Putting People First

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November 2005
7 November 2005

The experience of a luxury airline [Business Week]

How do you launch a luxury airline that simply has to stand out from the pack?

As the recent demise of Delta’s Song indicates, finding profitable ways to improve the air-travel experience isn’t easy, even at premium prices. How does Eos Airlines aim to do it?

If you’re Eos CEO Dave Spurlock, you start with the seats.

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7 November 2005

Usability design yet to gain ground in India

Usability is an approach to product development that incorporates direct user feedback throughout the development cycle in order to reduce costs and create products and tools that meet user needs.

India may have achieved global recognition as an IT powerhouse, but still needs to grow in terms of usability. Towards this end, Human Factors International, a usability service provider, hosted the inaugural ‘World Usability Day’ in Mumbai and organized a conference on ‘Building India’s Competitive Edge through Usability’.

Emphasizing the essence of usability and India’s position globally, Eric Schaeffer, CEO, HFI, said,”India offers a unique mixture of cultures and languages. Considering the innate creativity of Indian culture, Indian usability practitioners can offer a unique insight into the software usability world combined with its prowess in IT.”

“In the entire APAC region, China has already adopted usability in a large way. My fear is that in the global race to IT supremacy, India will be left behind due to its apathy towards usability.”

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>>> UPDATED 7 November 2005

Vinay Venkatraman comments as follows:

“Historically in India, usability was never a prime importance as most early companies started with software servicing and then only recently have began developing products from ground up.

Many software product companies in India have recently taken usability and user experience very seriously and see the value in it.

Still a lot of ventures get most of their work from abroad and do not always have the liberty to make fundamental design changes in the software architecture, thus making do with cosmetic treatment of the UI. There is also a huge misbalance between the number of software developers vs usability professionals. This gap needs to be filled in by academic institutions without diluting the quality for the sake of just producing large number of usability professionals, which is not easy at all.

What is even more important is to inculcate usability as fundamental thought process in software engineering courses. A simple heuristic evaluation by developer as an ongoing process in coding can add significantly higher value than a bunch of usability experts providing afterthoughts and fixing problems.

Looking at the situation more optimistically, there is a huge potential for providing usability and design services for small and medium scale software companies in India, which not only creates new opportunities but also provides significant competitive edge for such business to grow.”

7 November 2005

Why aren’t we being served? [The Daily Telegraph]

Service in British shops is among the worst in Europe. But, says Clare Coulson in the Daily Telegraph, we shouldn’t have to put up with it. […]

Paul Bennett, head of consumer experience at IDEO – a design consultancy – says that good customer service isn’t rocket science.

“Like most shoppers, I just want to feel listened to, but I also want to feel in control,” he says. “I want the shop assistants to be informed and be able to answer my questions. That’s all.”

Excellent service, he adds, generates a word-of-mouth effect, which is something that a lot of shops seem to forget. Happy customers become zealous brand advocates, which is the kind of advertising that money can’t buy.

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6 November 2005

Italy aggressively pursues Wi-Fi and WiMAX

Under new policies and initiatives from its Ministry of Communications, Italy is turning to Wi-Fi and WiMAX to make broadband Internet access more universally available throughout the country.

On October 4th, the Minister for Communications, Mario Landolfi, issued a new decree which extended the availability of Wi-Fi — already being used in airports, train stations, shopping centers and city parks — to the whole country. […]

”About 11 million Italians live in small towns and many of them do not have access to broadband because the investment required would not be economically viable for large companies,” said Landolfi at the press conference where the decree was announced. “This measure enables any providers, if they so wish, to reach customers who would otherwise be excluded.”

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6 November 2005

Bruce Nussbaum on businesses co-creating products and services with consumers in developing countries

Bruce Nussbaum, who writes a column on innovation and design for Business Week, reflects today on the IDSA/HP Design About on BOP–the bottom of the pyramid.

“Gary Elliot, the vice president of brand marketing for HP, talked about “Me-ism” in the US, the idea that form follows me today, that “me” is the center of the universe and companies have to work within that cultural context to success. Companies therefore have to partner with millions of “me-customers” to co-create products and services.

But the conference showed that companies must do the same thing in the “we-cultures” of India and the bottom of the pyramid countries. For political, economic and cultural reasons, they have to partner up with their customers to generate new products and services to sell to and with them. In fact, Patrick Whitney of the Institute of Design discussed how in Indian villages, consumers are invariably producers, that every household is invariably an entrepreneur, how consumer goods are used to produce things for sale. […]

The high tech world of the web and the low-tech world of the village are somehow coming together to offer up a new vision for innovation, design and society in general.”

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Update: Bruce Nussbaum had meanwhile some nice words to say about this blog. Thanks, Bruce.

6 November 2005

Huge list of design and innovation links

The managing innovative thinking + design blog contains a huge list of design and innovation links, grouped under such headings as ethnographic research, emotional intelligence, design research, user empathy, etc.

The value of the blog is entirely in the sheer volume of links it provides. Unfortunately, the overview is very messy and it is impossible to get any idea of the quality of the links.

5 November 2005

Samsung’s DigitAll magazine repositions itself (and becomes boring in the process)

Samsung just posted the second edition of its lifestyle and innovation magazine DigitAll.

While the first issue had a more open attitude than similar initiatives of competitors (e.g. Nokia, Motorola), by reflecting on the strategies of other companies, including Adidas and Netflix, and reposting from sites such as Engadget and Worldchanging, the new issue is just about the opposite: more conventional and less inspiring than what other companies do.

It has become a web magazine primarily devoted to conventional corporate branding, with a total focus on showcasing Samsung, rather than reflecting on ideas, trends or the end-user.

The marketing people clearly took over, and brought in the awful rule that every photo should contain at least one Samsung product. The aesthetic (e.g. in the Showcase section) has also shifted towards a American new-rich, “Valley” look that might pose some problems for people who don’t belong to that particular subculture.

It’s a pity, because the company itself is doing some very clever and innovative work…

5 November 2005

UXmatters: a new experience design web magazine

UXmatters, a new experience design web magazine, was launched yesterday (World Usability Day).

I just finished reading all the articles of the first issue and it turns out to be a truly valuable industry resource that I plan to refer to regularly in this experience design blog. My compliments to the team behind this initiative and to the sponsors who are funding this web magazine.

Conceptually, I hope to see some more focus on issues beyond the web, on products and services that we interact with away from the desktop. An issue that came up during the World Usability Day in Rome, is how much the web and pc paradigms on interaction with the user are determining other applications, such as digital tv and mobile phone interfaces, and that this is not necessarily a good thing.

Meanwhile, an immediate improvement to be done is the rss feed. It is just not very user-friendly, because titles are hidden within the excerpt.

It positions itself as a volunteer-driven, nonprofit web magazine that delivers compelling content about developing effective user experience (UX) strategies creating digital-product user experiences that optimally serve people’s needs and satisfy their desires.

Created by and for UX professionals, UXmatters covers a broad spectrum of topics about UX strategy, design and usability for a diverse range of digital products–from application programs and Web applications to mobile devices and consumer electronics products.

The publication is funded by the Silicon Valley based user experience design consultancy Spirit Softworks.

5 November 2005

Researchers look to create a synthesis of art and science for the 21st century [The New York Times]

The six-story Calit2 laboratory, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, is designed for 900 faculty and student researchers. Two separate wings extend from the main building. On one side is an ultrasterile set of nanotechnology clean rooms designed for making devices like sensors for detecting pollutants, biological warfare agents and cancer cells. On the other side is a new digital media arts center composed of auditoriums and computer visualization laboratories, where the Calit2 scientists, engineers and artists can display their projects.

For Mr. Smarr – who as director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in the 1990’s oversaw the development of Mosaic, the first World Wide Web browser – this synthesis of art and science is vital in light of the role he expects artists to play in designing the future.

Read full story
Download Calit2 brochure (pdf, 3.4 mb)

3 November 2005

Why are tech gizmos so hard to figure out? [USA Today]

Today’s tech toys throw in goodies we scarcely used to imagine, from cellphones with tiny TV screens to computers that stream video wirelessly through your house. But lots of those features you probably don’t want, can’t use or don’t know exist.


Now, an army of “usability” advocates are vowing to do something about it. They’re determined to exert a stronger hand in the design of tech products. If they get their way, simple-to-use will be the new normal five years from now.

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(via Usability in the News)

2 November 2005

HP’s front lines of innovation [Business Week]

As Hewlett-Packard’s director of design and brand experience, Sam Lucente’s job is to use insights from the design, technology, and marketing fields to enhance the consumer’s interaction with HP products.

In an interview with Business Week, he talks about the challenges of “orchestrating this complex ecosystem to create a wonderful customer experience”

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2 November 2005

The secret of making things work [BBC]

Consumers forever grumble about products and services making their life difficult, but there are some shining examples leading the way. As World Usability Day approaches, what are the best doing right?

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