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Putting People First

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May 2009
12 May 2009

Johanna Brewer about ethnography and design

Johanna Brewer
Nicolas Nova reports today on a lecture by Johanna Brewer about “What can ethnography do for technology?”.

Brewer, who is a PhD candidate in the Informatics department at the University of California, Irvine and a collaborator of Paul Dourish in the Laboratory for Ubiquitous Computing and Interaction (LUCI), basically presented how ethnography, as a methodological strategy, is relevant for design in the context of her PhD projects.

Read full story

12 May 2009

Business Innovation Factory launches Student Experience Lab

BIF
The non-profit Business Innovation Factory (BIF) yesterday launched a new laboratory to enable innovation in higher education. The lab will support the design of solutions that increase college attainment levels, enhance the college student experience and improve the quality and effectiveness of the U.S. higher education system. The launch of the BIF Student Experience Lab is supported by a $280,000 grant from Lumina Foundation for Education.

The Student Experience Lab is the second BIF laboratory to come online following the launch of the Elder Experience Lab and its successful Nursing Home of the Future initiative in 2008.

BIF’s unique non-profit platform will provide Student Experience Lab partners with a collaborative environment where new ideas for improving the college student experience and increasing higher education attainment can be designed, tested and refined in a real-world laboratory with direct student engagement. [...]

In a first phase of work, the Student Experience Lab team will create an “Experience Map” of the environmental and human factors that are the most significant drivers of the post secondary student experience. The team will use a combination of observational and ethnographic research, self-reporting, surveying and secondary research to characterize the experience of current, former and prospective post secondary education students at various ages and from diverse racial and socio-economic backgrounds.

The Student Experience Lab will package findings from this phase of work in a highly visual and interactive form that uses video, audio, photography and first-person narrative to tell the story of the postsecondary student experience in a manner that allows experts and non-experts to understand the human, environmental and systems-level factors that most impact degree attainment.

Read full press release

12 May 2009

Bringing the everyday life of people into design

Thesis Sleeswijk
Bringing the everyday life of people into design” is the title of a doctoral dissertation that Froukje Sleeswijk Visser is defending today to obtain her doctoral degree in industrial design engineering at the Technical University Delft.

Summary

Products play a role in our everyday lives. Insight into the experiences of people in their everyday lives is of great use for designing products. For example, the contexts in which products are used (physical, social, culture etc.) and the state (excited, tired, concentrated etc.) of the users influence how they experience using products. However, in design practice using this type of diverse, subjective and multi-layered information, as inspirational input for the design process, is a recent development.

In this research project, I explored how this information can be communicated in such a way that it supports designers (1) to empathise with users, (2) to be inspired to create new product ideas, and (3) to be engaged to use this information in their design processes.

By a set of eight explorative studies in collaboration with industrial practice (varying from a small design firm to a multinational telecom company) the current situation in design practice is investigated, tools to communicate this type of information are designed and explored in use, and a theoretical framework is created to organise the elements which play a role in this communication.

The filled in framework and a set of guidelines for practitioners to successfully communicate rich experience information in design are the results. The framework folds out how the three main qualities (empathy, inspiration and engagement) can be achieved by setting in mechanisms and means. The guidelines show various examples of how these qualities can be supported.

Download dissertation

(via InfoDesign)

11 May 2009

Gemalto, Microsoft, Nokia and Philips team up to advance ‘Trust in Digital Life’

 
At the Future of the Internet conference in Prague today, Gemalto, Microsoft, Nokia and Philips announced a new initiative that will address the fundamental societal issue of trust in new and emerging digital services. The initiative aims to bring European public and private stakeholders together to advance ‘Trust in Digital Life’ through the development of a common vision. Based on the vision, the initiative will create an agenda for innovation and promote alignment of public and private policies.

“Consumers’ trust is key to the adoption and success of future digital services in industries such as communications, commerce, healthcare, and administration. Erosion of privacy and crime can seriously hamper the worldwide economic growth. According to a recent Unisys Security Index survey, identity theft and bank cards fraud are the top two concerns in a consumer’s digital life. These trust issues even surpass other fears outside the digital life such as national security and epidemics.

This joint initiative aims to help consumers overcome the fear of identity fraud and data breaches that have dampened trust in digital services. ‘Trust in Digital Life’ takes a multi-disciplinary approach – involving users, markets, legal and societal aspects, and technology – that will accelerate research and development of trustworthy technologies and products. [...]

In the spirit of open innovation, the founding members welcome a broad membership. The initiative invites other partners that share the vision of Trust in Digital Life. Success lies in taking a collaborative approach, between the participants in the initiative and with broader industry and governments. The group will coordinate with other European initiatives in this field.”

For more information and membership applications, please consult the ‘Trust in Digital Life’ web site: www.trustindigitallife.eu (which looks like it was designed in 1997).

Read full press release

10 May 2009

Book: Identity in the Age of Cloud Computing

Identity in the Age of Cloud Computing
Identity in the Age of Cloud Computing: The next-generation Internet’s impact on business, governance and social interaction
J.D. Lasica
The Aspen Institute, 2009

Smart Mobs reports:
“Recently, The Aspen Institute has published an eBook which some say is possibly the best report on cloud computing ever published. Written by J.D. Lasica, Identity in the Age of Cloud Computing: The next-generation Internet’s impact on business, governance and social interaction is the result of the Seventeenth Annual Roundtable on Information Technology which included 30 experts in identity and technology with notable contributors such as John Seely Brown and Esther Dyson. This is a MUST read for anyone attempting to decipher and understand the ramifications of the cloud on a societal level.”

Here is the abstract:
“Identity in the Age of Cloud Computing: The next-generation Internet’s impact on business, governance and social interaction” examines the migration of information, software and identity into the Cloud and explores the transformative possibilities of this new computing paradigm for culture, commerce and personal communication. The report also considers potential consequences for privacy, governance and security, and it includes policy recommendations and advice for the new presidential administration. Written by J.D. Lasica, the report is the result of the Seventeenth Annual Roundtable on Information Technology.

Download e-book

10 May 2009

Journal of Business Strategy on design innovation

Business Strategy
A special issue of Journal of Business Strategy on ‘The practice of innovation: design in process’, is now available.

There is a great deal of energetic discussion about why design innovation has become critical for the success and growth of businesses today and experts in business management are discussing ways to think about design as a key strategic advantage. This special issue of JBS, edited by Vijay Kumar of the Illinois Institute of Design, brings together experts from many fields to discuss how design innovation can be successfully practiced through adopting formalized design processes. The papers come from innovators in fields as diverse as healthcare, digital products, software, telecommunications, space planning, web services, city planning, and education.

Table of contents

Using design thinking to improve patient experiences in Japanese hospitals: a case study
Taisuke Uehira, Carl Kay (pp. 6-12)
The paper seeks to use a case study to describe work by a Japanese qualitative research specialist with leading office furniture manufacturer to spur innovation in product development and sales strategy in a newly targeted hospital furniture market. It aims to show how qualitative research can allow product development and sales teams to accelerate learning and pace of innovation by providing a window on needs in new market segments from a customer’s point of view.

Innovating health care delivery: the design of health services
Alan K. Duncan, Margaret A. Breslin (pp. 13-20)
The structure of health care financing, the lack of vertical and horizontal integration, and the slow translation of basic research into meaningful health outcomes for the population conspire to make innovation in health service delivery a difficult task. However, health service organizations that can more effectively and systematically understand patient needs – needs that are now poorly understood and often unarticulated – have an intrinsic advantage in delivering high value care. This -paper aims to describe a program for translating those needs into health services innovations.

The call of the city: using design methods to attract families
Kristian Buschmann, Carol Coletta (pp. 21-27)
For the first time in 50 years, young people are coming back to cities. But what happens when they have children? Convention seems to dictate they move to the suburbs where they can find big houses, big yards and good schools. This paper aims to describe how CEOs for Cities and students from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design took a fresh look at how cities can better serve families.

Pirate this: breakthrough mindsets from the web
Brandon Schauer (pp. 28-39)
The recent mix of economic constraints and new capabilities has encouraged web-based businesses to explore creative new strategies and unusual innovation processes. After years of refining these practices online, a potent set of approaches are surfacing that could transform businesses beyond the web. This paper aims to extract the new business models and practices that might be transferred into other industries to create more agile organizations and engaging customer experiences.

Beyond good: great innovations through design
Steve Sato (pp. 40-49)
The purpose of this paper is to propose that high quality innovations benefit both companies and customers. Most businesses have formal systems to ensure benefit to company, and weaker, informal systems to retain or add value to customers. This paper aims to provide a way to formally apply heuristics designers use (“design thinking”) to maintain a line-of-sight to company and customer needs in all decisions from concept through production. This approach should result in offerings that are compelling to customers and are profitable to companies.

How tangible is your strategy? How design thinking can turn your strategy into reality
Matthew Holloway (pp. 50-56)
Improving your company’s ability to execute its strategy requires increase alignment, greater agility and a singular clarity regarding the desired outcomes. This paper aims to describe how the SAP Design Services Team uses design thinking and its principles to improve the organization’s ability improve its ability to execute strategy and even evolve the way SAP identifies and defines its strategic vision.

Cultural innovation in software design: the new impact of innovation planning methods
Chris Bernard (pp. 57-69)
The purpose of this paper is to describe innovation planning methods used at Microsoft.

The discipline of product discovery: identifying breakthrough business opportunities
Jooyun Melanie Joh, Matthew Mayfield (pp. 70-77)
This paper aims to cover the authors’ experience with applying the latest methodologies in identifying and articulating product opportunities within a large, global corporation and dynamic marketplace.

Embedding innovation: design thinking for small enterprises
Antonia Ward, Ellie Runcie, Lesley Morris (pp. 78-84)
This paper aims to outline the approaches used by the UK Design Council to embed design and innovation capability in small businesses.

Innovation is good, fitness is better
James P. Hackett (pp. 85-90)
Academic journals and the popular business press are filled with articles praising innovation. But innovation is not enough. This paper proposes a higher purpose – that survival of our business systems relies on achieving a new level of fitness – and aims to suggest that design thinking is one of the keys to becoming more fit.

A process for practicing design innovation
Vijay Kumar (pp. 91-100)
Companies are increasingly adopting design processes as a key driver for their innovation practice. Design processes help companies develop innovations that produce high user value as well as economic value and business value. The purpose of this paper is to describe how design processes can be effectively used in innovation projects through a good understanding design principles, tools, and frameworks.

You can buy the whole issue as one pdf for USD 45 or EUR 33.72. You can also purchase individual articles.

9 May 2009

Design and ethnography at a ubiquitous computing conference

UbiComp 2008
One of the sessions at UbiComp 2008, the Tenth International Conference on Ubiquitous computing (Seoul, Korea), was devoted to design and ethnography.

The four papers are all in the proceedings, but (except for the first one) you will need an ACM membership to download them.

The Heterogenous Home
* Ryan Aipperspach, University of California, Berkeley
* Ben Hooker, Intel Research Berkley
* Allison Woodruff, Intel Research Berkeley
Due to several recent trends, the domestic environment has become more homogeneous and undifferentiated. Drawing on concepts from environmental psychology, we critique these trends. We propose heterogeneity as a new framework for domestic design, and we present design sketches that illustrate how ubiquitous computing technologies can interact with the domestic environment to create a more varied and restorative environment. This work speaks to a number of core issues in ubiquitous computing, such as how the increased presence of devices impacts quality of life, the desirability or undesirability of ubiquitous temporal and spatial availability of devices, and the advantages and disadvantages of device convergence (“”all-in-one”” devices) versus device proliferation (single application devices).

Plastic: A Metaphor for Integrated Technologies
* Tye Rattenbury, People and Practices Research Group
* Dawn Nafus, People and Practices Research Group
* Ken Anderson, People and Practices Research Group
Ubiquitous computing research has recently focused on ‘busyness’ in American households. While these projects have generated important insights into coordination and communication, we think they overlook the more spontaneous and opportunistic activities that surround and support the scheduled ones. Using data from our mixed-methods study of notebook and ultra-mobile PC use, we argue for a different perspective based on a metaphor of ‘plastic’. ‘Plastic’ captures the way technologies, specifically computers, have integrated into the heterogeneous rhythms of daily life. Plastic technologies harmonize with and support daily life by filling opportunistic gaps, shrinking and expanding until interrupted, not demanding conscious coordination, supporting multitasking, and by deferring to external contingencies.

Getting to Green: Understanding Resource Consumption in the Home
* Marshini Chetty, Georgia Institute of Technology
* David Tran, Georgia Institute of Technology
* Rebecca E. Grinter, Georgia Institute of Technology
Rising global energy demands, increasing costs and limited natural resources mean that householders are more conscious about managing their domestic resource consumption. Yet, the question of what tools Ubicomp researchers can create for residential resource management remains open. To begin to address this omission, we present a qualitative study of 15 households and their current management practices around the water, electricity and natural gas systems in the home. We find that in-the-moment resource consumption is mostly invisible to householders and that they desire more real-time information to help them save money, keep their homes comfortable and be environmentally friendly. Designing for domestic sustainability therefore turns on improving the visibility of resource production and consumption costs as well as supporting both individuals and collectives in behavior change. Domestic sustainability also highlights the caveat of potentially creating a green divide by making resource management available only to those who can afford the technologies to support being green. Finally, we suggest that the Ubicomp community can contribute to the domestic and broader sustainability agenda by incorporating green values in designs and highlight the challenge of collecting data on being green.

Designing Sociable IT for Public Use
* Steinar Kristoffersen, Østfold University College
* Ingunn Bratteberg, Mamut ASA
Service providers increasingly use self-service systems, such as kiosk and automata that offer faster and more flexible service. Most of us are familiar with appliances for buying and validating tickets, purchasing soft drinks or getting the newspaper. We book tables in restaurants and hire cars using hotel lobby kiosks. Unfortunately, many such systems confuse and annoy their users. Thus, information technology design for the public space poses distinct challenges. Yet, it is relatively unmapped within our field. Based on an ethnographic study of the purchase and validation of ticketless travel for an airport train, this paper shows how such systems need an extended framework of usability principles, which goes beyond well-known interaction design guidelines.

7 May 2009

Daniel Kaplan’s excellent critique of the Internet of Things

Daniel Kaplan
Daniel Kaplan, CEO of the French Next-Generation Internet Foundation (FING) and one of the driving forces behind the upcoming LIFT conference in Marseilles, France, has published three long essays with an excellent critique of the Internet of Things.

If you understand French, they are highly recommended reading. Otherwise, check the links as they often lead to English-language background resources.

In the first article, L’internet des objets n’est pas celui que vous croyez ! ["The Internet of Things is not what you think"], Kaplan describes the various visions of the Internet of Things, and the role of us, human beings, within these visions. Kaplan is worried as these technologies are taking controls and power away from the individual, which is exactly the opposite of what the internet set out to do, and therefore the Internet of Things carries no transformational vision.

But Kaplan goes further. His second piece, Révolution ou déception ? ["Revolution or deception?"], positions that the “Internet of Things” is not all what its name implies. It’s not even an internet, not technically, not socially, not economically. The way “things” are currently networked is entirely within silos — in terms of applications, services and organisations — and this has nothing to do with the view on pervasive interconnectedness that the inter-net concept contains. He also elaborates on what he means with the lack of transformational vision. Where the Internet always came with visions of social and cultural transformation, the Internet of Things is just nice-nice: we don’t hear anything but service, comfort, optimisation, health, reliability, sustainability, quality and security, usually performed by others on our behalf. If there is a vision, it is one of a control society.

In the closing piece Industrialiser l’internet ou internetiser l’industrie ? ["Industrialise the Internet or internetise the industry?"], Kaplan outlines a vision for an entirely different Internet of Things, which is open, modifiable, recyclable, social and evolutionary, and claims that a real “Internet of Things” will be driven by the thinking of such people as Julian Bleecker, Usman Haque and Bruce Sterling, and by cultures such as those of open source hardware (Arduino) or the fabrication movement (“Bricolabs”).

The first article in the series got republished in the technology section of the French newspaper Le Monde, and it looks like the others will soon follow.

Hubert Guillaud of InternetActu told me that these papers will soon be translated into English for the LiftBlog and when that happens, we will let you know here too.

7 May 2009

The wisdom of community

The wisdom of community
In an article on A List Apart, Derek Powazek explores what it means to connect the ideas of James Surowiecki, expressed in his book The Wisdom of Crowds, to the social web where, he says, they can reach their full potential.

“The Wisdom of Crowds (WOC) theory does not mean that people are smart in groups—they’re not. Anyone who’s seen an angry mob knows it. But crowds, presented with the right challenge and the right interface, can be wise. When it works, the crowd is wiser, in fact, than any single participant. [...]

The web, with its low barrier to entry and permeable social boundaries, is the ultimate medium through which to explore the finer points of the wisdom of crowds. You’re surrounded by online examples: Google’s search results. BitTorrent. The “Most E-mailed” stories on your favorite news site. Each is powered by wisdom gleaned from crowds online.

You need a few things to enable online crowds to be wise.”

Read full story

7 May 2009

In cellphone, India reveals an essence

Anand
Anand Giridharadas, South Asia correspondent at International Herald Tribune, describes what makes the cellphone special in India, and what it means for democracy.

“The cellphone appeals deeply to the Indian psychology, to the spreading desire for personal space and voice, not in defiance of the family and tribe but in the chaotic midst of it.

Imagine what it was like, back in the Pre-cellular Age, to be young in a traditional household. People are everywhere. Doors are open. Judgments fly. Bedrooms are shared. Phones are centrally located.

The cellphone serves, then, as a technology of individuation. On the cellphone, you are your own person. No one answers your calls or reads your messages. Your number is just yours.”

Read full story

6 May 2009

Inspiring articles by Elizabeth Churchill of Yahoo! Research

Elizabeth Churchill
If you like the writings by the highly original Elizabeth Churchill, a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research in charge of the Internet Experiences Group — and I definitely do! — then this Spring has been a particularly rewarding period.

Here are some of the publicly available papers and articles, which she wrote or co-wrote:

Spinning Online: A case study of Internet broadcasting by DJs
Paper to be presented at the Communities & Technology conference, ACM, University Park, PA (June 2009)
Authors: Shamma, D.A.; Churchill, E.; Bobb, N.; Fukuda, M.
Personal video streaming websites have become common on the Internet. They are increasingly used by broadcasters, bands, and entertainers as performance spaces and community gathering places for “fans”. In order to understand how such live broadcasting sites fare as venues for gigs and for the maintenance of fan communities, we studied a video streaming site that is home to a vibrant DJ community. We spent time as audience members, analyzed site usage data, interviewed and charted the online presence of DJs who perform regularly on the, and talked with the site designers about their vision for the site. We found DJs use a number of tools to maintain close connections with three communities—their peers, with sources for new music and for related show content, and with their fans. When streaming live performances, DJs use visual interface cues to gauge audience reaction and tailor their sets accordingly. DJs talked about the broadcast channel as ‘a place’, and reported close social connection with invited and regular audience members. We conclude our paper with observations regarding the nature of community involvement on performance centered webcasting sites.

Digital Order: Just over the horizon or at the end of the rainbow?
interactions, ACM Press, (May/June 2009)
Confronting the iPod Shuffle with Churchill’s design principles, with some unexpected consequences. [Interesting to read this post, keeping in mind my earlier Intel digital storage post].

Learning How: The search for craft knowledge on the Internet
Paper presented at the CHI 2009 conference, ACM Press, Boston, USA (April 2009)
Authors: Torrey, C.; Churchill, E.F.; McDonald, D.W.
Communicating the subtleties of a craft technique, like putting a zipper into a garment or throwing a clay pot, can be challenging even when working side by side. Yet How- To content—including text, images, animations, and videos—is available online for a wide variety of crafts. We interviewed people engaged in various crafts to investigate how online resources contributed to their craft practice. We found that participants sought creative inspiration as well as technical clarification online. In this domain, keyword search can be difficult, so supplemental strategies are used. Participants sought information iteratively, because they often needed to enact their knowledge in order to evaluate it. Our description of people learning how allows us to elaborate on existing understandings of information-seeking behavior by considering how search originates and is evaluated in knowledge domains involving physical objects and physical processes.

On trusting your socks to find each other (pdf)
interactions, ACM Press, p.32-36 (March/April 2009)
This articles addresses design issues that may arise as a result of the deployment of networks of devices that will constitute the “Internet of Things”. Addresses issues in particular around the trustworthiness of information exchange and transparency in such networks.

How big can you think?
Yodel Anecdotal (26 March 2009)
Did you know that humans have only used verbal language for the past 50,000 years – a virtual blink of the eye in evolutionary time? This got me wondering how people communicated before language. Since we’ve been thriving on this planet for 160,000 years (or millions more, depending on when you start the “human” clock), how exactly how did we express ourselves? And do we hang on to old non-verbal habits today? An interview with MIT Professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland.

Givin’ you more of what you’re funkin’ for: DJs and the Internet
interactions, ACM Press, p.20-24 (Jan/Feb 2009)
Since DJ’s always talk about “how they ‘read’ the crowd, garner a sense of the energy in the place, and manipulate its ebbs and flows with music to amp up the crowd, maintain a pace, or slow it down”, the question arises how this happens with a webcast and whether it is at all possible.

6 May 2009

Most Interaction09 conference videos now online

Francoise Bourdonnec
Most of the videos of the Interaction09 conference, that took place this February in Vancouver, Canada, are now available online (see also here). Here is a personal selection:

Kars Alfrink: Play in social and tangible interactions
Many of the interactions seen in tangible and social computing are essentially playful. Play can take on many forms, but they all involve people exploring a conceptual space of possibilities. When designing these “embodied” interactions, it is therefore helpful to have a good understanding of play – this session aims to do just that. We’ll compare the role of interaction designers to that of game designers, who concern themselves primarily with the creation of rule-sets.

Dave Malouf – Foundations of Interaction Design: Bringing design critique to interaction design
Foundation and critique are two core elements that separate design from other ways of thinking and practicing creation of ideas and solutions. Foundations are the core elements that we manipulate within our craft. Critique is the way we judge the results of that craft. For critique to be effective though it requires foundation. It is only through our understanding of what it is that makes up our craft, that we can bring consistency and consensus to design criticism. This 25min. presentation is meant to offer the beginnings of a discussion around what could be the foundations of interaction design, how they impact aesthetics of interaction and how they can be used for design critique within an interaction design practice.

Jon Kolko – Design synthesis
Interaction design research activities produce an enormous quantity of raw data, which must be systematically and rigorously analyzed in order to extract meaning and insight. Unfortunately, these methods of analysis are poorly documented and rarely taught. As a result, raw design research data is inappropriately positioned as insight, and the value of research activities is marginalized. Interaction design synthesis methods can be taught, and when selectively applied, visual, diagrammatic synthesis techniques can be completed relatively quickly. This talk will introduce various methods of Synthesis as ways to translate research into meaningful insights.

Aza Raskin – Designing in the open

Marc Rettig – How to change complicated stuff
In the midst of a global conversation about change, many designers are pondering their own impact in the world. How does our experience in software interfaces, web sites, and physical products prepare us to address the profound issues humanity is facing? These issues involve many complex systems, systems too big to fit into the scope of any single company or institution. Design methods are potent at large scale and scope, but what does it take to be effective as a practitioner, as a team, as a company? What is it like to actually achieve a meaningful, sustainable, positive difference in life?

Jared Spool and Friends – Hiring the next generation of Interaction Designers

Luke Wroblewski – Parti and the design sandwich
In architecture, parti refers to the underlying concept of a building. Will it be a public structure that provides safety or a commercial building focused on customer up-selling? Design principles are the guiding light for any parti. They articulate the fundamental goals that all decisions can be measured against and thereby keep the pieces of a project moving toward an integrated whole. But design principles are not enough. Every design consideration has a set of opportunities and limitations that can either add to or detract from the parti. This combination of design principles at the top and design considerations at the bottom allows interaction designers to fill in the middle with meaningful structures that enable people and organizations to interact, communicate, and get things done. In this talk, Luke Wroblewski will illustrate how the World’s most accessed Web page, yahoo.com, was redesigned with a parti and the design sandwich.

(see also earlier post with links to videos of presentations by Dan Saffer, Robert Fabricant and John Thackara).

6 May 2009

The poverty of user-centered design

Andrew Dillon
Andrew Dillon, dean of the School of Information (“iSchool”) at the University of Texas, writes on his blog InfoMatters that he finds “the term ‘user-centered’ to have little real meaning anymore”, since “truly understanding the user seems beyond both established methods and established practices.”

“The set of methods employed by most user-centered professionals fails to deliver truly user-centric insights. The so called ’science’ of usability which underlies user-centeredness leaves much to be desired. It rests too much on anecdote, assumed truths about human behavior and an emphasis on performance metrics that serve the perspective of people other than the user.”

Read full story

(via InfoDesign)

6 May 2009

User-centred approach drives the design of Intel’s new home storage solution

Home storage architecture
In December last year, Intel design researcher Daria Loi made a very strong presentation at the UPA Europe conference showing how people in different cultures “keep, protect and find what they value”.

She and others in her team actually went into the homes of people around the world to see how they store both physical and digital things, in order to use their insights of people’s mental model on storage in the development of better digital storage solutions.

(The presentation is not online but can be requested by contacting surrealist.milliner@gmail.com.)

After all, we don’t store things like computers do. But what is a human-centred storage model and how to implement that in a digital storage system?

Now Intel has published two extensive and highly recommendable articles, co-written by Frank Hady, director of network storage pathfinding, and Michael Payne, director of experience definition and assessment, describing in detail how these insights of the design research have been taken forward.

Taken as a whole, they provide an excellent case study of the relevance of a user-centred approach in the design of new and innovative technology-based products and services.

The first article, “Why We Need Whole Home Storage Architecture“, describes the insights of the design research:

“Our findings indicate clear gaps in the ability of current products to simply and intuitively help people to protect, share and access media that is of value to them. [...] This article presents an overview of what Intel’s consumer research tells us about home storage trends – and how whole home storage architecture can help fill the gaps.”

Five key insights came out of the design research:

  • People acquire digital media from many places with many different devices, and although people around the world share high-level objectives, including the desire to find and create digital media, protect and store it, easily find and access it, and ultimately enjoy and share it, there are also many differences to be taken into account.
     
  • The volume of digital media is growing rapidly, and it is clear that the continuing growth in the volume of media in coming years will be a huge problem for people worldwide, if comprehensive solutions are not made available.
     
  • Disjointed ‘islands’ of digital media stored on multiple devices make access difficult. As time passes and the media library and number of devices continue to expand, managing the entire media collection across these islands of storage can become an overwhelming problem.
     
  • People are concerned about the safety of their media. Yet many people do not back up, or if they do, they will often use failure-prone disks and platforms with limited lifetimes.
     
  • Today’s solutions have significant limitations. Many consumers report being overwhelmed by the task of managing their digital media collections and finding a storage solution that is reliable, trusted and easy to use

In response to these learnings, Intel sets out a vision: “We envision a whole home storage architecture that will bring the familiar, local storage experience to all the data and media in the home.”

This vision is then articulated in three key requirements: easy accessibility, data permanence, and fast performance, which are in turn given shape in a concept prototype.

Intel’s prototype solution for Whole Home Storage is described in the second article, “A Consumer’s Eye View of Whole Home Storage“.

Based on the user research and a number of usage scenarios — related to viewing and editing photos, storing and viewing videos, listening and sharing music, and whole home media backup — Intel created four value propositions that the prototype solution should cover:

  • It should be simple to set up and use
  • It should accommodate multiple user interfaces
  • It should provide personalization – and parental controls
  • It should preserve the essential magic of TV

The prototype Whole Home Storage solution, which seems to be mainly focused still on a unified directory structure, which is accessible by networked devices anywhere in the home, has been deployed in eight homes to allow early exploration of user experiences. The article describes the benefits and challenges faced by users, and concludes:

“It is clear from our experiences with the Whole Home Storage prototype that the solution has great promise, and people find interesting ways to use the capability. It is also clear that improvements in ease of use, especially during setup, would be required in a productized version.”

6 May 2009

Cisco CTO: The future of collaboration will be all about user experience

Padmasree Warrior
In a series of predictions on the future of collaboration, Padmasree Warrior, the chief technology officer of Cisco Systems, points out that it’s the user experience that matters.

“We need to provide an experience that’s consistent and seamless, with easy access to the services you care about, regardless of your location or device.

To enable this seamless experience, applications must be hosted and delivered through a combination of on-premise and on-demand networks working together. Bottom line, there will always be a combination of different types of applications – some that are local and others that are in the cloud.”

Read full story

5 May 2009

Taking my community ‘to go’

On call
The latest issue of Vodafone’s Receiver Magazine is entitled “Seizing the Moment”:

“Bending and transcending the constraints of time and space has gotten easy for us. With our mobiles and netbooks, we’re about to create a social setting in which communication and self-expression are possible not only on the go, but also at the speed of thought. We can convert dead time into creative time, are provided with information when we need it, can react to events in an instant and enjoy each precious little moment with our dear ones. Constant contact has become so convenient that we sometimes have to keep ourselves from cramming as much as we can into every second.”

The articles come in weekly instalments, and in her contribution to receiver Mary Chayko, professor and chairperson of sociology at the College of St Elizabeth in Morristown, New Jersey looks at the connections we make and the social networking that takes place on the internet and mobile phones. She discusses the immediacy and the appeal, the challenges and the complexities, of our spending so many moments interacting in on-line and mobile “portable communities”, and all this in a very human-centred way.

“Portable communities and social networks would not have become such enticing ‘places’ in which to devote so much of our time if the social connections made there were not real and genuine.

It’s clear by now (though it wasn’t when I began studying all this almost twenty years ago) that real social bonds and communities are made with the assistance of technology. These connections can be vivid, authentic, reciprocal, and highly meaningful for people. Of course, sometimes, they are none of these things. But generally, in the emotional, often intimate, immediacy of the moments spent on-line (especially with wireless and mobile devices) social connections are made easily – connections which very much matter to us. They bring about real tears and smiles, create real friendships and partnerships and break up real marriages and careers. In short, they produce genuine feelings and pleasures and problems, with real and definite consequences which, the sociologist »» W.I. Thomas says, is the true test of realness. We do on-line and mobile social connectedness a disservice (and fail to understand it fully) when we treat it as anything less than fully real.”

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4 May 2009

As consumers’ demands change, designers are all in the behavior business

 
Over the past few months, frog design’s Robert Fabricant has been “busy riling up the design community with a theory that designers are now in the ‘behavior business’”.

“Innovation is not just about putting the right new feature into a product and getting it on the shelf faster than the next guy. Innovation comes from an intense collaboration with your customers through which you can influence the behavior that will keep you (and your products and services) relevant for a long time.”

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4 May 2009

Crowdsourcing, collaborative innovation and co-creation in the mobile industry

Steve Wolak
Steve Wolak is the founder and head of the Betavine, Vodafone’s developer outreach website — recently much heralded by Vodafone’s CEO Vittorio Colao — and he just started blogging.

His central question: “Crowdsourcing, open and collaborative innovation, the long tail, wikinomics … what does it all mean for the corporate company? particularly operators?”

Several of his recent posts are about the Betavine Social Exchange, a project funded as part of the Vodafone Group Social Investment Fund, which seeks to enable access to communications in emerging markets.

>> Note the nice write-up on MobileActive today

In his most recent post on the mobile ecosystem in emerging markets, Wolak says that one of the drivers behind the Betavine Social Exchange is to help local entrepreneurs to think about the mobile space and its opportunities.

“In creating the Betavine Social Exchange website we are currently thinking about 3 key groups of stakeholders or “audiences” – owners, contributors and activators.”

4 May 2009

Tim Brown on the participation economy

Tim Brown
Nokia’s IdeasProject site features a video interview with Tim Brown, CEO of Ideo, where he argues that that communications technology is leading us back to the kind of participation economy that existed before the industrial revolution in that a great product or service is no longer defined as something where the customer doesn’t have to do anything. A good service, he says, will be defined as one that draws customers in as participants.

Related content:

  • Global Business: Design Thinking (podcast)
    BBC analyst Peter Day talks to IDEO CEO Tim Brown about how information technology has tipped off a wave of consumer involvement in the design of products and services.
     
  • The powerful link between creativity and play (TED)
    At the 2008 Serious Play conference, designer Tim Brown talks about the powerful relationship between creative thinking and play.

Also check out the site’s new feature article on micro-blogging.

2 May 2009

Living and learning with social media

danah boyd
danah boyd (blog), a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society, was one of the featured speakers at the April 18 Penn State Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology, an annual one-day event on ways that technology can be used to enhance teaching, learning, and research.

Her talk “Living and Learning with Social Media” is now online:

“Today’s teens are growing up in a world where social media is everywhere. Regardless of whether or not they have access to these technologies or how they engage with them, there is little doubt that social media is playing a significant role in the changing landscape of American youth. [...]

Today’s teens are still more interested in their friends than their lessons. They’re still resistant to power and authority at variable levels. They still gossip, bully, flirt, joke around, and hang out. The underlying dynamics are fairly consistent. That said, technology is inflecting these practices in unique ways. And my goal here today is to talk about these inflection points.”

- Read talk
- View interview with danah boyd