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Putting People First

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February 2007
19 February 2007

Advanced programme of CHI 2007 available

CHI 2007
The CHI 2007 organisers have published an “advanced programme” of the conference, which will take place 28 April – 3 May in San Jose, California.

Some highlights:

Opening plenary: “Reaching for the intuitive” by Bill MoggridgeBill will attempt to show how design thinking can harnesses intuitive mental processes, leveraging tacit knowledge as well as the explicit knowledge of logically expressed thoughts. He will give examples of how designers and design teams learn by doing, allowing the subconscious mind to inform intuitions that guide actions. Some of the examples will come from his experience as Cofounder of IDEO, and others will be taken from his recent book Designing Interactions (www.designinginteractions.com), in which he interviews forty influential designers who have shaped our interaction with digital technology.

Interactive session: “Who killed design?: addressing design through an interdisciplinary investigation” with Bill Moggridge (IDEO), Bill Buxton (Microsoft Research), Terry Winograd (Stanford University) and Meg Armstrong (Parsons The New School for Design)This interactive session brings together significant voices from a variety of ‘design-engaged’ disciplines to lead a discussion about the oft-used, but seldom agreed upon notion of ‘Design’. The primary goal of this session is to address ‘Design’ from a much wider variety of perspectives than could occur within any singular discipline. In doing so, the session intends to re-visit [the definitions of] “Design”, “Designer”, and “Designed”.

Closing Plenary: “The mobile as a post-industrial platform for socio-economic development” by Niti BhanThe internet is the foundation of the world wide web of humanity online. Today, there is no such facility on the cellphone platform comparable as yet to the great degree of usability and freedom of movement that browsing currently offers those of us in “broadband nations”.

At the same time there is a great digital divide – between the haves and the have nots. Many have tried with different degrees of success to bridge this chasm, because they all see the potential for growth that unleashing the flow of wealth to and from the bottom-most segments of socioeconomic and geopolitical strata, can effect real change in the standard of living for a great majority on our planet rather than just the fortunate few.The numbers of cellphones sold in the past two years alone in the unexpected markets of the bottom of the pyramid, that includes a surprising numbers of luxury or high end mobiles, far more than any market survey could have predicted even two years ago, is a clear signal of the shift in economic activity. Look at what is already happening now in Bangladesh – microfinance and cellphones; South Africa – banking the unbanked through their cellphones; Uganda – microentreprise using the cellphone and more.The challenge before us today is to ask “What if…?” in the best traditions of creativity and imagination and visualise a near future, within the constraints of existing or installed technology, that could bridge this digital divide and develop the applications and the foundation to provide connectivity, commerce and community on the mobile platform. What kind of difference could this make?”

18 February 2007

Usability to the people

Wii remote
“There is an increased awareness around usability [in the user interface world], as many vendors realise the people using their technology really appreciate when technology works for them, not the other way around,” writes Ulrika Hedquist in an article in Computerworld.

[…] “Among the leaders in usability innovation are Google, Apple and Nintendo, but smaller institutions, like New Zealand’s own HIT Lab (Human Interface Technology) at the University of Canterbury, also contribute to the evolution.

Some of the big players with wider turning circles, such as Microsoft and IBM, are surprisingly fast to catch on to the usability trend. But you have got to wonder about Lotus Notes, though.

Websites are being built to be easy to read, navigate and interact with. Popular computers and devices are easily operated and have a minimum of buttons. […]

So many companies are showing us that “less is more”. Convenience and ease of use are hot. Complexity is so 2004. […]

The big driver is people. Technology is no longer limited to a privileged group that has the know-how. It’s becoming available to many other groups, for example children, older people and people with little technical experience. It is no surprise that Nintendo has sold over four million Wii units since the launch in November.

Read full story

(via Usability In The News)

18 February 2007

Videos of “Digital, Life, Design” conference online

DLD
All sessions of the “Digital, Life, Design” (DLD) conference in Munich, which ran in January, can now be seen in online video.

DLD is seen as Europe’s leading international conference on the opportunities opened up by worldwide digitisation. Two days before the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, 700 German and international experts came together in Munich to discuss the future markets, society, and lifestyles (see programme).

As in previous years, the publisher Dr. Hubert Burda and high-tech investor Dr. Yossi Vardi were its patrons.

Several sessions caught my intention:

Interface and design
With: Bruce Sterling, Walt Mossberg (Wall Street Journal), Chris Bangle (IBM) and Tim Brown (IDEO). Moderator: Claudius Lazzeroni.

The future’s future
With: Caterina Fake (Flickr), Niklas Zennström (Skype) and Thierry Antinori (Lufthansa). Moderator: David Kirkpatrick.

Disruptive connections
With: Hjalmar Winbladh (Rebtel Networks), Jeff Pulver (pulver.com), Marko Ahtisaari (Blyk) and Alexander Straub. Moderator: Christoph Braun.

But there is much more…

18 February 2007

High technology meets cultural anthropology: Dr Genevieve Bell

Professor Genevieve Bell takes questions
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) features Genevieve Bell, Intel’s top anthropologist, who was keynote speaker at the recent Australasian Computer Science Week, where she discussed the past and the future of wireless technology trends around the world and across generations.

“I have a group of about 15 other researchers who work with me, and one of the things we’re trying to do is not just look at a brief moment when a human being interacts with a piece of technology – because sure that’s interesting but in some ways it’s not interesting unless you know the bigger picture … we go to a range of different countries around the world, we spend time living off and with people in their homes participating in their daily activities.

“What we’re interested in is the rhythm of life. What people care about what motiviates them, what frustrates them, what annoys them… in some ways the really mundane stuff of daily life, so you know – what do you do when you get up in the morning? Can I come shopping with you? Can I come down to the temple or the pub or the park – I’ve done all of those things, because part of what you want is to get a sense of that much bigger picture of people’s lives.”

- Read full story

- Listen to a discussion with Genevieve Bell on how her job works, how technologies differ worldwide, and how babyboomers are the most tech-savy generation modern civilisation has ever seen. MP3, duration: 13mins 15secs

- Listen to edited version of the keynote by Genevieve Bell at the Australasian Computer Science Conference, beginning with the cultural implications of basic broadband wireless technology in American versus Asian homes. MP3, duration: 55mins 38secs

18 February 2007

Demanding Innovation: Lead markets, public procurement and innovation

Demanding Innovation
“Innovations are the product of the creative interaction of supply and demand. However, in focussing on how to increase the supply of innovative businesses, policymakers have lost sight of the importance of demand,” argues Luke Georghiou in a “Provocation” essay published on the NESTA website.

The essay elaborates Eric von Hippel’s concept of the ‘lead user’ into a wider notion of ‘lead market’.

“We should not throw away the benefits of the support we give to innovation through grants, incentives and advice, but complement it with efforts to create ‘lead markets’ – demanding consumers (including the public sector) who give innovators an early customer base from which to develop their products or services and diffuse them ahead of global competition.

In addition, this focus on demand for innovations will give us a tool to tackle one of the UK’s most pressing problems – how to increase the productivity and effectiveness of our public services. Outside of the defence sector, the public sector has lagged behind consumer and industrial sectors in innovation, and yet they have the potential through their purchasing power and the regulatory powers of government to transform the markets for innovations.”

NESTA’s “Provocations” are extended essays by key thought leaders working in innovation. They aim to foster debate and new ideas, and showcase thought-provoking work on innovation.

Luke Georghiou is Professor of Science and Technology Policy and Management at the University of Manchester and Director of PREST, a large innovation research centre within the Manchester Business School.

Download essay (pdf, 229 kb, 32 pages)

17 February 2007

Uploading innovation, a NESTA event

Nesta
Steve Moore, founder and director of Policy Unplugged (a “social conference provider”), has invited me to be one of a few foreign guests at an event called Uploading Innovation hosted by NESTA in London on 27 February.

I am very much looking forward to contribute our thoughts on user-centred approaches to innovation, and to learn more about what people in the UK are doing in this regard.

I also hope we can establish some connections and exchanges, in view of Experientia’s upcoming involvement in Torino 2008, World Design Capital which is all about design for transformation, and with a Piedmont regional innovation policy (see also here) anchored in “demand-driven” approaches — i.e. user needs (which is, by the way, a topic that I am now also addressing in Flanders, Belgium.)

NESTA (blog) is the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. It is the largest single endowment devoted exclusively to supporting talent, innovation and creativity in the UK. It is their mission to transform the UK’s capacity for business, social and public policy innovation. They invest in early stage companies, inform innovation policy and encourage a culture that helps innovation to flourish.

To help cultivate a new national conversation about innovation NESTA recently established NESTA Connect to explore how innovation can be stimulated through networks and collaborative working between different disciplines, organisations and places (see also this article).

The Uploading…Innovation conference has been convened to help NESTA learn from those people who have been at the forefront of the development of new participatory ways of working, those who have harnessed the network effects of emerging technologies of collaboration to create new business models, new products and services, to bring about culture change within organisations and disruptive innovation to their sectors.

NESTA and Policy Unplugged identified and invited 100 of the leading collaboratives in the UK into a conversation about how NESTA can formulate innovation policy and create programmes to ensure that they optimise the potential of the social, viral and community hallmarks of the Web.

17 February 2007

Monocle interview with Lego CEO

Jørgen Vig Knudstorp
The newly launched Monocle magazine features a video interview with Lego CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp on its home page.

In the interview, Knudstorp starts of by explaining how they became a user-centred toy company by involving their users to an extreme degree. He also states the core brand value as “the joy of building and the pride of creating things”, which is a description of an experience.

The interview, which was conducted by Monocle editor-in-chief Tyler Brûlé and took place at the company’s innovation centre in Billund, Denmark, then goes in to an interesting discussion on the changing nature of play. Knudstorp describes some insights from an anthropological survey the company did recently, in particular about interactivity, community and what children expect from a brand.

Watch interview
(Note that the actual video file seems to be huge and the streaming is not exactly smooth. I couldn’t get beyond the first half: it simply stalled. Unfortunately a download is not possible.)

17 February 2007

Putting People First poll

Question mark
About 2,500 people read Putting People First every day, 1,500 of which via rss and e-mail.

But dear readers, I know very little about you. Who are you? What do you like about PPF and what not? What would you like to see changed? What would you like more of or less of? Feel free to share anything else.

Use the comments section (you need to register first) or drop me an email at info at experientia dot com.

I am particularly looking forward to get some feedback from those of you who have never been in touch with me yet.

Mark

17 February 2007

Young, mobile, but not yet online [The Times]

Young phone user
“A study of young phone users suggests that networks face an uphill battle in getting the MySpace generation to use the internet on their mobiles,” reports Jonathan Richards in the London Times.

“They are more competent and regular texters than their parents will ever be, and have started to use their phones for a whole range of functions — buying ringtones, downloading computer games, social networking — that older generations scarcely know exist, let alone want to try.

But young mobile phone customers are still relatively slow to embrace internet-based services, and networks will have to reduce the cost of such services significantly, and speed up their delivery, if this most impatient of generations is to be brought online while on the move.

That is the message from a large survey of young European phone users, and one that will resonate with operators who have been racing in recent months to announce “tie-ups” with internet brands such as Google and MySpace in an attempt to make “mobile internet” more relevant to web-savvy teenagers.

Of the more than 7,000 12 to 24-year-olds surveyed by Forrester Research, more than half of respondents said that they never browsed the internet [on their mobiles], and only 8 per cent said that they used it once a week or more. When it came to daily use, the figure dropped to 1 per cent. […]

A separate study by Q Research (pdf, 72 kb) suggested only 3 per cent of young people aged 11 to 25 had downloaded music directly to their mobile phone, with the high cost of doing so the main dissuading factor. […]

Graham Brown, the chief executive of Wireless World Forum, […] said that usability issues, such as the slow rate of downloads and screen size, also remained a problem, and that it had been only recently that users have not had to enter “https://” before the name of website, which meant that finding the average URL involved 40 key pushes. […]

Despite 61 per cent of young people surveyed saying that they had internet on their phone, only 34 per cent wanted it on their next phone — in comparison with 65 per cent who wanted an MP3 player and 44 per cent who wanted Bluetooth.”

Read full story

16 February 2007

Internet users transformed into news reporters [AFP]

Citizen journalist
As picture-taking mobile telephones and digital movie cameras grow ubiquitous, Internet users worldwide are being recruited as citizen news reporters.

In December Yahoo launched YouWitnessNews, a website that posts offerings from users after the submissions pass muster with professional editors.

Founded almost two years ago, news website NowPublic.com taps into legions of people that post pictures, videos, or commentary online.

NowPublic boasts more than 60,000 contributing “reporters” in more than 140 countries and promises to quickly locate potential witnesses or news gatherers close to breaking events from natural disasters to terrorist attacks.

“We have become the largest participatory news network in the world,” NowPublic chief executive Leonard Brody told AFP. “We have everything from complete amateurs to complete professionals.”

“News in the future is going to be crowd-source and we are building that army.”

NowPublic and YouWitnessNews have formed alliances with traditional international news wire services and provide them photos or other worthy content.

NowPublic takes the deal a step further, promising to swiftly pinpoint for wire service reporters potential witnesses or contributors close to the scenes of breaking news.

Read full story

16 February 2007

User research in a different world

Second Life
Adaptive Path, the US experience design consultancy, was recently contacted by Linden Labs, the creators of Second Life, “with a question about how they can improve certain aspects of the ‘in-world’ experience.”

But since Adaptive Path (like Experientia), starts each design challenge with a research and discovery phase, working with Second Life users presented unique and complex challenges.

The users here were “people in a different place and, quite literally, a different world.”

“So, how do we approach this project? Well, since our users are residents in this world, we think it will be good to work with them in-world. Speak with them in the environment in which they live. Ask questions and do research totally immersed in the surroundings that they care about and work hard at creating and maintaining.”

Read full story

16 February 2007

MySpace faces stiff competition in Japan [AP]

Mixi
Yuri Kageyama (blog), AP Business writer, reports:

Visit Japan’s top social-networking site, the 8-million-strong “Mixi,” and you’ll see prim, organised columns and boxes of stamp-size photos – not the flashy text and teen-magazine-like layout of its American counterpart, MySpace.com. The difference in appearance between the two online hangouts reflects a broader clash of cultures – and illustrates the challenge News Corp.’s MySpace faces as it jumps into the Japanese market.

Mixi knows how to thrive off the nation’s cliquish culture so different from the aggressive me-orientation prevalent in American culture.

“MySpace is about me, me, me, and look at me and look at me and look at me,” said Tony Elison, senior vice president at Viacom International Japan, which is offering its own Japanese-language social networking service here. “In Mixi, it’s not all about me. It’s all about us.”

Read full story

16 February 2007

10 TouchPoints: design for everyday life in Singapore

10 Touchpoints
10TouchPoints is a project of the Design Singapore Council, that has enlisted people in identifying things in their everyday public space that are irritating because of poor design, writes Susan Abbott in Customer Experience Crossroads.

“10TouchPoints is the opportunity for us all to positively impact our surroundings and how we live. It is a voicebox for your opinions as users to be heard as you vote for what can be better designed. For designers, it is a challenge to produce the best redesign solutions for implementation, while getting the chance to win attractive prizes and bringing your share to better living. For service providers, it is a platform to tap into users’ insights and using the best design solutions to remake and enhance existing items and services for the people!”

It’s a three phase project that invites users to identify opportunities for improved design, vote on the top 20 ideas, and then participate in the re-design process.

10TouchPoints seeks to demystify design.
Not just about relative coolness and high prices, or what you see on the glossy pages for the hip and rich. Design makes up what is around you. Design is about the relationships people forge with things. Design is thus something we value as it has an effect on how we get to work, better communicate and the energy we save.”

The site seems to have collected many hundreds of ideas from people, often with an accompanying image. A huge number have to do with public transit irritants, like overhead handles and seating layouts on transit vehicles.

15 February 2007

The Economist on the end of the cash era

The Economist on the end of the cash era
The Economist’s cover story is entitled “the end of the cash era”, symbolised by a landscape of dinosaurs on a post-nuclear terrain, surrounded by a sunset, a green dollar-bill white house and blue palm trees. Hem.

The leader story is for subscribers only, but the feature is open to everyone.

In fact, it really is a story about electronic cash, smart cards and mobile phones.

It is not exactly a “putting people first” story, but it gives a very good overview on where the industry is heading to, written in accessible language. Worth a read, because you can be sure that the user experience of something as important as money, is definitely not yet fully dealt with, so fertile terrain for usability experts and experience designers.

Read full story

15 February 2007

Adaptive Path president takes aim at Jakob Nielsen

Jakob Nielsen
Peter Merholz, founder and president of the experience design consultancy Adaptive Path, thinks Jakob Nielsen is venturing into areas, such as ROI, he has no expertise in and harming the field of design with his “unsubstantiated crap”.

“[The] last straw is his latest essay, where he claims ‘In one example, a state agency could get an ROI of 22,000% by fixing a basic usability problem.’ If he hadn’t jumped the shark before, he really has now. He backs this outrageous claim with a remarkably naive cost-benefit analysis, the kind of financial fiddling that no serious finance director within any organization would believe. […]

“I wouldn’t write about it except that I fear that Jakob is turning into a pernicious force when it comes to advancing the field of design, because his reach means tens of thousands of people are reading this unsubstantiated crap. Such outrageous claims truly feel like the wild flailings of increasing irrelevance.

8 years ago, the web had two usability prophets – Jakob and Jared. Had you asked me to place bets on which one was worthier to follow, I would have said Jakob (UIE’s “Web Site Usability” book pissed me off). But in the last 4 or 5 years, Jakob has receded to the point of almost total irrelevance, whereas Jared and his gang are pursuing important and interesting questions, and never making specious claims about what they’ve found.”

Read full post

14 February 2007

Forum to Advance the Mobile Experience (FAME)

FAME
Manufacturers have become so enamored of cool features — including cameras, recording devices and video-streaming capabilities — that they have lost sight of the fact that many consumers just want good voice reception, according to a survey by the Forum to Advance the Mobile Experience (FAME), reported on in USA Today.

“Function fatigue” was the No. 1 complaint of mobile phone users, according to the survey of 15,000 consumers in 37 countries. It was conducted in late 2006 and was partially funded by Palm, a maker of mobile devices.

“There are too many product features that consumers don’t use, or don’t know how to use, and it frustrates them,” says Dave Murray, FAME director. His organization is an arm of the Chief Marketing Officer Council, which represents more than 3,000 marketing officials worldwide.

Read full story

14 February 2007

Designing engaging mobile experiences

Designing engaging mobile experiences
“Designing engaging mobile experiences” is the title of a brief 8-page paper by Adobe describing the guiding principles that are critical to designing great experiences for today’s mobile device user.

It is written by Josh Ulm, principal designer and experience llead, mobile and devices for Adobe Systems, Inc.

“A new class of mobile service is emerging called engaging mobile experiences. Engaging mobile experiences put the user experience first. As a result, these experiences prioritize usability, offer new services and deliver content instantaneously. But much more importantly, they build a powerful affinity with the user. They promise experiences that are expressive, memorable, and much more desirable. The design of these engaging mobile experiences requires a special touch as they are developed for the small screen. We believe these guiding principles are critical in defining this new class of experience.”

Download paper (pdf, 703 kb, 8 pages)

13 February 2007

Glossary of social media for non-techies

Social media glossary
David Wilcox just finished writing a glossary of social media aimed at helping non-techies understand terms that enthusiasts take for granted, like blog, wiki, tag, podcast, feed — and added some interpretation of why common words like conversation, culture, openness have particular importance.

The glossary comes in a short version and a long version. The latter may be of more interest to those more familiar with social media.

Wilcox would really welcome any comments and/or additions you can offer in the discussion tab.

(via Designing for Civil Society)

13 February 2007

Anne Kirah: “When culture meets technology and when technology meets culture”

Anne Kirah
Anne Kirah, until recently Senior Design Anthropologist at the Microsoft Corporation, spoke recently about her experience in developing software user interfaces that are based on local cultural conditions.

The 50 minute talk, which can be seen in video stream, was held on 30 January at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

Abstract
Using multiple case studies from global ethnographic field research and participatory design in 12 countries, we find the level of technological adoption as a mitigating factor in determining what types of social software are being used and how they are being used. On the other hand, culture and social context mitigates what is successful and what is not on the social front. A key take away from field research and participatory design is that software takes on its own life based on the cultural and social contexts of everyday life. At the same time, global trends are developing based on the level of technological adoption. Understanding the interplay between technology and culture through deep understanding of peoples’ motivations and aspirations, as well as understanding how technological adoption pushes the envelope, will help us build software that is useful, culturally relevant and desirable.

Anne Kirah
Until recently, Anne Kirah served as a senior design anthropologist for the Microsoft Corporation. Kirah was responsible for global field research and participatory design.Kirah’s primary focus is on future product innovation, people centered research and strategic direction. She recently won the award for MSN Contributor of the Year. Kirah left her job at Microsoft to become the dean and faculty member of 180º Academy, a new global innovation school created by a consortium of Danish and international industry leaders. She is a partner in a small consulting company focused on introducing radical innovation processes in to companies wanting to approach the rapidly paced and global world we live in.

13 February 2007

Belgium’s i-City project tests mobile applications with thousands of users

i-City
The Belgian project of i-City is one of the projects of the Living Labs Europe network and is presented as the largest testing ground for mobile applications in the world.

The i-City website provides some further insight:

“i-City has turned the Belgian mid-size cities of Hasselt and Leuven into a huge virtual laboratory, which in fact forms the largest ‘experimental garden’ for mobile communications anywhere in the world. By doing this, i-City can already develop the applications of tomorrow on a large scale, and test them in lifelike situations.

A number of companies are engaged in building mobile applications for the future, hand in hand with the users of such applications. These are both IT companies and businesses from unrelated sectors: companies like Microsoft, Telenet, Siemens, Concentra Fujitsu-Siemens and the Research Campus Hasselt. Also involved is the Flemish Government.

As a Living Lab, i-City works with a fixed panel of 4.000 real test users in a real life environment with real working applications. The test users are easily reachable through a system of PDA’s and smart phones in a wireless city. No focus groups, no panel discussions, no “what if” analysis, but real application prototypes that are tested by real end-users. This is the ultimate real-life test, where test users produce masses of valuable feedback. It allows i-City to place the results obtained directly at the disposal of manufacturers, who in turn are able to perfect and/or commercialise the applications.”