counter

Putting People First

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

Children


Disabled


Elderly


Gender


Teens


Advertising


Branding


Business


Innovation


Marketing


Mechatronics


Technology


Architecture


Art


Creativity


Culture


Identity


Mobility


Museum


Co-creation


Design


Experience design


Interaction design


Presence


Service design


Ubiquitous computing


Africa


Americas


Asia


Australia


Europe


Italy


Turin


Blogging


Book


Conference


Media


Mobile phone


Play


Virtual world


Ethnography


Foresight


Prototype


Scenarios


Usability


User experience


User research


Education


Financial services


Healthcare


Public services


Research


Tourism


Urban development


Communications


Digital divide


Emerging markets


Participation


Social change


Sustainability


September 2009
20 September 2009

Using design thinking at Coca-Cola

David Butler
Fast Company profiles David Butler, the man who is “responsible for how they think and what they do with design at The Coca-Cola Company.”

“Butler oversees a team of 50 designers within Coke and works with some 300 agencies worldwide. In a company as colossal as this one, no single designer can pretend to control every permutation of every product in every far-flung fast-food joint. Instead, Butler’s job has been to build a central design apparatus that is at once specific and flexible, one that can roll out across the globe without losing focus — or customers. And that’s exactly what he’s done, from the brand identity at the center of Coke’s corporate id to the advertising machine that projects that identity around the world to the very machines that dispense the company’s myriad products into your cup.”

Read full story
(The article comes with three slideshows and two videos)

This and many other articles related to design thinking can be found on the Design Thinking Blog.

19 September 2009

The dirty little secret about the “Wisdom of the Crowds” – There is no crowd

The Wisdom of Crowds
Sarah Perez criticises on ReadWriteWeb the common view on crowdsourcing:

“Recent research by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) professor Vassilis Kostakos pokes a big hole in the prevailing wisdom that the “wisdom of crowds” is a trustworthy force on today’s web. His research focused on studying the voting patterns across several sites featuring user-generated reviews including Amazon, IMDb, and BookCrossing. The findings showed that a small group of users accounted for a large number of ratings. In other words, as many have already begun to suspect, small but powerful groups can easily distort what the “crowd” really thinks, leading online reviews to often end up appearing extremely positive or extremely negative.”

Read full story

19 September 2009

Mobiles offer lifelines in Africa

Kiwanja
Ken Banks, creator of FrontlineSMS, wrote a guest piece for BBC News. His main claim: “If you want to see how east Africa may respond to the arrival of high-speed internet links, look no further than the mobile phone market.”

“If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the past 16 years working on-and-off in Africa, it’s this. Africans are not the passive recipients of technology many people seem to think they are.

Indeed, some of the more exciting and innovative mobile services around today have emerged as a result of ingenious indigenous use of the technology.”

Read full story

Also read Bill Thompson’s commentary on the same topic.

18 September 2009

Worldchanging interview: Vinay Venkatraman on interaction design

Vinay Venkatraman
Vinay Venkatraman, an interaction designer, is one of a rapidly expanding group of scholars and professionals around the world working to define the way our stuff behaves, writes Julia Levitt on Worldchanging.

“Venkatraman is a partner at Copenhagen Institute for Interaction Design (CIID), an institution that harbors a one-year Masters degree program in interaction design as well as a research center and consultancy. He helped initiate the Institute with Simona Maschi and fellow designers Heather Martin and Alie Rose in 2006. The school’s pilot year began in September 2008, in partnership with the Danish Design School (DKDS). Already, he mentioned, students from the venerable institution next door – a school famous for producing portfolios of stylish and functional cutlery, furniture and other hard goods — have started perking their ears up about this evolving interactive approach to their field.”

Read interview

18 September 2009

The use of mobile phones in education in developing countries

 
The World Bank is embarking on a new study investigating issues related to the use of mobile phones in education in developing countries.

“The study is intended to help to raise awareness among key decision makers in the public, private and civil society sectors about the potential importance of the use of low cost mobile devices — especially mobile phones — to help benefit a variety of educational objectives. By documenting the existing landscape of initiatives in this area and emerging ‘good practice’, it is also hoped that this work will serve as a common base for further analytical work in this area, and inform the impending explosion of development of new hardware, software and business services occurring on mobile devices, to the benefit of these educational objectives.

This activity is one component of a larger ‘mobile flagship’ program at the World Bank consisting of studies and activities related to mobile services and applications in selected sectors, including “Mobile Banking Users and Non Users Behavior Study”; “Extending Mobile Applications in Africa through Social Networking”; and “Mobile Applications for Sectoral Development”.”

Read full story

18 September 2009

Peer pressure and other pitches

Glow cap
Michael Sanserino reports in the Wall Street Journal on the latest applications of insights in behavioural economics:

“More businesses are using behavioral economics to appeal to customers, seeking to capitalize on the notion that people don’t always act in their economic self-interest.

Behavioral economics is popular among academics, particularly since two of its early theorists won the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics. Now businesses are applying the concepts in new ways.

Since April 2008, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District has told 35,000 customers in their monthly bills how their energy use compares with neighbors’, and with the district’s most-efficient customers. Customers who received the additional information cut their energy use by 2%, compared with a similar group of users who didn’t get comparison data.”

Read full story

18 September 2009

New EU discussion paper and consultation: Fostering user-driven innovation through clusters

Inno
“Involving users in the innovation process seems to be increasingly recognised as an important challenge not only for enterprises, but also for innovation support providers,” reports the website of Pro Inno Europe, an innovation policy initiative of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry.

How “user-driven” innovation can best be supported, and what role clusters and cluster organisations can play in this process, are questions being put to the Europe INNOVA and PRO INNO Europe communities.

To facilitate the discussion in view of developing better policies together, a draft discussion paper “Fostering user-driven innovation through clusters” has been prepared by the Support of Innovation Unit of the Directorate-General for Enterprise & Industry of the European Commission. This discussion may also inspire the forthcoming European Innovation Plan currently being prepared by the Commission.

Stakeholders are invited to provide online comments through this website until 31 October 2009. During this period, the latest version of the draft discussion paper can be downloaded in Word format and contributors can upload their own new versions with comments, new text suggestions and examples in ‘track changes’ mode. While contributors must identify themselves to the web exchange moderator, they can choose for their contributions to be displayed anonymously. This will allow the moderator to contact contributors in case clarifications are needed before new versions are uploaded.

18 September 2009

Success stories in design management

Design management
An article published by the European Commission’s Enterprise & Industry department:

“Design management is a key driver of innovation and competitiveness and the EU-backed ADMIRE (Design Management Europe, DME) project is raising awareness of this important area and awarding organisations which use design management successfully. Significant commercial benefits can be gained with good practices in this area: an on-line tool helps businesses evaluate their own design-management performance, by providing practical feedback.”

Read full story

Meanwhile, EU research shows that European companies are not so positive about the public innovation support they receive.

16 September 2009

Grameen Foundation: mHealth ethnography report

MoTeCH
One of the projects of AppLab, the application laboratory of the Grameen Foundation, is focused on mobile technology for community health (MoTeCH) in Ghana:

“Grameen Foundation has launched an initiative to determine how best to use mobile phones to increase the quantity and quality of antenatal and neonatal care in rural Ghana. Funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Mobile Technology for Community Health (MoTeCH) initiative is a collaboration with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the Ghana Health Service. The two and a half year project will develop a suite of services delivered over basic mobile phones that provides relevant health information to pregnant women and encourages them to seek antenatal care from local facilities. After the birth, the system will address common questions about newborn care. Simultaneously, the MoTeCH system will help community health workers to identify women and newborns in their area in need of healthcare services and automate the process of tracking patients who have received care.”

A just published ethnographic research study sought to assess the initial state of information, communication, and mobile phone use for maternal and newborn health both within the health sector and the general population in the Dangme West District in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. Key study findings illustrate that there is a strong foundation upon which the MoTECH Project can build to advance the use of mobile telephony to target beneficiaries in the general population.

Download research report

(via Tech4Dev)

An older study (January 2008) dealt with “Livelihoods and the mobile phone in rural Uganda.”

16 September 2009

Mayo Clinic’s Transform symposium on innovations in health care experience

Transform
This week the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation hosted Transform, a collaborative symposium on innovations in health care experience and delivery.

The symposium, which featured over twenty presenters, was structured in six sessions — Redefining Roles, Policy Perspectives, Enabling Technologies, Alternative Models and How We Pay for Them, Content – Community – Commerce – Care and Choices, and Designing for Social Change.

Videos of all talks are already online.

The last session on Designing for Social Change focused on “Design Thinking — an approach that produces innovations from thoughtful, experiential, participatory research. Innovating in response to human need is what designers have done for centuries. Recently, these master innovators are lending their talents to the design of health care; this segment gave a few examples of what has worked, what hasn’t, and what’s on the drawing boards.”

Speakers included Maggie Breslin (SPARC Design Group / Mayo Clinic), Tim Brown (IDEO), Larry Keeley (Doblin, Inc.), Karl Ronn (Procter & Gamble), and Christi Dining Zuber (Kaiser Permanente).

15 September 2009

Yahoo!’s Elizabeth Churchill on cultural interpretation and iterative design

Elizabeth Churchill
Archana Rai of LiveMint.com, the online edition of Mint, an Indian partner publication of the Wall Street Journal, has interviewed Elizabeth Churchill of Yahoo! Research.

In the interview, Churchill explains how in her present position as principal research scientist at Yahoo Inc., she aims to mine cultural patterns in a bid to make technology more useful to people across multiple cultures.

“Finding patterns is what Elizabeth F. Churchill does. Patterns that underlie human behaviour and can point to what certain people might want to use their mobile phones for or how they might go about finding a friend online. A psychologist by training with a PhD in cognitive science from the University of Cambridge, Churchill has specialized in observing people and the way they interact with technology for 15 years now. [...]

In a conversation, Churchill (who was born in India) explains how in her present position as principal research scientist at Yahoo Inc., she aims to mine cultural patterns in a bid to make technology more useful to people across multiple cultures.”

Read interview

15 September 2009

This happened…

This happened...
This happened is a series of London-based events focusing on the stories behind interaction design.

“Having ideas is easier than making them happen. We delve into projects that exist today, how their concepts and production process can help inform future work.

Interaction design companies are often too closed off to the outside. We want to encourage people to be more open in their methods and ideas. We aim to have a mix of established practitioners, commercial companies and students. We want to encourage the perspectives from the other side of the fence, so will also be inviting curators and commissioners of work to give presentations.”

Check the past talks online section.

15 September 2009

Wayfinding through technology

London
Cennydd Bowles, a user experience designer for Clearleft, discusses how people form mental models of urban environments, and how technology can augment and even replace our wayfinding skills.

The article was published on Johnny Holland and is an extract from his upcoming talk at EuroIA 09, The Future of Wayfinding.

“The ideal wayfinding system dissolves into behaviour. It requires no inputs, and automatically knows our location and destination. Its feedback to us can take the form of subtle visual, audible or tactile cues – highlighting the path ahead on some display, or even providing a gentle tap on the shoulder when we move in the wrong direction. However, it’s not easy for systems to truly anticipate our wayfinding needs.”

Read full story

15 September 2009

Case study: NPR.org

NPR
On July 27, 2009, National Public Radio (NPR) relaunched the website www.npr.org through the efforts of its in-house design team and interactive agency Schematic. Senior interaction designer Neylan describes the massive task in a case study written for AIGA.

“NPR embarked on a major redesign of its web presence in April 2008. Its existing web platform and content management system (CMS) were outdated (it had been six years since our last redesign) and failed to provide the functionality for delivery of NPR’s signature storytelling and news reporting. An outside firm—Schematic—was hired to provide the initial visual design and information architecture, but the final product was developed in-house via a collaborative effort among NPR’s editorial, user experience, design and application development teams.”

Read full story

13 September 2009

Intel’s Genevieve Bell on linking technology and society

Genevieve Bell
In a two-part podcast Genevieve Bell, Intel Fellow and Director of the User Experience Group, discusses the intersection of technology and society, with a special focus on the social media explosion and worldwide technology adoption.

Listen to podcast: part 1part 2

11 September 2009

The currency revolution

Ven
The Wall Street Journal looks at the rise of alternative currencies:

“The weak dollar. A Federal Reserve constantly being second-guessed. It’s times like these when talk inevitably turns to alternative or complementary currencies. While local currencies have come and gone, many involved in social networks are hoping peer-to-peer (or P2P) virtual currencies will, given the momentum to retool the financial system, have more staying power.”

The article features Hub Culture, a social network of globetrotting adventure-travellers, and its digital currency Ven, which is pegged to the dollar, and allows members of the social network to trade goods and services as well as knowledge; as well as the Attent application by Seriosity, which uses a digital currency called “Serios”.

- Read full story
- Watch Ven and Serios video (recommended)
- Watch Berkshares video

Also look at an earlier Experientia project, called KashKlash.

10 September 2009

What’s next in mobile user experience? Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality
Frank Spillers, a usability consultant, looks at the hot topic of Augmented Reality from a user experience point of view, shows some examples, and highlights the drawbacks and benefits.

Read full story

10 September 2009

Understanding what drives profits for agents – M-PESA

Agent
In emerging markets, agents are the customer-facing element for mobile banking providers, “who rely on them to open accounts, do customer care, and (crucially) stock adequate amounts of cash and e-float to enable clients to deposit and withdrawal. Yet, there is no consensus on how to build a viable agent network.”

CGAP, the independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor, looked at M-PESA merchants in Kenya for clues about the profit drivers for agents .

“We studied 20 agents with 125 locations. We focused on small stores of the kind found in urban slums and rural areas, which make up the vast bulk of M-PESA agents. We spent 3 weeks in the field. What did we find?”

Read full story

8 September 2009

Social science meets technology in next-generation jobs

 
Gartner says the bridge to the future with social networks will be with roles with origins in the social sciences, reports eWeek. Better understanding of the Web will require skill sets more closely aligned with sociology, psychology and other behavioral-centric sciences.

“In a recent report “Social Science Meets Technology in Next-Generation Jobs,” Gartner Vice President Kathy Harris discusses in some detail four areas of jobs needed in the near future. Though she never really uses the words “social networks” the implication is that most companies aren’t really geared toward taking advantage of the impact of these online communities, and that the numbers will be too large to ignore, regardless of the business you are in.

The four areas detailed include:

  • Web User Experience roles that include UI designers, virtual-assistant designers and interaction directors.
  • Behavior Analysis roles that include Web psychologists, community designers, and Web/social network miners.
  • Information Specialist roles that include information anthropologists who are expected to play historical Web fact finding and assisting in legal analysis, intellectual property management and where the quality of information is at risk.
  • Digital Lifestyle Experts roles that include helping senior management understand whats going on and stay aware, and building personal brands and managing online personas for desired online effect.”

Read full story

8 September 2009

Awareness is everything

Awareness
Jamais Cascio argues on Fast Company that, as our various electronic devices gain more and more sensory awareness, we open up the potential for entirely new forms of interaction.

“The real shift comes when we move away from direct interaction and input, towards a world of ambient interaction and awareness.”

Cascio comes up with a number of possible scenarios, and concludes: “Are you ready for your phone, your laptop, your digital environment to be paying attention to everything you do?”

Read full story