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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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January 2006
13 January 2006

Job opportunities at Experientia

 
We have some job opportunities at Experientia, the company that I founded with three other partners some months back. However it is crucial that you are fluent in Italian, and it would help if you are based in or around Turin. We have some possibilities for people who have at least three years experience in web design and usability projects. In case you just graduated, feel free to contact us regarding internships or project support. Just send your cv and a short cover letter to info at experientia dot com.
13 January 2006

Estonians twice as likely to use public e-services than Britons [Usability News]

Rewiring_democracy
The UK’s e-government strategy is fragmented and producer driven, says Andrew Lomas, author of “Rewiring Democracy”, a study that compares Estonia’s record in e-government with Britain’s – and finds the bigger country lacking.

“Despite a lower level of personal Internet usage in Estonia, Estonians are over twice as likely to utilize the Internet to interact with public authorities.”

Lomas, writing for the Adam Smith Institute, concludes that the UK will never deliver its full potential benefits to the public. “By contrast, tiny Estonia has re-thought its government systems around the new techonology – resulting in much higher online access to government services and great public satisfaction.”

Read full story
Download report (pdf, 232 kb)

12 January 2006

An anthropologist at an architecture firm

Mkthink
I have always been convinced that the traditional research approach as applied in architectural practices is conceptually closer to user experience research than that found in most other contexts.

Peter Merholz just alerted me to MKThink, an architecture firm which apparently has a resident anthropologist, who is getting the firm to move beyond standard architectural practice and to consider ethnography as a method toward constructing better built environments.

MKThink describes itself as the ideas company for the built environment which has a core strength in optimising the potential of the physical environment to serve human goals and aspirations.

12 January 2006

Recent Design Council publications

Design_council_publications
This morning I interviewed Richard Eisermann, Director of Design & Innovation at the UK Design Council, and you will read more about that soon.

He pointed me to a number of interesting Design Council publications. They are all available for download:

  • Futureproofed: A look at why the UK needs design and a report on the Design Council’s work across business, the public sector and the design industry
  • Red Paper 01 Health – Co-creating Services: A new ‘co-creation’ approach to health care is set out in this paper from the Design Council’s RED unit
  • The Business of Design – Design industry research 2005:In-depth research on the UK’s design industry providing detailed data on everything from scale and economic clout to education and skills.
  • The Impact of School Learning Environments – A Literature Review: An overview of academic research commissioned for the Design Council’s Learning Environments Campaign
  • Learning Environments Campaign Prospectus – From the Inside Looking Out: How can we create school environments fit for learning in the 21st century? This prospectus answers the question
  • Touching the State: Can design improve our encounters with the state? Our Touching the State project asked the question, and the answers feature in a magazine full of insights and opinions.
  • RED Film 01: Health (mov file, 8.9 mb): this short film tells the story of two Design Council projects that used design methods to innovate in heatlh and to develop new concepts for supporting self-management and enabling healthy lifestyles
  • dott07: this is a ten-year program in North-East England, lead by John Thackara, about supporting and encouraging design as central to the future economic and social success of the UK. The brochure is not online, but it contains not much more than the text of the website.

Click here for an overview of all Design Council publications.

11 January 2006

Digital interactive television for older people [BBC]

Digitaltv_203
The University of Dundee’s Department of Applied Computing is looking for people who accept the potential advantages of new technology but whose experience is more pain than pleasure.

It wants to explore how fear of change can be reduced by making things such as digital television much simpler to use.

One major change that most people will find difficult to avoid is the switch off of the analogue TV signal which will happen, region by region, between 2008 and 2012.

An important implication of the switch to digital was that televisions would become much more like computers. For some that would mean that using their television would become much more complicated.

The research project will begin in early 2006 and last until next year.

Read full story
Read research project summary
Read research area summary

11 January 2006

Philips design magazine provides vision for simplicity

Next_simplicity
Philips released today the January issue of new value by One Design, its online quarterly design magazine.

The current issue starts with an introductory article by Stefano Marzano, CEO and chief creative director, and then continues with an overview of the Philips internal design awards, a report on the exploratory design project Next Simplicity and an interview with Rob Timmer of Philips Consumer Electronics who explains the importance of creating simple yet sophisticated user interfaces for the Connected Planet range of home entertainment products and the role design played in this.

The magazine also reports on Media Mediators, a design research project, jointly carried out with London’s Royal College of Art, that explored possibilities for really bringing digital products to life, examines in an interview with Marion Verbücken, Senior Innovation Design Consultant, how innovative concepts can best be visualised and communicated when the solution of simplicity is no longer to be found in what it is and how it looks but rather in what it does and how, and finally ends with a small case study on how Philips used a people-focused design approach to develop the Aroundio service concept and create and implement the entire Aroundio brand experience for the global security service provider, Securitas.

11 January 2006

Forrester slams hard to use consumer electronics

 
Consumer electronics companies will miss out on up to $3.8bn in revenue by 2010 because buyers are not able to use their devices properly, according to a Forrester Research report.

Apart from the obvious newsworthiness of this sales message, it is worth noting for the usability industry, that the very fact of a report like this from Forrester Research, one of the most respected authorities on such trends, is news in itself.

In essence, the research giant has woken up to the implications of poor usability. The report says that while digital products are selling at a record rate, they are not being adequately supported. It suggests there is major loss of revenue in failing to sell the additional products, services and content that bring the devices to life. We might see it in terms of the damage to customer experience and that less tangible loss to the bottom line.

Forrester says that the problem is particularly acute when buyers try to access content and services on devices connected to the internet.

Ted Schradler, a Forrester vice president told the Financial Times that: ‘Consumers are being forced to assemble the different components of their digital lifestyles themselves, and they are not equipped to do it.’

Read press release

(via Usability News)

11 January 2006

Design and innovation at Davos World Economic Forum [Business Week]

Wef_home_bar_logo
This year’s World Economic Forum features a roster of programs seeking to bring business up to speed on new thinking about innovation.

The World Economic Forum, held annually in Davos, Switzerland, is a high-altitude, high-profile gathering of the globe’s business and political elites. Microsoft’s Bill Gates is a regular, as are Google’s Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin, and Larry Page, who throw an amazing party at the Kirchner Museum every year. Bill Clinton usually hosts a late-night gab-fest, and last year it seemed like half of U.S. Congress and much of the Bush Cabinet were participating in sessions on trade and foreign policy.

Attendees at this year’s meeting, which begins on Jan. 24, will see many familiar faces. But they’ll also notice an influx of people no one would have thought qualified to join a few years ago: designers. Davos 2006, in fact, is shaping up to be a very different kind of forum. In addition to the standard topics, an unprecedented 22 sessions will focus on the general theme of “Innovation, Creativity & Design Strategy.”

Read full story

10 January 2006

Insperiences

Insperiences
Trendwatching has just updated its Sept/Oct 2004 “Insperience” newsletter.

“In a consumer society dominated by experiences in the (semi) public domain — often branded, designed, themed and curated to the nines — Insperiences represent consumers’ desire to bring top-level experiences into their domestic domain.”

Read full newsletter

10 January 2006

Defining user experiences for applications versus information resources on the web

Ux_matters
Leo Frishberg argues in UXMatters that “though the process of designing and creating application and information space user experiences for the Web is virtually the same—even if the deliverable design documents may differ—their user experiences are fundamentally and profoundly different.”

“For designers, business analysts, marketing consultants, and others who are sincerely interested in delivering the best user experiences online, understanding these distinctions can reduce the cost of design and improve the likelihood of user acceptance.”

Read full story

10 January 2006

The user experience of a product is everything that’s not human-computer interaction

 
“The user experience of a product is everything that’s not human-computer interaction. It’s everything that affects how someone interacts with a tool–whether it’s software, hardware, a service, or whatever. To me, this meant that I had to deal with all of the squishy, abstract things that good cognitive psychology and computer science-trained designers like me try not to deal with: business goals, emotions, relationships, branding, etc.”

This was Mike Kuniavsky’s realisation when he was asked to write on the relationship between HCI and customer experience in Andrew Sears and Julie Jacko’s Human Computer Interaction Handbook.

“I decided to write down everything I had been thinking and see what happened. Well, what happened is that I wrote the most wide-ranging book chapter I think I’ve ever produced.”

Read full post
Download chapter draft (pdf, 550 kb)

9 January 2006

Mobile phones are so complex you can’t even send an sms

Featuritis
In a study entitled ‘HandyERGO’ conducted by the technical college in Gelsenkirchen in Germany, almost two thirds of the more than 1,200 subjects failed to send a simple SMS using a strange mobile phone.

This vividly illustrates how mobile phone users are often unable to find the basic applications they want to use because of the complexity of the menus they are confronted with.

“Modern everyday technology is often too complicated for the average user,” says Ralph Hinderberger, who heads the German user experience company UE Management.

Hinderberger sees the main problem in what he calls ‘featuritis’ and describes it as a ‘technology disease’ that is currently rampant. “The tendency is for manufacturers to build an increasing number of functions into ever smaller gadgets, and this simply confuses the user,” Hinderberger says.

Read full story (in English)
HandyERGO website (in German only)
HandyERGO study (pdf, 444 kb, 10 pages, in German)

(via Usability in the News)

7 January 2006

When consumers became producers

 
In reflecting on the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Business Week’s Bruce Nussbaum concludes that one trend is clear: “Companies that want to succeed must be in the enabling business, not the product or even the service business. Today, you have to build capabilities of entertainment, shopping, education, employment, you name it. Consumers increasingly demand to be their own producers and companies must collaborate and co-create with them. All the talk about platforms and convergence and content is about people building their very own products and services to fit their lives.”

“Whether it is consulting with consuming people on the streets of Chicago or in the villages of India, design is all about integration of those you design for into the core process of design. We’re moving way beyond the “consumer experience” here folks. It’s time to dust up on C.K. Prahalad’s book on Co-Creation.”

Read full post

6 January 2006

RSA website on inclusive design

Inclusive_design
Inclusive design is about ensuring that environments, products, services and interfaces work for people of all ages and abilities. Many people are interested in this, but there is no ready source of information, methods, tools and examples to help them achieve it. This website aims to plug that gap by bringing together new and existing information and making it accessible via a single user-friendly interface.

The website is aimed at design students and their tutors, professional designers, design managers and policy makers. It has been developed to introduce newcomers to key concepts, examples and design/research methods, and to support practitioners in gathering together relevant information to build up their own collection of tools and techniques.

5 January 2006

Creativity and design as tools for regional innovation

 
Here are some links for those interested in the role of creativity and design as tools for innovation, especially in the context of regional development.

Creative London: realising the economic potential of London’s creative industries
London’s mayor commission on the creative industries focuses on four themes: nurturing and commodifying creativity, developing Production Chains, management and growth, property and place.

Creativity, Design and Business Performance (pdf, 1.05 mb, 76 pages)
Economics paper by the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), published on 25 November 2005.

Nouvelles villes de design/New Design Cities
This 330-page, richly illustrated, bilingual book, published on 22 September 2005, stems from a symposium on the same topic (Montreal, 6>8 October 2004) and coincides with the introduction of the city’s new design action plan. LThis book involves case studies (i.e. actions or events) that are at the foundation of the emergence process of seven cities as cities of design: Antwerp, Glasgow, Lisbon, Montreal, Saint-Etienne, Stockholm and New York’s Times Square. These concrete examples are supported by reflections by three imminent thinkers of the modern city: Francois Barre (Paris), Saskia Sassen (Chicago), and John Thackara (Amsterdam and Bangalore).

(thanks to Giovanni Padula)

4 January 2006

Innovation tour of America for Indian executives with an emphasis on customer-centred approach

Innovation_trip
Innovation consulting firm BrainReactions LLC is now offering six-day “innovation tours” of America for Indian executives, with the first of these tours scheduled to take place in early April. Each Innovation Trip combines a mix of hands-on workshops, meet-and-greets with innovation thought leaders and cultural excursions within two primary U.S. innovation hubs: Boston and Silicon Valley. The scheduled events include workshops on “customer-centred innovation” and the “culture of innovation,” a program at Harvard Business School with disruptive innovation guru Clayton Christensen and a tour of Stanford’s D-School.

According to the Innovation Trip website, the tours are part of “a program to nullify the geographic, communication and cultural gap between low-cost outsourcing hosts and high-cost innovation economies. Using Innovation Trip, leaders, managers and bright staff from all over the world can take-away the culture of innovation from America and apply it to their companies worldwide. Innovation Trip will energise their staff, unleash the true needs of their customers with customer-centric innovation methodologies (without actually asking them) and enhance process innovation as teamwork in their organisations to better serve their customers located thousands of miles away.”

(via Business Innovation 2005)

4 January 2006

The cute factor [The New York Times]

Cute_factor
Scientists who study the evolution of visual signaling have identified a wide and still expanding assortment of features and behaviors that make something look cute: bright forward-facing eyes set low on a big round face, a pair of big round ears, floppy limbs and a side-to-side, teeter-totter gait, among many others.

Cute cues are those that indicate extreme youth, vulnerability, harmlessness and need, scientists say, and attending to them closely makes good Darwinian sense. As a species whose youngest members are so pathetically helpless they can’t lift their heads to suckle without adult supervision, human beings must be wired to respond quickly and gamely to any and all signs of infantile desire.

The human cuteness detector is set at such a low bar, researchers said, that it sweeps in and deems cute practically anything remotely resembling a human baby or a part thereof, and so ends up including the young of virtually every mammalian species, fuzzy-headed birds like Japanese cranes, woolly bear caterpillars, a bobbing balloon, a big round rock stacked on a smaller rock, a colon, a hyphen and a close parenthesis typed in succession.

Read full story

4 January 2006

User experience becoming crucial in intranet design

 
In a recent CIO Magazine article about intranet trends to watch for in 2006, Shiv Singh of Avenue A | Razorfish highlights the user experience:

“Employees are demanding simpler, more intuitive and more “Web” like intranet experiences. [...] A few years ago, employees barely cared about their company intranets. Today, they’re using their intranets so much that they expect them to have the simplicity and usability of Google or Yahoo! Furthermore, in many large companies, the intranet serves as the official face of the company. Companies with unusable and complex intranets are doing a huge disservice to their employees.”

Other trends are the growing importance of rss feeds, ajax and wikis.

Read full story

3 January 2006

Job openings in innovation and interaction design

 
Nearly five years ago Judy Wert (based in New York) recruited me for a position at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (based in Italy), which eventually brought me to start an experience design company in Turin (with another recruitee of hers actually), as well as this blog on experience design.

She just asked me to post a new announcement for open positions on my blog and I definitely owe her that favour:

Wert & Company, Inc., is a New York City-based international executive recruitment and consulting firm specializing in recruiting creative leadership, building award-winning creative teams from emerging talent to senior executives, and consulting on strategic organizational growth for a broad range of industries. We represent a diverse range of dynamic brands and organizations from design, retail, fashion, lifestyle and technology to architecture, interactive, publishing and academia.

Wert & Company is currently retained by one of our client partners throughout the US whose business is rooted entirely in Innovation & Interaction design–across new product development, service design, research and international trends. Our client’s reputations are based on their unique ability consulting on innovation for successful companies and iconic brands.

We seek exceptional talent at the leadership level [6-10 years of experience], who will bring creativity, passion, experience and vision to spearhead the evolution of our client’s successes. Individuals may come from a variety of fields including architecture, business, anthropology, interaction, product / industrial / conceptual design. The role requires individuals who can keep pace with the demands of rapidly growing international businesses, anticipate trends, synthesize design solutions, and provide creative leadership to ensure strategic and design integrity. Must understand [and embrace] storytelling through product and services.

The successful candidates bring creative leadership experience in a corporate or consulting setting and possess design excellence, emotional intelligence and entrepreneurialism, along with a balance of energy, drive, and intense curiosity! Candidates must be design champions, and human-centered with the ability to nurture and sustain high-value client relationships.

3 January 2006

Google to launch its own PC

 
According to the Register, Google is planning to provide an own-brand Windows-less PC and sell the low-cost system through a partnership with retail giant Wal-Mart. The machine and/or the sales deal could be announced as early as this coming Friday.

Crucially, the rig is said to be based on Google’s own operating system – most likely Linux in Google clothing – rather than Windows.

Although this has been tried before, writes Karl Long in Customer Experience Strategy, “the difference is Customer Experience… Google has proven it can develop world class, easy to use software, search, email, maps, shopping, oh and it has figured out how to provide the software free and supported through unobtrusive, profitable advertising.”

“Everyone may role their eyes when I say google is successful because they provide the best Customer Experience, and that’s because many people think Customer Experience means bells and whistles, or features etc. No Customer Experience is the balance between business goals and customer needs. It is understanding that customer needs is not a static point in time, but a gradient, a relationship curve with increasing trust, engagement, promise and reward. Google with its perpetual beta software and “invite only” strategies, where not thinly veiled attempts at “viral” marketing, they were genuine attempts to test and refine their software, which probably cost them a ton of money initially, and would have been a tough sell at other companies.”

Read full post