CBN Weekly's interview with TANG User Experience Consulting Founder & CEO Jason Huang
Wang Luran, a member of many international star hotels, said, 'Good services and complete facilities are a common feature of international star hotels. Although hotels' official websites generally provide a Chinese version to facilitate reservation, the experience is not good.'
'The problem we had then is how to develop a brand portal that better suits the needs of Chinese consumers to improve online market share in China.' said James Xu, IHG Greater China's Website and Interactive Marketing Product Manager.
TANG Consulting founder Jason Huang doesn't think this is a particular case. The reason is that the plan and design of international hotel groups' Chinese websites are dominated by a foreign design team in U. S. Headquarters, which results in reduced efficiency of overall communication due to space, time and cultural differences. TANG Consulting has helped IHG plan and design its new Chinese portal and mobile services since 2011. Through usability testing, TANG Consulting discovered 47 usability problems in IHG's then official website,especially in terms of contents and display. Jason Huang's team offered a solution which helped IHG's American technology team clearly understand the website problems in a short time.
In 2004, Jason Huang and several overseas returnees founded China's first user experience professional association, UXPA China (User eXperience Professionals Association' s branch in China).Since 2005, he has planned ‘User Friendly' , the largest annual meeting of the user experience industry in the Asia and Pacific region. Both UXPA China and User Friendly have so far existed for ten years.In 2007, Jason Huang established TANG Consulting, the first company in China that offers complete UCD services and UCD management consulting. With a founding capital of only RMB 300,000 yuan, the company has maintained an annual income growth of over 40% for consecutive six years. TANG Consulting's other two founders Xia Fangyu and Huang Shengshan have been UXPA's volunteers since they were still students. At present, Xia Fangyu is the experience strategy director, responsible for expansion of the financial sector; Huang Shengshan is the Chief Business Officer, responsible for the business and basic operations of the entire company.
Six years ago, the concept of user experience design was not widely known in China.Many people equaled it to art design or UI design. Multinational companies like IHG and GE Healthcare didn't have much faith in user experience design teams in China, while mature foreign design companies like Frog and IDEO were very expensive. Jason Huang said frankly‘At that time, most domestic design companies were only capable of style design or visual interface design.'
As TANG Consulting's first customer, GE Healthcare hoped to customize a digital X-ray scanning system targeting the Chinese market. Besides, with the help of a local user experience consulting company, it could have an in-depth understanding of China's Class-3 hospitals to simplify the X-ray operating system model, process and interface, thus reducing patients' X-ray time. At that time, the four-member team led by Jason Huang interviewed 137 doctors from 25 hospitals in 11 provinces in China, reconsidered the entire operating system,designed 3 new interface systems and further carried out systematic verification in 10 hospitals. Through a 3-month evaluation, GE Healthcare finally chose TANG Consulting's plan. TANG Consulting made its first pot of gold from the project, which was worth over RMB 1.6 million yuan.
To Jason Huang's surprise, they met obstacles in the second year since the company's founding. In early 2008, MediaTek hoped that Jason Huang's team could cooperate with its R&D personnel to jointly design a similar smartphone operating system. 'You can image how happy I was when a 15-member team received a RMB 5 million yuan project in the second year since the founding. At that time, the company had several other RMB 1 million yuan projects underway. It means our revenue for that year would exceed 10 million yuan. 'Jason Huang thought that the company would enter a fast-growing stage and needed to expand the scale immediately. So, the company recruited many employees in a short time and gradually set up 4 branches in Beijing, Xiamen, Shenzhen and Hangzhou respectively.
After the MediaTek project was completed,the world was hit by the worst financial crisis since the 1930s Great Depression. TANG Consulting couldn't receive any foreign projects, which caused severe waste of workforce and dramatically increased the operating pressure of the company. Jason Huang used deposits to bear the labor cost out of social responsibility and corporate culture instead of downsizing, which was commonly adopted in a financial crisis. The situation persisted until 2010 when the economy recovered. Therefore, Jason Huang paid more attention to per capita output. 'Increased per capita output means increased staff efficiency and profit margin. This is the difference between a consulting company and a product company, and a way to measure a consulting company's services.' Jason Huang added, 'With the improvement of reputation and product quality, the unit price of staff is properly increased, while internal management strengthened, number of staff controlled, working efficiency enhanced and the staff's fragments of time adequately used. ' TANG Consulting has increased the staff salary by nearly 20% for consecutive three years since 2010.
Regarding corporate development, Jason Huang said, 'In the first years after the company's founding, business development mainly depended on reputation and the founders' social relations. We began to focus on vertical fields and develop We-Media since 2012. A professional team was set up to expand each area. The company employed advantageous resources to explore and study a new user experience system. 'TANG Consulting has actively promoted the methods and cases of user experience in some vertical business areas to push forward industry innovation. For instance, 'Next Bank', an innovative forum focusing on user experience in the financial industry, was held in Beijing on August 24th. TANG Consulting invited leaders of outstanding companies in the financial and innovation sectors such as Wells Fargo Bank, MasterCard and China Merchants Bank to share their views and ideas. Besides that, Jason Huang has made speeches in public environments such as meetings, forums and universities to promote sustainable development of the user experience industry and improve TANG Consulting's brand influence.
Today,TANG Consulting uses for reference the business models of several foreign leading companies in the design and consulting sector. 'For example, IDEO offered a new way of design thinking to the design industry by introducing 'human factors' into the design process. Designers from many sectors study consumers' minds from ergonomic,international and environmental engineering perspectives to perceive their potential needs.' TANG Consulting's competitors are mainly focused on visual design or basic user research sectors. Those companies usually have an entrepreneurial team with narrow backgrounds,while TANG's entrepreneurial team members have different professional backgrounds such as consulting, user research, interaction design and design strategy. This is the biggest difference between TANG Consulting and other design companies. 50% of TANG Consulting's businesses are projects involving strategy, research and design. There are about 25% pure research projects and 25% pure design projects respectively.
As an important partner in the tourism sector, IHG launched a new user experience project with TANG Consulting in 2012. Jason Huang's team used cross-channel (Web,Wap and App, etc. ) experience research and design methods in the project. 'With understanding of the personal information, characteristics and behavioral preferences of China's medium and high end hotel consumers, we draw a user experience trip map to describe the interaction between consumers and related service and product suppliers such as hotels, airline companies and OTAs during the whole holiday or business trip. This makes all departments clearly see their end users, their service ecology, pain points and opportunities. 'said Jason Huang.
TANG Consulting has begun to design user experiences in some offline retail sectors. Jason Huang believes that the offline retail outlets of traditional industries such as finance, hotel, airline and education attach great importance to services and consumers have higher requirements for user experience. For example, TANG Consulting has been recently helping a client design a brand flagship store's user experience. Whether it be the overall service process, or the arrangement of a chair, they are all included in the service scope of TANG Consulting. 'An airline company's reservation website offers good user experience, but it has very low-efficiency ticket machines in the airport. Doesn't it need to be improved? 'In Jason Huang's opinion, 'helping partners achieve supreme cross-channel experiences by seamlessly linking all experiences from consumers' perspectives and offering considerate services in a proper way under a proper scenario' is the value of TANG Consulting.