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Putting People First

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October 2009
19 October 2009

An Australian view on user-centred design

Outside in
Damian Kernahan (featured earlier) just published his second article in Fast Thinking, an Australian innovation quarterly — this time on user-centred design.

“Web designers have had a focus on user-centred design and have used it successfully as a discipline for many years and any Google search you care to undertake will be littered with web page and digital references. So what is ‘user-centred design’ and why hasn’t it taken off in the mainstream of Australian business? Why haven’t Australian businesses embraced using a methodology that allows them to get up close and personal with their customers and truly understand their customers’ unmet needs and wants for both products and services? And what is the process for user-centred design and how can companies employ it to keep hold of their most valuable customers in a market where every customer is increasingly precious?”

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19 October 2009

Technology is giving us the means to co-create the future

Juliette Powell
Author, speaker and technologist Juliette Powell sees the true significance of social media technology in the new kinds of collaborations we are able to forge that offer the potential to create a new kind of future.

In a video on Nokia’s IdeasProject, Powell discusses her belief that the ability to connect with people who previously did not have that opportunity will add tremendous value to government, business, and media undertakings.

View video

Related content
CIO Live Podcast: The Power of Social Networking
Media Lab interview with Juliette Powell

17 October 2009

Myths and realities about women and mobile phones

Women and mobile phones
Mobile phones have been a boon to developing countries and to social development. Access to mobiles may indeed allow for better medical information, change the way farmers grow and sell crops, expand the way families interact, influence the way governments treat their citizens, and improve the way students learn in schools.

But, asks MobileActive in its ongoing series on Mobile Myths and Realities: Deconstructing Mobile, what is the real story behind these benefits? And who really gains from them?

In her contribution to the series, Anne-Ryan Heatwole looks at “how women are or are not benefitting from the ubiquity of mobile telephony”.

“Mobile technology has the ability to change the way we communicate, but its effects are not evenly distributed. In societies that are divided by social and gender roles, women, especially rural women, are often left out. Gender disparity in society is often echoed in mobile usage; while technology allows some women greater social and economic freedom, in other cases, it simply upholds previously held social constructs. In the areas of social interactions, education, and economics, mobile phones have a distinctly gendered impact on its users. An examination of research and case studies that focus on women and mobile technology reveals that although access to mobile telephones has many benefits for female users, it not a solution to female poverty or gender inequality.”

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13 October 2009

10/GUI, a new multitouch interface concept

10/GUI
MG Siegler writes on ReadWriteWeb about the fact that desktop touch screens don’t really work well for humans, and introduces a brilliant concept video “for something called 10/GUI.”

“It brings up some key issues surrounding the future of touch input from both a hardware and software perspective. 10/GUI’s solution is to create a multi-touch pad that lays on your desk in the area that a keyboard or mouse would. You then use this pad to interact with the monitor in front of you, just as you would with the more traditional methods of input.

The key difference is that rather than have one cursor on the screen, you potentially have ten (one for each finger). While all your fingers could be resting on the screen, a “click” would not occur until you applied pressure from one or many of your fingers. The result is pretty cool — manipulating the user interface in a way not completely unlike the computer interaction in Minority Report (which is still my ultimate dream), though not three dimensional, of course.

But 10/GUI realizes that using this touch technology still may not be ideal for manipulating current computer operating systems. Specifically, the idea of the window-based interface becomes less ideal as you add more and more windows. 10/GUI’s solution is something called Con10uum, which is basically a linear way to organize windows. When matched with some of the multi-touch gestures, the system seems to make some sense.”

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13 October 2009

On the difference between personalisation and customisation

Eggs
What’s the difference between personalization and customization? Are consumers really in control? Do brands (and designers) want them to be? Nick de la Mare of Creativity considers curation and the myth and reality of control.

“A few weeks ago I heard myself say, “we want users to feel like they control the experience” then caught myself at the implication of the thought. Are we misleading people into feeling like they have more power than they do? As user experience designers, whose side are we on? Digital, experience and product design all pay lip service to a user’s control of the experience, but how much of that is an illusion? “

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13 October 2009

Philips Design and ABN AMRO create emotion mirroring system for online traders

Rationalizer
Philips Design and ABN AMRO’s Dialogues Incubator cooperate to create the ‘Rationalizer’ concept, an emotion sensing system targeted at serious home investors who trade online.

It acts as an ‘emotion mirror’ in which the intensity of the user’s feelings is reflected.

Research shows that home investors do not act purely rationally: their behavior is influenced by emotions, most notably fear and greed, which can compromise their ability to take an objective, factual stance.

This insight led to the Rationalizer concept in which online traders are alerted when it may be wise to take a time-out, wind down and re-consider their actions.

Read full story

13 October 2009

TalkTalk launches Digital Anthropology Report

TalkTalk
Yesterday TalkTalk, the UK broadband division of Carphone Warehouse, launched the Digital Anthropology Report – a comprehensive insight into how British people use the internet.

“We spoke to over 2,000 people around the country and looked at their attitudes to technology, how they use the internet and other technologies currently, and their plans for buying new gadgets and gizmos in the future.

We then worked with an anthropologist from the University of Kent to analyse the results, draw some conclusions and make a few predictions about how things will develop in the years to come.

What we found was that the UK can be broken into six very different tribes – from “Digital Extroverts” at one end of the spectrum to “Timid Technophobes” at the other.

And based on current trends, we’ve predicted that people’s willingness to embrace digital technology will become increasingly important in determining their economic and social wellbeing in the next decade – more important than traditional markers such as what university they went to or their parents’ economic status. In other words, social networking appears to be replacing social class.”

You can read the full report and watch videos of some case studies from the different tribes here – and check out the rest of TalkTalk’s new content hub .

12 October 2009

Bringing internet video services to the living room TV set

project canvas
More details are emerging about Project Canvas, the ambitious joint venture by the BBC, ITV, Five and BT to bring internet video services such as the iPlayer from the bedroom PC to the living-room TV set, reports Tim Bradshaw on FT.com’s techblog.

“An interview in today’s FT with Marc Watson, head of BT Vision, revealed how BT envisages Canvas will work for consumers and content owners, should the BBC Trust approve the service.

The BBC, BT and their partners have emphasised from the outset that Canvas will be an “open” platform. Through a system they like to compare to Apple’s App Store, any content owner will be able to put its programming on the Canvas platform, they say, either ad-supported or charged for by subscription or micropayments.”

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12 October 2009

Our ever evolving online communication patterns

Online
Both the Wall Street Journal and Techcrunch devote extensive space today to our ever evolving online communication patterns.

The Wall Street Journal looks at how a shift towards a new generation of services like Twitter and Facebook “promises to profoundly rewrite the way we communicate—in ways we can only begin to imagine.”

“We all still use email, of course. But email was better suited to the way we used to use the Internet—logging off and on, checking our messages in bursts. Now, we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun.”

Techcrunch has a few posts today. MG Siegler concentrates on Google Wave.

“Google Wave is not just a service, it is perhaps the most complete example yet of a desire to shift the way we communicate once again. […]

I think we want the option to communicate in real-time at will, but also the ability to communicate at our leisure at times. I would consider this to be a desire for a “passive-agressive” method of communication. Perhaps it would be better stated as a “passive/active” method of communication, but passive-aggressive sounds better, so we’ll go with that. […]

Google Wave is attempting to be a passive-agressive form of communication. You can actively (aggressively) engage in threads in real-time, or you can sit back and let messages come to you at your leisure (passively).”

Nik Cubrilovic, also on Techcrunch, takes a wider angle and contrasts the old paradigm of chronology with the newer one of relevance:

“Chronological order needs to be abandoned in favor of relevance. Without relevance, our ability to manage large sets of information is inefficient. The technology for relevance exist today, for eg. spam filters are able to tell us what we definitely don’t want to read. Real world information retrieval and organization is based on relevance, either what somebody else believes is relevant to us, or what we decide is relevant. Newspaper stories are not laid out in the order that events took place and libraries do not catalog their books in the order they were published.

Web applications that present relevance over chronological have proven to be popular.”

11 October 2009

Reviewing the “Toward the Sentient City” exhibition

Toward the Sentient City
Dan Hill (ARUP) wrote a long review of the ‘Toward the Sentient City’ exhibition curated by Mark Shepard and organised by the Architectural League of New York.

“This show does nothing less than delineate a possible future trajectory for architecture, in which it remains relevant in the development of ‘sentient cities’, put frankly. It also implicitly indicates how far architecture has to go to do so. […] [The show] hint[s] at the new possibilities for architecture enabled by urban informatics, or the increasing impact of networked, real-time, data-driven and responsive/interactive systems on physical objects and spaces.”

The review is now available on the ‘…Sentient City’ site (without links and illustrations however), but I would recommend to read it on Dan Hill’s own blog (where the links and illustrations are present).

Hill points out that “for those who aren’t a subway ride from Madison Avenue, the League’s website smartly and straightforwardly organises more details on the commissions themselves in the context of other writers’ responses, of which this is one, curatorial statements, an open archive, public programs, tweets etc. Interviews are distributed via Urban Omnibus, another fine initiative from the League.”

Also read the review by Mimi Zeiger.

10 October 2009

On using design to influence behaviour

Design with intent
Dan Lockton of Brunel University (UK), who runs a blog called Design with Intent, which focuses on strategic design that’s intended to influence or result in certain user behaviour, has posted some very worthwhile student project examples:

Some interesting projects (Part 1)
Some projects address the relationship between design and people’s behaviour in different situations, and some explicitly aim to influence what people do and think. Featured projects:
Displacement Engine by Jasmine Cox
Source by Oliver Craig
– How Long? Door Knob and Tag, and Whose Turn? Bottle Opener by Kei Wada

Some interesting projects (Part 2)
Following on from Part 1, here are a couple more very interesting student projects linking design and behaviour. This time, both involve providing feedback on the impact or costs of everyday behaviours in order to get people to think. Featured projects:
Tio by Tim Holley
‘Lehman’s Inheritance’ by Alexander Kirchmann

10 October 2009

The psychology of Google Wave

Google Wave
Most talk about Google Wave is focussed on technology, not people. Tom Simonite attempts to change the discourse with his article in The New Scientist.

“The cultural norms that will shape Wave’s future are yet to be established. But informed crystal-ball gazing is possible, based on what we know about how people use existing technology.

Two of the features of Wave that are likely to alter how people communicate are related to time: it allows users to see others typing live, even if they later delete that text; and a “replay” function plays back the complex tangle of interactions that produced a wave.”

Read full story

10 October 2009

At your service

At your service
Damian Kernahan of Proto Partners asks in Fast Thinking, an Australian innovation quarterly, why service organisations don’t deliver their customers a great experience, when all it takes is a little planning and design.

“In this article we will look at trying to understand why we so often have these average customer experiences, why services are still most often developed using an industrial product mindset and how that might be improved. We will also provide a new approach to ensure that services are more regularly designed with the end user in mind rather than as an organic process, which has little connection to the importance of the crucial revenue stream that it has been set up to deliver.”

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9 October 2009

Wired UK’s special feature on digital cities

Wired UK
Here are the five stories that appeared in the special “Digital Cities” feature of Wired UK’s November issue.

Words on the street
by Adam Greenfield
Ubiquitous, networked information will reshape our cities.

‘Sense-able’ urban design
by Carlo Ratti
Digital elements blanket our environment: transforming our cities, informing their citizens and improving economic, social and environmental sustainability.

London after the great 2047 flu outbreak
by Geoff Manaugh
After the Dutch flu outbreak of 2047 decimated greater London, the politics of the city began to change: everything turned medical.

Your neighbourhood is now Facebook Live
by Andrew Blum
When it comes to technology and cities, today’s thrilling development is that social networking is enhancing urban places [and this is] significant for the future of our cities.

The transport of tomorrow is already here
by Joe Simpson
The main impact on city planning will be mediated through transport infrastructures, freeing up road space as it does so.

9 October 2009

Inside user research at YouTube

YouTube
User experience researcher Sasha Lubomirsky talks about his work at YouTube:

“If you think about watching a video online, it may seem pretty easy. A player, a play/pause button and some content. Done. But what about if the video is being played on a mobile phone? Or on a big screen? What if it’s being viewed in Nairobi? Or Shanghai? Now let’s say it’s being viewed by someone who wants to share her thoughts on the video and by someone who wants to do nothing more than watch more videos. Before you know it, watching a video becomes more complicated than you realize.

Enter user research. While far from providing all the answers, it can help illuminate how the site is actually used — as opposed to guessing how it might be used or assuming the user is just like the people designing the site.

So what exactly is user research like at YouTube? Sometimes it means letting users design their ideal experience. For example, last year we used a method called FIDO (first utilized by Fidelity Investments) where we cut out different elements of various video sites, stuck them on magnets, and had users arrange their ideal organization of the elements (see below for an example). Other times we use a more standard research method called a usability study, which entails seeing whether a user can or can’t complete certain standard site tasks in a usability lab.

Sometimes having users come into labs is not enough, though; we want to understand how users use YouTube in their context, in their living room, with their laptop on their lap, sprawled out on the couch. In this case we might have field studies where we interview users in their homes. In addition to such qualitative research, we look closely at the behavior of millions of users through traffic analysis and try to understand what users think of the site by deploying thousands of surveys.”

Read full story

(via Usability News)

9 October 2009

The city as an interaction platform

Picnic 2009
Martijn de Waal was at the Picnic 2009 conference in Amsterdam, where he attended the session entitled “The City as an Interaction Platform”:

Cities have always been about providing frameworks of services to improve the quality of life for residents and businesses. How will social networks, mobile devices, reactive environments, and cloud-based data services transform the experiences of living in cities in the coming years? What new municipal infrastructure will evolve to meet the needs of citizens looking for the type of real time information and configurability they have come to expect from Internet applications?

In his blog, de Waal writes that “first Ben Cerveny of Vurb sketched an optimistic view of the ‘cloud city’ – a future scenario in which citizens could get easy access to urban informatics and use those as the foundation for a blossoming civil society. Greg Skibiski of Sense Networks provided another optimist vision – be it based on a different paradigm – in which urban computing is used as the base of offering ever more personalized information and localization services for urbanites. Adam Greenfield however argued that when taken up in a certain way, the rise of urban computing might do urban culture more harm than good. What is at stake, he argued, are some of the essences of urban culture.”

Read full story

9 October 2009

Toward an integrated approach to product strategy and design

Standard product strategy and design process
San Francisco-based user experience consultancy Montparnas started a three-part series on the relationship between product development and user experience design.

“Product development and user experience design are two fields that should, but rarely, collaborate effectively to design and define products that consumers will find delightful to use. There exist many natural synergies between the two disciplines, and each field’s strengths complement the other’s weaknesses. Despite this, product development and user experience teams often work in siloed circumstances with insufficient communication and collaboration and sometimes with quibbling. The current modus operandi leads to loss of productivity, longer time to market, higher costs, and products that fall short of their full potential.

User experience design is a relatively new field that has gained mainstream recognition in the past decade, and consequently, there has not been a lot of time to establish best practices for product development and user experience design to work most effectively together. The good thing is that it does not take a huge paradigm shift but rather an evolution of the current model to attain a more integrated approach to product strategy and design.”

(In our own experience in working with major international companies, the process is not always so traditional.)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

6 October 2009

Charles Leadbeater and Tim Berners-Lee on the digital revolution

Digital revolution
Digital Revolution (working title) is an open source documentary, due for transmission on BBC Two in 2010, that will take stock of 20 years of change brought about by the World Wide Web.

The BBC intends to tell the story of the web in four one-hour programmes. Programme one — Power on the web — will illustrate the explosion of user-generated content on the web of the early to mid 2000s. Programme two — The fate of nations — looks at the relation between the web and the nation state. The cost of free is the title of programme three which asks if we are trading our privacy for a ‘free’ web. Finally programme four — The web and us — explores what impact the web is having on who we are.

Over the last few weeks several clips and video rushes of the last programme have been posted online:

Aleks Krotoski on the web rewiring us, our relationships, and our addictions
Presenter Aleks Krotoski and Programme 4 director Molly Milton talk about the themes being explored for the fourth episode of Digital Revolution.

Susan Greenfield – is the web changing our brains?
Baroness Susan Greenfield introduced her main concerns with the web’s effect upon human being’s adaptable brains and behaviour at the Web at 20 event, asking some of the challenging questions that feature in the developing themes of programme four – is the web changing us?

Charles Leadbeater and David Runciman: generation gaps and learning with the web (interview clips)
These clips are very much around the theme of education and learning between the generations.

Charles Leadbeater interview – London (rushes)
Charles Leadbeater is a British author and former government advisor, who has written widely on the impact of the social web. This is one of several general ‘talking head’ interviews that were filmed on September 15th. The interviewer was Series Producer Russell Barnes.

Tim Berners-Lee and Shami Chakrabarti: web privacy and obsession (interview clips)
Rushes from interviews with Tim Berners-Lee and Liberty’s Shami Chakrabarti have come in and we’re able to supply a couple of brief clips straight away to whet your appetites for more content to come.

Tim Berners-Lee interview – London (rushes)
Tim Berners-Lee invented the web, 20 years ago. Since then he’s been at the forefront of efforts to create web standards, that mean we have one web worldwide. He’s also a Director of the World Wide Web Foundation, which strives for more widespread use of the web globally. There are two rushes sequences here. The first mainly covers questions about how people think when using the web, and the ‘spirit of the web’. The second mainly covers questions about the impact of the web on nation states, and web censorship.

5 October 2009

Microsoft demos multi-touch enabled mice concepts

FTIR
Microsoft is exploring the concept of multi-touch mice, a new research paper reveals.

The paper is being presented today as part of the User Interface Software and Technology conference, and identifies five different prototypes, each based on different sensor technologies. The devices also rely on different ergonomics, and in some cases enable different functions.

Read full story

5 October 2009

How to visualise energy savings

kW
Kevin Anderson reports in The Guardian on how a new generation of monitors can generate data about your energy use and help you cut your costs and carbon.

“These energy monitors not only show you real-time information about your energy consumption, many of them also record that data. Government-provided national energy data is great, but with your own data, you can make decisions that can help you conserve energy, save cash and cut your carbon footprint. […]

I’m going to focus on devices that can easily export data and not simply display it in the applications that ship with the monitors.”

Read full story