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Putting People First

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December 2009
9 December 2009

Mumbai markings enhance service design

Dabbawalla
Meena Kadri reports on how lunch and laundry delivery in Mumbai – known as the Dabbawalla and Dhobi Ghat services – use sophisticated coding systems to track items within their service chain, in order to ensure accurate delivery.

“The Dabbawalla service entails collection of freshly prepared meals from the residences of suburban office workers from vast reaches of the city, delivery to their workplaces and the return of empty lunch boxes (dabba or tiffin) to its original home – all for a reasonable monthly fee. Delivering over 200,000 lunch boxes each day to workers who have diverse eating habits (often governed by religion) requires an accurate system – especially as each lunch box commonly passes through the hands of at least six men, in quick exchange, on its path from home to office and back again. Most tiffins are collected by bicycle, sorted into destination groups, then carried together on trains and cycled to the offices of their respective customers. In between they are commonly carried on hand pushed carts and large head-balanced trays – all while jostling with chaotic Mumbai rail and road traffic.

With low literacy being an issue for some of the 5000 dabbawallas, they have devised a coding system using colour, symbols, numbers and a few letters which is painted on the lids of the tiffins to indicate the train lines, hub points and destinations at both ends of the delivery cycle. Each part of the marking can be understood by the relevant dabbawalla as the lunch box exchanges hands through the service chain. In the case that a lunch box gets on the wrong path, the code allows it to be set back on the right track – yielding only one mistake per 6 million deliveries according to economic analysis.”

Read full story

8 December 2009

Fixing healthcare in New Zealand

Bed patient
There is a group of people that believe the New Zealand health care system could be designed better than it currently is. That group consists of those who have actually used the New Zealand health care system.

In fact, it seems redundant and tiresome to even talk about the subject, let alone take pot-shots at it. We all feel it could be done better. But how?

In terms of design, there is a particular approach that is geared perfectly for health care: experience based design. This discipline focuses design efforts on the sorts of experiences customers have as they interact with a service. Do they feel valued? Do they feel listened to? Is their dignity preserved?

The British National Health Service’s (NHS) Institute for Innovation and Improvement has embraced this approach.

Read full story

8 December 2009

Motorola research shows technology use is becoming age-neutral

Media engagement
The 2009 Media Engagement Barometer commissioned by Motorola’s Home & Networks Mobility business has revealed a shift in [US] consumer influence that hasn’t been widely recognized yet: age no longer dictates a consumer’s willingness or ability to use media technology or services.

In fact, all generations – Millennials (75 percent), Gen Xers (74 percent) and Boomers (66 percent) – recognize the role entertainment technologies play in helping them keep their lives in order, which helps explain why Millennials (80 percent), Gen Xers (78 percent) and Boomers (78 percent) are equally likely to desire to be constantly connected.

Read press release

(via FutureLab)

7 December 2009

Adopt a kW

Adotta un kW
This contribution is by Camilla Masala, an Experientia collaborator, and is part of our background research for the Low2No project on creating an urban development with no CO2 impact through affecting behavioural change:

The energy market liberalization has created new opportunities, also for average citizens, and not only because there is now more choice on the market. We are moving from an energy production monopoly to distributed production: every site can now become a potential energy source. While in the past energy production and management were based on delegation and transfer, now citizens themselves become energy producers, and their contribution is particularly significant with respect to alternative energy sources.

Organic farmer Marco Mariano started the “Adopt a kW” initiative — a cooperative photovoltaic system — in his home region Piedmont, and his very active blog helped spread the idea also to other Italian regions.

The basic concept that underlies “Adopt a kW” — that all citizens can purchase a share of the photovoltaic system — has proven to be successful: many people have joined the project and founded a co-op to run the initiative (called Solare Collettivo). The photovoltaic system is currently hosted in a building owned by a social cooperative in the small Piedmont town of Mondovì. It provides electricity at discount rates and guarantees Solare Collettivo members guaranteed annual savings, the size of which depend on the system’s productivity. Coming from all over Italy, not all Solare Collettivo members can obtain their energy from the Mondovì-based system, yet they are committed to investing in the renewable energy market.

The documentary of the same name was directed by Elena Micheloni and was selected for the 12th edition of the CinemAmbiente Festival in Turin. It shows the process involved in founding and implementing the cooperative photovoltaic system.

5 December 2009

The dignity and courage of Donald Norman

Donald Norman
There is true dignity in the continuous engagement of Donald Norman, the Nestor of the user experience community, as well as courage is his willingness to question some of his (and our) profound beliefs. In short, Don — in defiance of his age (Don was born on Christmas day in 1935) — keeps on pushing the envelope for all of us, and we like him all the more for that.

Today, three stories landed in my inbox. A first one dealt with the search for new contributing editors for interactions magazine, that Don reacted to with considerable attention.

The second was his latest column for the same magazine. Technology First, Needs Last advocates that “design research is great when it comes to improving existing product categories but essentially useless when it comes to new, innovative breakthroughs.” It goes against many things we like to believe in, is provocative, and therefore highly useful.

Finally, Don was interviewed yesterday by the Irish Times on where he thinks the next focus of design should be. “Ecosystems,” he said, “where eco means not only the product, but also the environment, the planet.”

Thank you, Don, and keep up the pace.

5 December 2009

Bill Buxton, Martin Raymond & Anna Kirah presentations – Imagine 09

Imagine09
Bill Buxton, Martin Raymond and Anna Kirah were some of the speakers at Imagine09, a conference organised by Microsoft Advertising on 28 October in London.

Living in the age of turbulence
Anna Kirah, partner, CPH Design (and former senior design anthropologist, Microsoft Corporation)
Anna explores how advertisers can flourish in the new Age of Turbulence by understanding the needs of people in their everyday and not so everyday lives. This is the age where people’s values, their needs and their desires change abruptly, and where people no longer view their ‘digital’ and ‘real’ lives as separate.
Reflecting on the impact people have on technology, as well as the impact technology has on people, Anna will introduce ‘BIG SISTER’, a concept where benevolent, caring, technology guides you through the Age of Turbulence with seamless convergence.

Dreamtelligence
Martin Raymond, co-founder, The Future Laboratory
Barack Obama describes it as the ‘audacity of hope’, innovators, planners, academics and authors are referring to it as Dreamtelligence, a new vital and visionary way to use play, fantasy, dream- thinking and innovation to kickstart ideas and stimulate consumer engagement. Martin unpacks the trends and outlines what dreamtelligence means to digital business amidst the continued growth of a content-savvy consumer.

The long nose of innovation
Bill Buxton, principal researcher, Microsoft
Hear Bill Buxton share his vision for ‘The Long Nose of Innovation’ addressing the impact of future technologies on advertisers and marketers.

Watch videos

4 December 2009

Designing the Intel Reader

Intel Reader
In a long article, the people in charge of the Intel Reader discuss the entire user-centred process of designing a new device for the blind or visually impaired which is aimed at making printed matter accessible to millions of people who find reading difficult or impossible, either because of vision problems or learning disabilities such as dyslexia [see also this Business Week article].

“When we started developing the Intel Reader we talked with end users who allowed us to gain insight into their needs, and who gave us the opportunity to hear how they use current technology in their everyday lives. To obtain a deeper understanding for end-user needs, we began with usage research. As part of this phase, we interviewed targeted users, followed them through a day in their lives, and observed their daily challenges at home and at work, and asked for their insights on the challenges of daily living. Over the course of this project, we have interviewed and tested the product at various stages with over 200 individuals.”

Read full story

3 December 2009

Here comes the citizen co-producer

Open Economy
The austere public budgets that will come out of the financial crisis offer, as a silver lining, a renaissance in cooperative citizen engagement in the supply of welfare services, argues Victor Pestoff on Open Economy.

“The concept of co-production brings together studies of third sector provision of public services and citizen participation in the production process. So, research on co-production becomes increasingly intertwined with public management research, as witnessed by various publications on these topics in the relevant journals and book series.”

Read full story

3 December 2009

Roger Martin about design thinking (video)

Make/Think
In this video of Make/Think, the recent AIGA Design Conference, Roger Martin, dean of the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, makes the case that businesses can do a better job of innovating if they embrace design thinking. He examines how companies can combine analysis and intuition to transform themselves into successful design-thinking organizations, integrating the future with the past in a constructive way.

Roger Martin, a leading proponent of design thinking in business, makes the case that we can understand innovation through a new model of how businesses advance knowledge over time, and that businesses fail to innovate when they show greater concern for producing reliable (predictable and reproducible) outcomes than valid ones that actually meet objectives. Martin argues that businesses can do a better job at innovating—and advancing knowledge—if they embrace design thinking. Using examples such as Procter & Gamble, RIM (BlackBerry) and Cirque du Soleil, he examines how companies transform themselves into successful design-thinking organizations.

Watch video [28:41]

Also available are videos of the talks by Stefan Sagmeister and Stefan G. Bucher.

(via Dexigner)

3 December 2009

Danah Boyd and Sherry Turkle video interviews

Digital revolution
Danah Boyd, a social media researcher at Microsoft Research, and Sherry Turkle, MIT Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, were interviewed for Digital Revolution (working title), 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.

Danah Boyd interview – USA
Danah Boyd is a social media researcher at Microsoft Research. She met with Aleks Krotoski to discuss the changes in young people’s behaviour when online, their attitudes to privacy and the importance that might be placed upon building their identities online.

Sherry Turkle interview – USA
Sherry Turkle is Abby Rockefeller Mauxe Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT. She met with Aleks Krotoski to discuss the issues of privacy, communication and identity in the web-connected world.

Also published this week are interviews with Doug Rushkoff (author, teacher, columnist and media theorist), discussing the realities of ‘free’ content and services on the web, and Gina Bianchini (CEO and co-founder of Ning), speaking about online social networks and the changing nature of relationships and human interactions in the connected world of the web.

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.

2 December 2009

Smart tools to reduce our impact on the environment

UX Magazine
The latest issue of UPA’s UX Magazine is devoted to sustainable design, and one of the articles is by Experientia.

In their contribution, Experientia collaborators Michele Visciola, Erin O’Loughlin and Irene Cassarino reflect on how smart tools can help reduce our CO2 impact, and illustrate this with a case study on the company’s winning proposal (together with ARUP and Sauerbruch Hutton) for the design of a sustainable urban district in the Jätkäsaari area of Helsinki, Finland.

Some people believe that making people consume less and more carefully is not a user-centred approach because it is based on forcing people to give up things. By changing our perspective, we could see another story. We have the ability to leverage the freedom of choice of human beings to consume less to improve their health and the health of the community they belong to. They have to be provided with the right information to understand the value of their actions on their personal wealth and happiness, and tools to make such an understanding actionable. Not to have more, but to be better.

Experientia in Turin, Italy shared with ARUP in London and Sauerbruch-Hutton, in Berlin (an international agency for architecture and urbanism), an international design competition (Low2No): designing a sustainable urban district in the Jätkäsaari area of the city of Helsinki. Our responsibility was to address the delicate theme of how to initiate behavioral change to support a sustainable style of living in this completely renewed urban district.

A comprehensive strategy to facilitate behavioral change has to address the various factors that influence and constrain people’s actions, whether physical, personal, social or cultural. People must feel they have control over their consumption, with actions that have visible effect on it. Smart meters, dynamic pricing systems, and data on cost and peak usage can all address this concern.

Social behavior can also be considered as a community-regulatory process through which people assess and verify their adherence to social norms and policies. We recommended the design and implementation of a large program of design ideas and services aimed at creating social actions and customs based on green values.

Because our perception of what’s possible dictates our standards of what’s acceptable, we suggested included designing incentives to sustain behavioral change, along with sensors and monitoring installations that we expect will affect policy changes well beyond the boundaries of the renewed urban district.

Download article (pre-publication version)

1 December 2009

Our misguided focus on brand and user experience

Branded UX
If there is a future for designers and marketers in big business, it lies not in brand, nor in “UX”, nor in any colorful way of framing total control over a consumer, such as “brand equity”, “brand loyalty”, the “end to end customer journey”, or “experience ownership”. It lies instead in encouraging behavioral change and explicitly shaping culture in a positive and lasting way, argues Jon Kolko in a long piece on Johnny Holland.

“The focus on brand and control of the user experience is an attempt to avoid the above commoditization and irrelevance of artifact, and it references a dated model of dominance – one where a company produces something for a person to consume. This is the McDonalds approach to production, where an authoritative voice prescribes something and then gains efficiencies by producing it exactly as prescribed, in mass. The supposed new model is to design something for a person to experience, yet the allusion to experience is only an empty gesture. An experience cannot be built for someone. Fundamentally, one has an experience, and that is experience is always unique.

Interaction design is the design of behavior, positioned as dialogue between a person and an artifact. A person commonly doesn’t talk to an object; they use it, touch it, manipulate it, and control it. Usage, touching, manipulation and control are all dialogical acts, unspoken but conversational.”

Jon Kolko is an Associate Creative Director at frog design. He has worked extensively in the professional world of interaction design solving the problems of Fortune 500 clients. Prior to working at frog, Kolko was a Professor of Interaction and Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, sits on the Board of Directors for the Interaction Design Association (IxDA), and is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of interactions magazine, published by the ACM. Kolko is the author of Thoughts on Interaction Design, published by Morgan Kaufmann, and the forthcoming text tentatively entitled Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis, to be published by Oxford University Press.

Read full story

1 December 2009

Four key principles of mobile user experience design

Mobile keys
In a long article on Boxes and Arrows, Dakota Reese Brown suggests an alternative view of the mobile space based on principles rather than isolated tactics.

“Prior to becoming a senior UX designer at Popular Front Interactive, I spent two years as a mobile UX researcher within the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Mobile Technologies Group – a lab tasked with both future-casting and then rapidly prototyping innovative mobile experiences.

As I transitioned from academia to industry, I discovered that while mobile UX was discussed, it wasn’t discussed from the same broad frame of reference that I was used to within the confines of a research-based institution. Although more recent mobile UX conversations I have found myself in have undoubtedly benefited from the ongoing smart phone revolution, overall I still find these conversations to be needlessly driven by tactical adoration and lacking a conscious consensus regarding the fundamental principles of the mobile-user experience.

I do not presume these following principles to be all-inclusive or ultimately authoritative; rather, it is my hope that they are received as an anecdotal summation of my findings that might then spark and contribute to the larger conversation and consensus-building process.”

Here are the principles he proposes:

  1. There is an intimate relationship between a user and their mobile device.
  2. Screen size implies a user’s state. The user’s state infers their commitment to what is on the screen.
  3. Mobile interfaces are truncated. Other interfaces are not.
  4. Design for mobile platforms — the real ones.

Read full story

1 December 2009

IDEA 2009: Social and experience design

IDEA 2009
The IDEA Conference took place in Toronto on September 15-16, with a focus on social experience design. Boxes and Arrows, in collaboration with the IA Institute, brings recordings of most conference talks.

Day one
– The impact of social models – Luke Wroblewski
– Social spaces online: lessons from radical architects – Christina Wodtke
– Making virtual worlds: games and the human for a digital age – Thomas Malaby
– User experience as a crucial driver of social business design – Jeff Dachis
– Bare naked design: reflections on designing with an open source community – Leisa Reichelt
– Does designing a social experience affect how we party? Of course it does! – Maya Kalman
– The information superhighway: urban renewal or neighborhood destruction? – Mary Newsom

Day two
– Innovation parkour – Matthew Milan
– The art and science of seductive interactions – Stephen Anderson
– Social design patterns mini-workshop – Christian Crumlish & Erin Malone
– If you build it (using social media), they will come – Mari Luangrath
– The bawn of perfect products – Tim Queenan

1 December 2009

Designing the online shopping experience

Mind the gap
Two articles in UX Magazine look at ways of improving the retail user experience online:

Mind the gap
Which types of brands have the greatest opportunity to improve UX? A video-based look at online–offline experience gaps.
by Dave Maren

Designing superior shopping experiences
Online shopping should be a fluid, visually exciting and immersive experience. By designing great shopping experiences free from the constraints of HTML, we can fully exploit the rich audio, video, animation and user interface capabilities of modern personal computing.
by George Plesko