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Putting People First

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February 2006
20 February 2006

Historic city of Bath to host wireless experiment [Reuters | CNN]

Bath
Britain’s historic city of Bath is to host an experiment in advanced wireless computer technology that could provide the blueprint for developing the world’s next generation of mobile phones and lap-tops.

Called Cityware, the project will see 30 volunteers using state-of-the-art mobile telephones to access interactive technology and gauge its use.

“Pervasive technology that is available to everyone, everywhere and at all times promises to be the next big leap in mobile computing technology,” said Dr Eamonn O’Neill from the University of Bath’s Computer Science department.

One reason why Bath was chosen to road-test the new technology was that, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it attracts millions of visitors each year, who may one day be using the type of technology being tested.

Read full story

20 February 2006

Designing the experience of Islam

Alhambra
Bob Jacobson is starting a new trend on his blog Total Experience. Rather than looking at precise commercial or institutional issues, he analyses broad social phenomena from the point of view of experience design, and hints at the possibility that there might be ways to design them better, even if they are complex and deeply rooted in culture and history.

How to design a better experience of the bird flu crisis? How to design a better experience of Islam?

All in all, his is a refreshing take. The question it raises for me, is how to co-create such experiences with all those affected? How not to leave them only in the hands of governments, specialists or extremists?

I am curious to read his thinking on issues that we can have more of an impact on, such as democracy, cities, public institutions, healthcare, or environnment.

Read full post

20 February 2006

Are you experienced? [Times2]

Times2
How we spend our money is changing. In the new ‘experience economy’ we pay to do things, not have things.

Melanie Howard, sociologist and co-founder of the Future Foundation, a consumer think-tank, believes that, as a society, we are hauling ourselves up Abraham Maslow’s famous pyramid of needs, at the apex of which lies “self-actualisation”. Since we already know that a fat bank balance or a Porsche is not the key to happiness, we are searching elsewhere for fulfilment.

Howard says: “I think we’re in a very advanced state of this [pyramid]. There’s this emerging idea of ourselves as projects — we are no longer labelled by our education or gender, or born into a social situation that we then play out for the rest of our lives. We can do new things, pick up new skills, learn a new language. Because we’re living longer, we have more time to think about who we really want to be. We are all asking ourselves, ‘How can I get more out of my life?’”

Read full story

19 February 2006

Vision through sound [Toronto Star]

Bill_buxton_2
Researcher Bill Buxton started his career as a musician in Toronto, but found his true calling mixing computer science with his passions for music and design.

Now at Microsoft Research, the human-computer interaction and computer graphics pioneer will collaborate with researchers in the company’s five global labs to bring his skills in designing for human experiences to diverse research projects.

Read full story

19 February 2006

Phone firms targeting of under-fives is ‘as bad as marketing junk food’ say MPs [The Independent]

Scooby_doo
Senior [UK] MPs are calling for an urgent government inquiry into the “targeting” of children with cartoon mobile phone merchandise, including Winnie the Pooh, dangly soft toys and Scooby-Doo mobile phone covers.

They warn that a huge selection of mobile phone toy accessories and “wallpaper”, includingToy Story ringtones, Tigger phone “danglies” and Finding Nemo phone covers are encouraging children as young as four to use handsets.

Phil Willis, the chairman of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, called on the Department of Health last night to launch an urgent inquiry into the marketing of mobile accessories to children. He said the issue was potentially as serious as the marketing of junk food and sugary drinks to primary school pupils.

Read full story

(via textually.org)

18 February 2006

Tourists replacing guidebooks with information on mobile devices [Reuters]

Venice_tour
Travelers are starting to leave behind heavy, dog-eared guidebooks and instead are cramming their much lighter mobile devices with all the necessary tips they’ll need to discover new parts of the world.

Airlines, tour operators, entrepreneurs and even old-fashioned travel book publishers have been unleashing a wave of information accessible with MP3 players and mobile phones that is easier to tote while on vacation and is delivering increasingly personal recommendations.

Featured projects:

  • History Unwired, a walking tour in Venice, Italy, over location-aware multimedia phones and PDAs
  • Soundwalk, New York City neighborhood tours blended with music, sound effects and interviews
  • Talkingstreet, celebrities lend their voices to their hometown tours
  • Thomson podcasts, a British tour operator’s podcasts to accompany travelers to Corsica, Cuba or the Cote D’Azur
  • Virgin podcasts, for destinations ranging from Shanghai to Las Vegas
  • Lonely Planet podcasts, free podcast downloads to supplement the printed materials

Read full story

18 February 2006

The rise of ethnography at Intel

Ken_anderson
The company at the heart of the machine is trying harder to get into the heads of its users. In the latest MRWho, MrWeb’s Michael Kenyon talked to Ken Anderson, Manager of People and Practice Research at Intel and one of the company’s small but growing band of ethnographers.

Intel currently employs the largest number of ethnographers of any company in the world.

Anderson, who joined Intel in 2001, argues that “you need an ethnographer to cover both sides – the outside populations and the company itself. If you do a really excellent study but present the results in a way that doesn’t match the company’s culture, it’s not going anywhere. A lot of innovation dies because people can’t articulate it in a way that makes sense. […] Our job is as much about understanding translation as understanding people.”

Read full story

17 February 2006

Philips releases Entertaible, a new social gaming platform

Entertaible
Philips unveils the Entertaible – a 21st century tabletop gaming platform that marries the best of electronic and traditional board games in a natural and simple way. Sitting comfortably around the game table, people can enjoy both the shared experience of playing together and the excitement of being able to directly interact with an electronic game.

Entertaible comprises a 30-inch horizontal LCD and an innovative multi-touch sensor design that can detect several pawns and fingers simultaneously. This allows players to intuitively interact with the virtual world as if – by magic – it were actually real, opening up a new class of electronic games which combines the features of computer gaming, such as dynamic playing fields and gaming levels, with the social interaction and tangible playing pieces, such as pawns and dies, of traditional board games.

Initially aimed at the out-of-home game market such as restaurants, bars, and casinos, Entertaible has the potential to evolve into a gaming platform for the consumer market.

videohigh-res photospress releasearticle (pdf, 145 kb)

Also in the latest issue of Password, the quarterly magazine of Philips Research (download as pdf, 2.5 mb, 27 pages), an interesting article about an open media center platform for the digital home.

17 February 2006

Mattel workshop on play experiences for the next generation

Mattel_workshop
Looking to generate new ideas about the future of play, Mattel invited the Interaction Design Institute to present concepts during its company-wide Play Experiences for the Next Generation workshop.

Children discover the world through play. Playing shapes human mental and physiological development, social relationships, identities, and learning processes. The emergence of the computer as an interactive medium has elevated the importance of computer play and computer games, which are of particular interest commercially.

Digital technologies increasingly inform play opportunities, from creating imaginary worlds to enabling new social interactions (for example, distance communication). Physical computing brings a tangible component back into computer-mediated play. Games, as a form of intentional play, are interactive by nature, as every player is a participant and cannot remain a passive observer. Games touch on almost every area of interaction design, starting from social interactions between numerous players to HCI issues when it comes to designing the actual physical or virtual interfaces.

The workshop was lead by Jan-Christoph Zoels, a senior partner at Experientia and senior associate professor at the Interaction Design Institute.

Visit workshop website

17 February 2006

Visa’s virtual Olympic challenge [Business Week]

Visa_games
The credit-card giant scored a hit with its online “advergame.” And it’s not alone, as companies try to think of new ways to snag eyeballs

There’s a new competition at the Winter Olympics this year — and it involves virtual, rather than actual, athletes. On Feb. 15 winners of an online, Olympic-themed advertising game, or “advergame”, commissioned by Visa, will face off — in person — in a Torino-area shopping mall, playing on computer terminals hooked up to large-scale screens.

Designed to increase brand awareness, the free online game — which went live in October — allows players to engage in bobsleigh, giant slalom, and snowboarding competitions. Visa flew the 23 finalists from around the globe — from such countries as Austria, the Ukraine, China, and the U.S. — to the Torino Olympics to stage its own games.

Read full story
View slide show

16 February 2006

Eisermann leaves Design Council as it reviews its strategy [Design Week]

Richard_eisermann
The British design magazine Design Week reports today that Richard Eisermann, director of design and innovation at the UK Design Council, has left the organisation prematurely to co-found the start-up consultancy Prospect, after two and a half years in the role.

He will not be immediately replaced in the short term, because the Design Council is in the midst of an internal review to look at how best it manages its ‘strategic design input’.

The magazine further states that Eisermann has left to launch Prospect (permanent address as of April 2006), a ‘strategically-driven’ group with Anja Klüver. Its current clients include Nokia and a company from the travel services industry. The consultancy will be design-led and collaborations with designers are anticipated.

*****

Eisermann (see my recent interview with him) was in Torino one month ago to conduct a design and innovation workshop at the invitation of Torino Internazionale, the strategic agency for the city of Turin and the region of Piedmont, and Experientia, the experience design consultancy.

During the workshop, about thirty local leaders in charge of political entities, academic institutions, industry associations, businesses and design-related organisations brainstormed on the challenges of translating user-centred design approaches to new strategies for regional innovation and on the opportunities provided by Torino’s designation as World Design Capital in 2008.

16 February 2006

Growing numbers surf the web just for fun

Surfing_for_fun
More than ever, people are getting on the Internet to hang out or just blow off some time, a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project said Wednesday.

Some 40 million Americans said they go online just for fun, up from 25 million the year before, the first big jump in about five years since the Washington group began studying the phenomenon.

The study’s results, experts say, underscore how the Web has increasingly become a part of our lives and has become not just a place to find information, but also a means of entertainment, rivaling television.

Read full story [San Francisco Chronicle]
Report summary (press release)
Download report (pdf, 232 kb, 6 pages)

16 February 2006

Funding invention versus managing innovation [Business Week]

Digitalkid
This Business Week article by John Hagel and John Seely Brown focuses mainly on an American context, but many of its points could easily be applied to government policies on innovation elsewhere:

“In the West, we still confuse invention with innovation. Even worse, we tend to focus narrowly on breakthrough technology or product invention — that’s what really gets the adrenaline going. Anything else is marginal and uninteresting.”

“But if we shift our attention from invention to innovation, we begin to see a much broader horizon. Innovation — the ability to create and capture economic value from invention — is what really drives both the economic prosperity of nations and the shareholder value of corporations.”

“Innovation isn’t just confined to commercialization of new products. It can also build upon creative new practices, processes, relationships, or business models, and even institutional innovations such as open-source computing — invention occurs in all these domains. And while breakthrough innovations can generate significant economic value, sustaining that value requires a capacity for continual incremental innovations.”

(Hagel and Brown co-wrote The Only Sustainable Edge, which discusses some of the innovation management techniques emerging in Asia).

Read full story

16 February 2006

The Persona Lifecycle: a field guide for interaction designers

Persona_lifecycle
The Persona Lifecycle, First Edition : Keeping People in Mind Throughout Product Design

The Persona Lifecycle (AmazonElsevier) addresses the “how” of creating effective personas and using those personas to design products that people love. It doesn’t just describe the value of personas; it offers
detailed techniques and tools related to planning, creating, communicating, and using personas to create great product designs. Moreover, it provides rich examples, samples, and illustrations to imitate and model. Perhaps most importantly, it positions personas not as a panacea, but as a method used to complement other user-centered design (UCD) techniques including scenario-based design, cognitive walkthroughs and user testing.

John Pruitt is the Usability Lead of the User Experience Team at Microsoft Corporation. Tamara Adlin is a Customer Experience Manager at Amazon.com. For the past six years, John and Tamara have been researching and using personas, leading workshops, and teaching courses
at professional conferences and universities. They developed the Persona Lifecycle model to communicate the value and practical application of personas to product design and development professionals.

Chapter 1 – The Next Frontier for User-Centered Design: Making User Representations More Usable
Chapter 2 – The Persona Lifecycle: A framework for the persona approach
Chapter 3 – Phase 1: Family Planning (planning a persona effort)
Chapter 4 – Phase 2: Conception & Gestation (creating personas)
Chapter 5 – Phase 3: Birth & Maturation (launching and communicating personas)
Chapter 6 – Phase 4: Adulthood (using personas)
Chapter 7 – Phase 5: Lifetime Achievement and Retirement (ROI and reuse of personas)

Contributed Chapters:
Chapter 8 – Users, roles and personas (by Larry Constantine)
Chapter 9 – Storytelling and narrative (by Whitney Quesenbery)
Chapter 10 – Reality and Design Maps (by Tamara Adlin & Holly Jamesen)
Chapter 11 – Marketing versus design personas (by Bob Barlow-Busch)
Chapter 12 – Why personas work: The psychological evidence (by Jonathan Grudin)

Appendix A- Example Personas
Appendix B- Sample Image Release Form

Related materials

Personas: Practice and Theory (Word document, 644 kb, 15 pages)
Pruitt, John and Grudin, Jonathan, Microsoft (2003)

Personas, Participatory Design and Product Development: An Infrastructure for Engagement (Word document, 208 kb, 8 pages)
Grudin, Jonathan and Pruitt, John, Microsoft (2002)

Interview with John Pruitt (Channel 9 Forum)

(via John Morales of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford)

16 February 2006

The penumbra effect: designing the bird-flu crisis experience

Bird_flu
Bob Jacobson just published a thoughtful reflection in his Total Experience blog on how experience design can help us becoming better prepared in dealing with a bird flu pandemic.

“How we experience a potential crisis, a condition that by definition we haven’t experienced before (any of us, experts or laypersons), determines how we respond. This experience is designed through the cumulative interactions of speakers, writers, media professionals, politicians, health professionals, corporations, governments, NGOs, and the public. But no one is designing the interactions to produce positive, proactive results.”

“Our experience of the bird flu crisis is the ultimate in poorly designed experiences.”

“We’re in an informational limbo: we know just enough to appreciate the collective dimension of our dilemma. But we’re constrained from collectively preparing for the worst, because we’re unable to pool our responses except through distilled channels like the news. Experience designers who are busy building better websites and shopping-mall exhibitions might consider how well received their work will be after pandemic sweeps across an unprepared world.”

Read full post

16 February 2006

10 rules for experience-based technology [eWeek.com]

Eweek_logo
Features don’t matter any more. Welcome to the Age of User Experience.

As computing and digital devices move more and more into the consumer space, features and functionalities will increasingly take the back seat as motivators for technology adoption: As the iPod abundantly shows, user experience (along with a strong brand and clever marketing) is much more important for the success of a device than technical specifications.

Web designers grasped the importance of good user experience a long time ago; now it is time for the big technology providers to understand where the industry is headed.

Read full story

16 February 2006

How they know what you like before you do [Christian Science Monitor]

Tastetracking
The high-tech tracking of people’s preferences puts firms in touch with tastes.

Over the past decade, e-commerce has taken a cue from the notion that friends give the best recommendations. Personalized suggestions have become more commonplace as various forms of media converge, industry professionals say, and this could both change the entertainment industry and give consumers more power.

By 2010, one-quarter of online music sales will be driven by “taste-sharing applications,” predicts a study released in December by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and research firm Gartner.

This kind of social interaction, the Berkman Center study predicts, will help democratize musical tastes. “Instead of primarily disc jockeys and music videos shaping how we view music, we have a greater opportunity to hear from each other…. These tools allow people to play a greater role in shaping culture, which, in turn, shapes themselves,” the study states.

Read full story

Download study “Consumer taste-sharing is driving the online music business and democratizing culture” (pdf, 532 kb, 12 pages)

15 February 2006

Synthesis report of Davos discussions on design and innovation

Insitum
in/situm, a qualitative research and user-centred consulting firm with offices in Mexico, Brazil and USA, published a short report summarising those contributions and discussions at the Davos World Economic Forum 2006 dealing with design and innovation strategy.

Download report (pdf, 144 kb, 7 pages)

14 February 2006

UPA publishes second issue of Journal of Usability Studies

Upa_logo
The Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA) just published the second issue of its Journal of Usability Studies, a peer-reviewed, international, online publication dedicated to promote and enhance the practice, research, and education of usability engineering.

THE IMPLICATIONS OF CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
The issue of cultural issues and their impact on product design and usability have been occupying Aaron Marcus’s mind for a while. Here, in his invited essay “Culture: Wanted? Alive or Dead?” (pdf, 98 kb) he is suggesting that, in spite of the great significance of those issues, we barely began to unravel the potential implications of cultural differences on design and usability.

GAME USABILITY
Computer games, single and multi-user, local and on the internet, become pervasive and important in many domains: entertainment, edutainment, training, and strategy making. The first article, “Do usability expert evaluation and test provide novel and useful data for game development?” (pdf, 173 kb) by Sauli Laitinen addresses some basic questions in evaluating and testing game usability. This article addresses several issues: Should we use the traditional usability evaluation and testing for game usability? Should evaluators be also game experts?

MANAGING USABILITY KNOWLEDGE
The organizational preservation and re-use of usability testing knowledge is the concern of the second article. Michael Hughes in his article “A pattern language approach to Usability Knowledge Management” (pdf, 216 kb) suggests that a pattern language can be developed to describe usability data and help turn it into knowledge. The article introduces basic concepts in organizational knowledge management and how some concepts can be applied to the re-use of usability findings for further design.

MOBILE USABILITY
This issue also deals with the challenges of mobile usability. Sheng-Cheng Huang, I-Fan Chou, and Randolph G. Bias present “Empirical evaluation of a popular cellular phone’s menu system: Theory meets practice” (pdf, 353 kb). They look at the design of menu systems in cellular phones from the information architecture perspective, particularly categorization and labeling of options. An additional aspect in their paper is the variant of paper prototyping approach they used which proved effective for usability testing.

14 February 2006

Toy makers are betting on toddler tech [Market Watch]

Vsmile
From industry giants Mattel and Hasbro to smaller players LeapFrog and VTech, toy manufacturers are lowering the age ranges for their high-tech and educational offerings at this year’s Toy Fair, betting that “toddler tech” will help reverse several years of slumping sales.

The toy industry has responded [to its market challenges] by embracing technology, adding interactivity, creating whole new categories of educational toys and expanding the use of sophisticated electronics in products for kids as young as newborns.

Part of the strategy is to make kids enamored of their toys and brands at an earlier age; part of it is a response to parents who want play time to also build cognitive and other skills. But another key element is to create must-have items for which parents are willing to pay a premium.

Read full story

(via pasta and vinegar)