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Putting People First

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May 2008
3 May 2008

CHI 2008: a selection on product design

CHI 2008 proceedings
Here is my selection on product design related papers presented at CHI 2008.

(Papers are linked to their pdf downloads, if available.)

Case study: using online communities to drive commercial product development [abstract]
Authors: Sheena Lewis (IBM)
Abstract: This paper demonstrates how human computer interaction (HCI) practitioners utilize an online community to drive commercial product innovation, definition, and development. Upper management’s increased interest in user feedback suggests that this development strategy promotes the case for stronger human-centered design processes to be included in corporate strategic planning.

Future Craft: how digital media is transforming product design [abstract]
Authors: Leonardo Bonanni, Amanda Parkes, Hiroshi Ishii (MIT Media Lab)
Abstract: The open and collective traditions of the interaction community have created new opportunities for product designers to engage in the social issues around industrial production. This paper introduces Future Craft, a design methodology which applies emerging digital tools and processes to product design toward new objects that are socially and environmentally sustainable. We present the results of teaching the Future Craft curriculum at the MIT Media Lab including principal themes of public, local and personal design, resources, assignments and student work. Novel ethnographic methods are discussed with relevance to informing the design of physical products. We aim to create a dialogue around these themes for the product design and HCI communities.

“If you build it, they will come … if they can”: pitfalls of releasing the same product globally [abstract]
Authors: Ann Hsieh, Todd Hausman, Nerija Titus and Jennifer Miller (Yahoo, Inc.)
Abstract: As companies based in the US launch more interactive, “Web 2.0”-style products, the rest of the world may not be moving at the same speed. This presentation will reveal the pitfalls of building the same product for all audiences across many countries, especially when it comes to economic, technological, and cultural disparities. This illustrates the point that even if global users want to access new products, they may not always have the means.

What about a ‘local’ wrapper around an ‘universal’ core? [abstract]
Authors: Apala Lahiri Chavan (Human Factors International)
Abstract: In this paper, I examine the possibility of restructuring our premise about cross cultural design and explore a possible new way to look at how we can create products in one culture and yet have the whole ‘flat world’ use it!

Studying paper use to inform the design of personal and portable technology [abstract]
Authors: Daniela Rosner, Lora Oehlberg and Kimiko Ryokai (UC Berkeley)
Abstract: This paper introduces design guidelines for new technology that leverage our understanding of traditional interactions with bound paper in the form of books and notebooks. Existing, physical interactions with books have evolved over hundreds of years, providing a rich history that we can use to inform our design of new computing technologies. In this paper, we initially survey existing paper technology and summarize previous historical and anthropological analyses of people’s interactions with bound paper. We then present our development of three design principles for personal and portable technologies based on these analyses. For each design guideline, we describe a design scenario illustrating these principles in action.

3 May 2008

CHI 2008: a selection on security

CHI 2008 proceedings
Here is my selection on security related papers presented at CHI 2008.

(Papers are linked to their pdf downloads, if available.)

Love and authentication [abstract]
Authors: Markus Jakobsson (Palo Alto Research Center), Erik Stolterman (Indiana University), Susanne Wetzel (Stevens Institute of Technology) and Liu Yang (Stevens Institute of Technology)
Abstract: Passwords are ubiquitous, and users and service providers alike rely on them for their security. However, good passwords may sometimes be hard to remember. For years, security practitioners have battled with the dilemma of how to authenticate people who have forgotten their passwords. Existing approaches suffer from high false positive and false negative rates, where the former is often due to low entropy or public availability of information, whereas the latter often is due to unclear or changing answers, or ambiguous or fault prone entry of the same. Good security questions should be based on long-lived personal preferences and knowledge, and avoid publicly available information. We show that many of the questions used by online matchmaking services are suitable as security questions. We first describe a new user interface approach suitable to such security questions that is offering a reduced risks of incorrect entry. We then detail the findings of experiments aimed at quantifying the security of our proposed method.

Human-in-the-loop: rethinking security in mobile and pervasive systems [abstract]
Authors: Vassilis Kostakos (University of Madeira / Carnegie Mellon University) and Eamonn O’Neill (University of Bath)
Abstract: In this paper we argue that pervasive systems introduce human-driven security vulnerabilities that traditional usability design cannot address. We claim that there is a need to understand better the appropriate role of humans in the context of pervasive systems security, and to develop quantifiable and measurable concepts that describe humans and their relationship with our systems. Here, we highlight mobility and sociability as two new sources of security vulnerabilities for pervasive systems, and describe our method for developing quantifiable metrics for these concepts.

3 May 2008

CHI 2008: a selection on social applications

CHI 2008 proceedings
Here is my selection on papers related to social applications presented at CHI 2008.

(Papers are linked to their pdf downloads, if available.)

Ambient social tv: drawing people into a shared experience [abstract]
Authors: Gunnar Harboe, Crysta J. Metcalf, Frank Bentley, Joe Tullio, Noel Massey and Guy Romano (Motorola Labs)
Abstract: We examine how ambient displays can augment social television. Social TV 2 is an interactive television solution that incorporates two ambient displays to convey to participants an aggregate view of their friends’ current TV-watching status. Social TV 2 also allows users to see which television shows friends and family are watching and send lightweight messages from within the TV-viewing experience. Through a two-week field study we found the ambient displays to be an integral part of the experience. We present the results of our field study with a discussion of the implications for future social systems in the home.

Results from deploying a participation incentive mechanism within the enterprise [abstract]
Authors: Rosta Farzan (University of Pittsburgh), Joan M. DiMicco (IBM, Cambridge), David R. Millen (IBM, Cambridge), Casey Dugan (IBM, Cambridge), Werner Geyer (IBM, Cambridge) and Elizabeth A. Brownholtz (IBM, Cambridge)
Abstract: Success and sustainability of social networking sites is highly dependent on user participation. To encourage contribution to an opt-in social networking site designed for employees, we have designed and implemented a feature that rewards contribution with points. In our evaluation of the impact of the system, we found that employees are initially motivated to add more content to the site. This paper presents the analysis and design of the point system, the results of our experiment, and our insights regarding future directions derived from our post-experiment user interviews.

Exploring the role of the reader in the activity of blogging [abstract]
Authors: Eric Baumer, Mark Sueyoshi and Bill Tomlinson (UC Irvine)
Abstract: Within the last decade, blogs have become an important element of popular culture, mass media, and the daily lives of countless Internet users. Despite the medium’s interactive nature, most research on blogs focuses on either the blog itself or the blogger, rarely if at all focusing on the reader’s impact. In order to gain a better understanding of the social practice of blogging, we must take into account the role, contributions, and significance of the reader. This paper presents the findings of a qualitative study of blog readers, including common blog reading practices, some of the dimensions along which reading practices vary, relationships between identity presentation and perception, the interpretation of temporality, and the ways in which readers feel that they are a part of the blogs they read. It also describes similarities to, and discrepancies with, previous work, and suggests a number of directions and implications for future work on blogging.

The network in the garden: an empirical analysis of social media in rural life [abstract]
Authors: Eric Gilbert, Karrie Karahalios and Christian Sandvig (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Abstract: History repeatedly demonstrates that rural communities have unique technological needs. Yet, we know little about how rural communities use modern technologies, so we lack knowledge on how to design for them. To address this gap, our empirical paper investigates behavioral differences between more than 3,000 rural and urban social media users. Using a dataset collected from a broadly popular social network site, we analyze users’ profiles, 340,000 online friendships and 200,000 interpersonal messages. Using social capital theory, we predict differences between rural and urban users and find strong evidence supporting our hypotheses. Namely, rural people articulate far fewer friends online, and those friends live much closer to home. Our results also indicate that the groups have substantially different gender distributions and use privacy features differently. We conclude by discussing design implications drawn from our findings; most importantly, designers should reconsider the binary friend-or-not model to allow for incremental trust-building.

Healthcare in everyday life: designing healthcare services for daily life [abstract]
Authors: Stinne Aaløkke Ballegaard, Thomas Riisgaard Hansen and Morten Kyng (University of Aarhus)
Abstract: Today the design of most healthcare technology is driven by the considerations of healthcare professionals and technology companies. This has several benefits, but we argue that there is a need for a supplementary design approach on the basis the citizen and his or her everyday life. An approach where the main focus is to develop healthcare technology that fits the routines of daily life and thus allows the citizens to continue with the activities they like and have grown used to — also with an aging body or when managing a chronic condition. Thus, with this approach it is not just a matter of fixing a health condition, more importantly is the matter of sustaining everyday life as a whole. This argument is a result from our work — using participatory design methods — on the development of supportive healthcare technology for elderly people and for diabetic, pregnant women.

International ethnographic observation of social networking sites [abstract]
Authors: Christopher N. Chapman (Microsoft Corporation) and Michal Lahav (Sakson & Taylor Consulting)
Abstract: Current research on social networking largely covers US providers. To investigate broader trends, we examine cross-cultural differences in the usage patterns of social networking services with observation and ethnographic interviews in multiple cultures. This appears to be the first systematic investigation of social networking behavior across multiple cultures. We report here on the first four locations with observation and interviews of 36 respondents, 8-10 in each of the US, France, China, and South Korea. The results show three dimensions of cultural difference for typical social networking behaviors: the users’ goals, typical pattern of self expression, and common interaction behaviors. These differences exemplify a developmental path of interest in social networking and the gradual integration of social networking behavior into more general communications behaviors. Future work in other cultures and with additional methods will evaluate the hypotheses presented here.

3 May 2008

CHI 2008: a selection on social context

CHI 2008 proceedings
Here is my selection on papers related to social context presented at CHI 2008.

(Papers are linked to their pdf downloads, if available.)

Celebratory technology: new directions for food research in HCI [abstract]
Authors: Andrea Grimes (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Richard Harper (Microsoft Research)
Abstract: Food is a central part of our lives. Fundamentally, we need food to survive. Socially, food is something that brings people together-individuals interact through and around it. Culturally, food practices reflect our ethnicities and nationalities. Given the importance of food in our daily lives, it is important to understand what role technology currently plays and the roles it can be imagined to play in the future. In this paper we describe the existing and potential design space for HCI in the area of human-food interaction. We present ideas for future work on designing technologies in the area of human-food interaction that celebrate the positive interactions that people have with food as they eat and prepare foods in their everyday lives.

Designs on dignity: perceptions of technology among the homeless [abstract
Authors: Christopher A. Le Dantec and W. Keith Edwards (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Abstract: Technology, it is argued, has the potential to improve everyone’s life: from the workplace, to entertainment, to easing chores around the home. But what of people who have neither job nor home? We undertook a qualitative study of the homeless population in a metropolitan U.S. city to better understand what it means to be homeless and how technology–from cell phones to bus passes–affects their daily lives. The themes we identify provide an array of opportunities for technological interventions that can empower the homeless population. Our investigation also reveals the need to reexamine some of the assumptions made in HCI about the relationship people have with technology. We suggest a broader awareness of the social context of technology use as a critical component when considering design innovation for the homeless.
(See also this interview by Luca Chittaro)

It’s on my other computer!: computing with multiple devices [abstract]
Authors: David Dearman (University of Toronto) and Jeffery S. Pierce (IBM Research)
Abstract: The number of computing devices that people use is growing. To gain a better understanding of why and how people use multiple devices, we interviewed 27 people from academia and industry. From these interviews we distill four primary findings. First, associating a user’s activities with a particular device is problematic for multiple device users because many activities span multiple devices. Second, device use varies by user and circumstance; users assign different roles to devices both by choice and by constraint. Third, users in industry want to separate work and personal activities across work and personal devices, but they have difficulty doing so in practice Finally, users employ a variety of techniques for accessing information across devices, but there is room for improvement: participants reported managing information across their devices as the most challenging aspect of using multiple devices. We suggest opportunities to improve the user experience by focusing on the user rather than the applications and devices; making devices aware of their roles; and providing lighter-weight methods for transferring information, including synchronization services that engender more trust from users.

It ‘s Mine, Don’t Touch!: interactions at a large multi-touch display in a city centre [abstract]
Authors: Peter Peltonen, Esko Kurvinen, Antti Salovaara, Giulio Jacucci, Tommi Ilmonen, John Evans, Antti Oulasvirta and Petri Saarikko (Helsinki Institute for Information Technology and University of Helsinki)
Abstract: We present data from detailed observations of CityWall, a large multi-touch display installed in a central location in Helsinki, Finland. During eight days of installation, 1199 persons interacted with the system in various social configurations. Videos of these encounters were examined qualitatively as well as quantitatively based on human coding of events. The data convey phenomena that arise uniquely in public use: crowding, massively parallel interaction, teamwork, games, negotiations of transitions and handovers, conflict management, gestures and overt remarks to co-present people, and “marking” the display for others. We analyze how public availability is achieved through social learning and negotiation, why interaction becomes performative and, finally, how the display restructures the public space. The multi-touch feature, gesture-based interaction, and the physical display size contributed differentially to these uses. Our findings on the social organization of the use of public displays can be useful for designing such systems for urban environments.

Cultural theory and real world design: Dystopian and Utopian Outcomes [abstract]
Authors: Christine Satchell (The University of Melbourne)
Abstract: When exploring a topic as intangible as the construction of mobile social networks it is necessary to look at how relationships are formed and at the way users identify themselves through their interactions. The theoretically informed discourses within cultural theory make an ideal lens for understanding these subtle nuances of use in terms of design. This paper describes a case study where the application of abstract cultural theory concepts to the practical act of analysing qualitative data from a user study resulted in the development of The Swarm mobile phone prototypes. By signposting the intersection of cultural theory within HCI, the value of a philosophically grounded mobile phone design space is highlighted. To uncover reactions to the design we explored the blogs that sprung up critiquing an online version of The Swarm and in doing so, discovered the at times subversive values (such as the need to lie) that users place on their mobile mediated interactions.

Driving the family: empowering the family technology lead [abstract]
Authors: Matthew D. Forrest, Jr., Jodi Forlizzi and John Zimmerman (Carnegie Mellon University)
Abstract: Advances in technology continually increase the ability, but also the complexity of consumer electronics. This is especially true when several devices must be configured to work together, such as a digital TV and satellite box. Manufacturers of consumer electronics attempt to remedy this by designing interfaces that consolidate multiple, complex user interfaces into a single, simple interface. However, the problem remains that end-users are still expected to configure and learn to operate these new interfaces on their own.
This paper addresses the problem by proposing a radically new goal in terms of user interfaces for in-home, networked consumer electronics. Instead of trying and failing to make interfaces simple enough for everyone to use, we propose making interfaces that allow a “technology lead”–the person in the family responsible for supporting the technology—to more easily administer devices in his or her own home and in the homes of other family members. In Japan, where this study is taking place, user-centered research methods show that families usually have a single technology lead who is challenged with supporting people remotely in several homes. By enabling the technology lead to remotely support family members at a distance, the natural family dynamic can be used to support users who either find the new breed of consumer electronics too difficult to learn or do not wish to invest the time to learn how they work.

3 May 2008

CHI 2008: a selection on strategic issues

CHI 2008 proceedings
Here is my selection on papers on more strategic issues presented at CHI 2008.

(Papers are linked to their pdf downloads, if available.)

Empathy and experience in HCI [abstract]
Authors: Peter Wright (Sheffield Hallam University) and John McCarthy (University College Cork)
Abstract: For a decade HCI researchers and practitioners have been developing methods, practices and designs ‘for the full range of human experience’. On the one hand, a variety of approaches to design, such as aesthetic, affective, and ludic that emphasize particular qualities and contexts of experience and particular approaches to intervening in interactive experience have become focal. On the other, a variety of approaches to understanding users and user experience, based on narrative, biography, and role-play have been developed and deployed. These developments can be viewed in terms of one of the seminal commitments of HCI, ‘to know the user’. Empathy has been used as a defining characteristic of designer-user relationships when design is concerned with user experience. In this article, we use ‘empathy’ to help position some emerging design and user-experience methodologies in terms of dynamically shifting relationships between designers, users, and artefacts.

Interactional empowerment [abstract]
Authors: Kristina Höök (Mobile Life center at Stockholm University), Anna Ståhl (Swedish Institute of Computer Science), Petra Sundström (Mobile Life center at Stockholm University) and Jarmo Laaksolaahti (Swedish Institute of Computer Science)
Abstract: We propose that an interactional perspective on how emotion is constructed, shared and experienced, may be a good basis for designing affective interactional systems that do not infringe on privacy or autonomy, but instead empowers users. An interactional design perspective may make use of design elements such as open-ended, ambiguous, yet familiar, interaction surfaces that users can use as a basis to make sense of their own emotions and their communication with one-another. We describe the interactional view on design for emotional communication, and provide a set of orienting design concepts and methods for design and evaluation that help translate the interactional view into viable applications. From an embodied interaction theory perspective, we argue for a non-dualistic, non-reductionist view on affective interaction design.

Healthy technology: a metaphor that pushed user experience to new strategic heights at Intel [abstract]
Authors: Ashwini Asokan and Michael J. Payne (Intel Corporation, Digital Home Group, User Experience Group)
Abstract: One of the biggest struggles user experience teams face is breaking through traditional notions of product strategy, planning and development to bring actionable awareness to the bigger picture around delivering full experiences that people really care about. User research and design is often focused around product & feature design in a space that is defined by out-dated boundaries imposed by history or pre-existing constraints. Research is used to create new features or product direction within these walls, and many design tools are employed to ensure the experience delivered is acceptable. This paper uses a case study of a project titled “Healthy Technology” to highlight the important role that metaphors can play in shifting conversations & strategy, from executive managers to development teams, leading to new boundaries, new strategies, a fresh look at what it means to set direction that targets complete user experiences rather than consumer appreciated features. The metaphor is discussed, through example, as more than a tool for user interface design, exploring the same as a means to alter strategic thinking in upper management as well as guide design and development teams in rethinking notions of technology to create new categories, rethink the problem space and to think beyond features. This paper outlines the research processes that lead to the creation of a metaphor and the functions of the metaphor in overcoming traditional boundaries and thinking. It describes key challenges and methods in this process of moving from research to strategic initiatives that fundamentally shift thinking, providing direction for business models, services, technologies, and industry alignment that come together to provide more than just features or products.

User experience over time
Authors: Evangelos Karapanos (Eindhoven University of Technology), Marc Hassenzahl (University of Koblenz-Landau) and Jean-Bernard Martens (Eindhoven University of Technology)
Abstract: The way we experience and evaluate interactive products develops over time. An exploratory study aimed at understanding how users form evaluative judgments during the first experiences with a product as well as after four weeks of use. Goodness, an evaluative judgment related to the overall satisfaction with the product, was largely formed on the basis of pragmatic aspects (i.e. utility and usability) during the first experiences; after four weeks of use identification (i.e. what the products expresses about its owner) became a dominant aspect of how good a product is. Surprisingly, beauty judgments were largely affected by stimulation (e.g. novelty) during the first experiences. Over time stimulation lost its power to make the product beautiful in the users’ eyes.

User experience at Google – focus on the user and all else will follow [abstract]
Authors: Irene Au, Richard Boardman, Robin Jeffries, Patrick Larvie, Antonella Pavese, Jens Riegelsberger, Kerry Rodden and Molly Stevens (Google, Inc.)
Abstract: This paper presents an overview of the User Experience (UX) team at Google. We focus on four aspects of working within Google’s product development organization: (1) a bottom-up ‘ideas’ culture, (2) a data-driven engineering approach, (3) a fast, highly iterative web development cycle, and (4) a global product perspective of designing for multiple countries. Each aspect leads to challenges and opportunities for the UX team. We discuss these, and outline some of the methodological approaches we employ to deal with them, along with some examples of our work.

3 May 2008

CHI 2008: a selection on sustainability

CHI 2008 proceedings
Here is my selection on sustainability related papers presented at CHI 2008.

(Papers are linked to their pdf downloads, if available.)

A bright green perspective on sustainable choices [abstract]
Authors: Allison Woodruff (Intel Research), Jay Hasbrouck (Intel) and Sally Augustin (PlaceCoach, Inc.)
Abstract: We present a qualitative study of 35 United States households whose occupants have made significant accommodations to their homes and behaviors in order to be more environmentally responsible. Our goal is to inform the design of future sustainable technologies through an exploration of existing “green” lifestyles. We describe the motivations, practices, and experiences of the participants. The participants had diverse motivations ranging from caring for the Earth to frugal minimalism, and most participants also evidenced a desire to be unique. Most participants actively and consciously managed their homes and their daily practices to optimize their environmental responsibility. Their efforts to be environmentally responsible typically required significant dedication of time, attention, and other resources. As this level of commitment and desire to be unique may not generalize readily to the broader population, we discuss the importance of interactive technologies that influence surrounding infrastructure and circumstances in order to facilitate environmental responsibility.

Breaking the disposable technology paradigm: opportunities for sustainable interaction design for mobile phones [abstract]
Authors: Elaine M. Huang (RWTH Aachen University, Motorola Labs) and Khai N. Truong (University of Toronto)
Abstract: We present a qualitative study of mobile phone ownership, replacement and disposal practices geared towards identifying design opportunities towards sustainable mobile phone interfaces. Our work investigates how people understand the lifespan of their phones, what factors, such as style, service contracts, and functionality, affect how they attribute value to their phones, and their awareness and actions regarding mobile phone sustainability. Our findings reveal the complexity of the actions and decision-making processes involved in phone ownership and replacement. We use these findings to present open areas for sustainable interaction design and generate seed ideas for designs and services to provoke thought and further exploration towards more sustainable mobile phone interfaces and practices.

Sustainable millennials: attitudes towards sustainability and the material effects of interactive technologies [abstract]
Authors: Kristin Hanks, William Odom, David Roedl and Eli Blevis (Indiana University at Bloomington)
Abstract: This paper describes the design and interprets the results of a survey of 435 undergraduate students concerning the attitudes of this mainly millennial population towards sustainability apropos of the material effects of information technologies. This survey follows from earlier work on notions of Sustainable Interaction Design (SID)—that is the perspective that sustainability can and should be a central focus within HCI. In so doing it advances to some degree the empirical resources needed to scaffold an understanding of the theory and principles of SID. The interpretations offered yield key insights about understanding different notions of what it means to be successful in a material sense to this population and specific design principles for creating interactive designs differently such that more sustainable behaviors are palatable to individuals of varying attitudes.
(See also this interview by Luca Chittaro)

Ecovillages, values, and information technology: balancing sustainability with daily life in 21st century America [abstract]
Authors: Lisa Nathan (University of Washington)
Abstract: This project seeks to provide a rich account of the adaptive process that occurs as individuals with explicit value commitments interact with information technology. Specifically, ethnographic methods are being used to investigate the information technology adaptive process as it unfolds in the daily life of two ecovillages, communities made up of individuals striving to balance their use of technology with a lifestyle that is environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. Anticipated research outcomes include: (1) an analytic description of information technology adaptive process; (2) a categorization of technological functionalities which support or constrain certain values, (3) an empirical extension of Value Sensitive Design, and (4) an analysis of the negotiation around tensions which emerge as a community’s values influence the use of information technology features and, reciprocally, as information technology features influence a community’s values. Most broadly this work contributes to our larger understanding of how the information technology adaptive process influences the human experience.

3 May 2008

CHI 2008: a selection on usability

CHI 2008 proceedings
Here is my selection on usability related papers presented at CHI 2008.

(Papers are linked to their pdf downloads, if available.)

Usability evaluation considered harmful (some of the time) [abstract]
Authors: Saul Greenberg (University of Calgary) and Bill Buxton (Microsoft Research)
Abstract: Current practice in Human Computer Interaction as encouraged by educational institutes, academic review processes, and institutions with usability groups advocate usability evaluation as a critical part of every design process. This is for good reason: usability evaluation has a significant role to play when conditions warrant it. Yet evaluation can be ineffective and even harmful if naively done ‘by rule’ rather than ‘by thought’. If done during early stage design, it can mute creative ideas that do not conform to current interface norms. If done to test radical innovations, the many interface issues that would likely arise from an immature technology can quash what could have been an inspired vision. If done to validate an academic prototype, it may incorrectly suggest a design’s scientific worthiness rather than offer a meaningful critique of how it would be adopted and used in everyday practice. If done without regard to how cultures adopt technology over time, then today’s reluctant reactions by users will forestall tomorrow’s eager acceptance. The choice of evaluation methodology – if any – must arise from and be appropriate for the actual problem or research question under consideration.

Defending design decisions with usability evidence: a case study
Authors: Erin Friess (Carnegie Mellon University)
Abstract: This case study takes a close look at what novice designers discursively use as evidence to support design decisions. User-centered design has suggested that all design decisions should be made with the concern for the user at the forefront, and, ideally, this concern should be represented by findings discovered within user-centered research. However, the data from a 12-month longitudinal study suggests that although these novice designers are well versed with user-centered design theory, in practice they routinely do not use user-centered research findings to defend their design decisions. Instead these novice designers use less definitive and more designer-centered forms of evidence. This move away from the user, though perhaps unintentional, may suggest that design pedagogy may need to be re-evaluated to ensure that novice designers continue to adhere to the implications of user-centered research throughout the design process.

Using participants’ real data in usability testing: lessons learned [abstract]
Authors: Todd Zazelenchuk, Kari Sortland, Alex Genov, Sara Sazegari and Mark Keavney (Intuit, Inc.)
Abstract: In usability testing, we place great importance on authentic tasks, real users, and the appropriate fidelity of prototypes, considering them carefully in our efforts to simulate people’s real-life interactions with our products. We often place less importance on the data with which we ask participants to interact. Commonly, test data are fabricated, created for participants to imagine as their own. But relating to artificial data can be difficult for participants, and this difficulty can affect their behavior and ultimately call our research results into question. Incorporating users’ real data into your usability test requires additional time and effort, along with certain considerations, but it can lead to richer and more valid usability results.

Revisiting usability’s three key principles [abstract]
Authors: Gilbert Cockton (School of Computing and Technology)
Abstract: The foundations of much HCI research and practice were elaborated over 20 years ago as three key principles by Gould and Lewis: early focus on users and tasks; empirical measurement; and iterative design. Close reading of this seminal paper and subsequent versions indicates that these principles evolved, and that success in establishing them within software development involved a heady mix of power and destiny. As HCI’s fourth decade approaches, we re-examine the origins and status of Gould and Lewis’ principles, and argue that is time to move on, not least because the role of the principles in reported case studies is unconvincing. Few, if any, examples of successful application of the first or second principles are offered, and examples of the third tell us little about the nature of successful iteration. More credible, better grounded and more appropriate principles are needed. We need not so much to start again, but to start for the first time, and argue from first principles for apt principles for designing.

3 May 2008

Robert Scoble on how to fix the web

Web
Robert Scoble, managing director of FastCompany.TV, thinks the online world isn’t always user-friendly, and argues how it easily could be.

“The Internet, which is shorthand for “interconnected network” and is one of the most significant achievements in the history of communication, is often broken because applications don’t interact. We spend all our time hopping from one island of information to another, repeating the same tasks, costing ourselves and our businesses time and money. The good news is that, even as I complain, there are efforts under way to make things better.”

Read full story

2 May 2008

Vodafone, China Mobile and Softbank launch joint lab to improve mobile’s user interface

Vodafone Receiver 16
From a corporate press release:

“China Mobile, Softbank and Vodafone have agreed to establish a Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) to promote the development of new mobile technologies, applications and services. The three companies expect the initiative will help to accelerate the commercial deployment of mobile internet services.

The three companies will use the JIL as a platform to develop mobile services and drive innovation and synergy in the industry to the benefit of their combined global customer base. The JIL will launch projects based on emerging technologies and market demand.

The JIL will focus on the rapidly growing areas of mobile internet services, such as mobile widgets. Initially, the JIL plans to develop a platform for mobile widgets to encourage the development of innovative new services that can leverage mobile operators’ unique capabilities.

This move is expected to enable different widgets and applications to run seamlessly on different handset platforms and operating systems across different mobile operators, while safeguarding customer security, data privacy and billing systems. The development of a widget platform is expected to benefit both developers and users. The JIL also welcomes the co-operation of vendors and developers in the creation of new applications and services.”

Marc Laperrouza (of LIFT) comments:

“So is this the signal that the two operators are finally coming out of the woods and prepared to use their huge subscriber base to drive the future of the mobile industry? For sure, cooperation will be useful to speed the roll-out of mobile internet services. It will also allow them to better face the upcoming battle with Google and Yahoo – who are also keen to occupy the mobile space. It is also interesting for China Mobile – and China in general – since it will be one of the first attempt to approach standardization in a bottom-up fashion – from the market – rather than top-down – from the government. We may be witnessing China Mobile’s first steps into becoming a global mobile operator…”

1 May 2008

Clay Shirky’s talk about the cognitive surplus

Clay Shirky
Clay Shirky, author of the book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organising without Organisations (see also these posts), was one of the presenters at the Web 2.0 conference:

Mark Ury, chief experience architect for Blast Radius, was there and wrote about it on his blog “The Restless Mind”:

“His thesis is that in order to grapple with a particularly stressful stretch of time, society engages in some mind-numbing activity that, by consequence, creates a cognitive surplus. Eventually, this surplus overflows and new forms of value are created. He cites post-industrial revolution Londoners blanking out with gin, only to then build many of the modern institutions we cherish today, and post-WWII Americans sitting slack-jawed watching I Love Lucy and Gilligan’s Island, but now using the Internet to produce Wikipedia and, to a lesser order, lolcats.” [...]

“What struck me as intriguing in all this wasn’t our cognitive surplus, though. It’s our surplus of interaction.” [...]

“Interaction surplus, though, is new. From RSS to email, flickr to FunWalls, posts to pingbacks—we’ve never before had to deal with an abundance of two-way interaction. And unlike the subtle effect of compound interest, hooking more people up to the grid creates a personalized form of Metcalfe’s law, a signal to noise ratio that is overwhelming and, over time, numbing. Watching “connected consumers” tweet, IM, tag, upload, download and go viral is not much different than a Saturday night rave: a blur of consciousness, ephemera, and not a little dizziness.”

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1 May 2008

April 2008 issue of International Journal of Design

International Journal of Design
The April issue of the International Journal of Design has recently been published.

It is the fourth issue of this peer-reviewed journal issued by the Taiwan-based Chinese Institute of Design (read more here).

Three-in-One user study for focused collaboration
by Turkka Kalervo Keinonen, Vesa Jääskö and Tuuli Mattelmäki
This article introduces a human-centered design approach, the Three-in-One User Study, which applies a set of methods to speed up and focus on the design process. With a Three-in-One, designers’ face-to-face contacts with users are concentrated into one collaborative designer-user session where preproduced self-documentation material and early design models enable focused collaborative exploration. Three-in-One combines three different complementary points of view to design: users’ subjective interpretations, designers’ focused observations, and design interventions with models. Three-in-One was applied in a kick-bike design case, and it led to improvements to the initial concept, as well as justified decisions for further design development.

The product ecology: understanding social product use and supporting design culture
by Jodi Forlizzi
The field of interaction design has broadened its focus from issues surrounding one person interacting with one system to how systems are socially and culturally situated among groups of people. To understand the situations surrounding product use interaction design researchers have turned to qualitative, ethnographic research methods. However, stripped from underlying theory, these methods can be prescriptive at best. This paper introduces Product Ecology as a theoretical design framework to describe how products evoke social behavior, to provide a roadmap for choosing appropriate qualitative research methods and to extend design culture within HCI by allowing for flexible, design-centered research planning and opportunity-seeking. This product-centered framework is illustrated as a method for selecting a set of design research methods and for working with other research approaches that study people in naturalistic settings.

Design, risk and new product development in five small creative companies
by Robert N. Jerrard, Nick Barnes and Adele Reid
Five small creative companies were studied in detail over extended periods of the New Product Development (NPD) lifecycle. Design was a key aspect of company activity and central to the NPD process. Novel risk-tracking participatory methodologies were developed and employed to identify perceived risks at the outset of NPD and to track risk thereafter. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken on regular basis with company personnel responsible for design to provide rich contextual material. Results showed a wide diversity of perceived risk with little commonality amongst the companies – despite shared core criteria amongst the firms themselves, and the new products that were tracked. Implications for the sampled companies, and wider policy in respect of business support strategy, are considered.

How to rate 100 visual stimuli efficiently
by Yaliang Chuang and Lin-Lin Chen
Perceptual mapping is a method often employed in design and marketing as a means for visualizing consumer perceptions of product alternatives on the market. Perceptual maps can be computed from two types of data, from attribute ratings or from similarity judgments. In this paper, two computer-based methods are proposed for obtaining attribute rating data, based on multiple attribute scales, for a large number of visual stimuli: The hierarchical sorting method was developed from a strategy commonly employed in paper-and-pencil surveys, whereas the divide-and-conquer method was developed from a strategy often utilized in (computer) sorting of algorithms. In tests that used 100 armchairs as stimuli, it was found that both methods received high scores for simplicity and overall satisfaction in subjective evaluations by the participants. The evaluations, however, also showed that each method had its own advantages. While the divide-and-conquer method produced equivalent results in a significantly less amount of time than the hierarchical sorting method, the hierarchical sorting method was considered to have a higher likelihood of expressing actual opinions than the divide-and-conquer method, due to the fact that a participant using the sorting method could focus on the details of the stimuli after they had been grouped by similarity at the initial stage.

Perceptual information for user-product interaction: using vacuum cleaner as example
by Li-Hao Chen and Chang-Franw Lee
The purpose of this study is to identify which product designs for parts and directions are most effective, and then propose how perceptional information could best be designed to facilitate user-product interaction. Three categories of perceptional information for product operational tasks were proposed in this study. Task analysis and usability evaluations were carried out to analyze what information users required while they practiced the operational tasks. Finally, a primary model was proposed that revealed and defined specific types of entities and different perceptual information— Behavioural Information (BI), Assemblage Information (AI), and Conventional Information (CI)— to be significant elements for the model. Information for specific applications that is available for various types of vacuum cleaner parts is described below: 1) for specific operational tasks, these applications for operability, functionality and operational directions are required for the user-part category, and BI and CI provide effective support for the applications; 2) the application for assembly-ability is required for the part-part category, and AI and CI provide effective support for this application; and 3) the applications for operability, functionality, operational directions, and assembly-ability are required for the user-part-part category. BI and CI provide effective support for the applications for operability, functionality, whereas operational directions, and AI and CI provide effective support for the application for assembly-ability.

The nature of design practice and implications for interaction design research
by Erik Stolterman
The focus of this paper is interaction design research aimed at supporting interaction design practice. The main argument is that this kind of interaction design research has not (always) been successful, and that the reason for this is that it has not been guided by a sufficient understanding of the nature of design practice. Based on a comparison between the notion of complexity in science and in design, it is argued that science is not the best place to look for approaches and methods on how to approach design complexity. Instead, the case is made that any attempt by interaction design research to produce outcomes aimed at supporting design practice must be grounded in a fundamental understanding of the nature of design practice. Such an understanding can be developed into a well-grounded and rich set of rigorous and disciplined design methods and techniques, appropriate to the needs and desires of practicing designers.

1 May 2008

How Nokia users drive innovation

Nokia Beta Labs
Business Week reports on how online aps such as Sports Tracker and Nokia Beta Lab, allow the Finnish handset giant to gather customers’ ideas from around the world, and virtually for free.

“Sports Tracker is an example of how Nokia has begun experimenting with user-generated innovation. That’s the premise behind Nokia Beta Labs, a Web site where the Finnish handset maker lets users test the latest smartphone software. Instead of people recording silly Web cam videos for YouTube or inventing frivolous advocacy groups on Facebook, they can help make the mobile Internet more useful.

“Beta Labs is part of a broader push by Nokia to harness customers and partners in the service of innovation. At Nokia.com the company allows users to share and rate applications they have created such as screen-savers or games. And over the past year, Nokia designers have traveled to the developing world to ask users to sketch their own dream cell phones. By yearend, more than half the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas, so to exploit this mega-trend Nokia’s researchers visited shantytowns in Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, and Accra in Ghana.”

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