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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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March 2010
30 March 2010

Shoppers choose green products to improve social status

Prius
Consumers are willing to sacrifice performance for perceived social status from green products, says the study Going Green to Be Seen: Status, Reputation, and Conspicuous Conservation, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Shoppers choose hybrid cars, “green” washing-up liquid and energy-saving devices over cheaper but dirtier alternatives partly to improve their social status, according to a new study published today.

Researchers found consumers are willing to sacrifice luxury and performance to benefit from the perceived social status that comes from buying a product with a reduced environmental impact.”

But the study comes with some caveats.

Read article

29 March 2010

The urban age

Lagos
How cities became our greatest design challenge yet.

Justin McGuirk, the editor of icon, the UK’s leading architecture & design magazine, argues in The Guardian that, amid unprecedented levels of urbanisation, designers must be trusted to fashion cities that not only accommodate but also provide a pleasant environment.

“Now that city-making has become a priority, politicians need to have faith in designers. Because if there’s one lesson to be learned from the last quarter of a century, it’s that we need to shift our focus away from liberty and the free market, and move towards equality.”

Read article

29 March 2010

Search Patterns – an interview with Peter Morville

Search Patterns
Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender recently released their brand new book “Search Patterns: Design for Discovery“. It’s an excellent, must-read book for the user experience community.

Brad Nunnally, user experience designer at Perficient, had the honor to chat with Peter about what drove him to write his new book, why he thinks search is such a challenge still, and his thoughts on where the future of search lies.

The interview is available on Johnny Holland.

27 March 2010

Design for social innovation

CIDIC
Petz Scholtus reports in TreeHugger on presentations by Alastair Fuad-Luke, Gui Bonsiepe and Alfred Astort during the recent 1st International Congress of Design and Innovation of Catalonia (CIDIC) at the ESDi School of Design in Spain.

“Designers should get away from ego-design and concentrate on eco-design, or even better, on co-design as Alastair Fuad-Luke believes. Designer Gui Bonsiepe commented in his speech at ESDi School of Design in Spain last week that we need to amplify design from environmentally sustainable to socially sustainable. Can that be the way to post-crisis design? And, How do we balance industrial skills with the ability to work with other people?, is that Fuad-Luke asked. Bonsiepe stated that designers do not only need a sensibility to solve problems, but also to detect them.”

Read full story

27 March 2010

AP’s ethnographic studies look for solutions to news and ad “fatigue”

AP
A new study by the Associated Press has come to the conclusion that consumers are “tired, even annoyed, by the current experience of advertising,” and that, as a result, they don’t trust very much of it. But at the same time, AP found, consumers do want information relevant to their needs, as well as ways to socialize that information.

Although it tends to move cautiously and deliberately, AP has been subtly and quietly introducing tools aimed at improving relevance and socialization, and may have plans for an ad-supported aggregation business that applies what it has been learning. [...]

The findings are part of a study called “A new model for communication,” released two weeks ago with little fanfare and no press coverage, even by AP’s own reporters (pdf link to report). The research was done in conjunction with Context-Based Research Group of Baltimore, and was a followup to a 2008 study called “A new model for news” (pdf link to report). Both studies used ethnographic research techniques to do a ‘deep dive’ into consumer behavior and motivations. [...]

To combat “ad annoyance,” the study recommends restoring trust, noting that social vetting of information is now often “filling a role historically played by trusted packagers of information, such as local newspapers, which connected readers with advertisers in a trusted environment.” This led the study team at Context to suggest a what they call Communitas, consisting of collaboration, social contract (understood rules), kinship, honesty, reciprocity and relevance.

Read article

26 March 2010

New methods for user driven innovation in the health care sector

User driven innovation in the health care sector
This project of the Nordic Innovation Center aimed to draw attention to user driven innovation in the health care sector, and to develop and test methods for user driven innovation in the context of health care.

“The report consists of an overview of innovation theory, hereunder user driven innovation directions, an analysis of the health care sector, the need for innovation and the specificities which have to be taken into consideration in innovation processes and a presentation of state of the art examples from the Nordic region and the USA.

Most important, the study comprises six pilot projects which have been carried out during the study. The pilot projects are supposed to test various methods of user driven innovation and the results give an idea of where one has to put effort in order to make innovation processes in the health care sector as smooth, effective and successful as possible.”

Download report

26 March 2010

Private lives

Private lives
Our personal details are used everywhere. And it’s more easy to share, mine and exploit them than ever before.

This new report by the UK think tank Demos is an up-close and personal investigation into how people feel about the use of their personal information. The British public might not be as reserved as we like to think.

The database society is not inherently good or bad. The best we can hope for is that it is as democratic as any of the institutions, markets, and regulatory and legal systems that exert power over our lives. The rules governing information use will determine our power as individuals in the database society and the powers that the state, businesses and other people have over us. As the infrastructure of the database society passes through a formative stage, it is important to understand more about the use of personal information is understood by the people it affects.

Democratising personal information does not only mean giving people a voice in the debate. It means finding better ways of listening to what they say. This pamphlet is about what people think about the use of their personal information. It sets out the findings of Demos’ ‘People’s Inquiry into Personal Information’, revealing the opinions and ideas expressed over 13 hours of deliberation. The inquiry demonstrates how to engage in the conversations that bring personal information decision-making closer to the people it affects.

Download pamphlet

26 March 2010

World Bank, Nokia fund mobile app labs in Africa

InfoDev
The World Bank in partnership with mobile handset maker Nokia is set to fund the establishment of mobile applications laboratories in Africa in a move to boost innovation in the field.

“The mobile laboratories will help assist mobile applications entrepreneurs to start and scale their businesses.

Through the laboratories that will be set up, the bank and Nokia will work with existing organizations in host countries.

The laboratories will offer training and testing facilities, identification and piloting of potential applications, incubation of startups, business and financial services and linkages with operators.”

Read article

26 March 2010

Privacy in a public world

Privacy
The concept of “privacy” is incredibly different depending on which side of the Atlantic you live, says Eric Reiss. And in an increasingly globalized world, it’s becoming more and more important to acknowledge these divergent points of view.

“Americans tend to be less concerned than Europeans. Privacy, after all, is not a clear constitutional right whereas freedom of speech is. Freedom of speech is actually the first article in the U.S. Bill of Rights. It’s not that Americans don’t value privacy, but they often view it as a tool to prevent government from overstepping its authority. This represents a fundamental difference in the way Americans and Europeans react to privacy issues.

In Europe, privacy is considered a basic human right. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights spells it out, “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.” To put things in perspective, freedom of speech first comes in Article 10.”

Read article

26 March 2010

What does ethnography give you that statistics don’t?

Roger_martin
Qualitative, and especially observational or ethnographic, research enables us to delve much more deeply into the relationship between our firm and its product/service and the customer, argues Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, in the Harvard Business Review.

“Because we aren’t obsessed about adding all the responses together for ‘rigorous quantitative analysis’, we can let the customer use his own voice/words/vocabulary. Because customers often struggle to put into words their feelings about products, services or providers, we can watch them do what they really do, rather than what they say they do — and may not actually do. This all enables a much more nuanced view of our customer.”

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25 March 2010

Africa Calling: can mobile phones make a miracle?

Ghana girl calling
Africa Calling: Can Mobile Phones Make a Miracle? is the title of a long article by Jenny C. Aker (Assistant Professor, The Fletcher School) and Isaac M. Mbiti (Assistant Professor, SMU), published in the March/April 2010 edition of the Boston Review.

Given how many Africans are seeking out and using mobile phones, and all they can do with them, enthusiasm about communications technology as a force for economic development and broader advances in human well-being is high: the iconic image of the mobile phone user in Africa is the female trader, surrounded by her goods while making calls to potential clients in the capital city. Peruse any article on mobile phones in Africa today and you can’t help but notice the ambitious claims about impact. Mobile phones are a transformative technology that increases GDp and, quite simply, revolutionizes people’s lives. Equally common are the slogans of mobile phone companies promising better days for those who use their products: “Together We Can Do More,” “A Wonderful Life,” “Making Life Better,” and simply “Tudo bom” (“All is good”).

Do these images, slogans, and sentiments truly reflect what mobile phones can do? Can mobile phones transform the lives of the world’s poor?

Read article (pdf)

(via Ken Banks and Fondapol)

25 March 2010

Book: Ubiquitous computing user experience design

Smart Things
At Lift France 09, Mike Kuniavsky spoke about Changing Things: Fab Labs, towards decentralized design and production of material products (link to 25 min. video).

Kuniavsky’s new book on ubiquitous computing user experience design is now finished and will be shipping in August.

Based on case studies, the book will show the evolution of products caused by ubiquitous computing. It also describes frameworks and processes, as well as giving practical advice on how to handle these unique design challenges.

Abstract:

The world of smart shoes, appliances, and phones is already here, but the practice of user experience (UX) design for ubiquitous computing is still relatively new. Design companies like IDEO and frogdesign are regularly asked to design products that unify software interaction, device design and service design — which are all the key components of ubiquitous computing UX — and practicing designers need a way to tackle practical challenges of design. Theory is not enough for them — luckily the industry is now mature enough to have tried and tested best practices and case studies from the field.

Smart Things presents a problem-solving approach to addressing designers’ needs and concentrates on process, rather than technological detail, to keep from being quickly outdated. It pays close attention to the capabilities and limitations of the medium in question and discusses the tradeoffs and challenges of design in a commercial environment. Divided into two sections ? frameworks and techniques ? the book discusses broad design methods and case studies that reflect key aspects of these approaches. The book then presents a set of techniques highly valuable to a practicing designer. It is intentionally not a comprehensive tutorial of user-centered design’as that is covered in many other books’but it is a handful of techniques useful when designing ubiquitous computing user experiences.

In shot, Smart Things gives its readers both the “why” of this kind of design and the “how,” in well-defined chunks.

  • Tackles design of products in the post-Web world where computers no longer have to be monolithic, expensive general-purpose devices
  • Features broad frameworks and processes, practical advice to help approach specifics, and techniques for the unique design challenges
  • Presents case studies that describe, in detail, how others have solved problems, managed trade-offs, and met successes

Mike Kuniavsky is a founding partner of Adaptive Path, a user experience consulting company in San Francisco. He has been developing commercial web sites since 1994, and is the interaction designer of an award-winning search engine, HotBot. He created the Wired Digital User Experience Laboratory and served as its chief investigator for two years. His design work and writing have appeared in many publications, including WebMonkey, ID Magazine, Wired, Step-By-Step Design, Inc., The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times, and .Net (UK).

25 March 2010

Successful service design

Successful service design
Successful Service Design: Turning Innovation Into Practice is a website created by the UK’s Cabinet Office that provides a robust guide to service design.

The site, that also contains an extensive library, offers “a stage by stage approach for teams taking on complex problems related to public service reform with critical questions to ask and key tools such as checklists and templates that you can use to ensure you get the best possible results.”

25 March 2010

How social networks influence our behaviours

Contagion
Are some behaviours more contagious than others?

This is the question that Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler address in their book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. From a Science + Religion Today article:

“In the book, we show that in real-world social networks, lots of things spread up to three degrees of separation, like weight loss, smoking cessation, binge drinking, happiness, loneliness, depression, piano teacher referrals, inventor ideas, generosity, and the list goes on and on. What this means is that if you make a positive change, it will influence your friends to do the same, but it doesn’t stop there—it also affects your friends’ friends, and even your friends’ friends’ friends. We call this the “Three Degrees of Influence” rule.

But not everything spreads in the same way. Emotions can spread quickly, even between people who do not have a strong relationship. [...] In contrast, behaviors seem to take longer to spread and they are only passed between people who have close social ties.”

The authors of the book also published a long article in The New York Times Magazine last year, entitled Are your friends making you fat?, in which they say your friends — and even your friends’ friends — can make you quit smoking, eat too much or get happy.

In other words: a look inside the emerging science of social contagion.

25 March 2010

Making design research less of a mystery

Mystery
David Sherwin argues in his blog that there are a few eerie similarities between the plotting of mystery novels and how designers should document design research findings.

“So how is the design research process anything like the plotting of a mystery novel? Let’s talk about the “B Story.” If you read a lot of mysteries or watch any kind of thrillers on TV or in the movie theater, then you’ve experienced this storytelling tactic. “

Read article

25 March 2010

Can you design a service?

1508
Jeff Howard alerts us in his “Design for Service” blog to the publication “Can You Design a Service?” by the Danish agency 1508.

“Six brief case studies showcase service design’s range while examples for Aarhus citizen services and a kindergarten in Cophenhagen provide a closer look at the process. The publication ends with a bit about methods and approach but nothing too deep. This isn’t really a book for service designers; it’s a book for people who might never have thought to ask the question posed by the title.”

Download publication

23 March 2010

Eleven gambits for influencing user behaviour

Playfulness
In his blog, Dan Lockton, a Ph.D. researcher at Brunel University (UK), describes eleven behavioural change patterns “drawn from games or modelled on more playful forms of influencing behaviour.”

“My main interest here is to extract the design techniques as very simple design patterns or ‘gambits’* that can be applied in other design situations outside games themselves, where designers would like to influence user behaviour (along with the other Design with Intent techniques). So these are (at least at present) presented simply as provocations: a “What if…?” question plus an example. The intention is that the card deck version will simply have what you see here, while the online version will have much more detail, references, links and reader/user-contributed examples and comments.”

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22 March 2010

Connectile dysfunction

Connectile dysfunction
Designers can play a pivotal role, writes Mark Baskinger, associate professor in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University, in empowering elders towards sustained autonomous living through improving the communicative properties of everyday products.

“Products fail us every day. For some reason, though, we tend to blame ourselves for those failures—for our inability to perform adequately, our lack of understanding, and, sometimes, our unsafe practice. A product’s physical/visual form needs to communicate to the user on an immediate and intuitive level what the product’s purpose is and how it should be used. Without this communication, a gulf or disconnect can develop between what a user is trying to do (his intent) to do and what he actually does (his action).

This disconnect—caused by complexity, physical configuration, and/or poor information mapping—can prime a hazardous scenario, lead to misuse, foster product abandonment, or induce personal injury. This problem is especially pronounced for elders suffering from age-related physical, cognitive, and sensorial changes, for whom product-related accidents, unsafe practice, and personal injury are common.

Addressing this disconnect between intent and action—this “connectile dysfunction”—can be a key approach for developing products for at-risk populations. It encourages safe practices and enhances the quality of users’ experiences. In this sense, designers can have a positive impact in peoples’ daily lives.

Designers can play a pivotal role in empowering elders toward sustained autonomous living through improving the communicative properties of everyday products.

This article introduces emergent themes for designers developing product experiences for an aging population, with a specific focus on major home appliances.”

Read article

22 March 2010

The future of health care is social

Social healthcare
Too many of us are too busy to be healthy–not because we lack awareness. It’s finding the time to do it that’s the problem. In an age of 24/7 connectivity, time feels more pressed than ever. Yet, it may be that the very technology allowing us this around-the-clock connection can transform how we manage our health. Frog Design collaborated with Fast Company on a special feature article:

“Health care is a personal issue that has become wholly public–as the US national debate over reforming our system makes painfully clear. But what’s often lost in the gun-toting Town Hall debates about the issue is a clear vision about how medicine could work in the future.

In this feature article, frog design uses its people-centered design discipline to show how elegant health and life science technology solutions will one day become a natural part of our behavior and lifestyle. What you see here is the result of frog’s ongoing collaboration with health-care providers, insurers, employers, consumers, governments, and technology companies.”

- Read article
- Download article (pdf)

22 March 2010

Sustainable user research

UX Matters
Now, more than ever, it’s important to determine when it’s feasible to save money and the environment by conducting more user research remotely. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of remote research. Jim Ross reports in UX matters.

“Although lack of time and money for travel have always been barriers to conducting in-person user research, the current recession and concerns about global warming and wasted resources have pressured businesses to cut back on business travel and conduct more business remotely. Should user research be any different? [...]

Remote user research can be either moderated or unmoderated. In both cases, the participants and researcher are in separate locations. However, in moderated, remote user research, the researcher and the participants go through the research activity together virtually, while in unmoderated, remote user research, the researcher is not involved during the study.

In this column, I’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of moderated and unmoderated, remote user research. Then, I’ll reflect on some deciding factors for conducting either in-person or remote user research—or both in combination. Understanding all of these considerations can help you to decide when it’s most appropriate to use in-person or remote methods of user research—and if the latter, whether to do moderated or unmoderated research—or to combine both approaches and get the best of both worlds.”

Read article