Silicon Valley’s vision of ultimate convenience is often one that’s frictionless—where decisions are automated and exchanges are invisible. In China, despite a boom in O2O (Online to Offline) services that eclipses the US’, the experiential texture of convenience is quite different: it’s about having someone be responsible for your experience. As a result, the friction of conversation is not seen as a nuisance, but rather a crucial part of the trust-building and information-gathering process.
In this talk, I’ll share stories on high-friction convenience collected while doing ethnographic research in China—how people buy things on Taobao, set up stores on WeChat, and hail rides on Didi Dache. In addition to bringing these massively popular Chinese platforms to life, I’ll discuss the context behind these stories and offer an empathetic read of Chinese UX practices that may seem baffling to Western designers. More broadly, this talk hopes to demonstrate that “good design” isn’t universal, it’s culturally specific.