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Putting People First

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June 2006
30 June 2006

Article: Ethics of persuasive technology

Persuasive technology
An interesting article from Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab:

“When a doctor tells you your blood pressure is too high, you may modify your lifestyle to compensate: less salt, more exercise, fewer freedom fries. In a sense, the doctor has committed a persuasive act. We are unlikely to question the ethics of her having done so. But what if the doctor were out of the picture? Suppose a device at your bedside not only informed you of your blood pressure each morning, but shifted colors to convey the likelihood of your suffering a heart attack. Would such a persuasive technology be as ethical as a doctor giving you advice in her office? What if it were co-marketed with a treadmill?”

“The objective of this article is to describe and test a framework for analyzing the ethics of technologies that change people’s attitudes and behaviors. We focus on computerized persuasive technologies – the field known as ‘captology’ – though similar considerations apply to non-computerized technologies, and even to technologies that change attitudes and behaviors by accident.”

Read full article

30 June 2006

Our credibility loop

The credibility loop
“Why not transfer money and efforts from the end (advertising) to the start (R&D) of a product life cycle”, asks David Carlson, the well-known Swedish design entrepreneur, in the June 2006 issue of the David Report, a new bimonthly newsletter on design trends and the “intersection of culture, business life and global society.”

By doing this, he argues, “companies can be much more innovative and it will give them the possibility to build-in communicative qualities into the products from the start. And by giving products and services a better meaning, the chance is much greater that the target group will source them voluntarily.” […]

“Companies will build a much more credible brand with good design and innovation strategies instead of only wrapping up the products with ads in the end. The advertising money is much better used for innovations that make a difference and that benefit both business and society. Who doesn’t want to make people’s life better, more equal and hopefully happier by developing more attractive and sustainable products or services?”

Download newsletter (pdf, 390 kb, 8 pages)

(via Business Innovation Insider)

29 June 2006

Lenovo’s search for the soul of the Chinese customer

Digital living
Introducing the winners of the 2006 Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEAs), Bruce Nussbaum writes in Business Week: “Managers everywhere are turning to rapid ethnography, usability, special materials, and aesthetics—the tools of design—to innovate.”

He then goes on to discuss the ethnographic research done by Lenovo:

“Take Lenovo. It won a gold for its Opti Desktop PC, designed for tech-centric gamers in China. Perhaps more important, it also won a gold for the design research it did for the Opti with ZIBA Design, based in Portland, Ore. That research, dubbed ‘Search for the Soul’ of the Chinese customer, helped Lenovo move beyond competing on price, where it was being hit hard by Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM in China. Lenovo and ZIBA delved deeply into Chinese consumer culture to ‘find out which design elements have meaning and value for specific groups of Chinese consumers,’ according to the idea entry form.”

“ZIBA and Lenovo spent months immersed in Chinese music, history, and objects of desire, such as cell phones, observing families as they lived, worked, and played. In the end, they identified ‘five technology tribes’ in China: Social Butterflies, Relationship Builders, Upward Maximizers, Deep Immersers, and Conspicuous Collectors, each with different needs. The Opti was designed with shapes and colors for Chinese Deep Immersers who seek escape through immersing themselves in games online.”

“Juror Don Norman (author of Emotional Design and The Design of Everyday Things) said: ‘At first the judges said ‘yuck’ to the design but then changed their minds when the research showed the Chinese didn’t want our sleek U.S. design but their own from their own culture.'”

Read full story

29 June 2006

Digital living takes off in Asia [BBC]

Digital living
Asian countries lead the world in creating digital homes, with Taiwan and Korea at the forefront, says a study.

The research, carried out by US market research firm Parks Associates, looked at digital living trends in 13 markets in Asia, Europe and North America.

The findings were announced at the annual Broadcast Asia trade show, held in Singapore.

Between 600 and 1,400 households in each country took part in the survey of consumer habits in the wired world.

One of the main themes of the survey is the “digital living index”. This examines the availability, adoption, and use of technology-driven products and services in each individual country.

Asian tech giants Taiwan and Korea came first and second in the index, followed by the US, Canada, Japan, and Australia. Five European countries – the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy – came in sixth to eleventh place, with China and India in the last two spots.

Speakers at the conference outlined a vision of the digital home as being more than just an environment where all devices were interconnected and all media distributed digitally. The ability to customise the user interface and share content was essential. The key concepts were simplicity, personalisation and convergence.

“All the innovation is coming from Japan and Korea on the consumer products side, whereas all the connectivity on the PC front is coming from Taiwan and the US.” said Emmanuel Dieppedalle, regional marketing director of Philips.

Read full story

29 June 2006

Usability makes the world work better

Usability makes the world work better
The Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA) just launched the official website and event registration for the 2006 World Usability Day, a global series of events on November 14, 2006 to promote awareness of the benefits of usability engineering and user-centered design.

Activities will be held at the local level worldwide, and will include events hosted by corporations, organizations, universities and individuals.

This year’s focus is accessibility and inclusion. The theme is “Making Life Easy.”

Read press release

29 June 2006

Cellphones as a link from web to world [International Herald Tribune]

Point and buy
The International Herald Tribune reports on how in Japan mobile phones can provide highly-site specific internet services:

“If you stand on a street corner in Tokyo today, you can point a specialized cellphone at a hotel, a restaurant or a historical monument, and with the press of a button, the phone will display information from the Internet describing the object you are looking at.”

“The service is made possible by the efforts of three Japanese companies and GeoVector, a small U.S.-based technology company, and it represents a missing link between cyberspace and the physical world. The phones combine satellite- based navigation, precise to within nine meters, or 30 feet, with an electronic compass to provide a new dimension of orientation. Connect the device to the Internet, and it is possible to overlay the point-and-click simplicity of a computer screen on top of the real world.”

“The technology is being seen first in Japan because emergency regulations there require cellphones by next year to have receivers using the satellite-based Global Positioning System, or GPS, to establish their location.”

“As a result, analysts say Japan will have a head start of several years in what many expect to be a new frontier for mobile devices.”

Read full story

29 June 2006

How customers can help develop concepts via comics

Wehner on comics
Martin Hardee, director of web experience at Sun, writes in his blog about how Mark Wehner, design researcher at Yahoo! presented best practices for using comic book panels in the design process at the Usability Professionals Association annual meeting earlier this month.

“Yahoo! has begun to use comic-based storyboards in the user centered design process for selected products. As the centerpiece of a participatory design process with customers, Yahoo! uses storyboards in a comic book form, and walks users through the comic panels to research concepts and reveal user needs.”

Read full story

See also:
Creating Conceptual Comics: Storytelling and Techniques (Workshop at IA Summit 2006)
Communicating Concepts through Concepts (pdf, 5.09 mb, 80 pages), IA Summit presentation by Kevin Chang and Jane Jao, UI designers at Yahoo!

(via Usability in the News

29 June 2006

You are what you use… not what you own [WorldChanging]

Streetcar
WorldChanging, the online publication covering tools, models, and ideas for building a better future, has an interesting article on branding experience instead of stuff:

“One of the fundamental insights that’s helping us re-imagine our lives in a brighter, greener cast is that most of the time, we don’t want stuff, we want specific needs fulfilled or experiences provided; that, as Amory Lovins puts it, we don’t want refrigerators, we want cold beer — if there were a better, cheaper, cleaner way of providing cold brews, most of us wouldn’t shed a tear to see our fridges go. Recognizing that this is true for nearly every product in our lives is revelation number one.”

“The second revelation in recasting our relationship to stuff is that owning a thing can actually be worse than borrowing it. Dawn likes to remind us that there’s enormous waste in the ownership of things: that, for example, the average power drill gets used for ten to twenty minutes in its entire life. […]”

“Technical innovations which could support using-not-owning are proliferating (you’ll find dozens on Worldchanging alone), dropping what was once a major barrier, the time spent finding, getting and using the service-things we want. […] We’re starting, in fact, to see the outlines of a way of living which is not only much more prosperous and attractive than the way many of us live today, but would allow us to have a fraction of the ecological footprint: bright green urban living, with technology and good design promoting a high quality of life and allowing the sharing of goods and services which were formerly thought of as luxuries.”

“The big roadblock, though, is that we like owning stuff. Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of advertising taught to associate owning stuff with being successful, secure, sexy and safe. If we are serious about redesigning the ways we live, we need to imagine and share visions of living without owning that are at least as compelling. We need new visions, yes, but we may need new branding even more.”

“The British design firm Live|Work may have part of the answer. They’ve grown somewhat famous in bright green circles for their recent work, especially their campaign for Streetcar (“The self-service pay-as-you-go car”) with the slogan ‘You are what you use… not what you own.'”

Read full story

29 June 2006

Web accessibility soon mandatory in Europe? [CNet News]

Eu
The 34 EU member states on Wednesday signed up for the “Internet for all” action plan, designed to ensure that the most Web-disadvantaged groups can get online.

The EC has now pledged to increase broadband coverage across the continent to 90 percent by 2010. Rural areas are still underserved, according to the Commission, with about 60 percent penetration. Urban areas fare better and are already at the 90 percent mark.

The EC has also committed to putting new measures in place to halve exclusion rates in skills and digital literacy by 2010.

The Commission is studying the possible introduction of mandatory accessibility standards in public procurement, to be brought in by 2010. The EC is also considering legislation to improve e-accessibility.

According to recent research, 81 percent of Web sites in the United Kingdom are inaccessible to disabled people, while a separate report found that only 3 percent of European public-sector Web sites met W3C accessibility guidelines.

Read full story

(via Pathfinder)

28 June 2006

SmartLab in Torino: Social Media Application Research and Tagging Laboratory

SmarLab
The blog of SmartLab, an interesting new lab in Torino devoted to social media, went live yesterday.

SmartLab is the acronym of the Social Media Application Research & Tagging Laboratory established in March 2006 by CSP and the IT Department of the University of Torino “to investigate and test digital contents and media in ‘digital environments” and to examine the “new opportunities offered by digital media and the web” and the different approaches they imply for users.

In particular, SmartLab designs and tests Web 2.0 applications, identifies innovative application solutions and environments to use new media with particular attention to re-using applications and content syndication with RSS in multi-channel form.

The lab’s scientific committee includes Derrick DeKerckhove, Luca Console, Franco Carcillo, Giuseppe Granieri, Andrea Toso and Eleonora Pantò.

The launch email calls particular attention to the iCity Programme, a project in collaboration with the City of Torino aimed at increasing citizen participation and creating urban social networks.

Some of the other projects the lab is or will be involved with include:

  • Urban Blog, dedicated to the localisation of contents in an urban environment (with use of maps and geo-localisation)
  • Interactive map: experiments with geo-references of contents in a multi-channel environment
  • Social tagging and social book-marking: studies on the semantics of ‘bottom-up’ digital contents (users)
  • Design of collaboration and digital identity models
  • BlueTo: trials in town with push Bluetooth technologies for services to people equipped with compatible mobile telephones in various parts of the city
  • Multi-channel Hub: multi-channel aggregating tool for different contents in different digital formats (rss, xml, xhtml, pdf, mp3,…)
  • Digital Semantic Assistant: multi-channel ubiqua guide trial based on intelligent agents and user groups able to refer to contents and assign them a semantic value (part of the iCITY program)
  • Research and guidelines on MHP usability for digital TV
  • Usability research and trials for mobile applications (pda, mobile phones)
  • Usability of web-oriented interactive maps
  • Investigation on web navigation advance assistance systems (accessibility for the blind and disabled wheelchair bound people)
25 June 2006

Experiencing digitally resurrected cultural heritage sites

EPOCH's digital reconstruction of part of the ancient city of Sagalassos
Most of us find it rather hard to picture ancient times when viewing old bones and stone fragments in dusty museum display cabinets. Now archaeological artefacts can come alive with the help of EPOCH, a European research project that uses augmented reality, computer game and 3D-image technology to resurrect cultural heritage sites, according to IST Results, the online magazine of the European Commission’s Information Society Technologies (IST) research initiative.

“From an archaeological point of view, it now becomes possible to reconstruct large sites at low cost. Previously, 3D modelling has all too often focused on a limited number of landmark buildings, without the context of sites surrounding them. Producing entire city models was just too expensive, so we got a Parthenon without Athens, and a Colosseum without Rome. Thanks to EPOCH this no longer needs to be the case,” explains the University of Leuven’s Prof Luc Van Gool.

Computer-generated humans – avatars, will act as multilingual guides in this computer-generated world, explaining about the visited site. With the help of interactive storytelling, visitors will be able to personalise the story according to their interests and the time available for the visit, explains Franco Niccolucci, EPOCH Director for Training and Dissemination at Florence University.

To further enhance the user experience the project has developed a cost-efficient prototype that uses widespread techniques known as ‘rapid prototyping’ and 3D scanning.

Read full story

23 June 2006

Putting People First favourite blog of P&G’s head of innovation

Claudia Kotchka's favourites
I only discovered now, thanks to the help of no less than Joe Pine, that Claudia Kotchka, P&G‘s vice-president for design innovation and strategy, listed Putting People First as one of her three favourite blogs in a feature story on her in the recently launched IN: Inside Innovation insert of Business Week.

Thank you Claudia for the endorsement. We feel really honoured. If there is anything we at Experientia might be able to do for P&G, let us know. We would be very eager.

21 June 2006

Play Today – an Experientia report on the latest trends in electronic toys and games

Play Today - current trends in electronic toys and games - by Experientia
Over the last few months, Experientia, the experience design consultancy, has been exploring the latest trends in electronic toys and games and gathered the results in a small internal report.

Rather than just keeping it all for ourselves, we decided to upgrade the report into an external document, which is now publicly available.

Report author Myriel Milicevic (who worked with editors Jan-Christoph Zoels and Mark Vanderbeeken, both Experientia partners), introduces the report as follows:

Technology is not just propelling the adult world, its forces have also set a driving spin on the worlds of toys and fantasy.

How will our children’s development change as they journey into life, softly wrapped within responsive illuminated blankets? How different will their perceptions be of themselves and their world, from the ones that we once had about ourselves and our world?

This is not an exhaustive document. It merely tries to gather some observations of what is out there, what the masterminds of the toy industry are cooking up, what makes kids and adults go crazy, and how the small rebel players in the game try to break the rules and make up their own.

Feedback is warmly welcomed.

Download report (pdf, 4.7 mb, 71 pages)
(updated link)

21 June 2006

Working knowledge [Computing Business]

Maersk containers
“Social science is playing an increasing role in the design and development of hardware and software products, with the field of ethnography especially being exploited by academic and industrial research labs, including the likes of Xerox, Intel, IBM, HP and Microsoft. It is also benefiting IT leaders in the design of business IT systems,” writes Andy Crabtree, principal research fellow at the School of Computer Science & IT, University of Nottingham, in a thoughtful and analytical feature piece in Computing Business.

Crabtree, who is also the author of the book Designing Collaborative Systems: A Practical Guide to Ethnography, states that the ethnographical approach implies that “the design of IT systems should be grounded in, and be responsive to, the interactions actually taking place during work, as design is inevitably intertwined with them. Even where design is intended to develop a completely new system, significant value may be gained from understanding the lively context of work, the professional relationships that inhabit it, the skills and competences that people exercise, and the bearing that these may have on work redesign, which is what systems design actually amounts to.”

Ethnography, says Crabtree “may produce a sensitive analysis of the working practices and real-world demands that a new IT system will have to respond to if it is to be properly exploited by a business, rather than merely worked around.”

The article also contains a short case study on the Dragon Project, a series of “ethnographic studies focused on customer service work in Maersk Line, an international container shipping company across Europe, Asia and the US, [which] informed the development of a prototype that served as a product specification for commercial implementation. The role of ethnography was to uncover the actual work practices of customer service operatives, rather than the working practice according to job descriptions and procedures. Ethnographic studies enabled the design team to move beyond the abstract view of work to take into account the real world, real-time skills and abilities of people.”

Read full story

20 June 2006

Tech creates a bubble for kids [USA Today]

Bubble kids
USA Today has a long story on the effect of technology on the social mores of children and teens, particularly on their self-identity and the need for social approval.

“Raised by parents who stressed individualism and informality, young people grew up in a society that is more open and offers more choices than in their parents’ youth, says child and adolescent psychologist Dave Verhaagen of Charlotte.

Unlike their parents, they have never known anything but a world dominated by technology. Even their social lives revolve around the Web, iPods and cellphones. So they dress down, talk loose and reveal their innermost thoughts online.

“Put that all together and you’ve got a generation that doesn’t have the same concept of privacy and personal boundaries as generations before,” Verhaagen says.

“They’re tuned out in some ways to the social graces around them and the people in their lives, in their physical realm, and tuned in to the people they’re with virtually,” says psychologist and sociologist Sherry Turkle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

On top of that, young people don’t care as much about making a good impression as their parents and grandparents did growing up, says Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University.”

Read full story

19 June 2006

Chinese-European collaboration on HCI, usability and user-centred design

SESUN
The Sino European Systems Usability Network (SESUN) is an EU funded project developing active and sustainable links between the Chinese and European IT communities, as well as promoting HCI / usability within China and facilitating the design of a new generation of usable ITC systems that support people in their everyday and working lives.

In addition to large-scale information systems, SESUN addresses mobile applications, consumer products and personal and ubiquitous technologies.

Europe is a leading contributor to the underpinning field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) but this is not currently afforded the same priority in China. By building upon both the EU Framework V funded ‘UsabilityNet’ project and the Asia IT&C co-financed Indo European Systems Usability Partnership, SESUN will develop active and sustainable links between the Chinese and European IT communities, promoting HCI/usability within China and facilitating the design of a new generation of ITC systems for a global community.

Activities include seminars and research workshops in China, implementation studies and virtual communities.

SESUN is organised by a Steering Group comprising the main partners of the project. The national body involved is the British Computer Society / British HCI Group. The other partners are Thames Valley University (UK), Dalian Maritime University (China), the University of Limerick (Ireland), Uppsala University (Sweden), University of Kaiserslautern (Germany), and CURE (Austria).

The initiative seeks to address four main themes: integrating HCI in the university curriculum, user-centred design, interaction design, and culture and localisation.

Rachel Jones from Instrata reports on the user-centred design (UCD) workshop tour of China, that she participated in, with workshops in Beijing, Dalian and Shanghai.

18 June 2006

Self-checkout? Just you wait [The Washington Post]

Customer at a self-checkout kiosk
The Washington Post writes that the line with no cashier has the most impatient customers and that many shoppers use self-checkout devices because they believe it will allow them to avoid delays and human interaction.

The article quotes Robbie Blinkoff, principal anthropologist and managing partner of Context-Based Research Group in Baltimore, a company that performs ethnographic fieldwork for insights into consumer behavior:

“People’s eagerness to use a machine rather than talk to a person doesn’t mean they don’t value face-to-face encounters. Younger people [who are computer-savvy] have discovered which situations are face-to-face-worthy and which are not. For them, a grocery store transaction does not qualify.”

The article also features Paco Underhill, president and chief executive of Envirosell, a behavioral market research firm, who has written several books on what shoppers want and how they act. Underhill thinks a problem is that the checkout machines of today were all engineered by males: “Silicon Valley geeks designing for Silicon Valley geeks,” rather than by multi-tasking mothers. In general, where self-checkout has worked best is where there are people making almost ritual purchases — a Home Depot, for example.”

Read full story

18 June 2006

In China, dreams of bright ideas [The Washington Post]

Innovative Chinese fashion designer Wang Wei
The Washington Post has a long story about innovation in China and what the Chinese leadership is doing to stimulate it.

“Instead of millions of Chinese youths assembling somebody else’s inventions, the party leadership has concluded, the time is right for China to come up with its own ideas and sell them to everyone else. The question of whether China can pull off this transformation — from workshop of the world to cradle of invention — is key to the giant country’s future. The answer will help determine whether a government anchored in 150-year-old Marxist ideology can pursue economic expansion, satisfy the needs of 1.3 billion people and take a place among global powers in an age when knowledge is the highest-earning product.”

“Although political dogma here seems stuck in the past, economic innovation has become a new Communist Party catchword. Even while they enforce political conformity, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao rarely let a speech go by these days without urging their countrymen to think up new products. Most recently, Hu told scientists and engineers they must make China ‘a nation of innovation.'”

“”Innovation is an overall strategy for maintaining China’s economic security,” said Hu Shuhua, who heads the Product Innovation Management Center at Wuhan University of Technology. “Now should be the time for us to innovate,” he added, pointing out that China has been importing other countries’ know-how for the last 20 years. “Now we have the economic and technical base to do it.””

Read full story

18 June 2006

To charge up customers, put customers in charge [The New York Times]

Customer in charge - illustration by James O'Brian
William C. Taylor, co-author of “Mavericks at Work” has just published a feature on mass customisation in the New York Times business section.

It features examples of John Fluevog Shoes, Jones Soda and Threadless and quotes MIT’s Eric von Hippel:

“Eric von Hippel, head of the innovation and entrepreneurship group at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has studied the effects of ‘lead-user innovation’ in industries from extreme-sports gear to medical equipment.”

“In a time of ever more talented technology enthusiasts, hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers, all connected by Internet-enabled communication, he says, the most intensely engaged users of a product often find new ways to enhance it long before its manufacturer does. Thus, he argues, companies that aspire to stand out in fast-moving markets would be wise to invite their smartest users into the product design process.”

“‘It’s getting cheaper and cheaper for users to innovate on their own,’ Professor von Hippel said. ‘This is not traditional market research — asking customers what they want. This is identifying what your most advanced users are already doing and understanding what their innovations mean for the future of your business.'”

Read full story (permanent link)

15 June 2006

Service innovation through design thinking

International Service Design Northumbria
On 31 March Northumbria University hosted a half-day colloquium on issues around designing services entitled “ISDN – International Service Design Northumbria“.

The event featured presentations from internationally recognised leaders in the field, bringing a variety of perspectives – academic, business, policy & practice – accompanied by a range of workshops.

Speakers included:
Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO (USA)
Andrea Cooper, Head of Design Knowledge, Design Council (UK)
Chris Downs, Partner, Live|Work (UK)
Steven Kyffin, Global Head of Design Research, Philips Design (The Netherlands)

On the conference site you can now download mp3’s of all the interventions, as well as a delegate pack that features the case studies.

(via Paula Thornton and Molly Wright Steenson)