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Putting People First

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June 2007
22 June 2007

Sun CTO on human-centred design

Greg Papadopoulos
As part of an ongoing BBC News series inviting some of the world’s leading technologists to speculate about the future, Greg Papadopoulos, chief technology officer of Sun Microsystems, calls for technology and design to be married to people’s needs.

“More human-centred design is now possible.

Take a comparison between a Swiss army knife and a suite of kitchen tools as an example of something that’s well designed.

If I really had to open a bottle of wine with a multitool, I would. But mostly, I’ll have a corkscrew, a good chef’s knife, scissors, and a nail file. Each one is a separate object, with incredibly simple interfaces. Each was designed for a specific purpose.

Rather than making our technologies increasingly complex to use, the same kind of design should be done on the technology we use.

There could be all kinds of computing behind something I use on a daily basis, but at basic level, that’s not what I’m interested in. Instead I want an appliance that has a very well-defined and simple function.

Today we’re asked to care about things that we really do not want to care about. I don’t want the technology artefact or its management to be one of my objectives.

I want to turn on my TV, not update its software.

For me, all of this is more demanding from a design point of view.

I would say that there has been laziness or a lack of courage by some technology developers, because we could go and redesign our entire system of computing.

But to do that upsets a whole bunch of assumptions and even more technological ecosystems, like the software makers who sell us software to run on PCs.”

Read full story

22 June 2007

Experientia looking for a bilingual En/It collaborator

Experientia_logo
Experientia, the international user experience design consultancy, based in Turin, Italy, is looking for a collaborator who can contribute:

  • very strong English skills, especially in writing (ideally a person who is fully or semi-native in that language) and with advanced active/passive knowledge of Italian;
  • excellent and proven English writing skills;
  • familiarity with the new and emerging user research and design fields, more specifically familiarity and some professional experience with one or more of the following areas: usability, qualitative user research, interaction design and experience design.

Since Experientia has a number of foreign clients, the successful applicant will be directly involved in those international client relationships, particularly during the project collaboration itself. Possible occasional travel may be required.

We will only consider CV’s that are accompanied by a motivational statement, describing why you are interested in working with Experientia and what specifically you can contribute to our company. Our email address: info at experientia dot com.

For more information, consult www.experientia.com and www.experientia.com/blog.

20 June 2007

Nokia and Vodafone create ShareIdeas

ShareIdeas
Nokia and Vodafone have launched a new website designed to help share ideas on how to use mobile communications for social and environmental benefits. The site, www.shareideas.org, was created in direct response to NGO calls for better tools and information to help them use mobile services more effectively in their work.

Although initially created with support from Nokia and Vodafone, the site will be developed by a wide range of individuals and organizations interested in using mobile technology for social change. The wiki format means people can edit, update or comment on case studies and stories on the site, and add their own from wherever they are around the world.

Case studies are grouped into six key areas – civic engagement, economic empowerment, education, environment, health and safety, and humanitarian relief projects – topics chosen after consultation with many NGOs.

Read full story

(via Readymade News)

19 June 2007

A blueprint for the perfect phone

The perfect phone
Andrew Lim, mobile phones editor of CNET.co.uk, presents us with what he believe is the perfect phone.

“It’s codenamed DUB — design, usability, battery life — and it’s the fruit of years of observations. All the technology I mention in this article is available to use now and the specs aren’t outlandish — I’ve tried to balance them relative to what I think most people want.

Talking to people every day about phones, the four themes that come up time and time again are design, usability, features and battery life. The DUB phone fulfils these four themes in a hopefully straightforward way.

Many of the features I’ve given the DUB phone are currently available on different handsets, but no phone has all of these features — yet. Think of this as a call to arms — can any manufacturer rise to the challenge and make the perfect phone?”

Read full story

(via Usability in the News)

19 June 2007

Audio and the user experience

Audio
Jonathan Follett thinks that audio is often a missing ingredient when designers and developers create user experiences—be they for Web applications, desktop applications, or digital devices, and that the integration of audio into graphic user interfaces is still a rarity.

In an article for UXmatters, he analyses the reasons for audio’s limited role in UX: audio can be distracting, UX practitioners often have a visual design background, and then there are the technical constraints and budget limitations.

Follett then asks if there are useful ways in which we can expand the role of audio in UX design, and specifically, if are there ways to provide effective audio cues to better help direct or assist users.

He examines other areas of design—industrial design and game design, in particular—for inspiration and concludes that there are three areas where we can incorporate audio into our user experiences:
– ambient background sound
– task- and event-based signals
– warnings and notifications

Read full story

19 June 2007

Book: Mobile Persuasion

Mobile Persuasion
The mobile phone will soon become the most powerful channel for persuasion, more influential than TV, print, or the Internet.

Mobile Persuasion is a new book by the Stanford University Persuasive Technology Lab (blog). Edited by BJ Fogg and Dean Eckles, it presents 20 perspectives on how mobile devices can be designed to motivate and influence people—and how this emerging trend will change the way you live, work, and play.

The book is based on the Mobile Persuasion event that took place at Stanford University in February this year and brought together innovators, designers, and researchers interested in mobile technologies that change people’s beliefs and behaviors.

This April, the lab also hosted Persuasive Technology 2007, an academic conference on persuasive technology. The proceedings are now in process and should be available in August of 2007.

18 June 2007

The experience of technology photography

Entertaible
When I saw this photo of a Philips prototype on a CNET News slideshow, I just couldn’t resist myself to write a somewhat vitriolic post on Core77 on the experience of technology photography.

Enjoy and comment, please

18 June 2007

Half of Britons cannot exist without email

Email
Half of Britons cannot exist without email and 30- and 40-somethings are more reliant on it than teenagers, a survey reveals today.

Among 25- to 34-year-olds, 50% felt they could not carry on without access to email, the ICM poll found. This age group was identified as the pioneer in using electronic communication to keep in touch with the office as well as friends.

But contrary to expectations, the latest technologies have not been monopolised by the younger generation. Forty-one percent of teenagers admitted to relying on their email, whereas 44% of 35- to 44-year-olds said that their email was vital.

More women than men would find it hard without email contact – 41% compared with 38%. The study [was] carried out for software company Nasstar.

- Read full story [The Guardian | BBC]
Read press release

16 June 2007

Marriott partners with Ian Schrager to create unique lodging experiences

Marriott Schrager partnership
Hotel giant Marriott is partnering with hotelier and real-estate developer Ian Schrager to create a new brand of as many as 100 hotels that will combine the personal, intimate, individualized and unique lodging experience on a global scale.

The brand, the brainchild of the new partners, responds to new cultural and social imperatives that Mr. Schrager says have emerged. This brand will reflect these changing lifestyles and cater to a vast underserved market of guests expecting and in turn demanding a unique experience not merely a place to sleep. “Together Marriott and I have a new vision and plan to radically rethink and catapult the lifestyle boutique hotel into the present by capturing the spirit of the times,” said Mr. Schrager.

“People today are sophisticated and they understand good design, quality, originality and commitment to excellence. They will not accept something derivative and they want the ethos and soul of a hotel to be authentic and have character. They also expect and deserve impeccable, modern and gracious personalized service that is at the same time luxurious yet down to earth. It is the ultimate balancing act of these apparent contradictions to create a hotel that is simultaneously specific and customized yet universal. We intend to make this type of lodging widely accessible and available for the first time in the key lodging destinations across the globe and to everybody around the world who wants it.”

The hotels will be located in gateway cities throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia. The initial list of markets to be explored includes New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, and Las Vegas in the U.S.; London, Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan and Rome in Europe; and Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Bangkok, Seoul and Tokyo in Asia. With an average size of 150-200 rooms, each of the hotels will reflect the best of the cultural and social milieu of its location and of the time. A diverse set of world-renowned architects and designers will be recruited to create one-of-a-kind buildings spanning the complete range of project types, from new construction, to conversions, to dramatic renovations.

Read full press release

(via influxinsights)

16 June 2007

Making the web experience less cumbersome on mobile devices

Mobile experience
Earthcomber [is] one of several new services designed to make browsing the web easier on your cellphone, BlackBerry or other mobile device,” writes Michelle Higgins in the New York Times.

“These so-called location-based services are trying to revamp the web experience to be less cumbersome on mobile devices, freeing users from what has been a pretty dismal experience involving lots of typing, scrolling and waiting.

The new services, with names like Mobio and Where, are aimed at anyone with a mobile device that can connect to the Internet. But the kind of online information they are making available on cellphones, BlackBerrys and other devices can be of particular use to travelers.

After downloading the application onto a phone, as you would a cellphone ring tone, a user can enter a city or a ZIP code and, in very few clicks, find the cheapest nearby gas station, locate a good restaurant, find an ATM or a Wi-Fi hot spot, call a cab, view movie times and more. […]

The new location-based services are part of a big race to push the Internet — and all the advertising, sales and information it entails — onto cellphone screens. Just about every company with a Web presence, from Google and Yahoo to travel sites like Orbitz.com and Kayak.com, has been adapting certain services or search capabilities for mobile devices. […]

For now, location-based service companies are being careful not to turn users off with ads, even though advertising provides the main revenue for services that are free to users. Those that do include ads try to display them only during the time it takes to connect to the Internet or in context — offering a coffee coupon, for instance, when a user searches for the nearest Starbucks.”

Read full story

16 June 2007

eBay and PayPal user experience design awards

eBay Star Developers Awards
eBay announced the winners of its Star Developer Awards at its annual Developers Conference this week. Six developers won recognition for their eBay and PayPal applications, two of whom in the category “best user experience design”.

The “eBay Best User Experience Design” award was given to Mpire’s Shopwave, for its development of a new Flash-based online shopping visualisation application.

The “PayPal Best User Experience Design” award was given to E-junkie’s FatFreeCart, for the implementation of PayPal Website Payments Pro with the only cart which works inside the merchant’s website (not in a pop-up) without having to install anything.

The eBay Star Developer Awards annually recognise members of the eBay Developers Program for innovation, creativity and commitment to the eBay Community,” said Max Mancini, Senior Director of Platform and Innovation, eBay.

The eBay Developer Conference in Boston brings together more than 500 third-party developers, entrepreneurs and affiliates to meet with technologists and business leaders from eBay, PayPal, ProStores, Shopping.com and Skype.
 

eBay relaunching to enhance user experience

Meanwhile AP reports that eBay is undertaking an overhaul to enhance its user experience:

‘With eBay entering something resembling middle age, with growth slowing and the stock price in a funk, the company is undertaking a crucial overhaul. The goal is to make buying things easier, more entertaining and more like shopping in the physical world — three counts on which the company has fallen behind.

“Our user experience has always been fantastic, but it didn’t keep up, in my view, as well as it should have,” CEO Meg Whitman said in an interview Friday on the sidelines of the ‘eBay Live’ user celebration in Boston. “You will see more changes to eBay’s buyer experience in the next 12 months than you probably have seen in the past three or four years.”

For example, to reduce buyers’ skittishness about sellers they don’t know, eBay has broadened the feedback criteria that can be left for vendors, and it has tried new strategies for reducing fraud. The company also is trying to make vendors’ shipping costs more transparent, so fewer buyers feel sandbagged by hidden charges.’

Read full story

16 June 2007

UK usability market to grow 20% in 2007 – new report

Usability
The UK market for usability and accessibility will grow by 20% in 2007 to a value of around £180 million, according to a new report published this week by E-consultancy.

Research for the 2007 Usability and Accessibility Buyer’s Guide found that increased competition in the online marketplace is driving investment in a user-centred design approach.

Companies across a range of sectors such as financial services and retail are continuing to focus on usability in order to help drive sales and to improve perceptions of their brand.

E-consultancy’s estimate of the market size includes agency revenues from usability and accessibility services, as well as in-house spending on specialist personnel.

The new buyer’s guide contains a discussion about the latest trends, a ‘SWOT’ analysis of the marketplace and profiles of 22 leading usability companies.

16 June 2007

“Experience is the new reality”

Prometeus
“Prometeus: The Media Revolution” is a faux-documentary short released by Italian consultancy Casaleggio Associates that takes us into the year 2027, a world where Google has acquired Microsoft, Amazon has consumed Yahoo and Laurence Lessig has become the U.S. Secretary of Justice.

View video

(via Wired Epicenter and IFTF’s Future Now)

16 June 2007

A theatrical approach to experience design

ebook
By Adam Lawrence, experience director at Work.Play.Experience:

Everyone is talking about the experience economy, customer experience management, and experience design these days. The big idea is, in a world where all products are pretty good and all services are fairly decent, any one of them could do the job well enough. So offerings become interchangeable – or commoditised – and can only compete on price.

To avoid this trap, people are thinking less and less about the product or the service, and more about the complete customer experience – the way our customer perceives his contact with us, and the emotions that the experience invokes. Good experience design can really make your offering stand out from the pack, and command a better price. And with great experience design, you can even turn customers into fans who will keep coming back – and tell their friends.

The importance of good experience design is clear – but how do we ‘do’ it? Luckily for us, there is an industry that is already expert in using perceptions to create emotion (and to make fans). We need only look to the world of show business. From prehistoric storytellers up to Hollywood blockbuster directors, showbiz folk have been engaging our senses to move our hearts for thousands of years. And over the centuries they’ve discovered many tools that can be applied on stage, on screen – or easily adapted to shoe-shops, dental surgeries, websites, hotels…. In short, wherever an experience is designed.

Download ’12 showbusiness tools to your business’

(via Usability News)

15 June 2007

Niklas Zennstroem on the importance of user experience

Niklas Zennstroem
Niklas Zennstroem, co-founder of net telephony service Skype and of on-demand video service Joost, has written a long BBC article that can be summarised with this quote: “If I was to single out where the next big idea is going to come from, from what I’ve seen so far, it will be driven by what consumers want.”

“[The] growth [of the internet communications industry] is driven by a combination of innovation from the companies that are creating the software, and from user experience.

Innovation tends to be the catalyst. However, what people like doing online tells us a lot about how they like communicating and accessing and sharing information with one another.

One of the common denominating factors behind usage is what the technology gives the individual in return for their endeavours.

A technology platform that is based on a solid, intellectual, R&D driven culture has the opportunity to thrive among a hungry community that wants life made easier.

I’ve spent most of my professional life working in the communications industry. I’ve seen many technologies come and go.

The ones that fail tend to be too hard to use and impenetrable to the average consumer.

And they fail because the benefit is often overshadowed by the hype. Many potentially great technologies disappear because, quite simply, they do not give people what they want.”

Read full story

15 June 2007

€1bn in digital technologies for Europeans to age well

Ageing
European Commission press release:

Responding to the needs of Europe’s growing ageing population, the Commission has today adopted a European Action Plan for “Ageing Well in the Information Society”. This Action Plan is accompanied by a new joint European research programme raising to over €1bn the research investment on information and communications technologies (ICT) targeted at improving the life of older people at home, in the workplace and in society in general.

These new EU initiatives will contribute to allowing older Europeans to stay active for longer and live independently. Together they promise a triple win for Europe: improved quality of life and social participation for older people in Europe, new business opportunities for Europe’s industries, and more efficient and more personalised health and social services.

“Europe’s ageing population is a challenge for our job market, and its social and health systems. But it is also an economic and social opportunity. ICT will provide new and more accessible products and services that meet the needs of older people,” said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media. “These two initiatives will mobilise digital technologies that will improve the daily lives and social participation of older people, and create new opportunities for Europe’s industry.”

By 2020 25% of the EU’s population will be over 65. Spending on pensions, health and long-term care is expected to increase by 4-8% of GDP in coming decades, with total expenditures tripling by 2050. However, older Europeans are also important consumers with a combined wealth of over €3000 billion.

ICT will increasingly allow older people to stay active and productive for longer; to continue to engage in society with more accessible online services; and to enjoy a healthier and higher quality of life for longer.

The majority of older people do not yet enjoy the benefits of the digital age – low cost communications and online services that could support some of their real needs – since only 10% use the internet. Severe vision, hearing or dexterity problems, frustrate many older peoples’ efforts (21% of the over 50s) to engage in the information society.

In response, today’s Action Plan aims at:

  • overcoming technical and regulatory barriers to market development, through market assessments and by facilitating the exchange of best practice between Member States;
  • raising awareness, and building consensus via stakeholder cooperation in 2007 and the establishment of a best practice internet portal,
  • accelerating take-up through, for example, a set of pilot projects and a European award scheme for smart homes and independent living applications;
  • boosting research and innovation by immediately supporting a joint public-private research programme dedicated to “ambient assisted living”. It aims to foster the emergence of innovative, ICT-based products, services and systems for Europe’s ageing population.

Read more

(via eGov monitor)

15 June 2007

Kensington uses customer experience strategy to redesign peripherals

Kensington
Jesse James Garrett writes in Business Week how by focusing on customer experience, Kensington, the computer accessory purveyor, turns out a stylish and crowd-pleasing new collection of wares.

Kensington has chosen to opt out of the technology arms race and turned to product experience as a competitive advantage.

The result is Kensington’s Ci Lifestyle Collection, a new line of mice and keyboards for home and mobile users designed with extensive field research on customer experience in mind. […]

[The company conducted] a field research study to uncover the behavior and psychology of home and mobile users. […]

The team didn’t follow the research by going straight into design. Instead, they took a step back and formulated a product experience strategy that became the foundation of every thought throughout the process was put into the product. The strategy eventually took the form of three “design pillars,” — thinness, convertible power and sleep state — which were used to guide the work of the team as the design evolved.

Read full story

14 June 2007

All is not well with the UK design industry

Business pencil
“The creative industries account for more than seven per cent of the UK economy. But many are now struggling in the face of unprecedented overseas competition. The contribution made by the UK design sector has halved since 2000, with the number of larger agencies falling by one third.”

These strong statements were part of a short text by NESTA, the innovation agency, on the need for entrepreneurship education for creative industries.

With the help of NESTA’s staff, I was able to found out more details.

The 2006 Creative Industries Economic Estimates bulletin, published by the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport, has only data up till 2004. The publication shows that whereas the creative industries accounted for 7.3% of Gross Value Added in 2004 (as compared to 7.8% in 2000), only 0.5% of that comes from the design industry (a 50% drop from 2000, when the contribution was 1%).

The British Design Industry Valuation Survey 2005 to 2006 contains some further data:

  • 2006 turnover for the industry has seen a 6% fall on 2005 figures, from £4.6bn to £4.3bn, and a 36% fall on 2000 figures (£6.7bn)
  • Growth in 2006 has been in the mid-sized companies, suggesting that smaller, newer companies and freelancers are struggling.
  • Total fee income for the industry has fallen in 2005/2006 by some 16% from £4.0bn to £3.3bn, and by 34% as compared with 2000 (£5bn)
  • 2005/2006 employee numbers are down overall by 8.4% from 71,000 to 65,000, and a 21% fall on 2000 figures (82,000)
  • The growth in export income shows that design firms are becoming more reliant on winning business overseas to compensate for a shrinking volume of work in the UK.
  • The volume of employees in large agencies (the 50+ bracket) has fallen to account for just 38% of the total employment. Their total number went down from about 400 (in 2000) to 305 (in 2006).
14 June 2007

Mobile advertising: will there be a consumer backlash?

Mobile advertisting
The mobile phone is the fastest growing and potentially the most effective advertising medium ever developed, but the danger of mismanaging this medium risks alienating consumers and damaging the reputations of major brands and mobile operators, writes Michael Stanley on Cellular News.

Mobile advertising has been a topic of discussion for mobile operator management teams for many years, but it was the recent moves by both Yahoo and Google to focus on the revenue opportunities presented by mobile advertising that has all in the mobile industry scurrying to develop a viable and sustainable business model that will generate additional revenues in the face of fierce competition and falling per subscriber voice revenues.

For those companies who have taken the early initiative, the ability to interact personally and intelligently with consumers via a mobile device is delivering recall and response rates not seen in advertising in a long while. Reports by NetInformer, a provider of wireless media and mobile marketing services, quote typical response rates of 15%, which is 10 times higher than traditional direct response advertising. Such successes should have advertisers and advertising agencies very excited as they currently struggle to reach consumers effectively with traditional media channels.

How then do operators harness the medium’s obvious opportunities without alienating their loyal subscribers, and how do advertisers harness the new medium without negatively affecting their brand values and associations? This is not easily answered, however these questions need to be considered within a very structured and well-planned process, acknowledging and respecting the customer’s attitudinal barriers towards the intrusiveness of mobile advertising. The risks associated with an incorrect strategy and services rollout are massive, potentially killing mobile advertising at birth.

Read full story

14 June 2007

Index and AIGA team up on ‘social design’

Index/AIGA
Danish design foundation Index is teaming up with the US professional association for design, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), to raise the profile of ‘social design’, writes Gina Lovett in Design Week.

The not-for-profit design organisations have committed to running a series of events, scheduled to take place until 2015, with the aim of creating a universal multidisciplinary design process that incorporates social, inclusive, service and user-centred design.

The organisations hope that by ‘engaging decision-makers in design, business, non-governmental organisations and government’ it will bring about improvements in society at all levels through its proposed design process.”

The groups also plan to make recommendations to influential design schools across Europe and the US for possible inclusion in their curriculum.

The programme will kick off in Copenhagen from 23-25 August, as a prelude to the Index/Aspen Summit 2008, which will take place in January next year.

Read full story