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Putting People First

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12 September 2014

[Video] Digital Amnesia (VPRO, 2014)

 

Our memory is dissipating. Hard drives only last five years, a webpage is forever changing and there’s no machine left that can read 15-year old floppy disks. Digital data is vulnerable. Yet entire libraries are shredded and lost to budget cuts, because we assume everything can be found online. But is that really true?

For the first time in history, we have the technological means to save our entire past, yet it seems to be going up in smoke. Will we suffer from collective amnesia?

This VPRO Backlight documentary tracks down the amnesiac zeitgeist starting at the Royal Tropical Institute, whose world-famous 250-year old library was lost to budget cuts. 400,000 books and 20,000 magazines were saved from the shredder by Dr. Ismail Serageldin, director of the world-famous Library of Alexandria, who is turning the legendary library of classical antiquity into a new knowledge hub for the digital world.

Directed by Bregtje van der Haak / produced by VPRO Backlight, The Netherlands

8 September 2014

Experientia @ Epic 2014: focusing on relationships and values

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.31.12

It’s that time of year again, when ethnography professionals come together to exchange knowledge, discuss ideas, and share experiences about the practice of ethnography in the business world. EPIC 2014 kicked off yesterday (Sept 7th) in New York, with a focus on relationships, and particular on how positive relations create new values in the things, places, and people ethnographers engage with.

On that theme, senior Experientia ethnographer Gina Taha is presenting a case study of transformation in the finance industry, and the different roles and relationships user experience consultancies need to play when dealing with large, traditional business structures. Experientia’s presentation will be on Wednesday September 10th, in Session 5, which runs from 11:15 to 12:30. The theme of the session is Evolving and Expanding the Value of Ethnography in Industry.

If you’re interested in checking out the great papers being presented, the draft proceedings are already online. Experientia’s paper starts on page 249.

Co-author, and Experientia President, Michele Visciola, is also at the conference, which will continue until September 10th. Remember to say hi if you spot either Gina or Michele!

8 September 2014

How to see into the future

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Billions of dollars are spent on experts who claim they can forecast what’s around the corner, in business, finance and economics. Most of them get it wrong. Now a groundbreaking study has unlocked the secret: it IS possible to predict the future – and a new breed of ‘superforecasters’ knows how to do it. Tim Harford reports in the FT Magazine.

So what is the secret of looking into the future? Initial results from the Good Judgment Project suggest the following approaches. First, some basic training in probabilistic reasoning helps to produce better forecasts. Second, teams of good forecasters produce better results than good forecasters working alone. Third, actively open-minded people prosper as forecasters.

See also this article in The Economist and the blog of The Good Judgment Project.

8 September 2014

11 reasons computers can’t understand or solve our problems without human judgement

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It is true that our ability to collect, analyse and interpret data about the world has advanced to an astonishing degree in recent years, writes Rick Robinson, Executive Architect at IBM specialising in emerging technologies and Smarter Cities, in his blog “Urban Technologist”. However, he says, that ability is far from perfect, and strongly established scientific and philosophical principles tell us that it is impossible to definitively measure human outcomes from underlying data in physical or computing systems; and that it is impossible to create algorithmic rules that exactly predict them.

After a lengthy introduction, he provides a description of some of the scientific, philosophical and practical issues that lead inevitability to uncertainty in data, and to limitations in our ability to draw conclusions from it:

Robinson then finishes with an explanation of why we can still draw great value from data and analytics if we are aware of those issues and take them properly into account.

7 September 2014

Nudging and behavioral regulation gaining interest across Europe

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Behavioral regulation is afoot in Europe and is drawing the interest of a growing number of OECD countries. Professor Alberto Alemanno has just posted a brief overview of what happened over the last few months:

In late June, TEN – The European Nudge Network was launched with the aim to gather and exchange good practices among researchers, practitioners, stakeholders and policy-makers interested in Nudge throughout the European Union and beyond.

The European Union is in the process to set up its ‘foresight team’, a unit to be located within the EU Commission Joint Research Center under the lead of the best policy thinkers inside the administration. The unit’s reason d’être is to centralize the efforts currently undertaken by some Directorates General of the EU Commission, such as DG Consumer Protection and Health (SANCO), to integrate behavioral insights into EU policymaking.

Also the OECD is set to include ‘behavioral economics’ in its 2015 Regulatory Policy Outlook.

Alemanno goes on to cite examples from individual countries such as Germany, France, Italy and Canada.

5 September 2014

Defining user experience strategy

 

UX strategy isn’t the blueprint, canvas, or definition you use. UX strategy is about the conversations you have and the alignment you achieve, writes Austin Govella, Experience Director with Avanade. As you start hacking your own approach to UX strategy, it’s good to remember two key elements: change and context.

5 September 2014

Draft proceedings of EPIC 2014 conference online

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.31.12

The 2014 edition of EPIC, the premier international gathering on the current and future practice of ethnography in the business world, will take place in New York next week.

The draft proceedings have just been posted. Here is the table of contents:

Papers 1: Ethnographic Cases | Dawn Nafus, Curator

  • A Perfect Storm? Reimagining Work in the Era of the End of the Job – Melissa Cefkin, Obinna Anya, Robert Moore
  • Manufacturing Expertise for the People: The Open-Source Hardware Movement in Japan – Matt Krebs
  • Corporate Care Reimagined: Farms to Firms to Families – J.A. English-Lueck, Miriam Lueck Avery
  • “Co-Creating Your Insight: A Case from Rural Ghana” – Evan Hanover

Pecha Kucha 1: Exchange

  • China Over/Under: Exploring Urban China’s Informal Markets – Zach Hyman
  • The Concierge Diaries: Research by Analogy – Derek Kopen
  • Bodywork and Productivity in Workplace Ethnography – Sam Ladner
  • Pathfinder: An Adventure at the Interface of Design and Business – Erick Mohr
  • Everyone’s Trash: Recycling in China – Molly Stevens
  • Trapped in Traffic: A Story About Finding Connection on the Go – Nora Morales, Santiago Negrete

Papers 2: Place and the City | Kate Sieck, Curator

  • Service Designing the City – Natalia Radywyl
  • Community Centered Design: Evolving the Mission of the Creative Industry – Jacqueline Wallace
  • Place and Small Businesses: Reflections on Ethnographic Research in and on Place – Josh Kaplan
  • Ethnography Inside the Walls: Studying The Contested Space of the Cemetery = Annika Porsborg Nielsen, Line Groes

Papers 3: Rituals, Magic, Politics and Power | Simon Roberts, Curator

  • Business, Anthropology, and Magical Systems: The Case of Advertising = Brian Moeran
  • Consulting Against Culture: A Politicized Approach to Segmentation – Marta Cuciurean-Zapan
  • The Model of Change: A way to Understand the How and Why of Change – Johanne Mose Entwistle, Mia Kruse Rasmussen
  • Quotidian Ritual and Work Life Balance; an Ethnography of Not Being There – Jo-Anne Bichard, Paulina Yurman, David Kirk, David Chatting

Pecha Kucha 2: Value

  • Saving Journalism from Churnalism – Gordon Baty
  • How Being Rather Than Doing Can Add Value – Marlisa Kopenski Condon
  • On Empathy, and Not Feeling It – Tiffany Romain, Tracy Johnson, Mike Griffin
  • Well, That Was Awkward! The Value of Discomfort – Marta Cuciurean-Zapan, Evan Hanover
  • Collateral Revelation – Paul Ratliff
  • i remember you NOW. i remember you HOW – Sara Jo Johnson

Papers 4: Emerging Practices & Methods | Curator: Martin Ortlieb

  • Making Change: How Ethnographic Research on the “Maker Movement” Can Change the Future of Computing – Sue Faulkner, Anne McClard
  • You’ll Never Ride Alone: The Role of Social Media in Supporting the Bus Passenger Experience – Paul Gault, David Corsar, Peter Edwards, John D Nelson, Caitlin Cottrill
  • Digital Trust: An Analysis of Trust in the Adoption of Digital Support Services – Emilie Glazer, Anna Mieczakowski, James King, Ben Fehnert
  • Little Data in a Big Data World – Julie Norvaisas, Jonathan (Yoni) Karpfen

Papers 5: Evolving and Expanding the Value of Ethnography in Industry | Curator: Martha Cotton

  • Anticipatory Ethnography: Design Fiction as an Input to Design Ethnography – Joseph Lindley, Dhruv Sharma, Robert Potts
  • Transforming a Financial Institution: The Value of UX Professionals – Erin O’Loughlin, Gina Lucia Taha, Michele Visciola
  • Valuable Connections: Design Anthropology and Co-Creation in Digital Innovation – Mette Gislev Kjaersgaard, Rachel
  • Charlotte Smith – Iterating an Innovation Model: Challenges and Opportunities in Adapting Accelerator
    Practices in Evolving Ecosystems – Julia Haines
3 September 2014

[Book] Ethnographic Fieldwork and Digital Culture – A Beginner’s Guide

 

Ethnographic Fieldwork and Digital Culture – A Beginner’s Guide
By Piia Varis
Routledge
February 2015

Abstract

Ethnography, as a holistic approach to societies and cultures, can make a substantial contribution to the study of present-day online environments and our digital culture(s). However, the process of doing ethnography online is far from straight-forward.

This book aims to give a realistic account of what ethnographic research on digital culture is like, describing the whole trajectory of an ethnographic project from planning to finishing stages, including the potential ethical and practical challenges that are specific to this line of research. The discussion in the book will be supported – in the spirit of ethnographic research – by a collection of empirical cases, both illustrating the theoretical and methodological points made, as well as offering a panorama of different forms of analyses and types of data. Accordingly, questions related to data collection will be addressed and tips given as to how to manage the data collected and keep it organised. The book will specifically focus on studying different phenomena on social media and social network sites (e.g. YouTube, Facebook).

Useful for both the beginner researcher and the more experienced one, Ethnographic Fieldwork and Digital Culture gives students and scholars in media studies an accessible guide to the intricacies of conducting ethnographic research online.

Author

Piia Varis is a researcher at the Department of Culture Studies, Tilburg University (the Netherlands), where she also coordinates the research project Transformations of the Public Sphere. She teaches courses on digital culture and ethnographic online research at Tilburg University and University of Luxembourg. She is also a member of the Max Planck Sociolinguistic Diversity Working Group. She received her PhD (English, 2009) from the University of Jyväskylä (Finland), and has since published on e.g. forms of language use and identity online (Varis & Wang 2011; Varis, Wang & Du 2010; Blommaert & Varis 2011; Dong et al. 2012). She is co-editor of Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies (with Jan Blommaert, Massimiliano Spotti & Sanna Lehtonen).

3 September 2014

[Book] Digitized Lives

digitizedlives

Digitized Lives: Culture, Power, and Social Change in the Internet Era
By T.V. Reed
Routledge
June 2014

Abstract

In a remarkably short period of time the Internet and associated digital communication technologies have deeply changed the way millions of people around the globe live their lives. But what is the nature of that impact? In chapters examining a broad range of issues—including sexuality, politics, education, race, gender relations, the environment, and social protest movements—Digitized Lives seeks answers to these central questions: What is truly new about so-called “new media,” and what is just hype? How have our lives been made better or worse by digital communication technologies? In what ways can these devices and practices contribute to a richer cultural landscape and a more sustainable society?

Cutting through the vast—and often contradictory—literature on these topics, Reed avoids both techno-hype and techno-pessimism, offering instead succinct, witty and insightful discussions of how digital communication is impacting our lives and reshaping the major social issues of our era. The book argues that making sense of digitized culture means looking past the glossy surface of techno gear to ask deeper questions about how we can utilize technology to create a more socially, politically, and economically just world.

> Companion website

Author

T. V. Reed is Buchanan Distinguished Professor of American Studies and English at Washington State University. He is the author of The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle.

3 September 2014

How do consumers use and respond to energy monitors?

energypolicy

Feeding back about eco-feedback: How do consumers use and respond to energy monitors?
Kathryn Buchanan (a), Riccardo Russo (a) and Ben Anderson (b)
a Department of Psychology, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK
b Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton, UK
Energy Policy
Volume 73, October 2014, Pages 138–146

Abstract
To date, a multitude of studies have examined the empirical effect of feedback on energy consumption yet very few have examined how feedback might work and the processes it involves. Moreover, it remains to be seen if the theoretical claims made concerning how feedback works can be substantiated using empirical data. To start to address this knowledge gap, the present research used qualitative data analysis to examine how consumers use and respond to energy monitors. The findings suggest feedback may increase both the physical and conscious visibility of consumption as well as knowledge about consumption. Accordingly, support was evident for the theoretical assertions that feedback transforms energy from invisible to visible, prompts motivated users to learn about their energy habits, and helps address information deficits about energy usage. We conclude by evaluating the feasibility of feedback to substantially reduce consumption and discuss ways in which feedback could be improved to aid its effectiveness in the long term before discussing the implication our findings may have for government policy.

3 September 2014

[Book] An Ethnography of Wikipedia

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Common Knowledge? An Ethnography of Wikipedia
By Dariusz Jemielniak
Stanford University Press
2014, 312 pages

Abstract

With an emphasis on peer–produced content and collaboration, Wikipedia exemplifies a departure from traditional management and organizational models. This iconic “project” has been variously characterized as a hive mind and an information revolution, attracting millions of new users even as it has been denigrated as anarchic and plagued by misinformation. Has Wikipedia’s structure and inner workings promoted its astonishing growth and enduring public relevance?

In Common Knowledge?, Dariusz Jemielniak draws on his academic expertise and years of active participation within the Wikipedia community to take readers inside the site, illuminating how it functions and deconstructing its distinctive organization. Against a backdrop of misconceptions about its governance, authenticity, and accessibility, Jemielniak delivers the first ethnography of Wikipedia, revealing that it is not entirely at the mercy of the public: instead, it balances open access and power with a unique bureaucracy that takes a page from traditional organizational forms. Along the way, Jemielniak incorporates fascinating cases that highlight the tug of war among the participants as they forge ahead in this pioneering environment.

Author

Dariusz Jemielniak is Associate Professor of Management at Kozminski University in Warsaw, Poland, where he heads the Center for Research on Organizations and Workplaces. Beyond academia, he is a heavily engaged Wikipedian.

Book review [By Roisin Kiberb in Motherboard - Vice]

“The book pulls off a near-impossible double act, serving as both primer and detailed study on the habits of Wikipedians. It presents Wikipedia as a ‘parahierarchy’ thriving on its own conflicts, where even the dense catalogue of house rules is subject to reinterpretation.”

1 September 2014

Pew Internet research: 15 theses about the digital future in 2025

future-internet-wordle

A canvassing of 2,558 experts and technology builders about where we will stand by the year 2025 finds striking patterns in their predictions, reports the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project.

In their responses, these experts foresee an ambient information environment where accessing the Internet will be effortless and most people will tap into it so easily it will flow through their lives “like electricity.” They predict mobile, wearable, and embedded computing will be tied together in the Internet of Things, allowing people and their surroundings to tap into artificial intelligence-enhanced cloud-based information storage and sharing.

These experts expect existing positive and negative trends to extend and expand in the next decade, revolutionizing most human interaction, especially affecting health, education, work, politics, economics, and entertainment. Most say they believe the results of that connectivity will be primarily positive. However, when asked to describe the good and bad aspects of the future they foresee, many of the experts can also clearly identify areas of concern, some of them extremely threatening. Heightened concerns over interpersonal ethics, surveillance, terror, and crime, may lead societies to question how best to establish security and trust while retaining civil liberties.

More-hopeful theses

  1. Information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity, often through machine intermediaries.
  2. The spread of the Internet will enhance global connectivity that fosters more planetary relationships and less ignorance.
  3. The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and big data will make people more aware of their world and their own behavior.
  4. Augmented reality and wearable devices will be implemented to monitor and give quick feedback on daily life, especially tied to personal health.
  5. Political awareness and action will be facilitated and more peaceful change and public uprisings like the Arab Spring will emerge.
  6. The spread of the ‘Ubernet’ will diminish the meaning of borders, and new ‘nations’ of those with shared interests may emerge and exist beyond the capacity of current nation-states to control.
  7. The Internet will become ‘the Internets’ as access, systems, and principles are renegotiated.
  8. An Internet-enabled revolution in education will spread more opportunities, with less money spent on real estate and teachers.

Less-hopeful theses

  1. Dangerous divides between haves and have-nots may expand, resulting in resentment and possible violence.
  2. Abuses and abusers will ‘evolve and scale.’ Human nature isn’t changing; there’s laziness, bullying, stalking, stupidity, pornography, dirty tricks, crime, and those who practice them have new capacity to make life miserable for others.
  3. Pressured by these changes, governments and corporations will try to assert power — and at times succeed — as they invoke security and cultural norms.
  4. People will continue — sometimes grudgingly — to make tradeoffs favoring convenience and perceived immediate gains over privacy; and privacy will be something only the upscale will enjoy.
  5. Humans and their current organizations may not respond quickly enough to challenges presented by complex networks.
  6. Most people are not yet noticing the profound changes today’s communications networks are already bringing about; these networks will be even more disruptive in the future.

Advice: Make good choices today

  1. Foresight and accurate predictions can make a difference; ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’
31 August 2014

Converting your home to LED lights is still a challenging user experience

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Switching to LED bulbs in your home is still a bit expensive, but makes a lot of economic sense – as you quickly earn your money back through a MUCH lowered electricity bill. Yet it is quite a challenge for most people.

I just successfully replaced 40 halogen and incandescent bulbs of the most varied fittings, sizes, lighting strengths and shapes. The new bulbs all fit and have the luminosity and color warmth that we want in our house. But I can only conclude that industry and retailers need to do a much better job at explaining the challenges and helping customers understand why to buy LED bulbs and what types to buy.

The first impression most people have of LED lights are usually the display racks in retail stores. The fact that LED lights sometimes come in the most bizarre form factors are off-putting if anything, while key information is largely provided in jargon (kelvin, lumen, fitting mount codes, etc.).

The next thing you might then do is go online and search for more relevant information, only to get lost in myriads of blog posts, tech jargon filled pieces, or product tech sheets. The best backgrounders I found – with some effort – are this one from The Guardian and one from the European Commission (in 22 languages!). Nothing much from industry, where websites focus immediately on individual products.

Then you have to figure out what you need in your house (or office). Besides the fitting mounts, the bulb sizes and the wattages, there are four key things to take into account:

  • Colour temperature: In short, the lower “K” or “Kelvin”, the better. For home use stay on or below 2700K for a warm white.
  • Luminosity or light strength: Commonly described in watt, but the most accurate value is actually “lumen”, or even better “lux”.
  • Dimmability: Some LED bulbs can be dimmed but it is usually never clear if you need a special dimmer for that or can do so with your regular dimmer – so trying out is the only option consumers have. Good luck.
  • Avoiding false savings: As The Guardian writes, “halogen bulbs use so much electricity for the light they produce – just feel their heat – that it’s a false economy to wait until they blow to replace them”.

Finally there is purchasing itself. Most DIY stores and electricity supply retailers limit themselves to the most common bulb choices. Special sizes and fittings are not that easy to find. You may want to buy online (which is what I ended up doing).

It is generally recommended to buy only products from reliable brands (Philips, Samsung, etc.), as there is quite some unreliable junk on the market. But these “reliable” brands may not have the exact fitting mounts, wattage or colour temperature you are looking for. It is also hard to find out what quality control the various retailers have in place, and what guarantees consumers have if a product is not up to par.

In all, this is not a trivial matter. If all homes and offices in a city would switch to LED, much less power would be needed in that city, and this would mean a significant impact on carbon emissions. Governments and media are starting to do their part in helping people navigate this.

Industry is lagging behind. Making the products is only part of the challenge. Guidance in consumer education and behavioural change is hardly addressed. It is a job for service designers and good writers/storytellers.

The industry or retailer that ends up doing that job well will gain quite a competitive edge in a rapidly growing market.

28 August 2014

How EU leaders can listen to the views of their citizens expressed on Twitter

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Vox Digitas
By Jamie Bartlett, Carl Miller, David Weir, Jeremy Reffin, Simon Wibberley
Report, 24 August 2014
ISBN 978-1-909037-63-2
Free download

Over the last decade European citizens have gained a digital voice. Close to 350 million people in Europe currently use social networking sites, with more of us signing into a social media platform at least once a day than voted in the last European elections. EU citizens have transferred many aspects of their lives onto these social media platforms, including politics and activism. Taken together, social media represent a new digital commons where people join their social and political lives to those around them.

This paper examines the potential of listening to these digital voices on Twitter, and the consequences for how EU leaders apprehend, respond to and thereby represent their citizens. It looks at how European citizens use Twitter to discuss issues related to the EU and how their digital attitudes and views evolve in response to political and economic crises. It also addresses the many formidable challenges that this new method faces: how far it can be trusted, when it can be used, the value such use could bring and how its use can be publicly acceptable and ethical.

We have never before had access to the millions of voices that together form society’s constant political debate, nor the possibility of understanding them. This report demonstrates how capturing and understanding these citizen voices potentially offers a new way of listening to people, a transformative opportunity to understand what they think, and a crucial opportunity to close the democratic deficit.

The report is the result of a project conducted by The Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, a collaboration between Demos and the Text Analytics Group at the University of Sussex, that produces new political, social and policy insight and understanding through social media research.

The methodological reflections in the executive summary are a worthwhile read for any qualitative researcher, including those working in the corporate realm.

27 August 2014

Service design toolkit

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The toolkit for service design is an introduction to the methodology of service design.

With a simple step-by-step plan it offers you a practical do-it-yourself guide. The kit contains workshop templates, posters, a manual and technique cards, some of which can also be downloaded.

It is the outcome of a partnership between Namahn and Design Flanders.

21 August 2014

E-Government for the post-2015 era: the usage perspective

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E-Government for the post-2015 era: the usage perspective is the title of the 7th chapter of the recent report “United Nations E-Government Survey 2014 – E-Government for the Future We Want“.

The chapter outlines the current situation of e-government usage, particularly the efforts made by the 193 United Nations Member States. It examines various e-government service channels (including mobile and social media), service channel mix and management in a multichannel world, exploring effective channel management strategies (with good opportunities) to increase e-service uptake. The chapter also looks at selected issues related to e-government service usage in several critical areas which can generate high returns for sustainable development, along with good practices; and provides concluding observations, with some policy suggestions on increasing e-service uptake.

The report was completed in January 2014 and launched in June 2014.

20 August 2014

Facebook uses ethnography to deliver more relevant ads

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“As researchers focusing on Facebook’s advertising, we led research trips with a cross-functional team of product managers, marketers, and engineers to Indonesia, Turkey, and South Africa to develop a solid understanding of cultural differences across these countries. [...] Forming a richer understanding of how businesses and people connect with each other—both on and off of Facebook—around the world works will help us develop better ad solutions that drive a positive feedback cycle: we will make better experiences for the people who use Facebook and for the businesses and brands who want to connect with their core customers and prospects.”

Read more here.

19 August 2014

Consumer Insights: The Music Experience in 2014

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Today, music is as emotionally relevant as ever – and consumers have a myriad of ways to experience it, from streaming and downloading to live concerts and more. Thanks to social media, fans also have unprecedented access to their favorite artists.

Given these changes in the music landscape, the Music Group, which includes MTV, VH1 and CMT, conducted research into the “Music Experience,” taking a deep look into the ever-evolving process of discovering and obtaining music among teens, 20- and 30-somethings, as well as what the fan-music-artist connection looks like in 2014.

The study is based on a quantitative survey with more than 1,200 participants 13-40 years old; “blographies” with 34 participants; secondary research; as well as check-ins with proprietary panels and Facebook groups.

Key findings here.

16 August 2014

How to conduct design research for home healthcare devices

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As healthcare shifts from the hospital to the home, design research must also morph to keep up, writes Shana Leonard.

Who is the typical user of your medical product and what is the use environment? These used to be easy questions for medical device companies to answer. But the increasing shift in healthcare from the hospital to the home has many designers scratching their heads in response.

As the industry adapts to serve these new stakeholders, the focus on user-centered design, observational research, human factors engineering, and generally designing with the user in mind is becoming increasingly critical in order to ensure compliance, minimize risk, and promote market adoption. Designers must be creative and nimble in the face of these complex new challenges.

16 August 2014

How Wells Fargo learned to innovate around the customer

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Wells Fargo, the world’s most valuable bank, learned to innovate around the customer.

In 1999, Steve Ellis, who runs the bank’s wholesale services group, went to a conference where Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems described a completely new era of digital banking that would unfold over the next decade. Nobody else seemed impressed, but Ellis was transfixed. For him, it was an epiphany.

Ellis realized that technology could be used to make the customer’s life easier, streamlining processes to enhance user experience, but he also knew how “customer is king” initiatives could easily devolve into useless platitudes. He wouldn’t find answers in boardroom discussions, but would need to look beyond banking for insights.

So Ellis immersed himself in Internet culture and eventually hit on ethnography techniques, which ha been commonly used in consumer products companies like Procter & Gamble, but were completely foreign to the banking industry. At first intrigued, then excited, he sent his team for training at nearby Stanford university to learn how to perform ethnography studies.

It seemed to be exactly the answer he was looking for. Instead of having executives brainstorm in the corporate offices, they would get out and observe customers as they navigated often confusing banking routines. As they uncovered problems and experienced frustrations first-hand, they could devise solutions.”