Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
Audience Business Culture Design Locations Media Methods Services Social Issues






















Experience design

Interaction design


Service design

Ubiquitous computing












Mobile phone


Virtual world






User experience

User research


Financial services


Public services



Urban development


Digital divide

Emerging markets


Social change


August 2009
24 August 2009

Service design – a matter for international security

The UK service design consultancy live|work is working with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) to design better community security services for humanitarian and development organisations. A news article on their site provides more background on this pioneering application of service design to security related operations in the UN.:

“UNIDIR’s Security Needs Assessment Protocol project is developing a “programme design service”. The service will provide critical, and ethnographically informed security knowledge to the UN and other organisations that are working to rebuild post-conflict societies, or assist with development and humanitarian activities around the world.” […]

“Shifting the focus from the implementation of top-down policy instructions to bottom-up “user focused” service design requires a fundamental, and often radical re-imaging of the UN’s work at the community level.”

Another background article on the live|work site, entitled Data is the New Oil part 1: Business Information, Ben Reason and Jeremy Walker show how it is services that will make business information indispensable to organisations.

“We need to refine the data into services. And these services need to meet the needs and issues of the businesses that information providers hope to sell to. The issue is that, whilst the geek in all of us gets very excited about raw data, business customers are more interested in the immediate challenges that they face. These challenges will be things like effective marketing campaigns, back office productivity or asset management etc. Data owners need to think about how to use their data to help fix their customers’ challenges rather than focusing on the number of data sets they can sell.”

6 August 2009

Web Squared: when Web 2.0 meets Internet of Things

Web Squared
Richard MacManus reports on ReadWriteWeb that Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle released a white paper entitled Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On, which focuses on the intersection of social web technologies with the emerging Internet of Things (real world objects connected to the Internet).

The MacManus review goes quite in depth, and is a recommended read:

“The ‘web squared’ moniker is, commercially speaking, a none to subtle attempt to re-brand web 2.0. This had to be done so that the conference series of that name, which O’Reilly and Battelle jointly run along with the company TechWeb, remains relevant. But less cynically, the report also nicely applies Web 2.0 principles onto the emerging Internet of Things.” […]

“Where the report differs from the traditional view of Internet of Things is that it doesn’t view sensor data as just mechanical data from RFID tags and other non-human sources. The authors argue that humans are producing sensor data of their own, in particular using their mobile phones. They note that today’s smartphones ‘contain microphones, cameras, motion sensors, proximity sensors, and location sensors (GPS, cell-tower triangulation, and even in some cases, a compass).'”

Read full story

6 August 2009

The information architecture of social experience design

Designing social interfaces
Christian Crumlish, curator of the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library and author of The Power of Many, describes the patterns that are relevant when adding a social dimension to an existing experience.

“Designing and building a successful social website or application is no mean feat. Adding a social dimension to an existing experience is trickier still. Nevertheless, the skills to do so are well worth cultivating, as the ubiquitous, pervasive, massively interconnected world of the Internet and allied digital networks, such as mobile SMS (short message service) connections, have unlocked a growing panoply of opportunities for social relationships, remote presence, real-time interactions and the capacity for self-organized groups of people to coordinate their behavior and collaborate on changing the world.

So when your boss, client, teacher or mentor drops a project on your lap and asks you to “add social to it,” where do you start? I’m thinking you start with the information architecture and in particular your conceptual models.

The pattern language that Erin Malone and I are working on […], describes patterns we’ve observed roughly sorted to focus on three major elements of our concept model: people, objects and relationships. Over several years, and with input from many people, we gathered a large list of potential patterns to investigate, and so far we’ve codified 96 of them, with 56 other principles and practices, and five major don’ts, classified as anti-patterns.”

Christian Crumlish is writing a book called Designing Social Interfaces with Erin Malone. He is also a director of the Information Architecture Institute and co-chair of the monthly BayCHI program.

Read full story

(via InfoDesign)

5 August 2009

A user perspective on mobile banking in Tanzania

Voucher agent in Arusha
Gunnar Camner and Emil Sjöblom recently spent three months in Tanzania for their master’s thesis in Media Technology at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden, to investigate mobile banking services from a user perspective.

In which contexts do alternative uses, e.g. savings, become popular and why?

The final report will be presented during autumn 2009 and made available at the project blog. Meanwhile, they sent a dispatch to the CGAP blog:

“While M-PESA in Tanzania has had a hard time competing with its sibling in Kenya in user uptake, there is one way of sending money via the mobile phone that is very popular in the country. That is by using airtime top-up vouchers. The most common way to do this is to buy an airtime voucher, scratch it in order to get the code and then text the code in an SMS to the person you want to send money to. It is then up to the recipient to go out and sell the code to people who want to buy airtime, or resellers and shops that in turn will sell it to people wanting airtime.”

Read full story

You can also more about the project here or download the whole project outline here (pdf).

4 August 2009

From chasm to convergence

Johnathan Bonnell and Jason Theodor explain in a two part series on Experience Matters how technology is increasingly closing the gap between manufacturers and consumers.

“The chasm between consumer feedback and product offerings has virtually been erased, and this convergence has created a new opportunity in co-creation: companies and consumers working together to co-create products, services, or improve upon an experience.

We’ve found and believe that this co-creation can be consumer-led (where the consumer is deeply involved in almost the entire product creation process, a de-facto member of the product & marketing team) or brand-led (the direct involvement of the consumer ends with providing a new idea or suggesting an improvement).”

Read full story: Part 1 | Part 2

3 August 2009

Book: The myth of digital democracy

The Myth of Digital Democracy
The Myth of Digital Democracy
by Matthew Hindman
Princeton University Press, 2008
Paperback, 198 pages


Is the Internet democratizing American politics? Do political Web sites and blogs mobilize inactive citizens and make the public sphere more inclusive? The Myth of Digital Democracy reveals that, contrary to popular belief, the Internet has done little to broaden political discourse but in fact empowers a small set of elites–some new, but most familiar. […]

The Myth of Digital Democracy debunks popular notions about political discourse in the digital age, revealing how the Internet has neither diminished the audience share of corporate media nor given greater voice to ordinary citizens.


Review (Times Higher Education):

“Matthew Hindman’s The Myth of Internet [sic] Democracy is one of the first significant efforts to bring data to bear on the relationship between the internet and democracy. He argues against the journalists and pundits who have made sweeping claims about the internet’s transformative potential for democracy, and suggests that the new online bosses are not very different from the old ones. Unlike earlier sceptics, however, he has some data to support his claims.”


3 August 2009

Learning from games: a language for designing emotion

Joe Lamantia, an Amsterdam based experience architect, discussed the role of emotion in game design.

In his article, Lamantia draws heavily on the work by Nicole Lazzaro, a leading games researcher and design consultant.

“Emotion is one of the most powerful elements of an experience, and also the most difficult to design. Yet games regularly inspire intense emotions, drawing players into the experience they offer, and making these experiences enjoyable and memorable.

With the best games, these feelings endure long after we finish playing. Plainly, interaction designers who want to better understand how to inspire emotions could learn a lot from games.”

Read full story

3 August 2009

Technology will allow us to become digital nomads

Mike Elgan
Technology pundit Mike Elgan says on Nokia’s IdeasProject that we’re evolving a new paradigm for the workplace as technology makes it easier for white collar workers to engage in location-independent employment.

These “digital nomads” will be able to travel the world or go to locations where there are partners or customers for both personal reasons and on behalf of the company.

View video

Related stories:
The economy calls for digital nomads (PC World)
Digital nomads choose their tribes (Washington Post)
Is digital nomad living going mainstream? (Computer World)

3 August 2009

Nokia’s MeraNokia service

Nokia’s MeraNokia (Majha Nokia in Marathi) is actually a Nokia Life Tools (NLT) application coded into the 2300 and 2323 handsets being used in the pilot. Farmers and villagers pay around Rs 2 per day, every 10 days, for the latest on crop pricing, weather, farming tips, among other things. All this is freely available on the net for those with PCs and Internet access. For the farmers, the mobile is the PC.

“Across India, the mobile revolution is passé by now and is just a matter of tracking the millions. (By the time you will be reading this, the number of mobile subscribers in India will have crossed 400 million, making it the world’s second-largest market.) But this very growth has put the fear of commoditisation into the hearts of the players. They need a differentiator. That differentiator is services.”

Read full story

(via Open Gardens)