularly in Southeast Asia (SEA) with their booming tech startup scene, to be more design-driven. Yet due to the immaturity of UX community in SEA, there remains many hurdles to overcome for products and services to be successful in this region.  

Keeping that in mind, here are 6 considerations to a successful UX design within SEA:

•    Development for Different Cultures, Languages and Literacy Levels: It is important to understand that some countries have a colossal proportion of their population outside the mainstream target user group. There are multiples of users for every system, and these users have distinctive qualities that may affect their interaction and experience with your system. There are also different cultures and languages in Southeast Asia, and people from this region are distinctive based on their literacy levels. As an example, more than 700 languages are spoken across Indonesia. This diversity engenders some challenges for the development and usability of products and services. 

•    Designing for Mobile: … and beyond (refer to the next point) More than half of the world’s mobile subscribers live in Asia Pacific. With the improvement in infrastructure and expanding middle class, more than 90% of mobile users in SEA are now connected via smartphones. Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia further boast the fastest-maturing mobile economies in the region with users spending a significantly higher amount of time on mobile phones as compared to users from other regions.  It’s thus not difficult to imagine the importance of UX design on mobile platforms for designers in SEA. 

•    Understand that UX is not just a beautiful UI: There seems to be this misconception that UX design is only about designing beautiful interfaces. As brands increase their offerings to the market, it’s important to consider designing for a consistent omnichannel experience rather than just the mobile app. Let’s use ride-hailing services as an example. A successful UX team, or rather experience design team, must consider all the touchpoints: On-boarding of a rider, to hailing a ride, finding the pickup location, physical interaction with the driver, payment methods, after service feedback… With this seamless flow of experience, there will be definitely be an increase in satisfied and returning users as they are able to navigate/ interact with your readily available channels.  

•    Increasing UX Research and Use of Data: This is not exactly specific to SEA but it’s listed as a key to success in SEA due to the lack of emphasis in this market. Most companies here derive UX solutions with pure assumptions or directions from their business stakeholders. They seem to know the importance of user research but neglected it entirely due to the pressing need to release a product within tight timelines. It must be emphasized that user research lays the foundation for UX design and the direction going forward. In a highly competitive market like SEA, consumers are spoilt for choices and you must understand your consumers to acquire a larger market share. 

•    Dominant Disciplines Vary: UX is a field that is multi-disciplinary, making contributions to emerge from psychology, ergonomics, ethnology, technology, industrial design, and sociology. However, some of these disciplines are still not strong enough in SEA and need to be developed. Hiring managers will find themselves spending more time on nurturing young talents or relocating experienced candidates from markets with more mature UX practices. 

•    Truly understanding what a UX designer does: To be very honest, UX designers are often misunderstood in SEA. There’s only a handful of us who know what they do and why they are important. Generic and misleading job descriptions have been written plenty of times attracting the wrong talents. One way to build a strong UX team, especially if the organization lacks a Senior UX Designer or in an immature market, is to partner with specialist UX recruiters who can advise on the market. 

Do you think there are other considerations that should be shared with the community? I will love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Otherwise, as a specialist recruiter within the design and product management space, I am always happy to assist if you are on the lookout or seeking to find talents for your organization. Feel free to drop me a line at !

Kyara Tan - R1545432's picture
Senior Consultant | Design & Product Management Recruitment