Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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August 2008
5 August 2008

Adaptive Path explores the future of the browser

Aurora is a concept video presenting one possible future user experience for the Web, created by Adaptive Path as part of the Mozilla Labs concept browser series.

Aurora explores new ways people could interact with the Web in the future based on projected technological trends and real-world scenarios.

People, places and things on the web are represented by objects in a three dimensional space. When users stop using objects, the objects drift off into the distance. Data objects can easily be dropped in and out of applications and communication tools are built into the UI.

Closely related objects are clustered together. As users rotate through the wheel (aka the dock) at the bottom of the page, the spacial view gives greater visual emphasis to clusters that are most closely related the object at the center of the wheel.

Aurora isn’t being productized – Adaptive Path is simply releasing the design and interface ideas into the wild as a “springboard” for an open discussion about how to evolve the user experience of the Web browser.

Jesse James Garrett, the cofounder of Adaptive Path and the person who coined the term “Ajax,” is the lead designer for Aurora.

via TechCrunch and Adaptive Path

- Concept videos: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Design themes (the four major themes or high-priority elements of the browser)
Inside the design process and concepts: design concepts | interface guide
Open source design
Web page design (designers involved)

4 August 2008

Mobile phones and the digital divide

Digital divide
Ken Banks writes in PC World on the capacity of the mobile phone to bridge the digital divide.

While developed markets get excited by the iPhone, N95, BlackBerry, 3G, WiMax and Android, in developing countries, most excitement centers around the proliferation of mobile phones — any phones — into poorer rural, communication-starved areas and their potential to help close the digital divide. Handset giants such as Nokia and Motorola believe that mobile devices will “close the digital divide in a way the PC never could.” Industry bodies such as the GSM Association run their own “Bridging the Digital Divide” initiative, and international development agencies such as USAID pump hundreds of millions of dollars into economic, health and educational initiatives based around mobile technology. With so many big names involved, what could possibly go wrong? […]

So, if we’re serious about using mobile to help some of the poorest members of society, how about diverting international development funding toward providing a subsidized, fully Internet-ready handset for developing markets? (It’s been tried before but lacked coordination.) Aid donors are already providing funds to the network operators, after all. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Uganda, for example, the International Finance Corporation (an arm of the World Bank) provided US$320 to Celtel to help expand and upgrade its mobile networks. Network coverage, important as it is, is only part of the equation. From the perspective of the digital divide, who’s addressing the handset issue other than companies responding to market forces (which I’ve already argued are often more fixed on price)?

Ken Banks devotes himself to the application of mobile technology for positive social and environmental change in the developing world, and has spent the last 15 years working on projects in Africa. Recently, his research resulted in the development of FrontlineSMS, a field communication system designed to empower grassroots nonprofit organizations.

Read full story

4 August 2008

Online social networks are powerful and ineffectual all at once

No one disputes the exponentially greater accessibility of information and connections online, argues Marina Krakovsky in Stanford Magazine, but opinions vary on how genuine or effective online relationships can be.

Among others, the author points out that social networks “take a crude, binary view of human connection” and reflect on the issue of trust online.

Read full story

4 August 2008

Jen van der Meer on “how the crowd will save us”

Crowd article
Jennifer van der Meer wrote a long article, published today on Core77, on how the green movement taps participatory networks to drive innovation.

The emergence of more user-centered-thinking has given designers an influence well beyond the old drafting table. Upstream in the product development process, designers can now leverage tools like ethnography and sophisticated needs analysis. When given the opportunity, these methods drive the whole development process towards more meaningful and commercially viable innovation. These user-centered methods are the precursor for solving the green problem.

Jennifer van der Meer is a green activist and innovation strategist. Formerly a Wall Street Analyst, Jennifer has held executive management roles at Organic, Inc., Frog Design, and Fahrenheit 212, and has served as a consultant to companies such as GE, General Mills, MTV, Interface Inc., Disney, Chase, Victoria’s Secret, Nestle, Motorola, and Coca Cola. As referenced in this article, Jennifer works on the Toyota Heya project with Drillteam Media, and serves on the board of the Designers Accord.

Read full story

4 August 2008

People increasingly want better designed products

Two articles highlight the increasing social demand for better designed products:

Bryce Rutter interview: “The tolerance for poorly designed products is decreasing dramatically”
The Globe and Mail – 2 August 2008
Paying a visit to Toronto recently, Rutter spoke to Globe Style about the beauty and necessity of good ergonomic design, whether it’s for toothbrushes or luxury cars.

Lifestyle drives medical device design: “Patients are becoming more demanding”
plastics & rubber weekly – 1 August 2008
In the issue of PRW published today, a four-page feature covers a roundtable discussion in London at which PRW brought together product designers and polymer materials specialists to discuss trends and issues in the medical devices market. According to the participants, patients are bringing consumer attitudes to their use of medical devices and this presents challenges when designing a product for such demanding users.

(via Core77)

4 August 2008

How cloud computing is changing the world

Cloud computing
Business Week reflects on the impact of cloud computing on global business.

A host of providers including Amazon,, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft are helping corporate clients use the Internet to tap into everything from extra server space to software that helps manage customer relationships. Assigning these computing tasks to some remote location—rather than, say, a desktop computer, handheld machine, or a company’s own servers—is referred to collectively as cloud computing, and it’s catching on across Corporate America. […]

[Yet] many chief information officers remain concerned about the reliability and security of cloud-based services. […] Another issue that worries CIOs is the ability to comply with […] financial and health-care regulations.

Other articles in the special report:

Cloud Computing: Small Companies Take Flight
Small businesses are flocking to the new services, which provide secure IT infrastructure with little up-front investment and no heavy lifting.

Enter the Cloud with Caution
Here are nine questions to ask before trusting your company’s data or computing tasks to an outside provider.

It’s 2018: Who Owns the Cloud?
In 10 years—given that clouds will be evaluated based on transactions, user experience, and presence—Amazon, eBay, Apple, and Microsoft will likely be top contenders.

But perhaps we should also be reading this:
Why Free Software has poor usability, and how to improve it

2 August 2008

From doctors to patients….the transfer of power

The Talking Cure
There’s a revolution beginning in the practice of medicine, argues Bob Leckridge, a medical doctor who is working in Scotland. It’s about a shift in power which will change the way doctors work.

The traditional doctor-patient relationship is based on a doctor as the expert who knows best and a patient who will passively accept the doctor’s recommendations, whether that be a prescription or an operation or whatever. The power sits with the doctor and the patient often feels intimidated or unheard. The new way is patient-centred, another term which means different things to different people, but which usually includes giving a higher prioirty to the patient’s issues and wishes. […]

It’s going to shift health care into collaborative relationships which focus on the needs, experiences and wishes of individual patients. This represents a huge challenge to the command and control, expert knows best, model of passive patients who are told what to do by others who claim to know better than the patient what will make their life better.

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2 August 2008

Small objects travel further, faster

Jan Chipcase, Nokia’s user researcher, is the latest contributor in the ongoing series of emerging markets articles that are being published on a weekly basis in Vodafone Receiver’s magazine.

Chipchase stresses that his research is more than just “an attempt to understand the similarities and differences to what we already knew in order to create products and services that are more in tune with local markets”:

Increasingly we’ve had our eyes opened to the sheer ingenuity of people who figure out ways of doing a lot with very little – highly relevant for a planet having to make stark choices about sparse resources. For example the practices around sharing have helped shape our notions of ownership and access – that we’ve applied to the thinking and design of future infrastructures. Our research into illiteracy highlighted the practice of delegating tasks that require an understanding of words and numbers to other people – and that in fact delegation is a solution for many system design problems – what do we expect the user to do, what can be delegated to technology, and especially relevant to the close-knit communities in emerging markets – what can be delegated to other people? The extent and sophistication of the street repair cultures have changed the way we think about how our products are made, distributed, disposed of and recycled. And occasionally we come across something so elegant and in tune with the local conditions that it could never be designed for – like Sente, the informal practice of sending and converting airtime into cash, effectively allowing anyone with a mobile phone to function as a rudimentary ATM machine. Not least if you want to create a service that people value, you’d be hard pressed to find a more critical group of consumers than people with limited and infrequent levels of disposable income.

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