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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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April 2006
24 April 2006

We are globalised, but have no real intimacy with the rest of the world [The Guardian]

We are globalised
With globalisation, most anticipate an inter-connected world with greater understanding of multiple cultures more than ever before. Martin Jacques, a senior visiting research fellow at the Asia Research Institute in Singapore, argues in The Guardian that this assumption is at odds with the tone of globalisation, based on a “one-size-fits-all” model of western cultural imperialism.

Whereas European colonialism included exporting self-defined values of civilisation, it did not strive to refashion other cultures in the image of the West. Underlying globalisation, on the other hand, is the belief that the world is moving toward a common culture.

What is disturbing for Jacques is that the shift is taken to mean the mass export of US, neo-liberal and mass-consumption values at the expense of traditional mores and standards of other societies.

Often, self-proclaimed experts on cultural exchange hold but a mere surface understanding of other cultures that are rapidly becoming receptacles for the transfer of western politics, economic models and lifestyles.

In an age of connection facilitated by technology and tourism, a lack of respect for difference has emerged. Globalisation has produced a worldwide intimacy that is, sadly, coupled with intolerance because mental distances have changed little.

Globalisation has fostered the illusion of intimacy while intolerance remains as powerful and unyielding as ever – or rather, has intensified, because the western expectation is now that everyone should be like us.

Ironically, the non-West continues emerging as a world force. Jacques points out that the current hubris of the West hints that future reactions and conflicts will not be so benign.

Read full story

24 April 2006

‘Channeling’ on the net [International Herald Tribune]

Land Rover's Go Beyond channel
Some marketers, worried about a world in which they can no longer rely on TV commercials to get their messages across, are taking matters into their own hands, starting their own “channels” on the Internet.

Land Rover, the brand of British sport utility vehicles owned by Ford Motor, this month introduced what it billed as the first broadband television channel run by a car company. It features an around-the-clock schedule of packaged multimedia programming, interspersed with ads for the Land Rover brand, accessible via a special Web site.

That move followed news from Bacardi, the rum maker, that it planned to start an online radio station, available over the Internet and mobile phones. The service will stream “uplifting party anthems from the world’s hottest dance floors” to listeners around the globe.

“To succeed today, you need to engage consumers rather than interrupt them,” said David Stubley, chief executive of Performance Worldwide, a London division of MindShare, a media planning and buying agency that developed the idea for the Land Rover channel.

Brands like Land Rover and Bacardi are hoping to engage consumers by offering them content that they actually want to watch or hear, rather than foisting a hard sell on them.

Read full story

24 April 2006

It’s the ecosystem, stupid [Business Week]

Diego Rodriguez
Remember that good design isn’t simply about the product — it’s about the entire business environment, argues Diego Rodriguez in Business Week.

With the increasing focus on delivering good customer experiences in the marketplace, classic distinctions between design and business are disappearing.

A customer experience is the sum of many things working in concert to create something true, authentic, and compelling. User delight must be designed into every element in a fractal way. Not just the user-facing offering, but the product line, information systems, service and support, marketing communications — everything that will influence what customers hear, see, and feel.

At the nexus of innovation where design and business meet, three principles emerge.
1. Ensure desirability for users
2. Balance desirability for stakeholders
3. Iterate for viability

Read full story

22 April 2006

Who can help on web analytics?

Google Analytics
Putting People First needs better web analytics (or statistics).

So I would like to know what free or paid online programmes exist and how they perform. I tried StatCounter and looked at Google Analytics (which is by invitation only). Does anyone have experience with these or other programmes? What can you recommend?

UPDATE – 24 April 2006
Based on some of your input, I am currently experimenting with Performancing (which has a great-looking Java interface) and Logdy (which provides more detailed statistics). Both are really new — Performancing was launched in November, Logdy in March. If any of you has some experience with these services, please contact me.

22 April 2006

Better preparing portfolio companies with experience design [Red Herring]

Sierra Ventures
A venture capital firm has teamed up with a user experience design company with the aim of better-preparing portfolio companies for the highly competitive consumer Internet arena.

The idea behind the collaboration between Sierra Ventures and Adaptive Path is to give Sierra’s consumer Internet portfolio companies some dedicated advice and product development work. The difference here is that Adaptive Path will also get a small equity stake in the start-ups with which it works.

Read full story

21 April 2006

User experience in the Microsoft world [Always On]

Microsoft's People-Ready business unit
As I noted before, Microsoft these days is talking a lot about the user experience.

Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president for strategic and emerging business development at Microsoft just published an article for AlwaysOn, entitled, The User Experience Matters.

“In March, Microsoft kicked off our new People-Ready business vision — centered on the reality that people drive business success. It’s a natural extension of our founding vision of empowering people through software and speaks directly to our vision of the user experience. So, in this column, I define what I mean by a great user experience, briefly discuss the latest trends (AJAX, Mashups, Web 2.0, SaaS) and then focus in on two critical needs: first, a richer UI for web applications and second, the client on the desktop for certain types of experiences. Then I’ll talk about how new user experiences and technologies on the web and the desktop environment present compelling new opportunities for startups.”

The Workplace blog comments that “this article is worth reading not because it talks about user experience beyond the web interface but because it discusses how Microsoft fits into the Web 2.0 world. Dan covers smart clients, Vista, AJAX and the Microsoft Startup Zone. Visit MSDN’s User Interface Design & Development website to see how Microsoft approaches the user experience of its own products.”

20 April 2006

More web users browsing via mobile device [Information Week]

Ipsos Insight - The Face of the Web
People are turning to mobile phones for Internet use more quickly than they are adopting laptops for the same purpose in many parts of the world, according to a recent study of Internet trends.

Personal computers are still the most popular way to gain Internet access, but the rapid pace of mobile phone installation and the development of wireless networks is driving robust growth in the use of phones for browsing, according to results from The Face of the Web, an annual study by Ipsos Insight.

Four in 10 adults in Japan used their wireless handsets to browse the Internet in 2005, according to an announcement from Ipsos this week. That is double the rate from 2003, but the trend is leveling off in other markets, including the United States and Canada, where notebook PCs appear are emerging as stronger on-the-go platforms.

The trend is being driven in part by people over age 35, rather than younger, early adopters.

- Read full story
- Ipsos Insight press release
- The Face of the Web download page

(via FutureWire)

20 April 2006

Do not be too afraid of the coming age of mass participation [The Economist]

The coming age of mass participation
The era of mass media is giving way to one of personal and participatory media, says Andreas Kluth. That will profoundly change both the media industry and society as a whole.

The Economist this week contains a special survey on new media. In an editorial, it phrases the central issue:

“Mass media used to be one-way traffic from media to audiences. Readers, listeners and viewers, as a murmur besides the pontification of professionals, were consigned to call-in shows and the letters pages.”

“The shift to an era of participation challenges this. The infrastructure for delivering media content—the internet—is fast becoming ubiquitous. Ordinary people are creating their own blogs, wikis and podcasts, because it costs almost nothing to do so. [...] Since the audience is made up of people who are themselves sounding off, new media are more of a hubbub than a homily. [...] “

“The ease with which the internet spreads wrong-headedness—to say nothing of lies and slander—is offset by the ease with which it spreads insights and ideas. To regret the glorious fecundity of new media is to choose the hushed reverence of the cathedral over the din of the bazaar.”

- Read editorial
- Read background story (links to special survey on the right)

20 April 2006

New Motorola survey demonstrates the real-world impact of 3G

Motorola 3G Survey
From the discovery of new trends and whole phone communities to the evolution of e-novels and the instant postcard, Motorola’s global survey of 3G users explores the human side of next-generation mobiles. The Generation HERE report published today reveals that the take-up of the latest super-handsets and services is not only growing, but is also fundamentally changing the way in which users live and communicate.

Dozens of writers and journalists travelled the world to interview and observe 3G users in different cultures for Generation HERE. This methodology, Motorola says, led to a report that had a qualitative rather than quantitative approach to give a fuller picture of the 3G world.

Generation HERE uncovered a surprising 3G age range among users. While it is typical to see teenagers using their mobiles to access community services like Japan’s Mixi and Sweden’s LunarStorm, the report’s research team also spoke to Japanese grandparents who keep two 3G phones – one for themselves, and the other for recording and sharing pictures and videos of their grandchildren.

“Generation HERE is an exercise in gathering stories and recognising patterns,” says Douglas Hunter, consumer insights manager, Motorola Mobile Devices Europe. “We conceived it as a snapshot of how people are responding to 3G here and now, and of how they see its future. And there’s surprisingly little material out there that approaches the technology – any technology, in fact – in that way. So in a way we’ve learnt as much from it as anyone else.”

- Press release
- Report mini-site
- Download report summary (pdf, 536 kb, 8 pages)
- Download report (pdf, 1.5 mb, 48 pages)
- Hear podcast (mp3, 15 mb)

20 April 2006

France Telecom R&D on NFC in your mobile

NFC in your mobile
The R&D department of France Telecom has developed a mini-site showing some scenarios and examples of use of NFC-enabled mobile phones.

With the contactless NFC (Near Field Communication) technology, a new range of innovative services is possible. Depending on the situation, the NFC phone can turn itself into a means of payment at the check-out, a pass to open a variety of access gates, as well as a means of garnering information about its immediate environment.

View NFC minisite

20 April 2006

An approach to creating experiences

Experience map
The “Experience Map” is a visualisation by David Armano of Logic+Emotion to illustrate what an “ideal” scenario might look like when planning, architecting and designing an interactive experience.

Download experience map (pdf, 766 kb)

19 April 2006

Think NewB+NewD – Understanding the new Zollverein School

Prof. Dr. Ralph Bruder
GK VanPatter, co-founder of the NextDesign Leadership Institute, just interviewed Prof. Dr. Ralph Bruder, founding president of the Zollverein School of Management and Design.

The Zollverein School is the only research and educational institute of its kind in Europe. Its interdisciplinary programme seeks to teach students both management and design skills in an innovative way.

The former coalmine area of Zollverein has become a symbol of structural change in the Ruhrgebiet of Germany. The large scale interventions taking place there are an example of how creative industries can become the engine of economic transformation.

- Read (and download) interview
- Interview background by Ralf Beuker

19 April 2006

Interview with Microsoft ethnographer Tracey Lovejoy

Tracey Lovejoy
Lately, it seems the terms anthropology and ethnography are the new buzzwords for innovation in the technology industry. How has this type of research helped global organizations such as Intel, Microsoft, Apple and Adobe create better products and services?

In this interview, Kelly Goto of GotoMedia asks ethnographer Tracey Lovejoy to detail some of the ways her team’s research practice has directly integrated into the design and development cycles at Microsoft. In this interview, Tracey reveals how designers, developers, technologists and strategists in the technology field and beyond can most effectively utilize ethnographic-based research in their daily practices.

Read interview

19 April 2006

Philips design magazine on emerging markets, sustainability and innovation

New Value by One Design
Philips released today the April issue of new value by One Design, its online quarterly design magazine.

The current issue starts with an introductory article on designing for emerging markets by Stefano Marzano, CEO and chief creative director, and then continues with a report on a workshop to develop a vision on sustainable design, an article on Philips’ new approach to innovation and a story on user-centred lighting design

The magazine also includes interviews with Kris Ramachandran (Ram), ceo of Philips Electronics India Ltd. about designing for emerging markets, and with Anton Andrews of Philips Design about how the fear of handing over creative outcomes is outweighed by the inspiration and insight that can come from collaborative design and innovation.

19 April 2006

New media design for cultural institutions

Queensland storytelling
Community co-creation programs are increasingly used by cultural institutions in an attempt to draw new audiences to their collections. By providing engaging interactive experiences in partnership with the community, institutions may well increase their audience numbers in the short term; but to optimise the viability and longevity of such programs, institutions and designers should consider the integration of strategic design methods with curatorial processes in order to reconsider the capture, display and promotion of collections and/or exhibitions.

This case study uses a project from the State Library of Queensland, Australia to showcase a human computer interaction-derived design method developed by the authors to ensure a strategic response to community co-creation initiatives. Using a variety of media, the new Multi-Platform Communication Design method has enabled the design of web-based distribution; a community and a facilitator’s training program; and the development of a mobile multimedia laboratory.

This paper details the design method by which these multiple communication platforms were developed and implemented to achieve successful project delivery.

Download case study (pdf, 416 kb, 10 pages)

(via AIGA Gain: Journal of Business and Design)

18 April 2006

Qualitative research in the Middle East and North Africa

Qualitative research in North Africa
Markets like Libya, Sudan and Algeria are opening up, and offer tremendous scope for applying pioneering qual research techniques which can bring a depth of consumer understanding which was more unusual when entering new markets in the past.

When we want to understand consumers’ lifestyles and identify new and emerging trends, we gain a significant edge by spending time with consumers in their environment.

Such approaches open the door for more effective NPD (new product development) work, bring more genuine, authentic insights, and are capable of generating the kind of empathetic scenarios on which to build bonding advertising platforms.

Read full story

18 April 2006

The limits of consumer-created content [Web User]

Consumer-generated content
The majority of web users don’t participate online, preferring just to passively read information presented to them, according to new research.

The study by JupiterResearch, also warns that the growth of consumer-generated content comes from a sizeable and vocal minority – mainly young and male – and this has a disproportionately wide influence.

Read full story

(via Influx Insights)

18 April 2006

Branding in public services: waste of money? [Business Week]

Branding public services
Yes, governments and public services are getting up to speed with branding. They have seen that it works for business. They understand that their clientele—citizens—live in a branded world. It would be strange if governments didn’t move with the times. Ignoring branding would be like rejecting the Internet, mobile phones, and globalization.

Or would it? While public bodies have a mandate to work on behalf of “the people,” they have to be responsible with their finances too, demonstrating prudence with the public purse. So can investments in branding programs be justified, or is the public sector merely following a marketing fad? Indeed, is branding even appropriate for public services?

Josef Jurkovic, a partner and director of the Centre for Excellence in Communications in Ottawa, Canada, sees a big difference between branded information campaigns and branding programs for entire departments, agencies and the like.

“The more targeted the audience of a brand, the more chance it has of working. Departments and ministries should stick to simple, basic brands that act as umbrellas for more much stronger sub-brands. Public sector branding is about strong sub-brands. You focus your branding where you have defined audiences.”

Read full story

18 April 2006

Usability testing with children

Usability testing with children
Usability testing with children is similar in many respects to usability testing with adults. In order to get the most out of the sessions, and ensure the child is comfortable and happy, there are a few differences that you need to be aware of.

Read full story

(via Usability in the News)

18 April 2006

Has futurism failed? [The Wilson Quarterly]

The Wilson Quarterly
The Wilson Quarterly has published a long article on the history and current state of futurism, which gives a good overview of the growth of the field over time, its “high-water mark” (in 1980), its decline and some of its new tendencies.

“While formal study of the future declined in the United States, dozens of other countries launched elaborate foresight exercises to examine their futures in the post–Cold War order. These countries included Norway (Norway 2030), Germany (Futur), Great Britain (UK Foresight Project), Finland, Australia (Australia 2013), New Zealand (The Foresight Project), the European Commission (Europe 2010), Poland, and Kenya (Kenya Scenarios Project). The future is also being seriously explored through work on other topics, such as “sustainable development”—but again, more outside the United States than within.”

“These efforts have surprising parallels in the private sector. While long-range planning in the public sector is frequently denigrated in the United States, many corporations are intensely interested in thinking about the future. Management schools and professional journals are full of discussions about the need to create “learning organizations” and other means to institutionalize constant adaptation to change. Businesses devote enormous resources to efforts to anticipate new markets, products, and technologies, and they are avid consumers of traditional economic and demographic forecasts. Many of the best-run transnational corporations have been developing sophisticated efforts in such fields as environmental scanning, issues management, and scenario-based planning.”

“Another hopeful development is the emergence of images of the future that appear to be both positive and realistic and that transcend many of the divisions and arguments of the past.”

Read full story

Related stories:
- America’s romance with the future
- Doom and demography

(via Noise Between Stations)