counter

Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
Audience Business Culture Design Locations Media Methods Services Social Issues

Children


Disabled


Elderly


Gender


Teens


Advertising


Branding


Business


Innovation


Marketing


Mechatronics


Technology


Architecture


Art


Creativity


Culture


Identity


Mobility


Museum


Co-creation


Design


Experience design


Interaction design


Presence


Service design


Ubiquitous computing


Africa


Americas


Asia


Australia


Europe


Italy


Turin


Blogging


Book


Conference


Media


Mobile phone


Play


Virtual world


Ethnography


Foresight


Prototype


Scenarios


Usability


User experience


User research


Education


Financial services


Healthcare


Public services


Research


Tourism


Urban development


Communications


Digital divide


Emerging markets


Participation


Social change


Sustainability


May 2006
31 May 2006

International Herald Tribune to carry stories written by members of the public

OhmyNews
The International Herald Tribune, the global newspaper owned by the New York Times, is to carry stories written by members of the public, writes The Guardian.

A deal with a South Korean news website, OhmyNews International, could see so-called “citizen journalists” appearing alongside established writers. The agreement is believed to be an attempt to boost the Herald Tribune’s coverage of Asia.

OhmyNews has been described as a news equivalent of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia written by its users. Anyone can submit an article to OhmyNews and about three-quarters of the stories on the site are the work of the network’s 40,000 non-professional contributors. The rest come from about 50 in-house writers and editors, who also vet the public material to decide what is printed.

A spokesman for the International Herald Tribune was unavailable for comment yesterday, but the company confirmed that an initial deal would see headlines pulled from OhmyNews on to the Tribune’s website.

- Read full story (The Guardian)
- Related story (International Herald Tribune)

31 May 2006

B2B sites have far worse user experience than consumer sites [Forbes Magazine]

B2B
Even though there is substantially more money at stake in the sales opportunities on B2B websites versus B2C websites, most B2B sites have a far worse user experience than consumer sites.

The result, according to new research by usability expert Jakob Nielsen, is that people using B2B sites accomplish what they set out to do only 58% of the time compared to a significantly higher 66% success rate on consumer e-commerce sites.

The findings from Nielsen Norman Group’s first-ever B2B website study are presented in a report released today entitled, “B2B Website Usability: Design Guidelines for Converting Business Users into Leads and Customers,” co-authored by Nielsen, Hoa Loranger and Chris Nodder.

Read full story

31 May 2006

Ecosystems and product innovation

Core77 - Design 2.0
REMINDER

Allan Chochinov of Core77 asked me to remind my readers of the second Design 2.0 discussion on design strategy and innovation, which will take place next week (6 June) in San Francisco. Since Core77 has promoted Putting People First already several times, I do this with pleasure.

The event is entitled “Products and their Ecosystems: understanding the power of context in product innovation“, and features panelists Peter Rojas from Engadget, Diego Rodriguez from IDEO and MetaCool, Steve Portigal from Portigal Consulting and Robyn Waters from RW Trend, all moderated by BusinessWeek’s Jessie Scanlon.

The discussion will address how by “deliberately and strategically designing products for the context in which they live”, companies can create “more imaginative, better integrated, and ultimately more humane offerings [...] that are not only sensitive to their surroundings, but often define them”.

Allan told me also that some mp3 files of the last event on the ingredients of great customer experience, are now online.

As always, this and other events of relevance to the themes of this blog are listed in the experience design calendar.

31 May 2006

The rise of crowdsourcing [Wired Magazine]

Crowdsourcing
Remember outsourcing? Sending jobs to India and China is so 2003. The new pool of cheap labor: everyday people using their spare cycles to create content, solve problems, even do corporate R & D.

Just as distributed computing projects like UC Berkeley’s SETI@home have tapped the unused processing power of millions of individual computers, so distributed labor networks are using the Internet to exploit the spare processing power of millions of human brains. The open source software movement proved that a network of passionate, geeky volunteers could write code just as well as the highly paid developers at Microsoft or Sun Microsystems. Wikipedia showed that the model could be used to create a sprawling and surprisingly comprehensive online encyclopedia. And companies like eBay and MySpace have built profitable businesses that couldn’t exist without the contributions of users.

All these companies grew up in the Internet age and were designed to take advantage of the networked world. But now the productive potential of millions of plugged-in enthusiasts is attracting the attention of old-line businesses, too. For the last decade or so, companies have been looking overseas, to India or China, for cheap labor. But now it doesn’t matter where the laborers are – they might be down the block, they might be in Indonesia – as long as they are connected to the network.

Technological advances in everything from product design software to digital video cameras are breaking down the cost barriers that once separated amateurs from professionals. Hobbyists, part-timers, and dabblers suddenly have a market for their efforts, as smart companies in industries as disparate as pharmaceuticals and television discover ways to tap the latent talent of the crowd. The labor isn’t always free, but it costs a lot less than paying traditional employees. It’s not outsourcing; it’s crowdsourcing.

- Read full story
- 5 rules of the new labour pool
- Look who’s crowdsourcing
- Crowdsourcing blog

31 May 2006

Social networking goes mobile [Business Week]

MySpace
So-called “friend sites” are wising up to wireless. Before long, everyone’s cell phone might make space for MySpace.

MySpace is dipping its toes into wireless waters — and is poised to take a plunge. In April, the social networking site struck a partnership with Cingular Wireless, the largest U.S. mobile-phone service provider. In May, wireless startup Helio began offering phones preloaded with MySpace features. MySpace plans to make its mobile features available through all major U.S. carriers by early 2007.

Under the Cingular deal, subscribers get short text messages when new comments or friend requests get posted to their MySpace profile. Helio phones include applications that make it easy for customers to view friends’ profiles and post comments and photos onto MySpace.

Read full story

30 May 2006

Clothes make a statement electronically [Christian Science Monitor]

Urbanhermes
Fashion changes faster than ever today – but what if you could change your style at the speed of light? That’s what MIT researchers envision if they can link clothing design to the Internet. In their “urbanhermes” scenario, consumers won’t have to wait for new designs to be fabricated and distributed before they can be bought and worn. Instead, consumers will have instant access to new designs and the ability to display them on the clothes and accessories they already own at the push of a button or the click of a mouse.

To these scholars, fashion is just another medium for communicating information, a way to show your place in the social hierarchy.

At the moment, fashion as a medium for communicating taste cannot change as quickly as electronic media do. You can only wear one outfit a day, and most of us have a finite supply of clothes. Clothing and accessories that can change their “look,” however, could make physical fashion as dynamic as Web culture.

The urbanhermes team has demonstrated its concept with a messenger bag that includes a sewn-in electronic display. But the project is not about technology or accessory design. It’s about creating a model for how we might integrate technology into our fashion experience.

Read full story

30 May 2006

The science of desire [Business Week]

The science of desire
Companies have been harnessing the social sciences, including ethnography, since the 1930s, writes Spencer E. Ante in Business Week. Back then executives were mostly interested in figuring out how to make their employees more productive. But since the 1960s, when management gurus crowned the consumer king, companies have been tapping ethnographers to get a better handle on their customers. Now, as more and more businesses re-orient themselves to serve the consumer, ethnography has entered prime time.

The beauty of ethnography, say its proponents, is that it provides a richer understanding of consumers than traditional research methods. Yes, companies are still using focus groups, surveys, and demographic data to glean insights into the consumer mind. But closely observing people where they live and work allows companies to zero in on customers’ unarticulated desires.

Ethnography’s rising prominence is creating unlikely stars within companies in retailing, manufacturing, and financial services, as well as at consulting firms such as IDEO, Jump Associates, and Doblin Group. [...]

With more companies putting ethnographers front and center, schools around the country are ramping up social science programs or steering anthropology students toward jobs in the corporate world.

Read full story (with slideshow)

30 May 2006

Ten potential pitfalls of participatory design methods

Mobile Community Design
Jeff Axup writes in his blog Mobile Community Design about ten potential pitfalls in the application of participatory design methods.

“Participatory design (PD) is a design framework and related methods which advocate user involvement in design, and a political stance advocating worker rights. It originated from Scandinavian software development practices in the 1950s and inherits some of the social democratic intentions of that area.

There are a number of positive aspects to PD. Participatory methods are often used in the natural environment of the user (e.g. a workplace) and thus offer high ecological validity and are heavily user centered. Co-designing with real users in realistic situations and environments helps improve the quality of feedback users provide. Frequent iteration between users and designers reduces misconceptions designers make (in part due to insufficient domain experience). Additionally, the social intent of PD to avoid deskilling of workers and create humane products is admirable.

However, some of my recent research and a review of other PD research has revealed a number of potential pitfalls in the application of participatory design methods. There are a range of studies and methods which many researchers agree are PD, however, what is or is not PD is still the subject of debate. Consequently the ten pitfalls discussed in this post do not apply to all PD studies and methods, but would certainly apply to some studies which claim to be PD.”

Read full post

28 May 2006

Cultural anthropologist Mizuko Ito on kids’ participation in new media culture

Mizuko_ito
Cultural anthropologist Dr. Mizuko Ito recently published a draft about kids’ participation in new media culture, reports Nicolas Nova in Pasta & Vinegar.

The paper, entitled “Mobilizing the Imagination in Everday Play: The Case of Japanese Media Mixes”, addresses the question of how young people mobilise the media and the imagination in everyday life and and how new media change this dynamic.

The paper will appear in The International Handbook of Children, Media and Culture, edited by Sonia Livingstone and Kirsten Drotner.

Download paper (pdf, 281 kb, 17 pages)

28 May 2006

Just give me a simple phone [Associated Press]

Sanyo cell phone for Sprint Nextel
“[American] consumers last year paid $8.6 billion for so-called data applications on their phones, up 86 percent from the year before, according to wireless trade group CTIA.

But they’ve also shown a growing frustration with how confusing those added features can be. A J.D. Power & Associates survey last year found consumer satisfaction with their mobile devices has declined since 2003, with some of the largest drops linked to user interface for Internet and e-mail services.

That has providers working hard to make their devices easier to use — fewer steps, brighter and less cluttered screens, different pricing strategies — so consumers will not only use data functions more often but also be encouraged to buy additional ones. [...]

“IPod was not the first MP3 player on the market, but once they figured it out (the user interface), they became the predominant one overnight,” said Michael Coffey, vice president of user-experience design at Sprint Nextel. “Whether you make it a marketing message or not, the public will discover that usability and choose your product over a competitor’s.”

Charles Golvin of Forrester Research said a recent survey indicated few cellular customers choose a phone based on its usability, typically because they either don’t think there’s anything better or don’t think they need those services.

But Golvin said for the market to truly grow, the programs and phones themselves are going to have to become more graceful and not just the purview of tech-junkies.

“Early adopters are less retarded by the user interface,” he said. “As we’re moving from the early adopters to the more mainstream customers, it will make a huge difference.”

Read full story

28 May 2006

The New York Times on brand co-creation

Brand co-creation
“The rise of consumer-generated advertising can be viewed as either a boon to brands (outsourcing marketing to loyal customers) or a threat (handing marketing over to a bunch of uncontrollable amateurs). When G.M. solicited consumer input in online ad-making for its Chevy Tahoe, many people responded with anti-S.U.V. messages.”

“Grant McCracken, an author, anthropologist and consultant, takes a broader view, describing consumer involvement as a kind of branding Reformation: marketing professionals used to be the high-priest gatekeepers, but now we can all have a direct relationship with the Almighty Brand. He refers to this as brand “co-creation” (a term he credits to C.K. Prahalad, a business professor at the University of Michigan), and sees it as both inevitable and smart, even in the case of the Tahoe controversy. “The era of the brand that’s blandly constructed and hopes not to offend anyone — to be pleasant — that notion is really dead,” McCracken says.”

Read full story

26 May 2006

Experientia partner publishes Italian book on web site usability

Usability dei Siti Web
Over the last year Experientia partner and usability specialist Michele Visciola has been working on the second edition of his book “Usabilità dei Siti Web” [The Usability of Web Sites].

The book, which is published by Apogeo, will be available in Italian bookshops in the month of June.

Abstract (translation):

The theme of usability is a well-known concept in web design. Continuous technological evolution is now rapidly transforming the web, offering many new possibilities, but not necessarily making a site “easy to use”. What are the best practices for web design? What are the communication, marketing and technology factors that lead to success? How to measure and evaluate a site’s ease of use? How to create sites that are accessible to all, as the law requires us to do?

The author answers these questions by providing conceptual and practical tools helping readers to address usability issues. When designing websites, we cannot just rely on the goodwill of the users. Instead we have to place their information needs, their behaviours and the way they use online services at the heart of the entire design effort.

The first edition of the book (2000) strongly contributed to the debate on usability in Italy. This second edition, which is revised and extended, presents an overall framework for the culture of web design, explores the relationship between usability and creativity, outlines a development path for usability professionals, and concludes with an in-depth reflection on the ethical and aesthetical issues of human-computer interaction.

Those of you proficient in Italian can download the book’s table of contents (pdf, 76 kb), preface (pdf, 72 kb) and first chapter (pdf, 100 kb).

24 May 2006

User-centered innovation at Intel [Electronic Business]

Herman D'Hooge
In a three-part special report of Electronic Business, Herman D’Hooge, innovation strategist in the User-Centered Platform Solutions Division at Intel, explains how a company can use a user-centered innovation process to engineer and develop innovative products.

D’Hooge also gives an example of a product—China Home Learning PC—that Intel developed for the Chinese consumer market with this strategy.

Electronic Business special report:
- How to foster innovation
- Translate process into engineering product requirements
- Case study: the China Home Learning PC

The latest issue of Technology@Intel Magazine reflects on the same topic in the story Intel Works to Bring Computing to the World.

The article describes how Intel is taking a leading role in creating computing technologies for emerging markets where citizens often have very different needs than typical Western users. Intel’s extensive research resulted in specialised designs for rural India and Chinese homes.

24 May 2006

Mobile devices: smaller, smarter and still usable?

Smarter mobile devices
“We live in a time when technological advances have permitted developers to create devices that were unheard of just a few years ago,” writes Robert Kaplan of Usernomics in Portable Design. But, he asks, “are these devices really usable? Can typical users operate these devices easily, and are they willing to learn how to operate them?”

“Techno-users are only tangentially interested in technology and more focused on what a device can do for them. They are not interested in long learning curves and spending time deciphering various features of a device. Rather, they are casual users of technology whose focus is on the task at hand rather than the technology that enables it.”

“We are at a point where technology has run into conflict with usability. As ever-smaller devices are created, a point is reached where the controls and displays become too small for easy operation. What’s worse, as multifunction devices increase in their functionality, they also increase in complexity. And we are now able to put even more features into smaller devices. The limit to packing more features and functions into smaller devices is the customers’ tolerance for learning how to operate these complex devices.”

Kaplan explains that “there are two primary ways to create a usable and positive user experience in the face of growing features and functions. The first is to offer more than one version of the same product. The second way to enhance the usability of multifunction devices and create a positive user experience is to focus on the user interface design.”

Read full story

22 May 2006

Co-creation and the one-percenters

A lead user
“A good place to start for most companies [interested in co-creation] is to focus on the one-percenters first,” writes Olivier Blanchard on Corante’s Marketing Hub “and then, after a while, graduate to full-on co-creation.”

“By focusing on customers and users who already understand your product as well as (and in some cases better than) you do, you can keep customer-generated input manageable and focused. You can learn how to integrate co-creation into your product development process without drowning in ‘noise’.”

“Perhaps more importantly, by learning to listen to the one-percenters first, it’s pretty unlikely that you will be tempted to gravitate towards the seemingly safe, boring, soft, generic middle.”

Read full story

22 May 2006

MIT is to make Denmark world champion in user driven innovation

Copenhagen Business School logo
Eric von Hippel, professor at Massachusetts’s Institute of Technology, is to help Danish companies to utilise their customers’ innovative potential in the creation of new user directed products.

This will take place through the pilot project Danish User-Centered Innovation Lab, where he will take the first small step on the long road towards the realisation of the Danish government’s ambitious objective in collaboration with a group of researchers at Copenhagen Business School and a handful of Danish companies. The objective is to make Denmark a world champion in user-driven innovation.

Read full story

20 May 2006

User-generated future for gaming [BBC]

User-generated games
“Gamers today, instead of being thrown into a universe created by teams of designers, can grow their own world, inhabited by any shape of creature they can imagine,” writes Tayfun King in a BBC News story that accompanies the Click Online TV programme.

In the article he quotes David Fleck from Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life, who says that “the future of software development is user-created content.”

“First and foremost,” Fleck continues, “it allows them to exploit their creative energies and display all the wonderful things that they’re good at doing, whether it’s manufacturing clothing or architecture.”

“In some cases the creations are so fantastic that we even label them as being vanity creations, where they’ve put all their energies into something that really represents who they are.”

Read full story

19 May 2006

Roger Martin on designing decisions

Roger_martin
In this interview, Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management (the University of Toronto’s business school) explains why managers need to learn how to think like designers, and why all design is really decision design.

The interview was published on the website of Strategy 06, the IIT Institute of Design’s Strategy Conference that took place in Chicago on 17 and 18 May 2006. The international executive forum addressed how businesses can use design to explore emerging opportunities, solve complex problems and achieve lasting strategic advantage.

The conference has its own blog. Readers can also access other interviews and download conference presentations.

Read interview

(Click here for other Putting People First posts on Roger Martin.)

19 May 2006

At museums: invasion of the podcasts [New York Times]

Podcasts at museums
Audio tours are now being upended around the world by something eminently more portable, accessible and flexible: podcasting, the wildly popular practice of posting recordings online, so they can be heard through a computer or downloaded to tiny mobile devices like iPods and other MP3 players.

Museum podcasts — both do-it-yourself versions and those created by museums themselves — have taken off, changing the look and feel of audio tours at places ranging from the venerable, like the Met and the Victoria and Albert, to the virtually unknown, like the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Ind., and the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia near San Francisco.

The podcasts are making countless hours of recorded information — like curators’ comments, interviews with artists and scholars, and even interviews with the subjects of some artwork — widely available to people who have never visited, and may never visit, the museums that are making the recordings.

Read full story
(This is a permanent link to the article, accessible free of charge, via UserLand)

18 May 2006

Designing politics – the politics of design

Designing politics – the politics of design
With a commitment to conducting a discourse on the social responsibility of the designer and defining the democratic quality of design, the International Design Forum (IFG) Ulm, Germany announces its public call for project proposals addressing the topic of the relationship design-politics.

According to IFG Ulm (and to my partner Jan-Christoph Zoels, who is an alumni), the work of designers and architects cannot be reduced to aesthetic, technical and commercial factors. Design always rests on a social and political foundation, and acts upon that foundation in return.

With the promotion programme “Designing politics – The politics of design”, IFG Ulm is looking for examples of projects which make the change from an economy of reification to an ecology of transformation. Projects which are dedicated to processes of becoming. Projects which direct their gaze behind the surface of the design process and which reveal that design diffuses transformational action into the space occupied by commercial and political decision-making. IFG Ulm’s promotion programme is intended to encourage projects to develop consequences which leave a lasting mark on our social and physical environment.

Applications for the 50.000 € grant must arrive by 31 May 2005.

Read more

(via Love Difference News)