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Putting People First

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March 2006
31 March 2006

Philips shows product concepts designed with users [Reuters]

Philips Intuitive Connected Home
Dutch Philips Electronics on Wednesday unveiled innovative product ideas that emerged from its design laboratories in collaboration with consumers seeking friendlier high technology gadgets.

Elements of these concepts could appear in products on store shelves as early as this year, Europe’s top consumer electronics group said.

The ideas, all based on available technology, are aimed at making gadgets easier to use and share among various types of users. [...]

"The user experience is now the driving force behind our  design development process," said Andrews, creative director of Philips’ Intuitive Connected Home design research project.

Rather than approaching consumers at the very end of the design process to test concept products, Philips’ Intuitive Connected Home project tracks consumers’ habits, shows them ideas for an application, seeks further comment online and shows real prototypes even before the products are tested.

Tests are designed to see if consumers understand a  product, know how to use it and recognize the value.

"The result is an experience prototype," Andrews said. "It’s not the same as a design model which looks nice but is impossible to produce, and its not the same a technical prototype which works well but is a block of technology with wires protruding from all sides." [...]

"The value of a product is no longer created in the factories, but at the point of interaction with the consumer. So we need to have a clear understanding of consumer values," said Philips design chief Stefano Marzano.

"This is the reason why design is now seen as a core strategic way. Design is a strategy for companies eager to generate qualities rather than (products)," he added.

Read full story

30 March 2006

Improve usability for older users

Usability for the elderly
The UK now has more people aged over 60 than under 16. There are now 1.1 million people aged over 85 in the UK — and the trend toward an ageing population is common in many other western countries.

We recently analysed and compared the results of 16 usability testing sessions. Eight of these sessions were conducted with older users (i.e. over the age of 65), and the other eight were run with younger users (under the age of 40).

The 40-minute ‘talk-aloud’ sessions involved our asking participants to find information on a range of government web sites. The results of this research provided insights into the ways older users differ from their younger counterparts when it comes to using the Internet.

The main finding of our study was that older users were more likely to assign blame when using the Internet.

Read full post

(via Usability Views)

30 March 2006

Lifestyle design: a new profession

Lifestyle design
The problem: many millions of people in First World societies will live entire lifetimes without "gainful employment."

The assignment: Create a lifestyle that makes possible gainful unemployment. Build a lifestyle that will involve, express, and otherwise engage someone who will never work.

Some considerations

30 March 2006

Intel launches Community PC for India

Intel Community PC
Intel Corporation just launched an innovative PC platform that has been developed exclusively to meet the needs of rural villages and communities in India.

Designed as a result of defining locally relevant computing solutions based on Intel technology, the Intel-powered “Community PC” platform is equipped to operate in a community setting while accommodating the varying environmental conditions prevalent in the country.

The aptly named Community PC platform was defined by Intel after intensive ethnographic studies in rural India showed that a clear desire for technology access exists in remote rural communities. Unfortunately, weather conditions (heat, dust, humidity) and unreliable power sources can compromise typical PCs used in such environments.

To address these issues, the Intel-powered Community PC platform was developed to be a fully functional, expandable and shared-access computing solution.

- Read full story
– See also: Indians ‘want hi-tech products’ (BBC background story)

30 March 2006

UK government web sites fail accessibility tests [BBC]

UK accessbility
More than half of government and council websites contain errors and cause problems for disabled people, research shows.

Some 60% of UK government websites contain HTML errors, according to a study by the University of Southampton.

A similar proportion do not comply with guidelines created to improve web access, it found.

Adam Field, from the university’s School of Electronics and Computer Science, who conducted the survey, said not complying with these guidelines could prevent some individuals from being able to access the websites.

He also pointed out disabled people were likely to require government services and, therefore, had even more reason to want to use government websites.

Read full story

30 March 2006

Palm got it right ten years ago. So why are we still suffering?

Palm Pilot 1000
Adam Richardson, strategy director at frog design, reflects on the fact that ten years ago this week, Palm Computing debuted the Pilot 1000:

"1996 seems like eons ago, but the major PDA market has been around for a very short amount of time, really. The primitiveness of that first machine is striking today; but what is even more striking is how the limitations of its hardware made it easier to use. It is a supreme example of constraints leading to superior creativity and execution."

"Today even our cellphones have more computing power and graphics capability than those first Palms. In part, I think the relative lack of constraints on our cellphone designers have led them to become sloppy with their design choices, leading to products that are harder, less efficient, and more confusing to use. The designers are not doing their editorial duties. How many clicks, for example, does it take to edit an address book entry on your cellpone?"

"Why are we still having crappily designed electronic devices foisted on us?"

Read full post

29 March 2006

Transitioning to a new model of healthcare

Annals of Family Medicine
The current issue of the Annals of Family Medicine reports on a new model of healthcare that is grounded in timeless values of personalised, patient-centred care coupled with the application of new technologies and systems.The new model was the conclusion of its report on "The Future of Family Medicine".

An in-depth qualitative analysis of an exemplary practice points the way to developing practice systems that integrate preventive and chronic illness care. Attributes identified in this practice include components of a transformed practice, such as patient-centredness, strong support for the physician-patient relationship, a team approach to care, and transparent, data-based, accountable systems.

A comprehensive ethnographic study raises important questions on how to better use the electronic health record to enhance the clinician-patient relationship as well as instrumental aspects of care.

Another study evaluates a web-based system that offers tailored health advice and local and national resources and highlights lessons learned from the implementation of this novel technology.

Read editorial introduction to this issue of the magazine

29 March 2006

Daily Fix, a new MarketingProfs blog

Daily Fix
Marketingprofs.com, the online publishing company, yesterday launched Daily Fix, a group weblog featuring news, opinion and commentary on marketing, advertising and business-related issues, both offline and online.

The bone and marrow of the blog are, first, the anal ysis, opinion and commentary on news from a collection of 20-plus writers (including re-posts from Putting People First) and, second, the news itself.

Ann Handley, MarketingProfs chief content editor, who has been putting a lot of energy in this endeavour, writes: "My hope is that the Daily Fix will become an engaging, interesting, lively, daily stop for many of you—a place to read the news and opinions of the day, some lively writing, some bit of inspiration, or a write-up about a great Web site, resource, tool, or fun viral campaign."

29 March 2006

New design research wiki site

Design research resources
Bruce M. Tharp of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago and a visiting designer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago created a design research wiki site with bibliographic and web resources on ethnography and design.

It also provides downloadable pdfs of the ethnography and design bibliography.

29 March 2006

Forms and function, design in the public sector [Design Council]

Forms and Function
Public sector organisations could save themselves millions every year, as well as sparing their public unnecessary confusion and stress, if they used good information design. Sector specialist Andrew Boag explains how clear forms, letters and bills produce clear benefits all round.

Imagine, if you can, that your child has been diagnosed with cancer. Among the many things you’d need at such a traumatic time would be help to cope with new and immediate demands on the family budget. But the last thing you’d need would be a repetitive and unnecessarily intrusive 40-page form intended to deal with a host of different conditions, not just your child’s.

Sadly, though, that is what you’d have to fill in if you wanted to claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA). To make matters worse, you wouldn’t be eligible to claim until three months after diagnosis and, because of the complexities of the system, your claim would take many more weeks to process.

This is just one, albeit extreme, example of communication between the public sector and its public that could be improved through information design.

Read full story

28 March 2006

Creativity and innovation development in business schools [Business Week]

The Nature of Creative Development
As companies seek more innovative employees, MBAs who have learned techniques for cutting-edge creative thinking might have an edge in the new economy, writes Jeffrey Gangemi in a Business Week article on innovation and creativity development in business schools.

An excerpt:

B-school students in Professor Jim Patell’s "Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability" course at Stanford University head to places like Burma to examine farming and irrigation methods in rural areas.

Business students are put in teams with engineers, designers, education students, computer scientists, even literature students, to confront a major problem in the developing world. Then they design and build working prototypes to attempt to correct it. The course’s first offering resulted in the creation of a company called Cosmos Ignite Innovations that produces low-cost lighting systems for developing countries.

Patell says the most important component of the course is learning that it’s O.K. to fail. "If you don’t get something the first nine times, then you’re encouraged to get it on the tenth, because this is school," he says. "We’re not expected to solve these problems."

Read full story

Related:
- The Nature of Creative Development by Jonathan S. Feinstein (Stanford University Press, 2006)
- Turning out gadgets for a $2-a-day multitude (International Herald Tribune, 1 January 2006)

24 March 2006

The surveillance society

ACLU Pizza
The American Civil Liberties Union has created a web-based campaign to alert consumers of the implications of what an ubiquitous, commerce-driven information society would look like.

It is a clever and hilarious bit of work, titled ACLU Pizza, about how much of yourself can be revealed when you pick up the phone and order a pizza.

(via Morph)

24 March 2006

We Media: creating a better-informed society by collaborating with one another

We Media
The WE Media Global Forum is a conference that brings together "the trailblazers of the connected society – the thinkers, innovators, investors, executives and activists seeking to tap the potential of digital networks connecting people everywhere", or in short "how to create a better-informed society by collaborating with one another."

The Forum is organised by the Media Center, a division of the American Press Institute, a nonprofit think tank committed to building a better-informed society in a connected world.

Conducted at and hosted by The BBC and Reuters in London, the 2006 Forum includes a series of keynote, general and small group conversations and workgroups, as well as networking receptions and a World Café – a global "town hall" meeting with Web, satellite, television and other avenues of participation from around the world.

The Media Center runs its own blog, Morph, a global, cross-sector exploration of issues, trends, ideas and actions to build a better-informed society, and also promotes the Hypergene media blog about how citizens are changing the future of news and information.

24 March 2006

Forbes special report on communicating

Forbes special report on communicating
Forbes Magazine published a special report on communicating.

It is divided in a number of sections: technology, science, commerce & culture and "on the other hand", and contains interviews with the likes of Noam Chomsky, Jane Goodall, Kurt Vonnegut, Desmond Morris and Ray Kurzweill, to name just a few.

Articles that caught my eye include:

Communication devices of the future
[We are facing] a future flooded with great, big wired and wireless pipelines of data coming at you from all directions in all locations at all times. To some, this will be a wonderland of entertainment and telecommunications possibilities. To others, this will be a nightmare of in-your-face digital annoyances.

Cutting-edge computer interfaces
The latest generation of user interfaces are experimental devices that are stretching the boundaries of how we communicate with our computers–and how they communicate with us. Many new interfaces are designed to tap directly into tactile phenomena such as tastes, odors and sensations.

The next 4,000 days
Just as the internet rapidly evolved from delivering web pages to delivering phone calls, it will continue to subsume older communications networks.

Commercial conversations
Traditionally, companies talked, consumers listened. That’s about to change.

Related: previous Forbes special report on innovation

24 March 2006

What you’ll wear in 10 years [Wired Magazine | Forbes]

The future of fashion
The real high-tech designs of the future have yet to reach the stores. These will consist mainly of technologically enabled fabrics and garments that are only being sketched out in ateliers and research labs around the world.

As usual, expect to see wearable tech and smart clothing first adopted by fringe groups such as skiers and students before the concepts catch on with the mainstream. NPD expects that ski-wear and active-wear companies, such as Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Adidas and Timberland, will be the most likely to drive development.

Read full story
View Fashion of the Future slideshow

23 March 2006

Open up or shut up. The necessity of open marketing [Always On]

AlwaysOn
Open marketing assumes your customers are smarter than you, at every stage of the business process, from product build to post-sale service.

"We have embarked on the maiden voyage of the open marketing revolution. From RSS to blogs, from podcasts to social networks, companies have never been presented with so many opportunities for reaching and communicating with their key audiences. It is not so much any one technology that is fanning the flames of this fire, but what their underlying principles imply. Appropriate mixing and managing of these technologies into useful recipes will make for marketing success. [...]

The equation for marketing success has changed from one-way to two-way communications. Companies can no longer exist in a marketing communications vacuum, where all they hear is their own voices. [...]

Gaining customers’ attention and trust requires companies to be honest and transparent about what they do, what they provide, and how they do it. The accountability factor, to customers and employees, is much higher today for every company. Bad products without real value, bad service, and bad behavior will be discovered and called out. Traditional marketing tactics can no longer be a smoke-and-mirror shield to hide behind."

Read full story

23 March 2006

Ethnographic survey on how 3G mobile phone use ‘change social habits’ [BBC]

3G mobile phone use
Increasing use of 3G mobile phones can change the way people communicate and create new social trends and tribes, a behavioural study has suggested.

The ethnographic study by Future Laboratory said the combination of still and video cameras on modern phones, and the advent of high speed data transfer, can inspire a generation of users to express themselves creatively in different ways.

Researchers studied the phone habits of 10 groups of friends between the ages of 16-35 over six weeks in a range of UK cities.

Read full story

23 March 2006

Nature Magazine on the future of computing

The future of computing
The current issue of Nature Magazine is devoted to the Future of Computing and contains two articles that are highly recommended reading.

The first one, Everything, everywhere, reflects on a future of ubiquitous computing where "Millions or billions of tiny computers — called ‘motes’, ‘nodes’ or ‘pods’ — would be embedded into the fabric of the real world. They would act in concert, sharing the data that each of them gathers so as to process them into meaningful digital representations of the world. Researchers could tap into these ’sensor webs’ to ask new questions or test hypotheses. Even when the scientists were busy elsewhere, the webs would go on analysing events autonomously, modifying their behaviour to suit their changing experience of the world. (…) Such widely distributed computing power will trigger a paradigm shift as great as that brought about by the development of experimental science itself."

A second article, The creativity machine, ponders on the implications of when the internet itself becomes a research tool and on the scientific possibilities of enlisting users to create content. Taking into account a future of a very large increase in network-connected devices, "we need to devise and experiment with large-scale architectures for collaboration. We need linguists and artificial-intelligence researchers to extend the capabilities of search engines and social networks to produce services that can bridge barriers created by technical jargon and forge links between unrelated specialties, bringing research groups with complementary problems and solutions together — even when those groups have not noticed the possibility of collaboration. In the end, computers plus networks plus people add up to something significantly greater than the parts. The ensemble eventually grows beyond human creativity. To become what? We can’t know until we get there."

See also this long commentary on the WorldChanging website about this special issue.

(via Pasta and Vinegar)

23 March 2006

Going more public: situated display design in a care setting through co-realisation

Display design
This article, published in Gain, AIGA’s Journal of Business and Design, describes findings from the field work at a residential community care facility for ex-psychiatric hospital patients.

The field work focused on distributed care-workers who looked after residents at the two sites forming the facility.

The authors (Connor Graham of the University of Melbourne, and Keith Cheverst, Christian Kray, Mark Rouncefield of Lancaster University) reflect on the process of co-realisation that verified their understanding of the setting and generated initial technology designs.

This involved sharing scenarios descriptive of typical activity with care workers and presenting a demonstration of networked public display technology in use.

The authors then illustrate how co-realisation both refined their understanding of care workers’ work needs and informed them about how and where public display technology could be deployed. Finally, they present an initial design for a public display.

Access full case study

23 March 2006

Brick by brick: Lego’s new building blocks [Fast Company]

Lego Factory
Lego Factory is a new initiative that lets fans decide what they’d like to build and then lets them buy the necessary bricks.

Customers create any structure they can imagine using Lego’s freely downloadable Digital Designer software. If they then decide to actually build their creation, the software, which keeps track of which pieces are required, sends the order to a corner of the Enfield Lego warehouse in Connecticut. There, employees put all the pieces (which are grouped in standardized bags) into a box, along with instructions, and ship it off.

"We’ve been toying with this idea for a long time," says Steven Hawco, vice president of Lego’s Shop at Home division, which is overseeing the project. "And now technology is giving us the ability to actually do this."

Read full story