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Putting People First

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August 2007
30 August 2007

INDEX: 2007 magazine and website on user-centered design and innovation

INDEX: 2007 sub theme magazine
User-centered Design & Innovation is the sub-theme of INDEX: 2007, a series of events currently taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The theme is thoroughly examined during the Copenhagen Prelude Conference, the INDEX:|Aiga Aspen Design Summit and INDEX: SUMMER CAMP, as well as in the INDEX: publications.

An entire magazine is dedicated to this INDEX: 2007. You can download it here (pdf, 2.2 mb, 30 pages).

The general history and thinking behind User-centered Design & Innovation is introduced and juxtaposed against three different approaches that enable the reader to gain insight into the needs of users: The anthropology approach, the lead users approach and mass customisation, all three followed by instructive cases. In addition, user insight’s influence on the design of business models, services and strategies are explored.

In two interviews, Director at FORA and Chairman of INDEX: Jørgen Rosted sees User-centered Design & Innovation from a Danish perspective, and INDEX: Program Director Lise Vejse Klint explains how the 2007 sub theme fits into INDEX:’s main focus, Design to Improve Life.

The INDEX: knowledge base gives further insight on user-centered design themes. The INDEX: knowledge team has been down them all and has so far pinpointed 5 methods and 2 issues beyond traditional product design in the international landscape of design:

Introduction to user-centered design & innovation
User-centered design & innovation does not begin with the user; it begins with a vision: to offer better solutions to the market and thus have a better chance at success.

Lead users
A Lead User faces needs that will be general for a wider population in time – but faces them months or even years before the rest of the population encounters them. Typically Lead Users therefore expect to benefit significantly by obtaining a solution to those needs. Lead Users can also be users of a given technology in adjacent industries, facing the same or similar problems, and therefore can be able to deliver technological solutions earlier. Lead Users are valuable in early determining future trends.

Strategic Design
Strategic design sets a direction or profoundly reconfigures a client’s business to align them more closely with their markets. An acquisition or sell-off, creation of a new business, redesign of core business processes around customer segments, entry into new countries – these are all strategic decisions.

Anthropology
Anthropology has gained a new relevance as human factors are recognized as increasingly important in design. Anthropologists, ethnographers and their like have entered a role of great importance to innovation and design as the role of the designer is divided into more specialized fractions. Using an anthropological approach is crucial to reveal tacit needs of the consumer.

Mass Customisation
Mass customisation is a way of generating extra value by being flexible to customers, and at the same time keeping within manufacturing capability. Mass Customisation is introduced at a relatively late stage in the design process.

Business model design
To engage the users early on is time consuming and often expensive as it is a premium cost to the in-house design and R&D departments, but to introduce the users at a late stage, can be even more expensive as significant changes perhaps need to be made, or perhaps there is no real interest in the innovation made. Making your entire business model user-centered can be a way of streamlining operations.

Service design
Users cannot fail to notice if the service has been poorly designed. Perhaps even more than other kinds of design, service design really need to be user-centered.

30 August 2007

Insights into an ageing society

Ageing society
Acknowledging the significance of aging society and the related challenges to world wide welfare, Denmark’s TrygFonden, INDEX: and CIID set out to investigate the lives of elderly people to provide a new understanding of old age as inspiration for new designs solutions.

They research broke some notions held about old people and shifted the focus of design thinking from being a facilitator of special aids and appliances to seeking opportunities in the socio-economic and macro perspective. Their findings reveal distinct trends in the area of secondary occupations, connectivity, dignity and the way time and space is perceived amongst the elderly.

Drawing from user observation methodologies, design thinking and synthesis we observed and filmed old people in their homes in UK, US, Denmark, India, Taiwan, Italy, Israel, South Africa and Columbia.

Informed Anecdotes I: Insight into an ageing society (pdf, 11.9 mb, 19 pages)
This article puts the findings in context with the person and the possible solutions that apply to individuals.

Four main drivers were found to be the putty that holds the lives of the old people we observed together:

  1. Secondary occupations: Old people find a secondary occupation to have a purpose in life, create rhyme and maintain self-esteem.
  2. Connectivity: Communication, feeling of inclusiveness and information management is equally important to old people.
  3. Dignity: Independence and self esteem change the perception of the self in old age.
  4. Perception of time & space: How the use of time and space changes in various stages of old age.

The four main drivers were surprisingly found to be independent of culture, context, ethics, income or nationality.

Five related concepts were also detected and substantiated these findings:
1. The importance of rituals
2. Denial of ageing
3. Need for sense of rhythm
4. Grocery shopping is significant
5. The paradox of wisdom

The article concludes with a few potential concept directions to illustrate the possibilities of how we can translate the insights of this research into objective design thinking.

Informed Anecdotes II: Design for an ageing society (pdf, 3.5 mb, 12 pages)
The second article deals with the macro issues of the ageing and describes how design thinking could contribute to a more age integrated society and transform a notional burden into an opportunity.

The article concludes with seven lines of thought:

  1. The granularity of old age: Most of the myths and notions about aging arise due to a lack of understanding of the variations amongst the elderly.
  2. The notion of retirement: The current structure of retirement is heavily drawn from the industrial era where workers were worn out from decades of hard labour and had a lower life expectancy.
  3. Cultural variations: Cultural and social variations in the aging process are detected in different countries.
  4. The design challenge: Design thinking when used at a strategic level could transform these key insights into affirmative action.
  5. Vision of age integration: A big aspect of caring for the elderly involves integration with the rest of society. Providing a network of care that transcends age is a powerful tool in this process.
  6. The universal approach: Adopting the principles of universal design is already a big step closer to creating a more elderly friendly design.
  7. Service opportunities: The aging society of fers new opportunities in the service economy. Many services have the unique quality of being able to plug the gaps in the social structure. Services can act as agents of support by introducing new patterns of behaviours, bridging accessibility gaps and inducing motivations.

In conclusion:
“Quality of life in old age moves beyond mere creature comforts to having a healthy, secure and meaningful life. Healthcare and housing is just one facet of their needs. Building a sense of inclusiveness and dignity should be a public initiative as much as a social responsibility.”

30 August 2007

Destinations straight from internet to your Mercedes

Mercedes
“Starting next week, some Mercedes-Benz drivers will be able to plan trips to restaurants, stores and landmarks using Yahoo or Google, and then send directions directly to their vehicles.

The program, announced Wednesday, is called Search & Send.

It was jointly developed with the two Silicon Valley Internet giants and DaimlerChrysler’s Research, Engineering and Design North America office in Palo Alto.

Drivers can plot destinations, addresses or points of interest using Google Maps or Yahoo Local Maps. Then, they can click a “Send to Car” icon. The information is then sent to the vehicle’s GPS navigation system and can be retrieved by pushing a dashboard button on the car’s Tele Aid telematics system.”

- Read full story [San Jose Mercury News]
Search & Send website with videos
Read press release

29 August 2007

Copenhagen conference about creativity, innovation and co-creation

Ecci X
Co-creation is on the agenda when Copenhagen will be the centre of the world’s prominent specialists within creativity and innovation, reports Copenhagen Capacity.

The 10th European Conference on Creativity and Innovation, ECCI X is to convene on 14-17 October 2007. Its ambitious goal is to innovate innovation and the opening question is: “Is it possible to create a new type of convention on creativity and innovation?

Not by defining the terms again or addressing how it could be done better and faster, but how creativity and innovation could make a positive difference to the world.”

The conference will among other things focus on rethinking the dynamics between user, creativity and innovation.

Presentations from more than 30 difference nationalities will be held and ECCI X is expected to attract up to 400 participants from the entire world. Among the organizers is the network association IKI, Initiative for creativity and innovation and member of the board Lars Tolboe says to Børsen Business Daily:

“Creativity and innovation do not come automatically. We need to be committed! Therefore, it is also important that Copenhagen is hosting conventions such as ECCI where co-creation is not only a theme but is setting the framework with the result that focus has moved from speaking about co-creation to creating through co-creation. In my experience we will always have the best results when everybody is committed and contributes actively. This can also be seen in the events of our own association.”

The conference is a joined organisation of the Danish Initiative for Creativity and Innovation (IKI), the Copenhagen Business School (CBS), the European Association for Creativity & Innovation (EACI), and Zentropa WorkZ.

- Conference website
Conference vision document (pdf, 12.6 mb, 9 pages – Don’t ask me why this file is so big)

29 August 2007

Penguin’s user-centred redesign

Penguin Books
Publishing brands Penguin and Dorling Kindersley, both part of the Penguin Group, recently completed a project to relaunch their websites and improve interaction and navigation for users.

The revamp was pretty far reaching – the team took a user-centred approach, with extensive usability testing and planning, and found new ways to think about marketing books via the site.

The group is also set to launch new sites to increase its engagement with customers – one is a youth-oriented site called spinebreakers.co.uk, which is employing teenagers in its development.

E-Consultancy, the British online publisher, has posted an interview with Penguin and DK’s online development manager Jeanette Angell, who speaks about the reasons behind the project and the techniques it used.

Read interview

29 August 2007

BBC World Service interviews MIT professor Eric Von Hippel on innovation

NESTA width=
In an extended interview, Peter Day of BBC World Service’s Global Business programme talks to Professor Eric Von Hippel, head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology about his revolutionary thinking and what calls the “democratisation of innovation”.

The conversation about user-led innovation starts with a reference to NESTA Connect launch, where Von Hippel spoke recently.

Von Hippel then talks about what he describes as a revolution in innovation moving from in-house R&D (and marketing) departments, to users and customers. He draws out a series of implications for what this means for intellectual property right protection and business models. With the tools to innovate getting better/cheaper/easier (especially in the digital domain but increasingly in other areas as well) he describes his thesis of how innovation is being democratised.

Listen to interview (23:30)

29 August 2007

UPA 2008 conference on the many faces of the user experience

UPA 2008
The Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA) announces its 2008 International Conference “The Many Faces of User Experience: Usability through Holistic Practice.” The conference will take place in Baltimore, Maryland, June 16-20, 2008.

Usability professionals ask the question “What makes something usable?” The UPA’s 2008 International Conference will ask a related question: “Who makes things usable?” With a world full of complex technology, consumers are demanding products and services that are more usable. Organisations are learning that it takes many different skill sets and roles to create user-friendly products and services that consumers want.

Designers, psychologists, marketing specialists, technologists, business analysts, information architects, and technical writers are just a few of the roles that bring valuable perspectives to creating good user experiences. The UPA [therefore] welcomes people from every User Experience (UX) role to join “traditional” usability professionals at the 2008 International Conference [and to] collaborate and share methods and new ideas for accomplishing a common goal.

The new Managing User Experience track is focused on User Experience (UX) leadership and current trends in UX management. Special challenges such as the need to strategically position UX within organizations and the many skill sets required by mature UX teams make this track especially valuable to managers and consultants.

A special one-day track in e-Government usability will be offered this year only. Building a more responsive and connected government involves the creation of web sites and electronic services for the public and businesses. The e-Government track at UPA 2008 will be of particular interest to professionals working for government agencies or on government contracts.

27 August 2007

UK research firm claims mobile users are turned-off by advanced features

phone graph
Continental Research claims that mobile phone users aren’t showing interest in advanced features such as accessing the internet or downloading and watching TV on their handset.

Data from their new report – which is to be released next month – show that the percentage of mobile users using advanced features has decreased in eight out of 11 activities tracked within the past 12 months.

Report author James Myring explains:

“Clearly a majority of mobile users are not particularly interested in the latest in mobile design and technology, and are more attracted by simplicity and economy. Only a minority are prepared to pay more to be at the cutting edge. Looking first at the importance of style, only 25% of mobile users agreed I am prepared to pay more for a mobile phone that looks stylish. Similarly only 25% of mobile users agreed that I am prepared to pay more for a mobile phone that has the latest in mobile technology.

“The mobile market is two tier, with a majority of mainly older mobile users who have limited or no interest in the latest mobile developments and a lucrative minority (almost all of whom are young) who are prepared to pay more for the latest in mobile style and technology. Attracting and retaining this group of mobile users is imperative for the mobile networks.”

Read full story

26 August 2007

Bruce Sterling writes ‘dispatches from the hyperlocal future’ for Wired Magazine

hyperlocal
Bruce Sterling has written a number of “Dispatches from the hyperlocal future” for Wired’s July 2007 issue.

The fictional dispatches dated 2017, have the writer post from Turin (“Torino” in Italian), Milan, Dubai, Mumbai and Washington, DC.

As per usual with Bruce, it is dense and highly entertaining prose, virtually untranslatable, and difficult to quote from. Here is a quote about the hyperlocal web:

“You see, the difference between the old-fashioned semantic Web and the new hyperlocal Web — that’s hyper as in linked, and local as in location — is that the databases of the new Web are stuffed with geographic coordinates. Real positions. Real distances. So the bodyware I carry in my pockets and travel bag broadcasts its location to any device within earshot. (Of course, the RFID chips embedded in everything help the manufacturer get it out the door, but I programmed my own tags so I can’t lose anything.) Roomware — that’s houseware to you troglodytes who still live in houses — is the stuff that runs a hotel room. You know, the remotes that control temperature and unlock the liquor cabinet, plus the window overlay that displays the weather forecast and traffic conditions. Streetware is my mobile’s navigator, plus social tags, ad filters, and all those black-and-white barcode blotches painted on walls like graffiti. Cityware is the next scale up. That’s how the local government monitors traffic, chases down leaky water mains, and keeps tourists on the straight and narrow. Stateware, nationware, globalware — you get the idea.”

In the middle of the long piece, you can even find a visual demo for the Sensicast-Tranzeo 3000. (The article also introduces the Samsung-Olivetti SeeMonster, “a hefty Italo-Korean interactive designer coffee table with an eight-handed, 40-fingered 3-D touchscreen”.

Nice too is Bruce’s image of the Torino of the future:

“Torino worked hard on changing their public image by installing the Zone. Torino used to be the “Detroit of Italy,” but some of its derelict Fiat assembly plants have been turned into city-subsidized creative-class hangouts. Big retrofitted lofts, lots of auto-watered greenery, ping-pong tables and massage chairs…. Lots of freeware. You want a bicycle, you just beep at it and take it. Free Italian movies every night, right up on sides of buildings.

In Torino’s cyber-district, you get your basic Euro-trash laptop gypsies, some installation artists, robotics freaks, do-it-yourself makers, raffish free-software fanatics — stir continuously and feed with cheap spaghetti. Result: a classic Euro-bohemian ferment. It’s like a garage sale Ars Electronica that runs all year.”

Enjoy.

26 August 2007

Why is that thing beeping? A sound design primer

Sound
Max Lord, a Boston-based designer and musician, has written a sound design primer on Boxes and Arrows:

“Historically, sound has been used in everything from animal communication to computer-human interfaces to warn us that something bad is about to happen: a loud sound warns you that you’re about to be squashed by a garbage truck, for example. This may seem obvious, but it’s central to the discussion of audio feedback in any interface. Though they’re not life-threatening warnings, the sounds a product makes are there to contribute to its usability, enjoyment, and brand identity—in some cases in more compelling ways than its form or functionality.”

The article contains a very good history of sound design and mentions some of the current design constraints. For instance, the tiny plastic speakers, so prevalent in current consumer products, are much better suited to emitting the familiar high-pitched chirps and beeps that make up the modern vocabulary of digital devices.

The bulk of the article is on what designers should be focusing on when dealing with sound: legibility, context and usability.

Read full story

25 August 2007

Intuition is losing ground to data mining, a new book claims

Super Crunchers
According to a new book by Ian Ayres, an econometrician and law professor at Yale, a powerful trend that will shape the economy for years to come: the replacement of expertise and intuition by objective, data-based decision making, made possible by a virtually inexhaustible supply of inexpensive information. Those who control and manipulate this data will be the masters of the new economic universe.

Ayres calls them “Super Crunchers,” which is also the title of his book, the latest attempt to siphon off a bit of the buzz that surrounds the hugely successful “Freakonomics.”

In fields from criminal law (where statistical projections of recidivism are taking discretion away from judges and parole boards) to oenophilia (where a formula involving temperature and rainfall is a better predictor of the quality of a vintage than the palates of the most vaunted experts), “intuitivists” are on the defensive against the Super Crunchers.

- Read full story (Newsweek magazine)
Book website
Book page on Amazon

25 August 2007

Jan Chipchase of Nokia on the challenges of human-centred design

A Path, Adapted
Jan Chipchase, principal researcher at Nokia Design, recently gave a talk at User Experience Week 2007, an event organised by Adaptive Path. His summary:

That as human centered design practitioners we talk about, well, putting humans at the center of the design process. Which is all fine and dandy except that in the context of designing our ubiquitiously connected and oh-so-smart future this roughly equates to understanding the sum of all human experiences, which is clearly impossible. The joy of aiming high and failing. Or not?

That the path to a good project can start with the simplest of questions. Who are you? How can you prove it? What do you carry? Why did you do that thing you did?

That the deep pockets of a corporate research lab/design studio and buy-in from upper management make for a well resourced project, but that ultimately all it takes to get started is an inquisitive mind and a bit of positive attitude. Point in case? – the years of illiteracy research which I’ve written about previously and which is ongoing in the research lab started out as a three week scoping project with no travel budget, relied on the voluntary assistance of a friendly India based subcontractor who gave up her weekend to collect data on our behalf. The resulting report showed sufficient promise to warrant further (better resourced) investigation. And the subcontractor? Ah, she earned her place on the team in studies from Cairo to Tehran, most recently in Dharavi, Mumbai. Looking for experience? Willing to work for peanuts? Of course you are.

And that you’d be surprised at the internal credibility that comes from external reporting of the design research. By this I don’t mean peer reviewed navel gazing or at the other extreme, lite fluff pieces. But simply that when your research is what they see when they open their favourite press, in their mind’s eye you’ve arrived. For now at least a virtuous circle.”

Download presentation (PowerPoint, 4.3 mb, slides)

25 August 2007

UK research shows that older web users spend more time online than any other group

UK elderly
Older web users spend more time online than any group, according to the annual report of the UK Office of Communications.

The 330-page report takes a comprehensive look at the way Britons use new and old media and reveals a nation in love with its media, gadgets and hi-tech gear.

16% of Britons aged 65+ spend 42 hours per month online – more than any other age group.

Another striking result, especially for traditional-media executives looking for their future customers, is that “kids are abandoning old and not-so-old media for the new. Whereas two years ago 59% of those aged 8 to 15 regularly watched videos, only 38% do now. Two years ago 61% regularly played video games compared with 53% today. Most are abandoning stand-alone media, such as DVDs, and turning instead to media such as the internet and in particular social-networking websites. The trend seems to accelerate as children move into their teenage years. Nearly two-thirds of children between the ages of 12 and 15 use the internet, compared with 41% of those aged 8 to 11.”

- Read BBC article
Read Economist article

25 August 2007

Design for the other 90% controversy

Design for the other 90%
Design for the Other 90%, the much lauded exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York on how design can address the basic challenges of survival and progress faced by the world’s poor and marginalised, has been severely criticised by David Stairs in a hard-hitting article on the Design Observer:

Stairs identifies three crucial problems:

Remote experience is, consequently, one of the issues curators face in mounting such an exhibition, and it is a price we, in the West, pay for our mediated existence. Too often design solutions are remote solutions, even by those with years’ work in the developing world (myself very much included). The only reference I could find in the catalog to this problem was Martin Fisher’s observation that poor families like to prepare their main meal indoors in the evening, when solar cookers are considerably less effective — an issue contradicted in exhibiting a solar stove made from bicycle parts.

A second fallacy afflicting design thinking is what I call instrumentalization, or the notion that technology can, more often than not, provide the solution. Designers are especially susceptible to this delusion, perhaps because they are often trained to solve immediate rather than long-term problems. By way of example, inventions like the Hippo and Q water rollers work well at alleviating hard work over level ground, but are less effective than a jerrycan headload over meandering, hilly, narrow footpaths. Or, the exhibition’s catalog shows an Indian man in a workplace illuminated by a solar lighting system, but ironing clothes with a charcoal-heated iron. Similarly, the PermaNet — a specially-treated mosquito net — repels bugs for twice as much time as conventionally-treated nets. Regrettably, as it was displayed in the exhibition, it did not reach the ground; this is precisely the real-world oversight that heat-seeking vectors take advantage of in Africa.

Gargantuan thinking is a third error: the need to house the world’s population, eliminate disease, and reverse global warming. (Here I much prefer Wes Janz’s onesmallproject to Bruce Mau’s Massive Change.)”

Stairs concludes:

“Is there a realistic response designers from developed countries can offer? A starting point might be to recognize that in many cases, we don’t need to remake other people or their societies in our image and likeness. The idea of design intervention — sustainable or otherwise — may feel very intrusive to people who are still reeling from 150 years of colonial intervention. (You don’t just waltz into a patriarchal society and aggressively advocate equal opportunity for women, or deliver pumps and boreholes to peasant farmers without understanding the sociology of migratory herdsmen). Living among other people and learning to appreciate their values, perspectives and social mores is an excellent tool of design research. (To their credit, both Polak and Fisher have spent considerable time abroad, not just user-testing, but living and working with their client-partners.) Education is also a wonderful access point, as is a required second language. But how many design curricula are supporting, let alone implementing such global initiatives?”

The article got 58 comments so far and was featured on the Core77 webzine.

David Stairs coordinates the graphic design program at Central Michigan University. He is the founding editor of Design-Altruism-Project, and the executive director of Designers Without Borders.

25 August 2007

Europe’s children are internet and mobile savvy and are well aware of the possible risks

Children
The latest European Commission Eurobarometer survey strikes me because it is so obvious: children are not as vulnerable online as their parents fear. The picture that comes through is one of surprising sophistication:

“They are well aware of the problems of viruses, hackers, paedophiles and online scams, and most claim that threatening text messages are no different to any other form of bullying and admit to being victims and perpetrators.

The older children get lighter supervision from their parents. But they recognise that parents are right to supervise them and only 12-14 year-old girls get angry when Mum wants to read what they’ve said in an email.

Children worry about damaging the family computer with a virus, running out of credit on their mobiles, becoming internet addicts and damaging their eyesight or losing sleep if they stay online too long.

They know not to give out their email address or mobile number to strangers and never to agree to a meeting with a stranger, although some admit to breaking these rules or know of friends or apocryphal friends of friends who have.”

The study covered children (age groups 9-10 and 12-14) in 29 countries (the 27 member states plus Iceland and Norway) and was based on group discussions.

- Download study (pdf, 540 kb, 77 pages)
Read short article

(via textually.org)

25 August 2007

A gorgeous cinematic introduction to Turin, Italy

Turin
Even for those who don’t understand Italian, this is quite a spectacular introduction to Turin (or “Torino”), Italy, and its surrounding region.

The videos are shot in gorgeous high definition quality by the Turin movie director Luciano De Simone and narrated by Carlo Massarini (who was also responsible for the highly entertaining videos in the excellent Turin Museum of the Mountains).

Eventually the site, which was produced for the Italian Ministry of Culture, will introduce a number of Italian cities but for now the only one online is Turin, the city where I live.

Structured in nine chapters, accessible via a horizontal menu on the bottom, the series includes:
– a general introduction to the city;
Piazza Carignano, which introduces some of the historic centre, Italy’s first parliament (Turin was Italy’s capital from 1861 to 1864), the Egyptian Museum, the role of the theatre in the city, Piedmont food, the Langhe region, and the culture of the “aperitivo” in Turin;
Turin and the movies, focused of course on the Mole Antonelliana, site of the cinema museum;
Turin from the Balôn to the Murazzi, which introduces various neighbourhoods such as the Balôn area where the city’s flea market takes place;
Lingotto, the former FIAT factory, now a mixed-use facility with a conference centre, a commercial centre, a museum, a hotel, and a cinema;
Italia ’61, one of the sites of the Olympic Winter Games of 2006;
From the Dora to the Docks, focused on the new uses given to old industrial buildings;
The heart of the city, introduced as a historic but lively centre;
Turin nightlife.

The interface is quite simple: the “+” sign gives you a larger image, “link utili” provides you with links to what you just saw, and “mobile” allows you to download the movie files.

The site is not at all interactive though: the only thing you can do is watch. Another concern I have is that the creators did not add (optional) English subtitles, which would have not been so difficult to do. Graphically, the meaning of the bar code design element is beyond me.

But it is beautiful. Enjoy.

25 August 2007

Latest issue of UPA’s Journal of Usability Studies

JUS
The August 2007 issue of the Journal of Usability Studies, a UPA-published peer-reviewed quarterly journal, just came out. Here is the introduction by editor Avi Parush:

In his invited essay “Surviving our success: Three radical recommendations (PDF)“, Jared Spool points out that in spite of the increasing awareness of usability issues and the growing use of usability professionals, we still need to be cautious with our practice. In his typical style, Jared presents what he considers as radical recommendations that can help us survive the growing “success” of the usability profession.

In contrast to Jared Spool’s Radical Recommendation # 1, Rolf Molich, Robin Jeffries, and Joe Dumas actually suggest how to make useful and usable recommendations based on the results of usability studies. In their article “Making Usability Recommendations Useful and Usable“, they suggest ensuring your recommendations are really likely to improve usability, they cover the overall usability and not just specific aspects, and they should be stated clearly.

The topic of voting systems is still very important to the usability profession. Menno de Jong, Joris van Hoof, and Jordy Gosselt, have studied the usability and reliability of a voting system in the Netherlands. In their article titled: “User research of a voting machine: Preliminary findings and experiences” they found that in terms of vote casting errors, there was a little difference between working with the voting machine and actual “manual” vote.

The issues of metaphors in HCI and their impact on usability have been studied and discussed in many places. David Kaber, Noa Segall, and Rebecca Green address metaphor issues in their article: “Metaphor-based design of high-throughput screening process interfaces“. They combined some methods taken from cognitive engineering into this usability study, reflecting an important expansion of the usability tool box.

25 August 2007

Recognising gestures: interface design beyond point-and-click

Gestures
EDN Magazine has published a comprehensive feature story by its technical editor Robert Cravotta, on how gesture interfaces are evolving in complexity and capability, adding new dimensions to the control of electronic devices from game systems to mobile phones to industrial systems.

Summary

  • Many of the gesture interfaces we see in innovative products can trace their roots back several decades.
  • Gesture interfaces find more use than just in games and infotainment devices; they also control systems in industrial and medical environments.
  • Much of what makes a gesture interface reliable and useful, such as inferring or predicting intent, is not obvious to the user.
  • The success of an interface is in how well it handles uncertainty with the user.
  • Devices with modern interfaces must consider how to manage wireless and network connectivity between systems so that they appear as one system to the user.

Read full story

(via Core77)

25 August 2007

SAP user experience testing

SAP
At SAPPHIRE ’07 in Atlanta, developers and product managers working on an emerging SAP application met with eleven users to ensure that the design and functionality was on track, reports SAP INFO.

“One of the users who took part in the activity conducted by SAP User Experience was Sherry Wheelock, a classic-case information worker. Officially, her title at Polk County Public Schools in Bartow, Florida, is “senior business analyst.” But Sherry Wheelock thinks that “senior seeker” would be a more accurate description of her job. Wheelock spends a good portion of her day scouring the vast virtual haystack most call the Internet, searching for text books, catering services, maps, addresses, sports apparel, office supplies, and just about anything else her school district needs. And Google just isn’t making the grade.

Meanwhile, in Palo Alto California, Adi Kavaler, senior director of product management in the Information Worker unit at SAP, is developing what he considers an “amazing solution.” It’s called SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search, an application that allows users to quickly access not just Web pages, but documents in a company’s intranet, business applications, contacts, and internal analytical information as well. Furthermore, SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search offers direct links to related business transactions and sales reports – in short, a search engine on steroids.

Sherry Wheelock and Adi Kavaler meet up at SAPPHIRE ’07 in Atlanta at one of the activities sponsored by SAP User Experience, a multinational working group that bundles many of the usability and user interface design-related resources at SAP. In total, 380 users participate on 24 stations during the three day event – testing a wide range of products from SAP xApp Analytics to SAP All-in-One.”

Read full story

25 August 2007

Intel to customise solutions for the Russian dacha

Dacha
The St. Petersburg Times reports that Intel Corporation has launched an anthropological and ethnographical research project in Russia.

By studying the behaviour of the middle class, and how they use information technologies at their dachas, Intel hopes to come up with solutions and products customised for Russian country-homes.

“We are focused on how people around the world use technologies at home. Engineers often have an inappropriate understanding of technologies,” Francoise Bourdonnec, head of Domestic Designs and Technologies Research Group at Intel, said last week at a press conference in St. Petersburg.

The results of the research in Russia will be presented in January next year at the International CES – a forum and exhibition on consumer electronics in Las Vegas.

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