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Putting People First

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April 2010
24 April 2010

User experience in eGovernment

Stamps
Stepan Doubrava and Jakub Franc of ExperienceU (Czech Republic), argues on the Global User Research blog for the proper use of user-centred design principles in eGovernment projects.

“eGovernment, or the transfer of government activities to the Internet [...] brings with it a number of clear benefits for both citizens and civil servants. Electronic bureaus can be open 24 hours a day, citizens can communicate with them from anywhere, and electronic forms can be interactive and provide help when being filled in. By eliminating communication barriers, eGovernment enables citizens to participate in greater measure in civic matters, which supports the democratic principle.

Other advantages include the fact that information is in electronic form from the very beginning (eliminating manual data entry from paper forms), human resources can be coordinated more effectively (data processing can be distributed to various regions and outsourced), and electronic communication can reduce costs significantly.

However, from our field’s perspective, there is a serious problem, namely the ability of all citizens to cope with and accept electronic communication with authorities. One must realize the rapidly growing demands for technological skills, and the differences between individuals in this context. [...]

It would be advisable to concentrate more on user research, thoroughly define user needs, motivations and roles at the beginning of the project, and perform periodic usability testing during implementation.”

Read article

24 April 2010

Challenging the limits of open society

Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas is one of my favourite writers at the New York Times and this time his reflection on the merits of open societies is particularly thought provoking.

“A stunning idea has entered respectable American discourse of late: that China is not just an economic rival but also a political competitor, with a political system that, despite its own flaws, reveals grave flaws in American democracy and might be inspiring to wavering nations. [...]

The question the reappraisers seem to be asking is whether their belief in bottom-up, spontaneously ordering, self-regulating societies blinded them to other truths (as their enthusiasm for China risks blinding them to the cruelty and violence of autocracy). They are asking: Can openness go too far? Can public opinion be measured too frequently? Can free speech sow disorder? Is the crowd really smarter than the experts? Can transparency hamper governance?

Or, to put it in the terms of an influential 1997 essay, is the bazaar always better than the cathedral?”

Read article

24 April 2010

IDEO on mobile and human-centered design

Method cards
The Mobile Behavior blog interviewed Robert Suarez, a senior portfolio lead in the Consumer Experience design (CXd) group at IDEO.

With a background in User experience design and human factors research, he has experience working on generative, evaluative, and experiential research programs to better understand and develop insights about human behavior in the environment in which people live, work, play, and learn.

“Recently, IDEO has been focusing on how something as personal as the mobile phone has the ability to change behavior. In many cases, a mobile phone is the only device that accompanies a person throughout his or her entire day, giving it great potential to influence behavior. Devices can learn with users, too: They’re adaptable and able to collect data and recognize patterns.

Everything from feedback loops to something as simple as a regular SMS reminder to exercise can shape the way we live. Small behavioral changes — eating a little less, walking a little more, connecting with friends and family in small but meaningful ways — can translate into profound changes at a personal or a societal level.”

Read interview

24 April 2010

The BBC’s global experience language

BBC UX&D
The BBC UX&D team has published a global experience language for the BBC’s digital service:

The GVL 3.0 guidelines are a reference point for all designers creating BBC websites (future iterations will also incorporate mobile and IPTV recommendations).

The design philosophy underpins everything we do as a user experience and design team. It informs the way our services look, the way they behave and the way we operate as a team.

The foundations should be used by all. They include a vertical grid, baseline grid and recommended templates.

The building blocks help create consistent interaction and visual design across the site; from typography to iconography.

Our design pattern library will offer a comprehensive set of re-usable page components.

22 April 2010

A new age of user-repaired devices

iFixit
iFixit launched today today a “global repair community” with the aim being user-level repairs of any device.

CrunchGear comments: “Such a project is well-timed; the relationship between user and manufacturer is becoming more one-sided. It doesn’t trouble you that the devices we use every day are so poorly documented, or constructed in such obscure ways, that one has to be an Apple-qualified technician or Dell customer service person to fix a simple problem? “

Read article

22 April 2010

Better tech docs through social networking

UX Matters
The social networking phenomenon has ushered in a shift in mindset that, in turn, has driven people to become actively engaged in generating their own content and sharing it with an international audience on the Web, in contrast to the earlier trend of passively viewing content that others had created.

This article on UXMatters explores how we can embrace this trend toward user-generated content to elicit greater user participation in the technical documentation space and make the communication of business information a more effective process.

Read article

22 April 2010

April 2010 issue of Boxes and Arrows

boxesandarrows
The April issue of Boxes and Arrows is recommended reading:

Designing for social interaction – strong, weak and temporary ties
by Paul Adams, senior UX researcher, Google
Our social web tools must start to understand the strength of ties, that we have stronger relationships with some people than with others. Understanding the difference between strong, weak, and temporary ties will help us build better online social experiences.

Faceted finding with super-powered breadcrumbs
by Greg Nudelman
Most of the today’s finding interfaces do not support integrated finding effectively, often creating disparate search and browse user interfaces that confound people with a jumble of controls competing for their attention. In this article, I propose the Integrated Faceted Breadcrumb (IFB) design that integrates the power of faceted refinement with the intuitive query expansion afforded by browse.

Case study of agile and UCD working together – Finding the holistic solution
by James Kelway, senior information architect, Hello Group
Large scale websites require groups of specialists to design and develop a product that will be a commercial success. To develop a completely new site requires several teams to collaborate and this can be difficult. Particularly as different teams may be working with different methods. This case study shows how the ComputerWeekly user experience team integrated with an agile development group.

How to win friends and influence people remotely
by Patrick Stapleton, principal applications engineer, Oracle
Once remotely located a designers ability to interact with other team members and effect change are funneled through the telecommunication mediums that the team uses to communicate. This article, subtitled “Tools to enable simple online collaboration of design and distribution of usability testing” lists the available mediums and analyzes their respective strengths and weaknesses and provides suggestions for their effective use.

21 April 2010

The Screen and the Drum

Design and Culture
The latest issue of Design and Culture contains an article by Louise Crewe, Nicky Gregson and Alan Metcalfe on “homemaking”.

Entitled The Screen and the Drum: on Form, Function, Fit and Failure in Contemporary Home Consumption, it describes the complex relationships people have with their domestic appliances.

“This paper explores consumers’ connections to their domestic objects. Focusing on two particular objects (televisions and vacuum cleaners), the paper reflects upon why consumers desire particular domestic objects and how they assemble, arrange and use things in the home. It reveals how functionality is intimately infused with form, how design informs the consumption of everyday domestic objects and how both function and form can fail, deceive and trick. the mundane movements and moments that comprise homemaking encompass a whole suite of entanglements between object, subject, agency and space. In all sorts of ways this opens up exciting – but also difficult and perplexing – possibilities for consumer agency in the production of home. New kinds of temporality, the rapidity of fashion and design shifts, transformative technologies and new modes of fabrication require new forms of consumption knowledge, competence and skill.”

Download article

(via Nicolas Nova’s Pasta&Vinegar)

20 April 2010

Transition for display industry

Displays
Interesting, this point of view from the Samsung Economic Research Institute:

“As demand for CRT display devices winds down and the penetration rates of TVs and PCs in advanced markets rises, the rise in demand for display devices is forecast to slow. Also, slowing production of display devices with ever-larger screens and a drop in prices are contributing to the current decline of the display device industry. Next-generation technologies capable of reversing this downward trend are desperately needed, but conditions are inadequate.

In order to adapt to the change, the industry has been modifying its development channels toward a greater focus on user applications. Efforts are being made to increase user convenience via larger interfaces and to create more realistic displays. [...]

In line with new development channels, companies that produce displays must also enact change. In the product planning and development phase, companies should adopt a user-centered perspective. In particular, technological innovations in the interface between IT devices and users should be sought.”

Read article
Download report

20 April 2010

How do older people use e-mail?

Elderly and email
Researchers at the Universidad Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Spain have studied how older people interact and use email in their daily life.

The study, conducted by Sergio Sayago, was carried out in social centres in Barcelona and will be used to design new email systems that are more intuitive and accessible.

Electronic mail or email is the internet application used the most, even by older people, who haven’t grown up with Information and Computer Technology (ICT), and have had to put in greater effort to learn to use it than younger people. However, social and technological scientists still know very little about how older people or the elderly interact with email systems in their daily life.

The ethnographic investigation, published recently in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, spent three years analysing email use habits of close to 400 people between 64 and 80 years-old in social centres in Barcelona.

Related publications

20 April 2010

Emerging-market consumers are hard to reach

Hard to reach
The Economist explores the topic of consumer research in emerging markets:

“Emerging markets are far more varied and volatile than mature ones. There is little money around: the average income per person in China is around $3,500 and in India $1,000. Cultural complexities are confounding and tastes are extraordinarily fluid. People who are not used to brands flit easily from one to another.

This has turned great metropolises such as Shanghai into vast laboratories of consumer research. Companies are always coming up with new products, or tweaking old ones, to suit local tastes and meet idiosyncratic preferences. Unilever makes its soaps and shampoos foamier than their Western equivalents. P&G produces toothpaste in herbal and green-tea flavours. PepsiCo adds spice to its potato chips. Adidas has created two kinds of shops—“local” ones that specialise in sportswear designed for Asian bodies and “global” ones that sell the same products as in the West. The shopping mall beneath the company’s regional headquarters in Shanghai has one of each kind.

Innovation extends to changing entire business models.”

Read article

19 April 2010

Ubiquitous service design

Peter Morville
Peter Morville (pictured) and Jeffery Callender, who recently released the book “Search Patterns: Design for Discovery“, are at it again, now reflecting on how the Internet of Things is impacting the future of information architecture:

“The vision of an Internet of Things is nothing new, but the reality is something else. Nobody could have predicted the myriad ways in which information would blur the lines between product and service to create multi-channel, cross-platform, trans-media, physico-digital experiences.

This is the complex reality that today’s executives and entrepreneurs must navigate. And while the archetypal ecologies of iTunes and Nike+ offer some insight, we’re mostly exploring new territory without a map.”

Read article

16 April 2010

Innovating for all

Innovating with People
The book “Innovating with people – The business of Inclusive Design” provides an introduction as to how Inclusive Design can be used as a strategy for better business and as an opportunity for profitable innovation – and aims to inspire and motivate readers to use the techniques to create better products and services. It will be launched at the upcoming Innovation for All 2010 conference (20-21 May, Oslo).

The book is published by the Norwegian Design Council as part of The Innovation for All Programme, together with its strategic collaboration partner the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art.

“The idea is to inspire, motivate and to show how industrial and commercial enterprises can integrate a people-centred approach in their own design and development processes. It is a practical guide and manual that contains the basic information you need to understand, debate and practice Inclusive Design.

The content is complied by individuals who have had extensive, practical experience in working with Inclusive Design in a business context. The book shares insights and learnings gathered over the years and presented in an ‘easy-to-read’ format. Case studies and examples explain how other companies have benefited from Inclusive Design.

A practice-based guide details nine research techniques for engaging with people and bringing their points of view into the design process.”

It is not yet clear where non-Norwegians can buy the book (besides by going to the conference), but I am sure the website will soon inform you.

16 April 2010

Tales of Things

Go Fish
Tales of Things is a new tool that allows people to attach memories to their objects in the form of video, text or audio, thus “exploring the implications of The Internet of Things (network of objects that are traceable at anytime) on objects that already exist in the world.”

The people behind it are part of the TOTeM research consortium – a collaboration between Edinburgh College of Art, Brunel University, University College London, University Of Dundee and University of Salford – and here some of their launching statements:

tales of things is an exciting new tool that allows users to attach memories to their objects in the form of video, text or audio. Users can quickly “tag” their objects by using QR codes or RFID with stories and connect to other people who share similar experiences. This will enable future generations to have a greater understanding of the object‟s past and offers a new way of preserving social history. tales of things will depend on real people‟s stories which can be geo-located through an on-line map of the world where participants can track their object even if they have passed it on. The object will also be able to update previous owners on its progress through a live Twitter feed which will be unique to each object entered into the system. The website (www.talesofthings.com) and iPhone application will be available from 16 April 2010.

The project will offer a new way for people to place more value on their own objects in an increasingly disposable economy. As more importance is placed on the objects that are already parts of people‟s lives, it is hoped that family or friends may find new uses for old objects and encourage people to think twice before throwing something away.”

It seems to be still very much a research project not yet thought for actual rollout. I found the repeated use of the word “users” in the press release a bit disturbing and pedantic, and found no answer to the question how this “preserving” will actually take place: how are they going to assure that future generations (i.e. people growing up in the 2030’s and 2060’s) will still have access to all this info? Will Twitter still be around in 2060?

14 April 2010

Psychologist Kahneman on experience and memory

Daniel Kahneman
Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals in a February 2010 lecture at TED how our “experiencing selves” and our “remembering selves” perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy — and our own self-awareness.

Watch video

(via InfoDesign)

12 April 2010

Putting People First content partner of Appliance Design

Appliance Design
Putting People First has become a content partner of Appliance Design, the site of the US-based magazine of the same name that caters to designers and engineers in the global, commercial and medical appliance/durable goods industry.

The partnership is not financial. Putting People First simply selects blog posts that could fit the audience of the Appliance Design site. If you are already following our blog regularly, you don’t have to do anything: these posts are simply part of our regular updates.

This engagement towards Appliance Design is part of Experientia’s overall strategy to share current thinking and practices on user-centered design and experience design, and our commitment to sustainability.

Appliance Design covers durable goods such as HVAC, majors, water processing, housewares, commercial appliances, vending, medical lab, test & measurement, lawn and garden, electronics, computers, communications, and business equipment.

12 April 2010

Mobile app developers tackle Africa’s biggest problems

Africa phones
Mobile app developers are sprouting in Africa to help tackle that continent’s problems. Many create applications that can be used with phone text messages. The African technologists say local knowledge is key to their successes. CNN reports:

“While developers in the United States rush to make flashy games for Apple’s latest gizmo, the iPad, these young developers are trying to tackle Africa’s most vexing problems.

Many are doing so with simple text message applications on phones that cost no more than $25.

Text message phone apps now help African people check market prices, transfer money, learn languages and alert authorities to the need for food or other aid in the event of a disaster. And this all comes despite Africa’s reputation as the “least wired” continent in the world.”

Read article

11 April 2010

Interactions Magazine – March/April 2010 issue

interactions
The latest issue of Interactions Magazine is about a new intellectualism of design, write co-editors Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko: one that embraces discourse, dialogue, systems thinking, and the larger role of designers in shaping culture.

Here are the articles available for free online:

interactions: exploring aspects of design thinking
Richard Anderson, Jon Kolko
Popular discussion of “design thinking” has reached a point of frenzy. Unfortunately, there is often little depth to the discussion, and for many, the topic remains elusive and vague. While each issue of interactions has included articles about or reflecting the application of design thinking, this issue addresses the topic a bit more directly.

Evolution of the mind: a case for design literacy
Chris Pacione
As we come to the end of the first decade of the 21st century and what many consider the end of The Information Age, a recent flurry of books, articles, and initiatives seem to indicate that a new, pervasive mind shift is afoot. It’s called design, and like arithmetic, which was once a peripheral human aptitude until the industrial age forced it to be important for everyone, recent global changes and the heralding of a new age are positioning design as the next human literacy.

Design thinking in stereo: Brown and Martin
Paula Thornton
By 2006 an IIT Institute of Design interview with Roger Martin, titled “Designing Decisions,” told of his conversion to the concept when noting the language and behaviors of designer friends. That same year, Tim Brown presented fundamental thoughts on design thinking that also caught my attention. By the end of 2009 both Martin and Brown had released books on the topic.

Designing interactions at work: applying design to discussions, meetings and relationships
Roger Martin, Jennifer Riel
Ultimately, designers and business leaders want the same thing: transformative ideas that can be translated into real value. Yet, even with this common purpose, the interactions between design teams and business leaders often represent the biggest stumbling block to the development of breakthrough ideas. How often has a brilliant design idea been strangled in its infancy by a client who could not, or would not, “get it”? How often is breakthrough innovation stopped short by number crunchers who don’t understand the process of design or the insights afforded by it? And how often do business folks moan that designers lack even the most basic understanding of cost and strategy?

From Davis to David: lessons from improvisation
Liz Danzico
Improv is extending its practicality. Designers have been adopting improvisation design methods in their own practices. Made more visible by organizations such as IDEO and Pixar and the research of people from Elizabeth Gerber at Northwestern University and Steve Portigal at Portigal Consulting, we’re seeing how improvisation can be powerful in interaction design work. With collaboration activities in particular, improv becomes especially important when untangling complex problems that require teamwork or just getting a client unstuck.

Technology first, needs last: the research-product gulf
Don Norman
Design research is great when it comes to improving existing product categories, but essentially useless when it comes to breakthroughs.

Sugared puppy dog tails: gender and design
Elizabeth Churchill
Designers are not passive bystanders in the production, reproduction, reinforcing, or challenging of cultural values. We actively create artifacts and experiences. We design products with implicit or explicit assumptions about how products will be used and by whom. We mentally simulate the product user who is part of an imagined story of the product in use – these imaginary people are drawn from our everyday lives and usually have a gender, perhaps a shape, size, age and ethnicity. Thus we embed imagined, gendered others into our designs, inadvertently reproducing cultural norms because they seem so “natural.” And so in a chain of reification and reproduction, products are wired in subtle ways that reflect and reinforce existing cultural assumptions.

The lens of feminist HCI in the context of sustainable interaction design
Shaowen Bardzell, Eli Blevis
One might identify feminism’s central tenets as commitments to agency, fulfillment, identity, equality, empowerment, and social justice. I think these commitments make feminism a natural ally to interaction design. As computers increasingly become a part of everyday life, feminism is poised to help us understand how gender identities and relations shape both the use and design of interactive technologies – and how things could be otherwise, through design.

MyMeal: an interactive user-tailored meal visualization tool for teenagers with eating disorders
Desmond Balance, Jodie Jenkinson
Since patients with eating disorders (EDs) have demonstrably abnormal perceptions of the size of food, a meal-visualization tool could help patients with EDs feel more comfortable about portions by helping them understand what appropriate food portions look like in the context of a balanced meal.

On design thinking, business, the arts, STEM …
Jon Kolko, Richard Anderson
Why [is it] only now [...] that the language related to the intellectual and intangible aspects of design is beginning to catch on?

11 April 2010

Debunking the myths of online usability testing

Remote testing
Bill Albert, director of the Design and Usability Center at Bentley University, highlights five common myths related to online (unmoderated) usability testing, and explaining why he thinks these myths are not true.

“The motivation for this article is to help UX researchers keep an open mind about online usability testing. There are some researchers who have been using this approach for years and find it useful (in certain situations). Others are new to it, and wanting to learn more about its strength and limitations. Finally, some UX researchers have already formed an opinion about online usability testing, and deemed it not useful for a variety of (unfounded) reasons. I hope by exposing these myths, we (as a UX community) can evaluate this tool based on its actual merits.”

Read article

11 April 2010

Durability – is it losing power as a customer driver?

Dina Mehta
In a three-part article series, Dina Mehta, founder and managing director of Mosoci India, argues that durability is losing its power as a consumer driver in some product categories in India.

Somehow this is sad news.

“For the most part, my feeling is that while [durability] may still hold importance for some categories, it’s seen as a given – a hygiene-factor almost, that users expect from their products. Research I’ve done in the last few years indicates that neither a brand differentiator nor a purchase driver, as it was even just 7-8 years ago.”

Read article: part 1 | part 2 | part 3

Also check out a series of presentations that Metha found on principles, processes, personas, ideation, creativity, scenarios and story in Design Thinking for new product development.