Institutionalising HCI in Asia: an impact focusing on India and China
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of West London
Unit of AssessmentComputer Science and Informatics
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Information and Computing Sciences: Information Systems
Education: Specialist Studies In Education
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Summary of the impact
This impact case study is discussed in terms of six years of research
collaboration with relevant bodies in India and China through EU-funded
projects encouraging the development of a usability culture in academic
and industrial sectors. Impact in this case can be seen at three levels:
- Appropriation of HCI concepts and methods to suit the local
- forming of consortia around the reshaped discipline that can actively
promote HCI in industry and academia and establish links with national
- the roll-out of effective usability practice in industry.
The impact case study is underpinned by research and projects carried out
by the Sociotechnical Centre for Internationalisation and User Experience
(SCIUX), formerly known as Centre for Internationalisation and Usability.
The work is aimed at supporting the design and development of systems that
meet all the needs of end users globally. Two research activities
underpinned the impact:
- A body of experiments and studies aimed at providing tools, techniques
and methods that can be used by technology developers and designers in
addressing cultural problems in the process and product of interactive
systems design (e.g., Smith et al. 2004, Dunckley and Jheita, 2004,
Abdelnour-Nocera and Hall, 2004). The insights from this body of
research present an audit of local user interface attractors to inform
the design process (Smith et al. 2004, Dunckley and Jheita, 2004); the
concept of cultural fingerprints to contrast websites with the cultural
needs of local users (Smith et al. 2004); the problems associated with
local validity of user centred design (UCD) methods and cross-cultural
development and design teams (Abdelnour-Nocera and Hall, 2004, Smith et
al. 2004). These last two sets of insights on local validity of UCD
methods and cross-cultural aspects of development and design teams
emphasised the need to engage with countries where HCI was not well
developed but have a growing IT industry.
- Motivated by the above, SCIUX accessed the EU Asia IT&C programme
to support usability research in both India and China. SCIUX was the
lead partner in the Sino European Systems Usability Network (SESUN) and
the Indo European Systems Usability Partnership (IESUP), helping to
develop active and sustainable links between Asia and Europe. This
included collaborating on India's first international HCI conference and
co-chairing a major conference in Beijing. Through the initial stages of
IESUP (2002-2004) in India (Smith et al. 2005) and SESUN (2005-2007) in
China (Smith et al. 2007) the centre found that the institutionalisation
of HCI requires three elements: the reconceptualization / redefinition
of HCI in the local country or culture, secondly; the embedding of HCI
concerns and its importance in local and national organizations, and the
rollout of usability training and best practice into industry. In
practice these elements occur in parallel, but the critical issue is to
ensure sufficient feedback between the elements (Smith, 2011).
Prof Andy Smith was the main driver of our research in culture and HCI
and the PI throughout the life of both EU projects; unfortunately Andy
passed away in 2011. Prof Lynne Dunckley was not directly involved in
IESUP and SESUN but contributed to the research on culture and HCI in
SCIUX, which enabled the centre to lead these EU projects. She passed away
in late 2008. Dr Abdelnour-Nocera joined SCIUX in 2004 and currently leads
the research group. Christina Li was the research assistant during the
SESUN project and remains involved with the centre.
References to the research
• Abdelnour Nocera, J. L. and Hall, P. (2004). Global software,
local voices. In F. Sudweeks and C. Ess (editors), Cultural attitudes
towards communication and technology 2004, pages 29-42. Karlstad, Sweden.
• Dunckley, L., & Jheita, K. (2004). Formative Evaluation of
International User Interfaces Based on Sorting Techniques. Designing for
Global Markets, 6, 91-102.
• Smith A. (2011). Issues in adapting evaluation methods for
global usability, in I. Douglas and Z Liu, (Eds.), Global usability,
Human-Computer Interaction Series, Springer, ISBN: 978-0-85729-303.
• Smith, A., Dunckley, L., French, T., Minocha, S. and Chang, Y.
(2004) A process model for developing usable cross-cultural websites.
Journal Interacting with Computers. 16 (1): 63-91
• Smith, A., Gulliksen, J., Bannon, L.: Building Usability in
India: Reflections from the Indo European Systems Usability Partnership.
In: McEwan, T., Gulliksen, J., Benyon, D. (eds.) People and Computers XIX
— The Bigger Picture: Proceedings of HCI 2005, Springer, Heidelberg (2005)
• Smith, A. Joshi, A. Liu, Z. Bannon, L. Gulliksen. J. and Li,
C.: Institutionalising HCI in Asia, in Human-Computer Interaction —
INTERACT 2007, LNCS, Volume 4663/2009, Springer, pp 85-9 (2007)
Details of the impact
The centre's research in cross cultural HCI and its co-operation projects
and tours in India and China have had a direct effect on highlighting the
value of user-centred design as a subject to be taught in universities and
practiced in the local IT industry and public sectors.
Aniruda Joshi (IIT Bombay) confirms IESUP gave a quick start to the then
nascent field of usability and HCI in India. The project led by SCIUX
funded trips by several HCI researchers (Prof Andy Smith, Prof Liam
Bannon, Prof Jan Gulliksen) from the EU to India, which initiated
relationships and collaborations between HCI academics in India and
Europe, some of which continue today. As part of the impact, Smith
initiated and chaired the first India HCI conference in 2004, which runs
its fifth edition in 2013.
While there have been other HCI and usability conferences and events,
India HCI has been the first double-blind peer reviewed research
conference, and it continues to be well respected. Its impact on usability
practice in India has stimulated the creation of local user experience
consultancies, such as iGatePatni, who provide offshored services to the
UK and Europe.
In 2005-2007, when usability practice began in China, there were very few
enlightenment and introduction activities, with a lack of communication
within the community. SESUN activities were of great help for those
practitioners interested in usability practice, to be able to understand
and enter the field, (reference: Director of the Sino European Usability
Each SESUN tour covered three major cities across China. Each held a
1-day seminar at each city, led by 3-4 leading usability experts from
Europe. Overall they attracted over 1,000 practitioners and university
students from around the country. Many people involved in usability in
China nowadays actually became aware of the usability concept and got
their introductory knowledge of this field from this series of events. On
completion of the SESUN project Prof Andy Smith jointly co-chaired the
China EU Summit on Human-Centred IT and Applications which was held in
Beijing in May 2007, inaugurated jointly with the Chinese Ministry for
The impact of both IESUP and SESUN can be summarised in terms of the
- Assisted people from industry and academia to practice usability/UCD
for the very first time;
- inspired the first batch of Indian and Chinese companies to set up
usability units in the industry and to start UCD practice in product
- fostered user centred research methods to be introduced in HCI
technology related research activities;
- introduced interaction design and UCD knowledge into the HCI
curriculum in universities;
- played an important role in infiltrating the idea of user experience
and UCD into government sectors and at enterprise managerial levels;
- facilitated practitioners networking to share common interests in
usability and HCI, to establish special interest groups online and
offline to support each other.
In addition to the direct impact on India and China, the underpinning
research discussed above and IESUP and SESUN projects allowed us to engage
in more recent projects in other countries such as Kenya, where, through
the EPSRC funded VeSeL project, we addressed the effects of culture in
participatory design and interactive technologies for rural farmers. The
RA for the SESUN project, Christina Li, went on to become a User
Experience (UX) consultant and UK expert on Chinese usability issues. She
founded her own company (http://www.ii-worldwide.com)
and is now organising a UX tour of China with a number of UK based
Driven by the experiences of IESUP and SESUN, David Lee completed his PhD
at UWL in 2009. David worked in the field of cultural aspects of software
development and quality management in offshoring contexts. His findings
were presented at the Software Quality Management 2011 and India HCI 2010.
He is now Head of Strategy at Vocalink.
In VeSeL we were able to help a cross disciplinary and cross-cultural
team of researchers to solve a design problem using knowledge acquired by
SCIUX in relation to localisation of HCI methods, elicitation of cultural
differences is user research and in liaison with the University of
Nairobi, to develop capacity in UCD methods. In this case, the centre's
work had an impact on the daily life of two farming communities in Kenya
(Kiangwachi and Kambu).Our PhD student supporting VeSeL, Souleymane
Camara, successfully defended his viva in 2012 and is now working at
Thomson Reuters. UK UXPA recognise Souleymane as an expert on African UX.
Sources to corroborate the impact
Local partners in India and China:
- Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay, Industrial Design Centre, Indian Institute
of technology, Powai, Mumbai 400076.
- Professor, Director, Sino European Usability Center, School of
Computer Sci. & Tech., Dalian Maritime University, Dalian, 116026
Partners in Europe supporting work in Indian and China:
- Professor, Human Computer Interaction, KTH Royal Institute of
- Professor Emeritus, Interaction Design Centre, University of Limerick.
India HCI 2004 Call for Papers http://www.ixda.org/node/15084
Report on the First All India HCI Conference:
China EU Summit on Human-Centred Technology and Applications,
Media Center, Beijing, May 2007
Website for VeSeL Project, http://www.lkl.ac.uk/projects/vesel/