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Putting People First

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July 2009
21 July 2009

Elsevier announces the “Article of the Future”

Article of the Future
According to an Elsevier press release, the ew article prototype introduces non-linear structure, enhanced graphical navigation, and integrated multimedia.

“Elsevier, the leading publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and services, today announces the ‘Article of the Future’ project, an ongoing collaboration with the scientific community to redefine how a scientific article is presented online. The project takes full advantage of online capabilities, allowing readers individualized entry points and routes through content, while exploiting the latest advances in visualization techniques.

The Article of the Future launches its first prototypes this week, revealing a new approach to presenting scientific research online. The key feature of the prototypes is a hierarchical presentation of text and figures so that readers can elect to drill down through the layers based on their current task in the scientific workflow and their level of expertise and interest. This organizational structure is a significant departure from the linear-based organization of a traditional print-based article in incorporating the core text and supplemental material within a single unified structure. […]

The prototypes have been developed by the editorial, production and IT teams at Cell Press in collaboration with Elsevier’s User Centered Design group using content from two previously published Cell articles. They can be viewed online where Elsevier and Cell Press are inviting feedback from the scientific community on the concepts and implementations. Successful ideas from this project will ultimately be rolled-out across Elsevier’s portfolio of 2,000 journals available on ScienceDirect.”

Read full story

>> Read also this reflection by ReadWriteWeb on the matter

21 July 2009

Touch me! An article on tactile experience

TouchMe
In this article Jessica Ching, Laura Henneberry and Shally Lee share the findings of a collaborative project between the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) and Canadian network operator TELUS.

“Touch is a vital human need and a deeply emotional form of communication. When we physically interact with people or things we enjoy, we connect with them and react to them. They can make us feel warm, calm, playful or excited. The physical sensation of using a mobile phone, however, is missing these emotional and physical reactions. When we think about other objects, we can clearly imagine the feeling of sensual underwear, luxurious cars or high performance runners. In contrast, using a mobile phone is a bit like pressing your face into a remote control.”

Read full story

21 July 2009

Mobile Internet user experience is miserable: Study

Angry
While most people see mobile as the answer to so many problems, research from Nielsen Norman Group sees it as another problem on the list.

“The key finding showed that users are 35 percent less successful completing Web site tasks via their mobile phones than they are on a regular PC. The usability studies leading up to this newfound research was conducted in the U.S. and Britain, where Nielsen Norman Group researchers found that the average success rate for users to complete tasks via mobile was only 59 percent.”

Read full story

(See also this other story on the same study)

21 July 2009

Storytelling and interaction design

Ben Fullerton
The urge to describe experiences by telling a story runs throughout human history. From pictograms to hieroglyphs to the songs of the wandering bard, argues Ben Fullerton, we have developed many different ways of using storytelling devices such as allegory and the arc of a narrative to describe the world around us, and our place in it.

“As interaction designers, we are concerned with describing how people might interact with and experience the products, services and environments that inhabit their world. The ability to effectively tell a story, then, is an important part of any interaction designer’s skill set, and proves useful at many different points of the design process.”

Nice Vodafone Future example.

Read full story

21 July 2009

We’re shifting from a need-to-know to a need-to-share culture

Ross Mayfield
Ross Mayfield (blog), a leading social software entrepreneur and founder of Socialtext, talks on Nokia’s IdeasProject site about a major transformation in the way organizations assimilate ideas.

Whereas in the past companies were protective and less inclined to track outside feedback, the rapid growth of Web communications has shown that sharing can be the basis for increased and better targeted productivity.

Watch interview

21 July 2009

Happy birthday Experientia

Experientia
On 21 July 2009, Experientia turns four years old. From four friends and business partners to an office of over twenty staff and collaborators, Experientia has grown quickly. It’s a far cry from the early days of meeting in partners’ homes, but it has been an interesting journey.

From idea to experience – the founding of a company
We begin the story at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, where both Mark Vanderbeeken and Jan-Christoph Zoels were working, Mark as Communications Manager and Jan-Christoph as Senior Associate Professor. Based in Italy, the two friends were busy strategising about building an experience design consultancy, which could compete with leading design agencies in Europe.

At that time Michele Visciola was working as an international usability expert, teaching at Milan Polytechnic and collaborating with Pierpaolo Perotto of Finsa Consulting. He had previously founded an Italian usability company that was bought by a major software company, and now wanted to start an international company.

In April 2003, Michele co-organised a conference on the semantic web at the Interaction Design Institute. Speaking with Mark, he talked about his ambition to found a company; the story began to take on a shape of its own. Before long, Mark had introduced Michele to Jan-Christoph, and they had met up with Pierpaolo. With a gestation period of two years, including meetings in Rome, Milan, Turin and the Ivrea countryside, the idea of an experience design company was developed. In the spring of 2005 the four met for a one and a half day conference, and brainstormed on the philosophy, concepts and strategies that would underlie the business. Michele came up with the name, with inspiration striking him in the train station of Milano Centrale on the way back from a business meeting!

After finding the name, the next important step was securing the right website address. Experientia.com was owned by BuyDomains, a domain name trader, and was for sale at a cost of US $2800. Pierpaolo dictated his personal credit card details over the phone to Mark, in order to quickly buy the domain name – the first official Experientia transaction!

On the 21st July 2005, at the offices of their notary, Experientia was officially born.

The early days
The first challenge was to find a home for the company. The partners soon moved into the fourth floor of Via Cesare Battisti 15, overlooking the charming piazza Carlo Alberto in the heart of historical Turin. Within a year, they found that they had outgrown the space, and began looking for new, more spacious offices. The search took them all over Turin, including an eerie 17th-century building which housed the ex-offices of the Inquisition! Finally the search led them in a full circle, when the partners noticed a sign for the current office space on the second floor of the same building. In March 2007 they moved into the new offices, without even needing to change the business cards!

All over the world
The Experientia staff have always had an international flavour, with current team members coming from as far away as Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Israel, Japan, Korea and the USA just to name a few. The staff, just like the clients, were originally sourced from the partners’ wide networks, built over twenty years of professional experience each.

The atmosphere at Experientia is open and collaborative, with a horizontal structure, and a hands-on approach from the partners, who choose to be strongly involved in the projects. The partners each bring a different area of expertise to the mix, as do the staff, with experts in strategy, design, usability and communications.

The client roster now boasts an impressive list of new and past clients, including some of the biggest names in telecommunications, technology and fashion, from all over the world. The Experientia reputation has grown over the years through word of mouth, based on innovative processes, creative solutions and high quality deliverables This is also due to the active communications and outreach strategy of the partners, which includes the highly successful blog Putting People First, presentations at conferences and workshops, and articles in such well-known industry journals as Interactions Magazine.

To the next four years… and many more
As Experientia continues to grow, the team strives to bring user research and design together, and to communicate the message that companies and public services must start putting people first. The vision for the future includes continued growth, despite the economic slowdown, with the possible setting-up of business units that deal with specific areas, such as health care, or public governance, and regional offices. Part of this expansion will be a greater emphasis on service design, experience prototyping, the integration between international usability and design, and the development of design strategies.

The last four years have been an unforgettable experience for all involved, positioning Experientia for exciting opportunities in the years ahead.

Client roster
Adaptive Path (USA), Alcatel-Lucent (France, Spain), Area Association (Italy) with project site DiTo, Arits Consulting (Belgium), Arup (UK), AVIS (Italy), Barclays (Italy, UK), Blyk (Finland, UK), Casa.it (Italy), Cittadellarte (Italy), City of Genk (Belgium), Condé Nast (Italy) with project site Style.it, Conifer Research (USA), CSI-Piemonte (Italy), CVS-Pharmacy (USA), Dada.it (Italy), Design Flanders (Belgium), Deutsche Telekom (Germany), Expedia (UK), Facem Tre Spade (Italy), Fidelity International (UK), Finmeccanica (Italy), Flanders in Shape (Belgium), Foviance (Italy), Fujitsu-Siemens (Germany), Haier (China), Hewlett Packard (India), Idean (Finland), IEDC-Bled School of Management (Slovenia), IKS-Core Consulting (Italy), Istud Foundation (Italy), Keep Sight (USA), Kodak (USA), LAit (Italy), Last Minute (UK), La Voce di Romagna (Italy), Max Mara (Italy), Media & Design Academy (Belgium), Microsoft (USA), Motorola (USA), MPG Ferrero (Italy), Nokia (Denmark, Finland, France), Red Hat (USA), Research in Motion (Canada), Samsung (Italy, Korea, UK), Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Italy), Swisscom (Switzerland), Syneo (Italy), Tandem Seven (USA), Techno System S.p.A (Italy), Thomson CompuMark (USA), Torino 2008 World Design Capital (Italy), Usability Professionals’ Association (Italy), Vodafone (Germany, Italy, UK), and Whirlpool (UK).

19 July 2009

Libraries turn page to thrive in digital age

Toronto Reference Library
The Globe and Mail newspaper of Canada looks at the future of libraries:

Long the subject of warnings that the Internet would spell their demise, public libraries are booming through new branches, more resources and more computers.

And in addition to their regular schedule of children’s programs and author readings, many have reinvented themselves as multipurpose gathering places that happen to house millions of books. Some officials actively court new patrons with everything from coffee shops and comfortable chairs to rock concerts and teen nights.

Read full story

Also check the Futures of Learning series entitled “Museums and libraries in a digital age“.

19 July 2009

The crowd is wise (when it’s focused)

Unboxed
According to the New York Times, evidence suggests that crowdsourcing succeeds when it’s designed for specific tasks — and when the incentives attract the most effective collaborators.

“A look at recent cases and new research suggests that open-innovation models succeed only when carefully designed for a particular task and when the incentives are tailored to attract the most effective collaborators” […]

“Open-innovation models are adopted to overcome the constraints of corporate hierarchies. But successful projects are typically hybrids of ideas flowing from a decentralized crowd and a hierarchy winnowing and making decisions.”

Read full story

18 July 2009

Technology for more than one language, please

Earth
Technological tools are not made for people who speak more than one language, and there are many of us: immigrants, travellers, polyglots, emerging market facilitators, people from smaller language communities … In fact, people who are not Anglo-Saxon frequently use more than one language.

But technology is not made for us.

Although computers have operating systems in many languages, once you have chosen one of them you are completely locked in: support in any other language means going through complicated menus that are usually not immediately reachable and that have way too many options (e.g. every time I change my spell check language I have to select between ALL languages, not just between those that I actually speak); key widgets are available in the main OS language only (try installing an English language Apple dictionary/thesaurus on your Mac, while also installing an Italian and a Dutch one); going through user forums; or relying on the web.

Nokia, which is a company that should know better (as Finnish is only spoken by 6 million people), is not much of an example either. European phones come pre-installed with dictionary support for language regions (no help if you are a Belgian living in Italy), and it is nearly impossible to change that unless you start mucking around with the firmware of the phone. Even changing my T9 language support during messaging from let’s say English to Italian takes me at least 8 clicks (Options > 4 down on the list: Writing language > 3 down on the list: Italiano).

In the end you end up messing around, tinkering, hacking solutions together, struggling and being frustrated.

Has there been any research on this? Any article? Any best practices?

18 July 2009

Book: Human-Computer Interaction – Development Process

Human-Computer Interaction
Human-Computer Interaction: Development Process
(Series: Human Factors and Ergonomics)
by Andrew Sears and Julie A. Jacko (Editors)
CRC Press, March 2, 2009
Hardcover, 356 pages
AmazonGoogle Books Preview

Hailed on first publication as a compendium of foundational principles and cutting-edge research, The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook has become the gold standard reference in this field. Derived from select chapters of this groundbreaking resource, Human-Computer Interaction: The Development Practice addresses requirements specification, design and development, and testing and evaluation activities. It also covers task analysis, contextual design, personas, scenario-based design, participatory design, and a variety of evaluation techniques including usability testing, inspection-based and model-based evaluation, and survey design.

The book includes contributions from eminent researchers and professionals from around the world who, under the guidance of editors Andrew Sear and Julie Jacko, explore visionary perspectives and developments that fundamentally transform the discipline and its practice.

Table of contents:
User Experience and HCI, Mike Kuniavsky
Requirements Specifications within the Usability Engineering Lifecycle, Deborah J. Mayhew
Task Analysis, Catherine Courage, Janice (Genny) Redish, and Dennis Wixon
Contextual Design, Karen Holtzblatt
An Ethnographic Approach to Design, Jeanette Blomberg, Mark Burrel
Putting Personas to Work: Using Data-Driven Personas to Focus Product Planning, Design and Development, Tamara Adlin and John Pruitt
Prototyping Tools and Techniques, Michel Beaudouin-Lafon and Wendy E. Mackay
Scenario-based Design, Mary Beth Rosson and John M. Carroll
Participatory Design: The Third Space in HCI, Michael J. Muller
Unified User Interface Development: New Challenges and Opportunities, Anthony Savidis and Constantine Stephanidis
HCI and Software Engineering: Designing for User Interface Plasticity, Jöelle Coutaz and Gäelle Calvary
Usability Testing: Current Practice and Future Directions, Joseph S. Dumas and Jean E. Fox
Survey Design and Implementation in HCI, A. Ant Ozok
Inspection-based Evaluation, Gilbert Cockton, Alan Woolrych, and Darryn Lavery
Model-Based Evaluation, David Kieras

Ethnographers at Microsoft: A Review of Human-Computer Interaction: Development Process
Book review by Ronald J. Chenail

Qualitative researchers and those with qualitative inquiry skills are finding tremendous employment opportunities in the world of technology design and development. Because of their abilities to observe and understand the experiences of end users in human-computer interactions, these researchers are helping companies using Contextual Design to create the next generation of products with the users clearly in mind.

In Human-Computer Interaction: Development Process, the new edited book by Andrew Sears and Julie Jacko, the authors describe an array of models and methods incorporating qualitative research concepts and procedures that are being used in technology today and can have great potential tomorrow for qualitative researchers working in fields and settings outside of business and technology.

18 July 2009

Creating one’s own economy of human well-being

Create your own economy
Tyler Cowen (Wikipedia), a professor of economics at George Mason University, has written a thought-provoking piece for Fast Company, that is many ways highly complementary to our own KashKlash discussion on the future of value exchange.

“Online, you can literally create your own economy. By that, I mean you can build an ordered set of opportunities for prosperity and pleasure, analogous to a traditional economy but held in your head. There is no obvious monetary transaction, but you’re using your limited resources to get a better deal — the very essence of economics. In fact, “economics” comes from oikonomia, the ancient Greek word for household management, and the modern practice of economics is returning to that idea.

The traditional gauge of economic success is profit, but over time we’ll find that such statistics as measures of GDP tell us less and less about broader efforts to improve human well-being. Much of the Web’s value is experienced at the personal level and does not show up in productivity numbers.”

Read full story

Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World is also the title of Cowen’s new book that came out a few days ago.

One of the most respected behavioral economists in the world and coauthor of the “best economics blog in the universe” offers an essential guide to success in a radically new hyper-networked age.

How will we live well in a super-networked, information-soaked, yet predictably irrational world? The only way to know is to understand how the way we think is changing.

As economist Tyler Cowen boldly shows in Create Your Own Economy, the way we think now is changing more rapidly than it has in a very long time. Not since the Industrial Revolution has a man-made creation—in this case, the World Wide Web—so greatly influenced the way our minds work and our human potential. Cowen argues brilliantly that we are breaking down cultural information into ever-smaller tidbits, ordering and reordering them in our minds (and our computers) to meet our own specific needs.

Create Your Own Economy explains why the coming world of Web 3.0 is good for us; why social networking sites such as Facebook are so necessary; what’s so great about “Tweeting” and texting; how education will get better; and why politics, literature, and philosophy will become richer. This is a revolutionary guide to life in the new world.

17 July 2009

Design ethnography: strategy for visual communications

Design ethnography
Design ethnography: strategy for visual communications
Leslie MacNeil Weber
2009 Graduate Thesis
University of Washington

Ethnography, a field of anthropological study and a research technique, helps visual communication designers create materials that evoke meaning and inspire action in their audiences. Ethnography enables a designer’s understanding by uncovering cultural contexts and social norms.

This thesis examines the intersection between the fields of ethnography and visual communication design. First, the thesis describes the value of ethnography in developing effective strategies for visual communication design. Second, the thesis describes how designers can most effectively collaborate with ethnographers in all phases of the design process.

17 July 2009

Financial Times podcasts on connected lives

Connected lives
The Financial Times analyses the implications of a connected planet in this series of roundtable discussions.

Connected Lives: the debate – Part 1
Three experts (Suranga Chandratillake, CEO of Blinkx; Niall Murphy, co-founder of The Cloud; and Ade McCormack of Auridian) discuss what it means to be connected, the barriers to universal access to fast broadband, and the public sector’s role in its delivery.

Connected Lives: the debate – Part 2
Our experts argue over the impact of mobility on business, flexible working and work-life balance, and the issues it raises for HR and IT security departments.

Connected Lives: the debate – Part 3
Do digital connections help the developing world out of poverty? Our experts discuss this controversial issue.

Providing connectivity
How has IT and mobility changed over the past decade? Who still needs to get connected? And how important are industry standards?

17 July 2009

Futures 2.0: rethinking the discipline

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang of The Institute for the Future has been working recently on a think-piece on what futures would look like if it started now:

“If instead of starting during the Cold War, in the middle of enthusiasm for social engineering, computer programming, and rationalistic visions of future societies, futures was able to draw on neuroscience and neuroeconomics, behavioral psychology, simulation, and other fields and tools.” […]

“If there was no Global Business Network, no IFTF, no organized or professionalized efforts to forecast the future– what would the field look like? What kinds of problems would it tackle? What kinds of science would it draw on? And how would it try to make its impact felt?”

Read full story
Download essay

Also from Alex, the “The Evil Futurists’ Guide to World Domination: How to be Successful, Famous, and Wrong“. According to Bruce Sterling, Pang’s “evil futurist” is “a morally-certain holy prophet with a scripture“.

17 July 2009

Power in People’s Hands: learning from the world’s best public services

Power in People's Hands
The [UK] Government’s drive to reform public services by giving more power back to the citizen was accelerated yesterday, with the publication of a new study of innovative public services from around the world.

Drawing on more than 30 of the best examples from around the world, Power in People’s Hands: Learning from the World’s Best Public Services shows how giving people more control over the services they use and freeing frontline public servants to innovate can deliver better services and greater value for money.

The report, produced by the Strategy Unit in the [UK] Cabinet Office, looks at services that fall into five key strands:

  • Using entitlements to put power in the hands of service users.
    For example, the “0-7-90-90” healthcare rule in Sweden, which guarantees patients instant contact with the health system, an appointment with a GP in seven days, a specialist in 90 days and a maximum 90-day wait for treatment.
  • Empowering citizens and transferring accountability of services through real time, highly local information.
    The US government has created Data.gov, a website that increases public access to non-sensitive government databases in a format that makes the information easy to understand and re-use.
  • Creating personalised services shaped around an individual’s needs
    The Wraparound Milwaukee programme helps children with mental health problems and their families work with a lead professional to create a personalised package of care that keeps the child out of hospital and significantly reduces costs
  • Prevention rather than cure.
    The Netherlands and other countries are piloting systems that keep people with chronic conditions out of hospital. Each day the patient fills in an online survey about their health, allowing their doctor to spot early warning signs.
  • A new professionalism among front-line staff and leaders.
    Teachers in Alberta, Canada, can conduct research projects on issues relevant to their school. All projects (more than 1,700 so far) report their progress online to parents and the system has driven improvements in student performance.

Read press release
Download report

17 July 2009

Re-framing the problem: social interaction design

Adrian Chan
Social media expert and social interaction theorist Adrian Chan describes on Johnny Holland on what he means with ‘social interaction design’ and on the role of frames of meaning, frames of experience, and frames as a concept for a user-centric description of social interactions.

A recommended read.

“User centric design ought to be oriented to the framing of experience, and in social media particularly, common and shared frames of experience. Also common frames of reference, frames of communication, recognizable frames of action (games, rituals, pastimes etc), and temporal frames (routines and episodes).

Are we losing our frames? In terms of the user experience, is his or her experience running away from us? Can we no longer anticipate the user’s experience, due in part to the level of interconnectedness among social media? Can we no longer assess the user’s experience, due in part to the increased ambiguity surrounding his or her use of (our) applications and services? Can we no longer manage the user experience, insofar as there is now a high level of arbitrariness in the information selected, actions acted, communications created and sent, among users of social media?

If the user experience escapes us, if it is not possible to anticipate uses, to design and forward use cases, to define and order user interests, goals, and use benefits — what can we know of how social media will be used? Not knowing how they will be used, how can we anticipate consequences well enough to design for them?”

Read full story

17 July 2009

Converting those who have no desire to be converted

UK online
80% of the transactions of the UK Government are done with the bottom 25% of society and migrating services online offers great cost savings. Yet, 17 million Britons have never been online and many of those are poor.

Now the UK has a ‘Digital Champion’ in the person of Martha Lane Fox, erstwhile co-founder of Lastminute.com, who is developing a strategy n changing that.

But does bringing government services online improve people’s lives?

Read full story

14 July 2009

For Uganda’s poor, a cellular connection

Banana query
In a country where people don’t have electricity, much less Internet access, the Grameen Foundation partners with Google to relay information through mobile phones. Dara Kerr reports from on the ground for CNet:

“The research for this project began a year and a half ago at the Application Laboratory, AppLab, which was set up in Kampala, Uganda, by the Grameen Foundation. It has done field research, quantitative needs assessments, prototyping, and focus group testing to figure out how to design and structure mobile applications that could deliver the information.

Since most cell phones in Uganda have only voice and SMS capabilities, the technology was built for SMS. A person texts a question to a specific code, which goes to the database built by AppLab, then using Google’s algorithms, keywords are identified and the most suitable answer is sent back to the cell phone. ” […]

“For the next few months, there is a promotional period and all texts are free, which helps AppLab continue to build its database of queries. When the promotional period ends, MTN and Google have agreed to charge agriculture and health queries at half the cost of a normal SMS message, while all the other services will have the standard rates. Meanwhile, Google will be supporting an on-the-ground assessment to make sure these services are having a beneficial impact for the people of Uganda.”

Read full story

14 July 2009

The digital age of rights

Bill Thompson
The digitally deprived have rights too, says BBC News columnist Bill Thompson, who is quite upset about a new French law:

“If it is unacceptable to cut people off from the network because their actions are commercially damaging to the record companies, why is it acceptable to offer them poor or no access to broadband and mobile internet just because providing the service is commercially unattractive to ISPs or network operators?

And if we are to be encouraged to think of access to the internet as a fundamental human right, a prerequisite of having freedom of expression, should we not be prosecuting ISPs over the ‘notspots’ in their mobile or wi-fi coverage, the communities with no access to ADSL because of the telephone network was repaired with aluminium instead of copper, or the areas bypassed by the cable providers? “

Read full story

14 July 2009

What you don’t know about M-PESA

M-PESA usage
Olga Morawczynski, a doctoral candidate at the University of Edinburgh and has spent more than a year investigating customer adoption and usage in both urban and rural Kenya, and has been sharing some of her insights on the CGAP blog. This time she talks about a third player, Sagentia, who was behind the M-PESA success:

“There was also a smaller player that had a vitally important role in the conceptualization and development of the application. That is, Sagentia, a technology consultancy firm based out of Cambridge. The firm not only wrote the software for M-PESA, they also designed the business processes, and provided operational and technical support during the pilot and after launch.” […]

“They assured me that M-PESA was just the beginning. Using the mobile as a platform, they plan to create developmental services that penetrate other spheres —m-health, agribusiness. They further predicted that the mobile will soon begin to revolutionize these other spaces as well.”

Read full story

See also these earlier CGAP posts about her work (oldest posts listed first):

Morawczynski is the author of a forthcoming CGAP brief on M-PESA and recently co-authored Designing Mobile Money Services: Lessons from M-PESA with Ignacio Mas.