counter

Putting People First

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

Children


Disabled


Elderly


Gender


Teens


Advertising


Branding


Business


Innovation


Marketing


Mechatronics


Technology


Architecture


Art


Creativity


Culture


Identity


Mobility


Museum


Co-creation


Design


Experience design


Interaction design


Presence


Service design


Ubiquitous computing


Africa


Americas


Asia


Australia


Europe


Italy


Turin


Blogging


Book


Conference


Media


Mobile phone


Play


Virtual world


Ethnography


Foresight


Prototype


Scenarios


Usability


User experience


User research


Education


Financial services


Healthcare


Public services


Research


Tourism


Urban development


Communications


Digital divide


Emerging markets


Participation


Social change


Sustainability


October 2007
31 October 2007

Philips Design claims to have found the key to understanding Virtual Worlds

Philips in Second Life
Far from fading out, as some media reports indicate, Philips Design believes that there is serious attention being paid to virtual immersive spaces, like Second Life, as dialogue with virtual world residents uncovers what companies can achieve above and beyond public relations and branding activities.

“Philips Design’s Co-Creation Experience in Second Life has resulted in a wealth of input regarding people’s values and motivations in virtual immersive environments. Dialogue between Philips Design and the so-called ‘Philips Design Friends Group’ shows that Second Life residents have a greater than average interest in interactive participation and co-creation activities. The insights from the research also reveal how communication and the unwritten rules of engagement used in virtual spaces are enabling people to become more societal in their real lives. Feedback from companies and stakeholders show an increased interest from businesses to enter these worlds for a multitude of reasons. This can be characterized as a Second Wave of Business involvement. The focus is thereby shifting to engagement with people, internal business collaboration, more enhanced brand experiences, and more interest from a Business to Business perspective.”

Read full story

30 October 2007

Mobile banking must overcome consumer doubts

Mobile banking
The San Jose Mercury News reports on why users need convincing that mobile banking is convenient and secure.

“South Bay residents Curtis McGovert, Dave Ritter and Leon Mendiola have at least three things in common. They own cell phones. They bank at Wells Fargo. And they didn’t realize that they effectively have an ATM in their pockets that they now can use to do some of their banking – anytime, anywhere.

Make that four things in common: As intriguing as “mobile banking” sounds to each of them, none is dying to try it. They either don’t see a clear need for it or worry that it’s vulnerable to hackers.

“I’m just a basic user,” said McGovert, a 33-year-old personal trainer from Milpitas. “I’m not into all the high tech. I’m old school.”

And there, in a nutshell, is the challenge that banks face as they race to roll out the next big thing for on-the-go consumers. To succeed, they must show customers it’s convenient and easy to use their cell phone to check balances, transfer money and watchdog their finances even if they’re miles from a computer.”

Although a good introductory article to the issue, it doesn’t contain a word on Africa, where mobile banking has taken off quite spectacularly and where mobile banking services are much more innovative than in the Bay Area.

Read full story

30 October 2007

Query the obscure

Query the obscure
Gaining a better understanding of queries is a top priority of the search industry.

When it comes to common searches that repeat millions of times like “Britney Spears” or “Hybrid Cars,” returning the most appropriate results, or advertisements, is not difficult. But what about queries that are exceptionally rare and may never repeat more than a single time? Clearly, these queries are infinitely harder for the search engine to understand.

Andrei Broder, Yahoo! Research Fellow and Vice President of Search Technology and Computational Advertising, and a team of Yahoo! researchers set out to tackle this problem. Their work is outlined in a paper called Robust Classification of Rare Queries Using Web Knowledge, that appeared in SIGIR 2007.

To address the problem, the Yahoo! team proposed a methodology for using search results, as well as information available on the Web, as a source of external knowledge. To this end, they sent rare queries to a search engine and assumed that a majority of the highest-ranking search results were relevant to the query. Categorizing these results allowed the team to classify the original query with high accuracy.

The results definitively confirmed that using the Web as a repository of world knowledge contributes valuable information about the query, and aids in its correct classification. “We discovered the best source of information to understand what these rare queries are about is to look at the search results,” Broder explains. “If you look at each returned page as a vote on what the query is about, you find that the majority tends to be correct even though many individual pages are wrong.”

- Read full story
Download paper

27 October 2007

The crisis of success in design/innovation

Bruce Nussbaum
Bruce Nussbaum was the opening speaker at the IDSA Award Ceremony during the Connecting ’07 World Design Congress, co-organised by ICSID and IDSA.

In his speech, Nussbaum says that design seems to provide a lot of value in a society of massive change and asks what the consequences of this success might be.

“Should designers become managers? Is design innovation? Will managers take over design? Does beauty trump strategy? Are blondes better than smarty-pants design thinkers? Should industrial design become international design? Is design education failing? Are B-Schools taking over the field of design? What the heck is design thinking anyway? Is the media hyping design or reflecting its growing influence in business and society? Is design and innovation just a fad? Is a backlash underway?”

Read full story

27 October 2007

The long wow

Brandon Schauer
Brandon Schauer of Adaptive Path has just published a sharp and informative essay on “The Long Wow,” an experience and design-driven approach to creating real customer satisfaction by building genuine, widespread, and lasting customer loyalty over time. As Brandon describes it:

“Notably great experiences are punctuated by a moment of ‘wow,’ when the product or service delights, anticipates the needs of, or pleasantly surprises a customer. OXO’s Good Grips Angled Measuring Cup triggers such a moment of wow. A set of angled markings on the OXO cup lets you quickly measure liquids for recipes without having to stop cooking and bend over. Suddenly a little part of your life is easier, because OXO thought carefully about the way you cook. This delightful surprise resonates because it feels tailored to your needs.”

Read full story

(via the Satisfaction blog)

27 October 2007

Dott 07 goes global with Ezio Manzini

Ezio Manzini
Also part of the Dott07 festival that I talked about earlier today were the Creative Communities Award. Guest speaker was Ezio Manzini, professor of industrial design at Politecnico di Milano and author of Sustainable Everyday.

“The idea of well-being that has been promoted until now and unfortunately is still the mainstream is that well-being is production for consumption: – you consume well-being – that you enjoy well-being by consuming it but here we see a different kind of well-being: a well-being that is not a product to be consumed but a condition to be constructed. This is a constructive idea of well-being: we build our well-being. Of course we can be helped to do this; we can be enabled to build this well-being and this is really an important story.”

Read transcript of Manzini’s speech (available on the Dott website)

27 October 2007

IMS and user-centred design

IMS
A very hot topic in the telecom engineering world is the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS). IMS is an architectural framework for delivering internet protocol (IP) multimedia to mobile and fixed users.

Users can connect to an IMS network in various ways, all of which use the standard Internet Protocol (IP). Direct IMS terminals (such as mobile phones, PDAs and computers) can register directly on an IMS network, even when they are roaming in another network or country. Fixed access (e.g., DSL, cable modems, Ethernet), mobile access (e.g. W-CDMA, CDMA2000, GSM, GPRS) and wireless access (e.g. WLAN, WiMAX) are all supported. Other phone systems like plain old telephone service , H.323 and non IMS-compatible VoIP systems, are supported through gateways.

Martin Sauter hints at some of the services we can expect. His outline is very much focused on voice and business services.

Somewhat related to this is this article on the new Verizon service offerings.

At Experientia we have been doing some people-centred scenarios for a main telecom provider on the implications of this technology.

Though it is all covered by NDA, we do know that IMS is going to be big and that it will need much more subtle, refined and relevant user-centred scenarios than are currently available to make sure that all these investments make sense for people (and therefore for the businesses that reach out to them).

27 October 2007

ComDays07 / Stefana Broadbent: The 20 people we communicate with

Stefana Broadbent
Bruno Giussani reports on a recent talk by Swisscom anthropologist Stefana Broadbent on how people really use technology. The talk was delivered at the 6th Communication Days conference in Bienne, Switzerland.

“In traditional marketing research, she says, if you ask what the main constraints on usage of communication services are, the obvious answer would probably be price and some personal attitudes towards tech. But what we find in our research, observing people closely, is that actually the real discriminants are time and social networks.

Time: we collect hundreds of timelines and logs, we ask people to reconstruct with us their previous day of communication: who they communicated with, how, etc. We ask them to describe their social environment. Let’s consider teenagers. The image adults have about teenagers online is lots of friends, connected all the time, etc. Swiss teenagers: all use instant messaging; e-mail is used only for communicating with adults and institutions; all of them have a mobile phone and send SMS daily; more than 50% have a profile page on social networking sites; they read blogs and use Youtube etc. BUT there is something very specific to the Swiss educational system. In Switzerland, there is a high proportion — 75% — of professional/vocational training (“apprentices”). Teenagers are in a professional setting; receive a salary; they are in constant contact with adults during the day; etc. If we compare the structure of the day of the teen apprentices and that of their parents, it’s often not that dissimilar, except for the evening hours. And their patterns of communication are also very similar: balancing between work and private life; have a rather limited set of contacts. Apart from instant messaging, in Switzerland from 13 to 50 year old the patterns of usage of communication channels are very similar.

The other factor that has an impact on communication behavior is social networks. The close circle of contacts is composed of about 20 people: 7 in the “intimate circle”, 13 in the “close circle”. A further 37 are “weaker ties”. This core of 20 is a number that’s consistent across countries in Europe and the US. Who’s in this core? About 60% are “given” contacts (family, schoolmates, work colleagues, neighbours), only 40% are “chosen”. If you look with whom people communicate, 3/4 of the contacts happen with the people within those 20 “core” contacts. What does this mean? It may look obvious, you only communicate with the people you know. But to me it means: those 20 people are our (telecom operator’s) playing field. When we think of services for our customers, we have to keep in mind that their space is 20 people wide.”

27 October 2007

The future of presence

Movement
The Dott07 festival, curated by John Thackara, and taking place in the English city of NewcastleGateshead, is now in its last few days. One of the events was a series of debates on a variety of topics, such as energy, food, health, movement, and schools.

The debate on movement started from the assumption that the movement of people and goods around the world consume vast amounts of matter, energy, space, and time – most of it non-renewable. Question that arise are: Should sustainable development therefore be concentrated in cities, where economic progress can most feasibly be de-coupled from transport intensity? Or are there ways to ensure that rural communities have access to services by using transport resources more smartly? And could new forms of sustainable tourism be enabled by access to territorial and cultural assets that already exist?

The session began with a keynote from Anthony Townsend, research director at the Institute of the Future in Palo Alto, California, who has now posted his entire presentation online.

“What I want to talk about is not the future of mobility but rather, the future of presence. By ‘presence’ what I mean, is that if movement or travel is a means – then presence is the end. And so I want to broaden the discussion of mobility to include technologies and practices of telecommunication – ways of being “present” at remote locations.”

Townsend believes in the future of virtual worlds, telerobotics, and high-definition videoconferencing. But does presence really always require such high-end technologies?

Townsend’s talk was followed by a review of Dott 07’s Move Me project, which explored the potential to transform transportation resource efficiency in one village, Scremerston, in Northumberland, and by a review of three Dott 07 projects – Sustainable Tourism, Welcomes and Mapping the Necklace.

27 October 2007

California College of the Arts launches MBA in Design Strategy

MBA in Design Strategy
Recognizing the increasing importance of design and its impact on the business world, California College of the Arts (CCA) has launched a new MBA in Design Strategy program, the first of its kind in the United States. Slated to enroll its inaugural class of students in fall 2008, the innovative program will unite the studies of design, finance, and organizational management in a unique curriculum aimed at providing students with tools and strategies to address today’s complex and interconnected market.

CCA Provost Stephen Beal states, “Our goal is to create a center of thought on the synthesis of design and business and to train the next generation of leaders in the rapidly changing business environment.”

The college expects to draw students from the worlds of both business and design. Leaders in these industries realize that effective innovation requires acumen in both fields. In a recent speech, Bruce Nussbaum of BusinessWeek declared, “CEOs and managers must know design thinking to do their jobs. CEOs must be designers and use their methodologies to run companies.” Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO and a member of the program’s advisory council, comments, “Business is a uniquely powerful force for change in the world, and designers have never had more opportunity to create positive impact than they have today by influencing what business does. The more designers understand about business, the more influential they will be.”

Nathan Shedroff has been appointed chair of CCA’s groundbreaking program. Shedroff is a pioneer in experience design, an approach that encompasses multiple senses and examines the common characteristics in all media that make experiences successful; he also works in the related fields of interaction design and information design. As a business consultant, he helps companies build better, more meaningful experiences for their customers. Shedroff speaks and teaches internationally, and he has written extensively on design and business issues. He authored Experience Design 1 in 2001, and his latest book, Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences (co-written with two members of the Silicon Valley–based strategic consultancy Cheskin) explores how companies can create products and services specifically to evoke meaning in the eyes of their audiences and customers.

The program’s approach encompasses performance, strategy, innovation, and the encouragement of meaningful, sustainable social change. The curriculum combines lectures and seminars in business strategy, organizational development, management communication, leadership, entrepreneurship, and sustainability with practical studios and sponsored projects that put theory into practice in a dynamic, team-centric experience. Multiple media and approaches are used to explore customer and market needs, challenge assumptions, devise effective solutions, and communicate opportunities across a wide range of stakeholders.

To offer maximum flexibility to working professionals, the program is conducted through five once-a-month, four-day weekends of instruction and interaction, with online and networked study between these residencies. The schedule allows participants from all over the United States to maintain their careers while keeping in close contact with team members, faculty, and program staff.

The program has dedicated studio space on CCA’s San Francisco campus for local students. Also available are model-making facilities, metal and wood shops, a laser cutter, a 3D-prototyping machine, paint booths, and studios for editing digital media, film, video, and sound.

22 October 2007

Seoul Named ‘World Design Capital’ for 2010

World Design Capital
Seoul was designated as the “World Design Capital (WDC) 2010” by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) on the last day of its congress in San Francisco, Saturday, according to the city government Sunday, reports the Korea Times.

The capital designation was proposed by the council President Peter Zec to “promote and encourage the use of design to further the social, economic and cultural development of the world’s cities.”

Torino of Italy was named the WDC pilot city [2008], but Seoul was selected as the first official one. Seoul will play the role of the world’s capital of design for one year.

- Read full story
– Links: ICSID | World Design Capital | Torino 2008, World Design Capital

21 October 2007

Serious Games Institute shows off applications for the real world

Serious Games Institute
The Serious Games Institute in Coventry, England, says that it is one of the first places dedicated to helping businesses enhance their own operations by harnessing virtual worlds for things like training, communication and emergency planning.

“Much has been made of the potential of Second Life as an environment for entertainment, marketing or even terrorist financing. But the Serious Games Institute, a center for the development of “serious” applications of video game technologies and virtual worlds for businesses, security agencies and other users, says that it is one of the first places dedicated to helping businesses enhance their own operations by harnessing virtual worlds for things like training, communication and emergency planning.

The institute, which is affiliated with Coventry University and funded in part by a regional economic development agency, has a handful of tenants set to take up residence in November. It plans to operate as an “incubator,” helping these companies grow, as well as serving as a hub for networking and research. [...]

Coventry, in the former industrial heartland of England, may seem like an unlikely location for an institute devoted to cutting-edge technologies. The spire of Coventry Cathedral, which rises above the landscape of postindustrial office parks, survived a German bombing raid in 1940. Car factories, which used to be the area’s economic backbone, survived a few decades longer, but have now mostly been shut.

But Wortley said the automotive industry also left a legacy of industrial design, which is now being put to use at the institute.”

Read full story (International Herald Tribune)

20 October 2007

Participle, a new type of social enterprise

Hilary Cottam
Hilary Cottam, UK Designer of the Year 2005 and former director of RED [archive site], the meanwhile closed innovation unit of the UK Design Council, is now one of the founding partners of Participle, a new social enterprise designing the next generation of public services, with a focus on the big and seemingly intractable social issues of the 21st century.

The two other Participle co-founders are Charles Leadbeater, the internationally renowned thinker and innovator, and author of the book We-Think, and Colin Burns, designer and formerly the CEO of IDEO London. The initiative is supported by NESTA, where Participle has its offices.

Participle designs public services that provide systemic solutions not only to the persistent problems of inequality, poverty and exclusion but also to the ‘new’ problems resulting from changing demographics, new lifestyles and global resource constraints: chronic disease and long term health conditions, learning cultures beyond the school, new approaches to crime and security, new approaches to community collaboration and social isolation and new energy systems. A brief presentation is available for download (pdf, 560 kb, 3 pages).

The Participle methodology is one of transformation design (pdf), a hybrid approach which combines people-centred methodology with systemic policy thinking:

“We start from the individual, unlocking a unique set of insights and motivations, which we then apply to the broad systemic problems we are seeking to answer.

Our hybrid approach also means we test and scale in a different way. We rapidly apply our thinking and insights to the development of ‘prototypes’. Prototypes differ from pilots: they involve early service models developed in situ, which are then tested and improved in rapid cycles, again in situ. This approach reduces risk and tends to result in new services that work and can be scaled as well as important new policy insights.

Our hybrid approach and our person centred starting point enables us to work beyond existing service silos, efficiently harnessing a broader set of resources contributing to the development of affordable whole system solutions.”

In an interview I conduced last week, an extremely fast talking Hilary said:

“In a situation where now one in five Britons has got a chronic disease it will be more important to think about how we begin to design new services which engage with people’s behaviours, emotions and lifestyles and help them either prevent the onset of a chronic disease or at least manage better that disease within their daily lives. [...]

What is really important is that we can very rapidly move concepts into action [by using] a design process. The way designers prototype and mock up things very fast in real time, is very different from the traditional piloting approach in the policy world, where models are often built in a very artificial environment, which then usually do not scale very satisfactorily.”

A full text version of the interview with Hilary, who has a social sciences background and once worked for the World Bank, will be published shortly on the website of Torino World Design Capital.

Given the dire state of UK healthcare, Participle has got work to do.

20 October 2007

Forbes Magazine on our lack of insight into the future

The Future
Forbes Magazine has a huge special report on the future and wonders why people simply aren’t very good at predicting the future and foresight remains largely blind.

The issue is full of articles explaining this lack of foresight capacity, but only pays scant attention to contextual research, scenario-based planning, or the concrete value of strategic foresight for companies. But here are some interview quotes that I liked. They are not about the future, but about the now:

David Brin (link)

“I certainly expected that, by now, online tools for conversation, work, collaboration and discourse would have become far more useful, sophisticated and effective than they currently are. I know I’m pretty well alone here, but all the glossy avatars and video and social networks conceal a trivialization of interaction, dragging it down to the level of single-sentence grunts, flirtation and ROTFL [rolling on the floor laughing], at a time when we need discussion and argument to be more effective than ever.

Everybody is still banging rocks together, while bragging about the colors. Meanwhile, half of the tricks that human beings normally use, in real world conversation, have never even been tried online.”

Esther Dyson (link)

“What’s happened (though I can’t say I’m totally surprised) is that a newer generation of users has a totally different attitude to personal data. They don’t worry about privacy as much; they just assume that they can control their personal data (though they may be wrong in this belief). They are more interested in distributing it widely–in essence, establishing their presence around the Internet. If e-mail is for communication, a transaction between two (or more) people, “presence” is being there (in an online profile), available for your friends to catch up with at any time. Then if they want a response, they ping or poke or message you in some way (but usually not by e-mail).”

19 October 2007

Gates wants to make his presence felt

Bill Gates
Presence research is one of the more interesting new people-centred applications for the future. I am not entirely convinced that this new Microsoft approach is the right one though:

Anyone who has ever used an instant-messaging program has seen the basic idea of presence. That little status bar that says “available,” “away,” “out to lunch” or “cursing the Mets” is your presence–the computer’s understanding of how and under what means you are available.

Today, that information is stored on the computer, but is mostly acted on by other people. Perhaps you see that someone’s status is busy, so you send them an e-mail asking them to call rather than pestering them with an IM. Or, you see that someone is available on their mobile, so you know they are out of the office and send an SMS.

But Bill Gates has been urging folks inside Microsoft to make far more use of that information. Computers should be able to take actions on their own based on a user’s presence. Essentially, he says, the computer as an “intelligent agent,” basically the personal assistant that most of us just wish we had. If the computer can determine, based on a user’s calendar, that she only has an hour at the desk, it can prioritize a collection of tasks, e-mail and voice mail that appear to be most urgent based on what it knows to be her priorities.

What if instead presence could be enriched with such things as location information and also be made application and device independent?

Read full story

19 October 2007

Book: “Authenticity” by Gilmore and Pine

Authenticity
James Gilmore and Joe Pine, authors of the 1999 bestseller “The Experience Economy“, have now published a new book “Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want”.

Abstract

Contrived. Disingenuous. Phony. Inauthentic. Do your customers use any of these words to describe what you sell–or how you sell it? If so, welcome to the club. Inundated by fakes and sophisticated counterfeits, people increasingly see the world in terms of real or fake. They would rather buy something real from someone genuine rather than something fake from some phony. When deciding to buy, consumers judge an offering’s (and a company’s) authenticity as much as–if not more than–price, quality, and availability.

In “Authenticity,” James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II argue that to trounce rivals companies must grasp, manage, and excel at rendering authenticity. Through examples from a wide array of industries as well as government, nonprofit, education, and religious sectors, the authors show how to manage customers’ perception of authenticity by:

  • recognizing how businesses “fake it”;
  • appealing to the five different genres of authenticity;
  • charting how to be “true to self” and what you say you are; and
  • crafting and implementing business strategies for rendering authenticity.

The first to explore what authenticity really means for businesses and how companies can approach it both thoughtfully and thoroughly, this book is a must-read for any organization seeking to fulfill consumers’ intensifying demand for the real deal.

Review in Publishers weekly (copied from here)

This eye-opening but muddled volume tells companies to “remain true to self” or, at least, to appear genuine, arguing that “in a world increasingly filled with deliberately and sensationally staged experiences… consumers choose to buy or not buy based on how real they perceive an offering to be.” Everything that forms a company’s identity—from its name and practices to its product details—affects consumers’ perceptions of its authenticity. Juggling philosophical concepts, in-depth case studies and ad slogans, Gilmore and Pine (The Experience Economy) run into trouble with a chapter called “Fake, Fake, It’s All Fake,” which eviscerates the entire idea of authenticity: “Despite claims of ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ in product packaging, nothing from businesses is really authentic. Everything is artificial, manmade, fake.” The argument is unexpected and perhaps brilliant—yet rather confusing, since most of Authenticity argues that businesses should strive to not only appear authentic but to be so. The book’s bullet points, charts and matrices add to the tangle, as the authors’ early advice (“your business offerings must get real”) becomes a demand for furrowed-brow soul-searching. Still, the prose is snappy and conversational, and the book is densely packed with insights and provocations, and may inspire some executives to consider how consumers see their company. (Nov.)

- Publisher’s page | Amazon page

Download table of contents and first chapter (pdf, 170 kb, 12 pages)

18 October 2007

Siemens on factories of the future and seamless communication

Siemens magazine
The latest issue of Pictures of the Future, the half-yearly research and innovation magazine of Siemens, the German engineering conglomerate, looks at the future, with Epcot style utopian thinking and illustrations straight from the Jetsons (check page 40).

Two topics stand out: “Factories of the Future” and “Seamless Communication”.

Factories of the Future is about making it possible to design products in the virtual world and to design and test their associated production processes there as well. If you are interested in spimes or the mechatronic challenge, this pretty enthusiastic engineering prose is reading material for you. But don’t expect a critical discourse about how this all matters to people.

What we’re moving toward is a virtual representation of the entire value chain — everything from raw materials to lifetime maintenance, remote service and product and production planning in a holistic, seamless product lifecycle and supply chain management environment,” says Paul Camuti, president of Siemens Corporate Research. “In twenty years the real and virtual worlds will be seamlessly integrated. Our simulations will duplicate reality down to the last detail. The result will be virtually limitless manufacturing flexibility.”

The result could also be a revolution in retailing and consumer purchasing. Already, some clothing stores provide “mass customized” personalized items. But as simulation technology matures, high-tech kiosks and “walk-in Websites” that link us to manufacturers and their suppliers may allow us to profoundly and realistically individualize, test and even experience the appearance and personalities of everything from phones and scooters to clothing and the design and decoration of our homes. We may even venture into virtual worlds ourselves.

Seamless Communication makes much of the Siemens collaboration with Nokia. Jarkko Sairanen, responsible for Nokia’s business strategy and technology planning, talks about the usability challenge (page 82-83). But there is also an article about the smart home which adapts to user profiles (page 86-87); and an insight piece on how to prevent production plants from being hacked (page 94-95) – I am not making this up.

Download report (pdf, 3.7 mb, 55 double pages)

18 October 2007

Book: “Why designers can’t understand their users”

Why designers can't understand their users
Leonard Verhoef recently completed a Ph.D. at the Universiteit of Leiden (The Netherlands) on the reasons why designers cannot understand their users. He has now self-published his dissertation.

Why designers can’t understand their users:
Developing a systematic approach using cognitive psychology
Dr. Leonard Verhoef
228 pages, 38 euro

“Why designers can’t understand their users: Developing a systematic approach using cognitive psychology” explains why computers are user-unfriendly and how to design user-friendly computers. First applied cognitive psychology is analysed. This science should know how to design user-friendly computers. A synthetic approach, including traditional ergonomic topics as character size and contrast is elaborated. The approach is tested on the design of ticket vending machines and dynamic train indicators. The results found are applied to a broad range of interfaces including computer interfaces. A comparison with other cognitive psychological approaches is used for a theoretical validation. Finally the approach is tested using the approach itself. It is suggested not technicians, designers or managers are to blame for user-unfriendly designs but cognitive psychology.

Summary | Contents | Introduction | Order

(via DdUX)

17 October 2007

Design Reaktor Berlin

Design Reaktor Berlin
The Design Reaktor Berlin is a multi-disciplinary research project of the Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK) and Berlin University of the Arts. The aim is to encourage innovative co-operation between small and medium-sized companies and designers, in order to investigate strategies and prospects for post-industrial locations, based on Berlin as an example.

In a two-week series of workshops held earlier this year, the experimental links between trades, materials, technologies and tools provided by 52 companies produced hundreds of ideas. After an assessment of their feasibility and market potential, 52 products were developed further in cooperation with the involved companies.

Design Reaktor’s website contains a gallery of the results, some of which are ready for production while others are more speculative.

Two eye catching products are Garden Gun by Jakob Diezinger, Markus Dilger and Rayk Sydow (which doesn’t need much explanation) and Music Drop by Noa Lerner, a tiny music player shaped as a drop. The drop contains one song which can be used only one time.

Interestingly, except from Music Drop, all 52 designs appear to be stand-alone products. No experiences or services were developed.

(via Marketing & Strategy Innovation Blog and Guerrilla Innovation)

17 October 2007

Communication is king and presence is a prince

Mobile phone presence
A long article on the Telco 2.0 blog entitled “Nokia’s dilemma: operator friend or foe?” has some interesting passages on presence and mobile devices in it. Here is an excerpt:

“At Nokia’s own internal thought leadership conference in Helsinki nearly two years ago they had Andrew Odlyzko, mathematician and Internet philosopher, explain the future dynamics of the Internet and broadband. One central part of his thesis is that communication is king; content is secondary. When I take a photo of my kids at the zoo, and share it with my parents, that’s communication, not content.

Douglas Galbi (an FCC economist) takes the model one step further, with three basic modes of communication: presence (the sensuous sense of the other person being with you, as social bonding); storytelling (which includes the narrative of a game, the lyrics and emotions of a song, or the scenes of a movie); and pure information transfer (I want a taxi! What’s tomorrow’s weather?).

“Presence” (which here includes gossiping on the phone as you drive home, not just smiley on/off icons) is what users have historically been most willing to pay for. We’re still just hairless apes with a tribal grooming instinct.

Read full story (the interesting part starts after the heading “Content is king”)

(via the blog All about Mobile Life)