Summer 2023 10-week Internship on Search Engine

Alibaba Inc.

  • UX Design Intern
  • Search Result Design
  • Jul 2023 - Sep 2023
  • Generic Search Design Team
  • Quark Browser at Alibaba
During my internship at Alibaba, I joined the Generic Search Design Team responsible for the design of the search experience and results pages for Quark Browser, akin to designing Google search. My projects spanned conceptualizing search result designs with Alibaba's proprietary AI models and designing specialized pages shared by UC Browser for the Asian Games. These experiences not only deepened my understanding of product and design directions, but also honed my skills in communication, conceptual development into design, and collaboration within cross-functional teams.
Quark Browser
Alibaba's next-generation browser and search engine for the younger customers, focusing on simplicity and technology. It's currently the most popular search tool among Chinese under 25, with daily active users reaching over 10 million.
I worked in its design team.
UC Browser
A well-established browser for over a decade, with a monthly active user base of 400 million. It shares a search engine with Quark and targets the middle-aged demographic. We shared our design for the 2023 Asian Game with this browser.
Project One
Imagine a new generation of search results pages powered by AI technology?
Designing a concept draft for the search results page was the first thing I did when I joined the Alibaba Quark Browser interaction design team.
In this project, tasked with designing for the future, I began by consulting my mentor—the creator behind Quark Search's design, boasting a decade of experience—to grasp historical design rationales and data performances for search results.
I also engaged in one-on-one discussions with my manager to understand his vision for the design and the business.
I consulted my mentor and manager at the beginning to quicker and better gain the necessary information.
Concurrently, I used competitive analysis to evaluate several leading platforms popular among young people for searching personal experience-based answers in the market. This analysis was made into a report and rooted in user research, specifically focusing on the needs of young users, identifying the characteristics, strengths, and limitations of these products. These insights laid the groundwork for shaping the future direction and design highlights of our product.
I compared Quark with these leading platforms popular among young people for searching personal experience-based answers.
I presented this report to other designer colleagues and my manager, explaining and defending my ideas and designs. During this process, I encountered many challenges, such as the vast and diverse user base for search, and questions about the product direction, like whether we wanted users to find answers quickly or to stay longer on the search page. Fortunately, through discussions with my mentor, colleagues, and manager, I found a more specific direction and continued to create high-fidelity design drafts and prototypes based on the new concepts proposed earlier.
Portions of original report documentation.
My design included the search results page designs for both mobile and desktop, which, alongside my mentor's designs, were successfully delivered to my manager and eventually presented as a new direction for product design to my director and CEO, receiving positive feedback.
The structure of final concept design (Unable to show the complete design due to NDA).
Looking back, this project was not only interesting and challenging but also incredibly helpful for my onboarding. This experience allowed me to quickly gain a deep understanding of our existing products and design direction. Frequent communications furthered my knowledge of my mentor, colleagues and manager, their thoughts on the product, and understanding of the users, enriching my learning experience. This project reaffirmed the importance of communication and enhanced my ability to transform complex concepts into designs.
Project two
How to balance speed and quality in team design?
During the middle to late stages of my internship, I devoted all my time to designing thematic search results pages for the upcoming 2023 Asian Games. This design was shared between Quark and another browser under Alibaba, UC Browser, collectively addressing a user base with a monthly active user count of 400 million. With numerous competitors at the same time, the pressure of tight deadlines and heavy tasks made balancing speed and quality in team design the core challenge of the project.
This wasn't our team's first time handling such a major event; the 2022 Winter Olympics had already provided us with valuable design experience and data. However, the experience from the Olympics couldn't be entirely replicated due to the different scales of the two events and the distinct volumes and focuses of user attention.

Compared to the broad and complex Olympics, users were more concerned with not only the events and outcomes at the Asian Games, where we were the host, but also with ticket purchasing and travel content for the host city, as it was more accessible to view the game in person.

Acknowledging these differences, we implemented differentiated designs for the prime icon slots on the landing pages during various phases. Before the Games commenced, the focus was on promoting tickets, information, and event schedules. Later on, the emphasis shifted to schedules, medal tables, events, and trivia.

Given the broader range of sports at the Asian Games compared to the Winter Olympics, yet with generally lower everyday user engagement, we included a popular events section on the landing page. This section, accompanied by information on the day's events and gold medal counts, allows users to quickly grasp the most crucial developments and results without needing extensive knowledge of the competition schedule. We also introduced an option to "Only See China," helping users quickly navigate the complex schedule to find their country's events and results promptly.
This approach also includes a "China's Glory" section, aimed at immediately highlighting medal-winning athletes to boost user retention rates.

To enhance dissemination, we designed "Inspiring Moments" shareable cards that users can generate with a simple tap to share the results of the events. These cards are designed to be shared across mainstream social media channels, leveraging users' sense of national pride and the impulse to share information about the competition results. This strategy aims to further expand the reach of Quark's Asian Games search feature.
In terms of visual design, we endeavored to align closely with the color scheme and style of the Asian Games' organizers, combined with Quark's branding that embodies youthfulness, technology, and a sense of information. This approach led to the color palette and design we have today.
The interaction design part of this project was a joint effort between me and another full-time designer. My main responsibilities included the interaction and visual design of the athletes and sports event pages, as well as parts of the Asian Games landing and secondary pages. My work encompassed, but was not limited to, iconography, typography, logic flow, layout, color design, and prototyping.

Given the project's scale and complexity, I had to closely coordinate daily with PMs, developers, content strategists, marketing, and even the legal department. After numerous iterations, we successfully launched the pages in time for the Asian Games in September, leading to a 35% increase in Quark's daily active users for that month.
Through this experience, I significantly improved my ability to collaborate within a cross-functional team, especially under the pressure of tight deadlines and heavy workloads. I learned the importance of communicating quickly and effectively, engaging from the perspective and thought processes of others, and maintaining a steady emotional state. I came to appreciate the critical nature of thinking three steps ahead, where every plan must be comprehensively considered, particularly needing contingency plans in complex and variable situations.

Furthermore, I realized that work involves finding a balance between compromise and maintaining standards. Given the limitations of resources and time, the ability to resolve issues swiftly, effectively, and with minimal impact becomes paramount. There are no perfect solutions, only continuous iterations after completion within the constraints of available time.
Manager's Evaluation

"Strong communication, learning, and collaboration skills, along with intelligence and potential."

I am very satisfied with this experience, and the company is too.
This internship experience taught me immensely, not just in professional skills but also in interpersonal communication, time management, and task management. I successfully passed my internship presentation and received a return offer. The key terms in the feedback I received with my offer were: communication skills, learning ability, collaboration, intelligence, and potential.

Due to my subsequent career planning, I returned to the United States, regretfully missing the opportunity to continue working there. However, I'm deeply grateful for every colleague and boss I met and their trust in me, willing to entrust me with such significant responsibilities. I believe we will all continue to improve and succeed.