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Putting People First

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February 2008
17 February 2008

Research identifies mobile internet user types

Point Topic
Broadband analyst group Point Topic says that it has identified six main types of users of mobile Internet.

With uptake of mobile Internet services growing rapidly, Point Topic believes that six distinct clusters of users are emerging – road warriors, gadget joys, MI lifers, mid-market moderates, entertain us and light & easy.

While categories such as road warriors, who use mobile Internet for business while travelling, and gadget joys, who are classic early adopters are already recognizable technology user types, there are new types of users emerging. Entertain us are predominantly young people using mobiles for entertainment, while light &easy are older users whose main method of Internet access is through mobile devices. Mid-market moderates are late adopters who have yet to find a compelling use for mobile Internet.

According to the company, around 83% of all mobile Internet users fall into these categories, and it is important that service providers understand them and their habits to target services effectively.

Read full story
Read backgrounder

15 February 2008

It’s the user experience, stupid

Mobile World Congress
While a blue-ribbon panel of human behavior and technology experts at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain agreed that the best recent advance in the mobile telecommunications user space came not from a mobile telecom company but from Apple Inc. — the iPhone — they sadly reached little agreement on how mobile operators could follow this model.

The panel, whose title was It’s the User Experience, Stupid, didn’t seem to have discussed the most obvious potential learning: that the iPhone provides a total portable media and communications experience. By focusing on the parts or the features, competitors “will not replicate any substantial portion of the iPhone total experience, so the iPhone will increase its market share in the face of this clueless competition.”

Make sure to read the comments as well.

Read full story

15 February 2008

Why immigration is vital to innovation

The Difference Dividend
Just like any other innovative company in Europe, Experientia is sometimes faced with very tough immigration laws. Hiring someone from outside the EU is quite a challenge and sometimes results in us loosing out on the opportunity to attract really good people.

So I am pleased to see some debate on the issue. NESTA, the UK’s National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts, has just published a “provocation” written by Charles Leadbeater (author of We-Think) on why immigration is vital to innovation.

Entitled “The Difference Dividend“, the essay starts of with an outline of the three critical connections between immigration, innovation and creativity, argues (rightfully) that the debate about immigration is conducted in a thick fog of prejudice, anecdote and rumour, and describes in detail the critical contributions immigration makes to our capacity to innovate.

Leadbeater warns that diversity is not enough for innovation to take place (“The costs of diversity need to be well managed to make sure the benefits come through.”), highlights how people need to trust one another to share ideas and build upon one another’s contributions for innovation to emerge, and ends with four main implications for policymakers keen to maximise the impact of immigration on innovation.

Timely indeed, as multiculturalism came again under attack today in the UK (see The Guardian and The Times).

15 February 2008

Book: Mental Models – Aligning Design Strategy with User Behavior

Mental Models
Rosenfeld Media has just released its first book Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy With Human Behavior by Indi Young.

There is no single methodology for creating the perfect product—but you can increase your odds. One of the best ways is to understand users’ reasons for doing things. Mental Models gives you the tools to help you grasp, and design for, those reasons. Adaptive Path co-founder Indi Young has written a roll-up-your-sleeves book for designers, managers, and anyone else interested in making design strategic, and successful. Mental Models is available in full-color paperback and digital (PDF) versions.

An interview with the author just got published on Boxes and Arrows. It covers the origins and evolution of the mental model, how the mental model is a way of visualizing nearly any research data, what shortcuts you can use to get started on a mental model with minimal time investment, why “combing” an interview is like riding a bicycle, and how Webvan failed because it ignore the mental model of its customers.

15 February 2008

Time for businesses to get serious about location technology

location-aware technologies
Information Week published a long story about location-aware technologies.

“Even more difficult than employees’ privacy concerns will be those of consumers, once companies start reaching people based on where they are. For years we’ve heard the notion of a coupon being sent to a cell phone as someone passes by a burger joint, but there’s never been a mass market for that. Targeted, real-time location-based advertising risks going beyond annoying to being downright creepy. “Cell phones are a personal experience,” says Joe Walsh, head of business development and operations for SquareLoop. To give it the proper respect, companies should think about people wearing their cell phones on their hips. “Touching someone’s hip is a personal thing,” he says. SquareLoop offers different ring tones and vibrate modes to differentiate its alerts.

Yet, what’s looking likely to emerge is consumers willingly trading their feeling of location anonymity for some value, such as better search, the chance to “bump into” someone nearby–or just maybe even that coupon. “Privacy in the end won’t be a roadblock,” says Jaap Groot, CEO of FindWhere, a location-based services vendor that recently acquired a platform called Livecontacts to let people share their their location and media content via mobile phone with their social network.”

Read full story

(via Usability News)

15 February 2008

Human factors in mechanical engineering

Mechanical engineering
February’s issue of Mechanical Engineering is focused on the role of human factors in design.

The lead article, the new point of view, discusses the renewed importance of human factors in product design, with a veritable who’s who of IDSA experts in the subject, including Don Norman, Rob Tannen and Bryce Rutter.

The article is a useful introduction targeted at an engineering audience, and covering the wide range of human factors aspects, from physical fit to creating an emotional connection with the end-user:

“More than ever, successful companies incorporate human factors engineering, psychology, and cognitive theory in designs. Their goal is nothing less than to create a user experience that makes us love the product.”

The issue also contains several other articles, including a focus on use – an article on the importance of collaboration between designers, researchers and engineers in creating usable products; Human Factors: To Compete or Cooperate? – on human factors in the process industry; The Driver’s Only Human … – on traffic safety; and a video of a human factors discussion panel moderated by Don Norman. Accessing the video requires filling out a brief registration form.

(via Designing for Humans)

15 February 2008

Software you shouldn’t ever notice

Humanized
Business Week carries a short article about how Humanized co-founder Aza Raskin is carrying on the design legacy of his father, a Macintosh pioneer.

“Aza Raskin wants your computer to disappear, but the 24-year-old is no latter-day Luddite. His goal is to make communication with the PC so intuitive you’ll forget you’re using a device. And Humanized—a software company and think tank he and a trio of fellow idealists founded in 2005—is the means to that end.”

Read full story

15 February 2008

User experience in the library: a case study

Primo
This paper by Tamar Sadeh describes a product that was released in May 2007—the Primo® system from Ex Libris—as an example of a new type of interface for searching and obtaining library materials, an interface designed around user needs and decoupled from, though interoperating with, current library systems.

The paper deals with the issues involved in the design of the product, the way in which the product was built to address the needs of both information seekers and libraries, and the use of usability studies to affirm the overall design and help shape fine points of the interface.

The paper demonstrates how users’ expectations, which emanate from the everyday experience on the Internet, can be addressed by library software in a way that corresponds to librarians’ requirements and suits and libraries’ technological infrastructure.

Download paper (pdf, 932 kb, 36 pages)

14 February 2008

User experience trends from the Mobile World Congress

Mex300
“Amid the marketing blitz and pumping music of the show floor [of the Mobile World Congress] it is often difficult to pick out the trends which will have a real impact on the user experience,” writes Marek Pawlowski of MEX – the PMN Mobile User Experience conference on his blog.

In this article he “shares a few of the insights [he] gained from talking with people behind the scenes, highlighting the deals and announcements which may not have have been fully appreciated amid the deluge of press releases but will drive real change over the next 12 months.”

Check the last two items especially.

Read full story

14 February 2008

User experience session at the LIFT conference

LIFT08
Several blogs report on the user experience session of the recent LIFT conference.

Read what Nicolas Nova, Tom Hume, and Bruno Giussani had to say.

13 February 2008

Interaction design for industrial designers

IxD
David Malouf, an interaction designer for Motorola Enterprise Mobility, explains the ins and outs of interaction design in a long article aimed at the industrial design community, published on Core77.

Malouf thinks “poor attention [is] being paid to bringing interaction design into the fold of the industrial design community” and describes what he thinks is needed to address this problem.

Read full story

12 February 2008

Videos of Interaction 08 presentations now online

IxDA
Most of the presentations of the recent Interaction 08 conference are now online. 

Here they are in alphabetical order of the speaker’s last name:

There is also a Sunday recap video.

12 February 2008

How to design software for professional options traders

OptionsHouse
How to design the user experience for professional options traders?

This was the challenge faced by Gong Szeto, director of product design of OptionsHouse, an up and coming retail options brokerage, when he had to design their new options trading site.

He speaks about his work in an interview conducted by Alex Kirkland of Usable Markets.

Read interview

12 February 2008

Two new contributions on UXmatters

UXmatters
UXmatters just published two new articles:

Designing ethical experiences: social media and the conflicted future
By Joe Lamantia
Questions of ethics and conflict can seem far removed from the daily work of user experience (UX) designers who are trying to develop insights into people’s needs, understand their outlooks, and design with empathy for their concerns [2]. In fact, the converse is true: When conflicts between businesses and customers—or any groups of stakeholders—remain unresolved, UX practitioners frequently find themselves facing ethical dilemmas, searching for design compromises that satisfy competing camps. This dynamic is the essential pattern by which conflicts in goals and perspectives become ethical concerns for UX designers. Unchecked, it can lead to the creation of unethical experiences that are hostile to users—the very people most designers work hard to benefit—and damaging to the reputations and brand identities of the businesses responsible.

Turn usable content into winning content
By Colleen Jones
Findable. Scannable. Readable. Concise. Layered. We know much these days about how to make Web content usable—thanks to experts such as Robert Horn, Jakob Nielsen, Ginny Redish, and Gerry McGovern. What we don’t understand as well, however, is how to make content win users over to take the actions we want them to take or have the perceptions we want them to have. We don’t understand how to make Web content both usable and persuasive. I, by no means, intend to imply that we should sacrifice the usability of content to make it more persuasive. Truly winning content must be both.
Gerry McGovern’s work perhaps delves deepest into the realm of persuasive content, emphasizing a customer-centric approach and the removal of filler content. However, I think we can do even more to win users over through content. I also remain unconvinced that the extreme minimalism McGovern supports is always appropriate. For instance, the “brutal” concision McGovern espouses in his recent article, “Killer Web Content Examples,” while usually appropriate for headlines, titles, or labels, risks creating the wrong tone in other types of content. As a starting point in the journey toward turning usable content into winning content, this article offers key resources that illuminate the creation of usable content and some tips for creating persuasive content I’ve garnered from my own experience.

11 February 2008

The street as platform

The street as platform
Dan Hill, former head of interactive technology and design at the BBC and currently director of web and broadcast at Monocle, has published a long article on the street of the future. Here is his introduction:

“I was recently asked to comment on ‘the street of the future’; a response for a quango responsible for the built environment and a government department responsible for transport, roads and so forth. Which means it’s really the street of the near-future. I didn’t have enough time to write something short, so I dashed off the following, and I’m really posting here as a note to self, rather than an attempt to deeply discuss the everyday informational street circa 2008. Still, I hope you find it useful or engaging. The photos don’t relate directly but create a kind of composite illustrative city nonetheless.

It’s deliberately grounded in the here-and-now, more or less, so it will seem rather old hat to some of you. Which in a sense it is. And in another sense, it isn’t. But either way, this was a better strategy for the task-in-hand, and in imagining the scene below, via a kind of narrative, it’s still remarkable to even sketchily consider how much data is already around us, and is near-invisible to traditional urban planning perspectives. And I’d suggest that this data beginning to profoundly affect the way the street feels. Some quick analysis follows the narrative, raising a series of questions for governance, legislation and the public-private partnerships that also constitute the contemporary street.”

10 February 2008

Participatory diplomacy in Flanders

Flanders fits you
The Flemish Government (Flanders is one of Belgium’s regions) is choosing for participatory public diplomacy as a promising avenue for foreign policy development.

The region, which has some foreign embassy staff but no foreign embassies, is in the process of shifting from “a state-centred hierarchical or policy-driven model of foreign relations towards a network or more dialogue-centred relations-oriented mode” (as described in a research paper on the matter).

Now Flemish government officials are also starting to involve people like me, that is Flemish people who moved abroad. I translate from an online survey that I was asked to compile:

Public diplomacy, i.e. ‘involving’ public opinion abroad in foreign policy making (through information and discussion), is gaining increasing attention within the Flemish Government. The Flemish Minister of Foreign Policy Geert Bourgeois recently emphasised the potential role of foreign expats living in Flanders in the development of new initiatives.

The role of Flemish people living abroad is not yet formally on the agenda. But the idea is growing that non-state actors, such as Flemish people abroad, could play a role in creating awareness on the foreign policy and the image of Flanders among a foreign population.

But does “Flanders fits me”, as their new slogan tells me it should? It remains to be seen to what extent we are what those officials think we are or want we are. For one, I don’t share the rather radical Flemish agenda that Minister Bourgeois’ political party advocates. In fact, most people who move abroad tend to feel more Belgian after a while rather than Flemish, as the (small) cultural differences between the communities often seem particularly minute compared to the many similarities, once you start looking at it from abroad. I have not lived in Belgium since 1994, and many things have changed there that I am not fully aware of anymore. If Italians ask me to explain the difficulties in forming a government or to describe why there is such animosity between the Dutch and French speaking communities, I often feel at a loss because I don’t understand it myself.

This of course all relates to a deeper cultural issue: after years of living abroad one assumes multiple and overlapping identities, and it becomes more and more difficult to hold on to just one. This applies by the way also to immigrant communities. In essence, I have become a bit of Belgian, a bit of American, a tiny bit of Danish and a bit of Italian, as I have lived in all these countries, and in the end I just say that I am Mark, not a nationality. The problem of course is that the original population does not see you that way: I am considered very Belgian or Flemish when I visit my country, and people here in Italy also view me as a Belgian, not as someone with a more hybrid identity.

One thing I have become good at is understanding how others view Belgians, and why, and how Flemish or Belgian people can use that to their benefit. So perhaps my role in this whole initiative is not so much in “creating awareness on the foreign policy and the image of Flanders among a foreign population” but in creating awareness among the Flemish decision makers on how the foreign population thinks of them and how such insight can be employed in a useful way.

If you are interested in what is going on in Flanders, check this new multilingual website (English, French and German), and if you enjoy reading up on regional foresight exercises, this summary of the Flanders 2020 initiative (pdf, 4 mb) will appeal to you.

9 February 2008

Umpqua Bank unveils Innovation Lab in Portland, Oregon

Umpqua Innovation Lab
Umpqua Bank has opened an Innovation Lab in Portland, Ore, showcasing emerging and existing technologies that foster community and redefine what consumers can expect from a banking experience. As a testing ground for new initiatives, the Lab will change regularly to feature new technology, products, services and community events.

According to blogger Hashem Bajwa, features include “immersive video conferencing, nine 50-inch high-definition touch screen displays, a digital community wall, customizable brochures printed on-demand, work spaces & banquettes with hidden laptops, a music portal and gourmet coffee shop. The lab also serves as an independent space for business meetings and social events, like a Nintendo Wii tournament.

Umpqua has partnered with local merchants in Portland to sell their merchandise inside the space, along with tech brands such as Cisco, Microsoft, an Lenovo who all provide elements of the experience.

Their own financial services are sold like colorful rich beauty products, in smart, simple packaging and language throughout.

Umpqua intends the space to be an ongoing experiment, updating it every quarter. The lab was designed by Ziba.”

Read full press release

(via Experience Economist)

9 February 2008

Mobile phone users shun new services

sms
AppTrigger, the telecom application connectivity specialist, released new statistics revealing that more than half (57 per cent) of UK mobile phone owners use their phone for the same things that they did in 2003, despite 74 per cent believing that the services offered have improved.

The data also revealed that some mobile phone owners are using their phones for services beyond ‘just text and calls.’ Of those who use more advanced services, the following data emerged:

  • Within the youth market (16 – 24 year olds) 62 per cent said that they download music or games;
  • The ‘young careerist’ market (aged 25 – 34) said they are more likely to use their phones for PDA tools (diary, contacts and email) and checking websites (62 per cent and 69 per cent respectively);
  • The mainstream age market (aged 35-44) make commercial transactions with their phones (39 per cent said they conduct transactions such as topping up their balance);
  • The mature age group (45 to 55 year olds) were most likely to user their phones for checking websites;
  • Only 22 per cent of mobile phone owners in all age groups said they have used Location-Based Services (LBS)

Read full press release

(via UsabilityNews)

8 February 2008

Microsoft Design Center

Microsoft Design Center
The website of the Microsoft Design Center looks like it is set up as a one-stop shop for everything related to design, usability and user experience that this huge company is involved with.

Although somewhat shallow in substance and with too much of a marketing approach, it is worth some exploration, especially the mobility page, and the articles listed at the bottom of this page.

Here is the site’s mission statement (there is no “about” section):

Our Mission
To create products that people love to experience

One of our greatest challenges is imbuing our products with “spirit” and “magic.” This is easier said than done. Designers at Microsoft work side by side with the world’s best software developers and usability experts to attain that elusive yet worthwhile goal. We take what can be a very complex problem and provide product design solutions based on a thorough understanding of the user’s abilities, hopes, and expectations. Through our design, we strive to creative products of simplicity that you will also find intuitive to use. We aspire to creative beautiful experiences that not only look amazing, but also make our customers feel amazing about themselves.

Like love, great design requires no explanation.

They then go on doing exactly that.

8 February 2008

LIFT videos online

LIFT08
The LIFT conference started on Wednesday and unfortunately I could not attend due to work pressures (our partner Jan-Christoph Zoels is there though). But there is a solution: fifteen presentations can already be viewed online.

Check out Genevieve Bell (Intel), Paul Dourish (UC-Irvine), Bruce Sterling and Younghee Yung (Nokia) to name just a few, or read up on what Bruno Giussani has to say.