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Putting People First

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September 2009
29 September 2009

Herkko Hietanen: The social future of television

Herkko Hietanen
Herkko Hietanen of the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology tells his audience at the Berkman Center that “television is really broken,” reports Ethan Zuckerman.

The medium isn’t rising to its full potential, isn’t providing consumers with programs when and where they want them. To set the scheduled for what you want to watch, you need to be at your television. And there are frustrating geographic restrictions on programming – Herkko wonders why it’s hard to watch Finnish TV in the US. Television was created to be consumed – it lacks interactivity with broadcasters and other viewers. It forces consumers to sit through irrelevant commercials.

Read full story

28 September 2009

Deconstructing mobiles for development

MobileActive
Katrin Verclas of MobileActive is launching a new series on “deconstructing mobiles for development”.

Mobile tech as a tool for social development is making the front pages in 2009. They are hyped as panathea for global issues such as rural health in developing countries, poverty alleviation, making rural markets more efficient, and activism.

We have been working in this field since 2005 and have been leading industry analysist, with direct work in a number of areas such as elections and democratic participation. While we agree that mobile phones are revolutionizing the developing world, we think it is time to take a very honest and realistic look at the promises of mobile tech for development and social change, and where these promises are falling short — and of, course, why, and what to do about that.

We are starting the series off in our first part with a post by Ethan Zuckerman, a close friend and collaborator of MobileActive.org. He gives a thoughtful overview of some of the key issues that we will be dissecting throughout the month of October.

His reflections on the subject are based on a recent IDRC-sponsored day of conversations art Harvard’s Berkman Center, and why Rip van Winkle might be surprised, and possibly dismayed if he were to wake up now. They were first published on Publius.cc and are a response to A Dialogue on ICTs, Human Development, Growth, and Poverty Reduction, also published on the same site

Here is what you will hear more about in the coming weeks:

  • A Penny for your SMS: The Cost of Mobile telephony in many developing countries: why it’s so high, what that does for social development projects, and why it does not have to be that way.
  • The Perpetual Pilot Syndrome – and the issue of scale: Much has been said about the many mobile pilot projects that never go anywhere but end when the funding runs dry. We will critically examine the numbers, what it takes to scale, whether it’s desirable, and take a close look at the most recent hype of ‘horizontal scale’ ion mobiles in development.
  • Mobiles for Open Societies? Much has been said and written about the power of mobiles in opening societies, enabling political participation, and engagement. We are taking this notion apart with a deeper exploration of key issues, going beyond the hype.
  • Are Development Organizations Missing the Mobile Wagon (or just failing to ride it?) A critical discussion of the role development organizations have been playing in using mobile tech to advance their goals – and whhat is working, and what is not.
  • What is the Role of Donors in M4D (if any)? After dissecting whether development orgs are helping or hindering the deployment of mobiles in the social sector, we turn to donors who have discovered mobile tech as their new fad, though are mostly pondering right now how to effectively fund mobiles in development.
  • Mobile (In)Security will delve into how networks operate, who knows what about mobile communications, and what that means for activism, advocacy, and social development.
  • Mobiles as a Male Enhancement Tool? A close look at the issues of mobile phones and women’s empowerment, both politically and economically.
  • Do you have to read to use a mobile? As much as 20% of the global adult population is illiterate. Given the ubiquity of SMS services, as well as text-heavy interfaces, what does that mean for reaching the next billion uses (and serving those that already have a mobile but can not read) effectively?
  • Mobile Payments for the Middle Class? We will, of course, take apart the most recent hype about mobile payments and who is benefitting most – as well as who is left behind, promotions in mainstream media notwithstanding.
  • So, Realists, What’s Next? No series would be complete with the obligatory look into the future. We summarize key issues, and make some concrete recommendations on how to realistically and effectively think about, and do work, with mobile tech in social and human development and change.
28 September 2009

Exploring little worlds with Nokia

Little World
The Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design is on a roll. After an intensive workshop with Intel (featured in Worldchanging), now they embarked on an exploration with Nokia (featured in Fast Company). And obviously all online. Excellent work and excellent communications. Enjoy.

1. Mobile Playfulness
Video about how to incorporate playfulness into the UI of phones. We think that people naturally play and fiddle with things and that we can incorporate that into the UI naturally and passively rather than as active lay like games.

2. Staying Connected
People treat their phones as disposable. How can we make people have a more emotional connection with their phone so that they value it more, and therefore make a brand more desirable and less throw-away or disposable.

3. Little World (featured in Fast Company)
Mobile phones are very task based. They focus on what we want to do, not who we want to contact. What would happen if you put people at the centre of an interface? Here we explored such an interface and see how concepts like grouping, messaging and adding friends might work.

26 September 2009

Design and gender: going beyond shrink it and pink it

Gender
Femme Den is a small internal cadre of designers of Smart Design — the company that was responsible for the OXO Good Grips kitchen tools and the Flip Mini Digital Camcorder — that is devoted to thinking about the differences between genders and what that means for product development.

“The Femme Den started as an underground collective of international women searching for answers in a world that was not designed for us. We’ve now grown to a leading team of design researchers, industrial designers, and engineers who are paving the way for a deeper understanding around design and gender.

Armed with our unique toolkit of know-how and fresh design methods, we create products that make a positive impact on people’s lives, particularly women’s. We bring our knowledge to life in the products we design–from the kitchen to the ski slopes to the emergency room.”

A series of articles on Fast Company provide more background on their work:

Forget “shrink it and pink it”: the Femme Den unleashed
by Kate Rockwood – From Issue 139 | October 2009
Boobs. The Femme Den talks about them easily and often — and about the challenges they present to designers. Backpack makers don’t seem to have a clue what to do about boobs. Ditto designers of unisex hospital scrubs, famous for their gaping V-necks. “One surgeon told me there wasn’t a woman at the hospital whose boobs he hadn’t seen,” says Femme Den member Whitney Hopkins.

Femme Den’s five tenets of designing for women
by Kate Rockwood – From Issue 139 | October 2009
1. EMPHASIZE BENEFITS OVER FEATURES: Rather than touting feature sets and specs (how fast or big or slick something is), make the product’s benefits clear. Who can it connect her to? How does it make her life easier? How will it save …

Design in action
by Kate Rockwood – From Issue 139 | October 2009
The Femme Den points to an array of products that smartly and subtly consider women in their design.

Examining design values: warm, cold, or just right
by Erica Eden – Sep 25, 2009
How products can hit a sweet spot between traditionally female (Warm) and male (Cold) values.

Designing for gender, when one or both parties reap the rewards
by Yvonne Lin – Sep 24, 2009
The most successful products are designed for one sex but embraced by both.

How companies can woo women with design
by Agnete Enga – Sep 23, 2009
When shopping, men tend to go linear and deep, researching a product in detail and then going in for the kill. Women go wide, gathering information that goes beyond herself and her personal needs.


Hunter vs. gatherer: gender differences on the mind
by Whitney Hopkins – Sep 23, 2009
Most of us are only aware of obvious physical or behavioral attributes that differ between genders. But our differences run deeper–to the way we think, the way we act, and to our primitive desires.

Why designers need to talk about sex
by Femme Den – Sep 22, 2009
It’s about time the design industry got serious about gender differences.

Introducing the Femme Den: going beyond “shrink it and pink it”
by Linda Tischler – Sep 21, 2009
The Femme Den aims to go far beyond the traditional “shrink it and pink it” strategy that manufacturers often employ when targeting the female market.

Sex and electronics – Part 1: women and smart design
by Linda Tischler – Jan 13, 2009
In the wake of CES, a pair of women designers offer some suggestions on how consumer electronics manufacturers could boost their market share by taking gender differences into account.

Sex and electronics – Part 2: Femme Den’s favorite gadgets from CES
by Linda Tischler – Jan 13, 2009
Here are the gadgets they loved at CES… and the ones they want to send back to the locker room.

26 September 2009

The city is a battlesuit for surviving the future

Future metro
Matt Jones, design director at Berg in London, has published a piece in Future Metro which Bruce Sterling “would like to call ‘the greatest design-fiction writing I’ve ever seen,” but (a) it’s not about design, (b) it’s not fictional and (c) it’s not even writing.”

“This piece,” Sterling says, “is doing the same futuristic thing that Archigram did decades ago, except for us, for now, in our idiom, with our techniques. It’s far-out, it’s edgy, it’s visionary, it’s truly violative of the given norm, and yet there’s nothing merely cheap and sensational here. These are ground-breaking concepts dressed in a Pop Art battlesuit, and beneath that guise lies profundity. Time is going to be kind to this.”

A small excerpt:

“I’d contend cities are not just engines of invention in stories, they themselves are powerful engines of culture and re-invention. [...]

Cities are the best battlesuits we have.

It seem to me that as we better learn how to design, use and live in cities – we all have a future.”

Read full story

26 September 2009

Intel describes TV of the future

TV
The world’s biggest chip maker predicts that by 2015 there will be 12 billion devices capable of connecting to 500 billion hours of TV and video content.

The audience heard from a number of speakers on what promises to be a new kind of TV experience as broadcast content, video content, internet content and personal content is all blended together.

- Read full story (BBC)
- Read full story (CNet)

Apparently, Intel CTO Rattner also claimed that “Intel knew for a fact that TV was what the unwashed masses craved, because Intel had hired an army of social scientists to say so. In fact, such is the power of ethnography at the firm that Intel’s hippies seem to have convinced the firm to throw its weight behind something it calls “Informative, ubiquitous, personal and social TV,” whatever that actually means.”

26 September 2009

Do you want that on your permanent record?

Gordon Bell
In his Wall Street Journal De Gustibus column, Eric Felten describes Total Recall, a Microsoft project that will archive every detail of our daily lives.

“A certain kind of techno-triumphalist may find this idea appealing, but I suspect that most of us will be slightly horrified. Do we really need a new and improved way to facilitate self-obsession? Don’t blogs and Twitter provide enough opportunity for recording the stultifyingly mundane? History is the history of people recording selected events in their own lives and in the lives of those around them, as well as their thoughts and emotions about those events. The key word is “selected”: Even the most logorrheic 19th-century letter-writer, with a busy postal service at his disposal, could preserve only a fraction of lived experience. Knowing what to record and what to discard has always been a key definition of smarts; having the capacity to record everything doesn’t necessarily change that. Total Recall promises to make us modern Montaignes but is more likely to turn us into virtual versions of Homer and Langley Collyer.”

Read full story

(Read a CNN article/interview about the same topic)

26 September 2009

Changing Behaviour

Changing Behaviour
Changing Behaviour is a project that aims to support change in energy use and energy services. They do so by applying social research on technological change to practical use. Their focus is on the interaction between energy experts and energy users: How can these different groups learn to understand each other better?

Changing Behaviour is an action research project. Researchers and practitioners work together to develop, test and refine tools for improved interaction that are sensitive to context, timing and the needs of different users and stakeholders.

Changing Behaviour is an ongoing European project that is funded by the EU 7th Framework Programme Energy theme. The project partners are from Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the UK.

This project aims to support the shift toward end-user services in European energy policy. It will

  • develop a sophisticated but practical model of end-user behaviour and stakeholder interaction
  • integrate knowledge of context (e.g., national culture and institutions), timing and actors into energy demand management practice
  • pilot the transfer of context-tailored demand side programmes from one European country to another
  • create a toolkit for practitioners to manage the social and technical change involved in demand management programmes (i.e., energy efficiency and renewable-based end-user generation).

Download
- brochure
- project presentation
- case studies
- articles and conference papers

26 September 2009

Users‘ role in innovation processes in the sports equipment industry

Users‘ role in innovation processes in the sports equipment industry
The Nordic Innovation Centre just published a report on the role of user-driven innovation in the growing Nordic sports equipment industry. Not only on how users help firms develop better technical products but also on how taking users seriously helps firms build and commercialise better and more competitive brands.

Abstract
The main objective of this project is to contribute to our knowledge about user-driven innovation and to suggest how knowledge on user-driven innovation may be included in innovation efforts and systems both for the sports equipment industry and for other industries.

The study is primarily based on case studies of how firms within the Nordic sports equipment and outdoor industry involve users in their innovation efforts. Our studies concentrate on firms producing equipment for winter sport and outdoor recreation. The study builds upon a large number of interviews with firms and key persons as well as extensive analysis of available written material and research literature.

The results focus on the identification of certain key user groups in the sports equipment innovation cycle: user innovators, professional and sponsored users, enthusiastic amateurs, passionate insiders and chains and retailers. We consider the extent to which these users influence or take part in innovation processes within technical design, visual design, branding and the development of product systems.

The report concludes with policy recommendations for how firms may take advantage of each user group. In this respect we present some key points and examples on firms’ interaction with users in innovation processes. Other recommendations consider public policy and suggest that public policy ought to encourage firms to take advantage of knowledge held by those groups. In society a large number of user groups exist and public policy ought to stimulate use of their knowledge for a broader purpose, including societal development. Merging user groups in order to stimulate cross sector development, in addition to organising meeting places may be a theme for public policy at the
regional level.

Download report

26 September 2009

Yahoo looks to improve search experience

Elizabeth Churchill
The Mercury News reports on how Yahoo believes it can build its search audience by focusing on the user “experience,” rather than viewing search as a raw data query.

“‘What’s notable about many of the stable of researchers at Yahoo backing that effort is that many of them [...] aren’t even computer scientists.

They are part of a team of social scientists — cognitive psychologists, sociologists, economists and ethnographers — that Yahoo hopes will help close the search gap with the dominant Google. [...]

The plan to broaden Yahoo Labs into a multidisciplinary team where social scientists work directly with computer scientists is one element of Yahoo’s strategy to hold people on its Web properties, after its new branding campaign — Yahoo’s single largest integrated global campaign ever — brings them in the door.”

Read full story

25 September 2009

Max Mara launches new website, designed by Experientia

Max Mara
Experientia, the Turin-based user experience design company, has created a new and innovative international website for the Max Mara brand.

It’s online. www.maxmara.com is the address of the new Max Mara website, historical Made in Italy fashion brand, based in Reggio Emilia, and with over 2,000 stores worldwide.

The site has been realised by Experientia, in collaboration with the IT and Communication division of the Max Mara group. Experientia is a User Experience Design consultancy agency, whose international client roster includes Vodafone, Samsung, Nokia, Condé Nast, Ferrero, Microsoft and Kodak, and recently won a contract from the Finnish government to design an ecological urban district in Helsinki using human-centred design principles.

“The website concept that we have desiged for Max Mara,” says Pierpaolo Perotto, Experientia CEO, “is inspired by offering the visitor the possibility to discover the richness of the brand through engaging and original navigation techniques. Experientia’s novel editorial approach has resulted in a site that showcases the entire universe of Max Mara, and offers people a high level of interaction with the content, for example, saving favourite looks in a private space, or sharing them with friends.”

Perotto continues, “Some of the new, engaging features of the site include: the possibility to navigate the Max Mara collections through an interactive game that invites visitors to express their mood, and see related looks; a fashion blog where Max Mara insiders give people a behind-the-scenes look at fashion; a community with personalised services; video maker remixes of runways and backstage; travel diaries and advice on some of the world’s coolest places. Particular attention has been paid to the usability of the site, offering simple and intuitive navigation.”

Experientia developed the concept, the architecture of the site, the navigation experience (interaction design) and the visual design (in collaboration with Caudio dell’Olio, Art Director of the Max Mara Magazine). Finsa Consulting (Experientia partner, with headquarters in Genoa, specialised in software, web and mobile application development, with clients such as Autorità Portuale di Genova, Banca Carige, Costa Crociere, Saint Gobain, RINA, TSF, Selex Communication, Elsag Datamat, Engineering) oversaw the technological implementation and the development of all the templates.

24 September 2009

Networked objects session at Lift Asia 2009 conference

Lift Asia 2009
Nicolas Nova reports on the “networked objects” session at Lift Asia 09.

Speakers were Rafi Haladjian (in transition from Violet to his new company called sen.se), Adrian David Cheok (from the Mixed Reality Lab in Singapore and Keio University) and Hojun Song.

Read full story

24 September 2009

Augmented reality gets off to a wobbly start

 
The New Scientist reviews the current state of Augmented Reality and is a bit concerned:

“While some who back the technology think its time has now come, after more than a decade in development, others warn that undercooked applications or “apps” are set to disappoint users, potentially damaging the market.

The momentum building behind AR has been fuelled by the growing sophistication of cellphones. With the right software, devices like the iPhone can now overlay reviews of local services or navigation information onto scenes from the phone’s camera. [...]

Amid all the hype, however, there is a big problem: the sensors that the apps depend on are not always up to the job.”

Read full story

24 September 2009

Information overload

Anna Wintour
Too many emails, texts and tweets can lead to rising anxiety, lower intelligence – and a generation of BlackBerry orphans. Paul Hemp reports in The Guardian.

“With the information floodgates open, content rushes at us in countless formats: text messages and tweets on our mobile phones. Facebook friend alerts and voicemail on our BlackBerrys. Instant messages and direct-marketing sales pitches (no longer limited by the cost of postage) on our desktop computers. Not to mention the ultimate killer app: email. (I, for one, have nearly expired during futile efforts to keep up with it.)

Meanwhile, we are drawn toward information that in the past didn’t exist or that we didn’t have access to but, now that it’s available, we dare not ignore. Online research reports and industry data. Blogs written by colleagues or by executives at rival companies. Wikis and discussion forums on topics we’re following. The corporate intranet. The latest banal musings of friends in our social networks.

Researchers now say that the stress of not being able to process information as fast as it arrives – combined with the personal and social expectation that, say, you will answer every email – can deplete and demoralise you.”

Read full story

24 September 2009

Communication and human development: the freedom connection?

Berkman
Canada’s International Development Research Center and Harvard’s Berkman Center convened a conversation at Harvard yesterday on the future of information and communication technology and development (ICT4D).

Nobel Laureates Amartya Sen and Michael Spence joined Information and Communication Technology (ICT) experts Yochai Benkler and Clotilde Fonseca in a public discussion of the role of communication and ICTs in human development, growth and poverty reduction. Michael Best moderated the discussion. What has changed, been learned, not been learned, needs to be learned, needs to be done most urgently?

Global Voices participated in the event as a media partner, and Ethan Zuckerman and Jen Brea have been twittering and live-blogging the event.

- Part 1: Notes from the Harvard Forum on ICT4D
- Part 2: Mobiles, Markets and making culture
- Part 3: ICT and gender
- Part 4: Are we settling for too late?
- Part 5: ICT4D and, and, and…
- Part 6: What do we need to know?
- Part 7: Focus and health

24 September 2009

O2 launches “people powered” network

giffgaff
O2 is launching a new mobile phone network which it has dubbed as the first “people powered” service in the sector, reports mad.co.uk.

“The online SIM-only offer called giffgaff will aim to capitalise on the trend towards online content creation. The company says the more a customer gets involved, the more they will be rewarded with cheaper calls and texts.

For instance, members will be rewarded for referring the service to a friend or relative, creating user-generated marketing, or voting on business decisions.”

Read full story

(via textually.org)

22 September 2009

“La realité augmentée”, and other Paris 2.0 themes

Paris 2.0
Tomorrow I will be speaking at an informal, but high energy Paris conference, called (somewhat predictably) Paris 2.0.

The conference takes a total of four days, and is attended by a young, edgy French crowd. I am unfortunately only here for an afternoon and a morning, and arrived in the middle of a session devoted to marketing themes – which is not my greatest passion.

One little gem in this fast paced environment was a short presentation by Sonia Hecquet, who is responsible for interaction design at SQLI/la machine créative, a small French agency. Sonia is greatly intrigued by gestural interfaces and augmented reality tools, and gave her audience a high level overview of the latest developments in the field (which I hope to share with you later).

More to follow tomorrow, when the focus will be on design.

22 September 2009

Enhancing user interaction with first person user interface

Sensors 1st person
Luke Wroblewski, an internationally recognized Web thought leader and Senior Director of Product Ideation & Design at Yahoo! Inc., provides a comprehensive overview of augmentation as a user interface, complete with real-world examples.

“Though many computer applications and operating systems make use of real-world metaphors like the desktop, most software interface design has little to do with how we actually experience the real world. In lots of cases, there are great reasons not to directly mimic reality. Not doing so allows us to create interfaces that enable people to be more productive, communicate in new ways, or manage an increasing amount of information. In other words, to do things we can’t otherwise do in real life.

But sometimes, it makes sense to think of the real world as an interface. To design user interactions that make use of how people actually see the world -to take advantage of first person user interfaces.

First person user interfaces can be a good fit for applications that allow people to navigate the real world, “augment” their immediate surroundings with relevant information, and interact with objects or people directly around them.”

Read full story

(via Bruce Sterling)

22 September 2009

Interfaces Magazine interviews Donald Norman

Interfaces
The latest issue of Interfaces Magazine, a quarterly magazine published by Interaction, the specialist HCI group of the British Computer Society (BCS), contains a lengthy interview with Donald Norman:

“Long live the body, the physical world, reality. The world of computers led to an unfortunate diversion away from reality to the confining sterility of screens and keyboards, mice and other artificial animals. We lost touch with our bodies, lost touch with the real world. Cheers for the disappearance of this artificial emphasis on artificiality. We human beings have bodies. We evolved in a three-dimensional world with three-dimensional sounds, sights, objects and experiences. So hurrah for the return to the physical world, of gestures and touch, haptics. Of real objects, real movements. It’s about time.”

Download Interfaces Issue 80

(via Usability News)

21 September 2009

Two new user experience communities

 
Louis Rosenfeld alerted me to two new Ning-based community sites that Rosenfeld Media authors recently started:

Design for Care compiles methods, results, case studies, and research from many healthcare contexts to help designers understand and improve healthcare products and services. If you’re interested in the intersection of healthcare and user experience, please participate in this 100+ member community. Peter Jones, the community’s facilitator, is also the author of the forthcoming book Designing for Care.

“Design for Care brings methods and results found effective across healthcare contexts to designers in all situations, illustrated by very current case studies and research. We include & transcend User Experience – as care scenarios are not merely “use” but are complex and multifaceted. We aim to inform information, service, and system designers to make a positive difference in healthcare.”

Agile Experience Design is enabling over 200 participants to work through the challenges of squaring contemporary design practices with agile and other iterative approaches to design and development. Anders Ramsay, who has just begun work on his book Agile Experience Design, is the community’s facilitator.

“Our goal is to explore, evolve, and empower the emergent discipline that fuses Agile Software Development with User Experience Design.”