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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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August 2010
21 August 2010

Trapped in the Anglosphere

 
Martin Kettle thinks the UK has lost sight of next door Europe, trapped as Brits are in their Anglo-centric internet.

“It is hard to recall a time when the national, not just the London, mind was less informed about or engaged with Europe than it is today. Europe may still be this country’s major export market. Millions may still take holidays there. Our football teams may still battle for the glamour of being “in Europe”. In the larger sense, though, being in Europe has never impinged less.” […]

The online information age, which should, in theory, have been expected to facilitate greater mental and cultural pluralism and thus, among other things, greater familiarity with European languages and cultures, has, in practice, had the reverse effect. The power of the English language, at once our global gift and our great curse, discourages us from engaging with those – the 93% of the world who speak some other first language than English and the 75% who have no English of any kind – outside the all-conquering online Anglosphere.”

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21 August 2010

Finland’s user-driven innovation policy

Finland innovation
The 2010 Finnish National Innovation Strategy contains an important section on demand and user-driven innovation, with user-driven innovation being described as:

“User-driven innovation makes use of information on customers, user communities and customer companies. It engages users as active participants in innovation activity. The key aspect of user-driven innovation is information on user needs, whether these needs are already identified, still hidden or potentially emerging. Information and communication technology in particular, offers various new opportunities and means of acquiring information on users and engaging them in innovation. The aim of user-driven innovation policy is to raise market actors’ awareness of new innovation tools. It also seeks to create a social infrastructure supporting user-driven innovation while removing obstacles to and boosting incentives for innovation activity.”

As part of the implementation of Finland’s national innovation strategy, the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy has outlined a policy framework laying down the key elements of a demand and user-driven innovation policy.

More info:
User-driven innovation policy
ICT and user-led innovations
Design as a user-driven innovation policy instrument
Demand and User-driven Innovation Policy – Framework (Part I) and Action Plan (Part II)

Downloads:
Framework and Action Plan (pdf)
Policy Framework presentation (pdf)
Action programme presentation (pdf)
New Nature of Innovation (pdf) – backgrounder

21 August 2010

Does technology pose a threat to our private life?

Smartphone
This week Google’s Eric Schmidt suggested we may need to invent new identities to escape embarrassing online pasts – while Facebook launched a tool to share users’ locations. So does technology pose a threat to private life? Jemima Kiss reports in The Guardian:

“From the surveillance entertainment of Big Brother to CCTV and celebrity magazines, the boundaries of what is regarded as appropriate to put in the public domain are shifting dramatically. But nothing is challenging our notion of privacy more than social networking, with 26 million of us using Facebook to share the minutiae of our lives every month in the UK alone.”

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21 August 2010

Younghee Jung on design research for Nokia

Younghee Jung
Younghee Jung, manager and design researcher at the Nokia Research Centre in Bangalore, India, has been profiled again on the Nokia Conversations blog through a long interview:

One of [Younghee’s] most recent projects was Nokia Open Studios. It’s a project that was conducted in three communities across the globe, in a bid to discover what people want when it comes to a mobile phone. But it’s not your typical research with a clipboard and a welcoming smile. Join us as we chat to Younghee about Nokia Open Studios, the challenges she faces and a glimpse into the world of mobile phone research.

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21 August 2010

Designing for the loss of control

Simpsons angry mob
The people at frogdesign have posted two long articles (the first one is really an essay) that we consider a recommended read:

Openness or how do you design for the loss of control?
Openness is the mega-trend for innovation in the 21st century, and it remains the topic du jour for businesses of all kinds. However, as several new books elaborate upon the concept from different perspectives, and a growing number of organizations have recently launched ambitious initiatives to expand the paradigm to other areas of business, Tim Leberecht thought it might be a good time to reframe “Open” from a design point of view.

100,000 Twitter followers and why it matters
@frogdesign passed the 100K Twitter mark recently. […] Sometimes, [Sam Martin and his] marketing team are asked both inside and outside the company, “How are you doing this?” [They] even still get the question, “Why are you doing this?” They are necessary questions, and, of course, it’s not possible to point to one thing or effort or measurement when talking about either. Based on [their] experience over the past year, here are a few thoughts on the matter.

The following quote could also be the motto of this Putting People First blog: “Twitter is a reminder of the responsibility we have to be thoughtful curators of relevant news, trends, and debates, even when those debates involve our competitors.”

Great work, froggers!

21 August 2010

Creating immersive experiences with diegetic interfaces

Diegetic interface
Imon Deshmukh of Cooper thinks that interfaces can be more closely integrated with the environment in which they operate. In an article on the Cooper blog, he shares some of what he heas learned from the universe of video games and how it might be applicable to other kinds of designed experiences.

“A key area of the problem lies in how we’re presented and interact with complex information diegetically, that is, interfaces that actually exist within the game world itself.” […]

Technology seems to be finally overcoming the restrictions that have kept diegetic interfaces limited to gimmickry until now. While still in its infancy, the push to duplicate more of our natural interactions with our environment seems to be gaining momentum as evidenced by new products using non-traditional interaction models. Most of them, like the popular Nintendo Wii, have yet to deal with immersion in terms of interfaces. On the other hand, Microsoft’s, whose controller-free gaming technology Kinect is about to enter the market, has stated its intention to eliminate what it calls the “barrier” between the player and the game world.”

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21 August 2010

Planting memories in people’s heads

Chipped
In our urge to create great products online, we should focus on making experiences happen that plant memories in people’s heads, argues Dmitry Dragilev, lead marketer at ZURB, in a guest contribution on Techcrunch.

“Everyone gets caught up thinking it’s user experience they need to worry about, but it’s what they remember about their experience that’s critical. Their memory is what they’ll draw on to tell other people about it. Their memory is what they’ll project into the future. We should focus on making experiences happen that plant memories in people’s heads, like in Christopher Nolan’s film Inception.

It turns out there are three different kinds of moments in your story customers remember: transitions, Wow moments, and endings. […] Focusing attention on these three experiences will help you create memorable products.”

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21 August 2010

Do you own your device, or it you?

ZDNet Australia debate
On August 12, at noon, ZDNet Australia organised a live broadcast on the future of email. The discussion delved into the issues and challenges facing email in its current state, and looked at how social media is changing the way we exchange information.

The panel of local and global communications experts included Genevieve Bell, Intel Fellow, Intel Labs, Director, Interaction & Experience Research, Intel Corporation; Alistair Rennie, General Manager, Lotus Software and WebSphere Portal, IBM Software Group; Mark Pesce, futurist, author, lecturer and technologist; and Adele Beachley, Managing Director, RIM Australia and New Zealand.

ZDNet Australia has posted a video of the debate as well as a short debate summary.

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21 August 2010

Gender differences in web usability

Gender and technology
Frank Spillers thinks the User Experience community has not fully tapped the potential of gender-specific design aka Woman-centered Design.

According to Spillers, gender as an audience sensitive criteria (differentiation) is barely present in North American technology product design (where it is much easier to do) let alone Web experiences. In Asia there is more design innovation in this area, he says, and Spillers cites the example of Toshiba’s Femininity series.

Comscore just released a new study last month (June 30 2010) entitled Women on the Web: How Women are Shaping the Internet.

The worldwide study adds some key insights into the growing research on gender differences on the Web and in particular around social networking usage. Spillers reports on the key insights and their implications.

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(via Usability News)

21 August 2010

If technology is making us stupid, it’s not technology’s fault

Kids and computers
There has been growing concern that computers have failed to live up to the promise of improving learning for school kids. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and PBS have all done stories recently calling into question the benefits of computers in schools. But, says David Theo Goldberg in a sophisticated article on DMLcentral, when computers fail kids, it’s too easy to blame the technology.

“Unlike television, and perhaps more like automobiles, computers are far from passive consumptive technologies. They enable, if not encourage, interactive engagement, creativity, and participatory interaction with others. The interaction can assume various forms, not all productive. Yet like the appealing impacts of both television and automobile access for youth, the productive and creative capacities of computing technology for ordinary users are staggering. The question then is not the false dilemma between unqualified good and evil, but how best to enable the productive learning possibilities of new digital technologies.”

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21 August 2010

The Economist on social innovation

Social Innovation
In America and Britain governments hope that a partnership with “social entrepreneurs” can solve some of society’s most intractable problem. The Economist reports in a long article.

“Social innovation” is the increasingly common shorthand for this approach to public-private partnerships. It differs from the fashion in the past couple of decades for contracting out the delivery of public services to businesses and non-profit groups in order to cut costs, in that it aims to do more than save a few dollars or pounds—although that is part of its attraction. The idea is to transform the way public services are provided, by tapping the ingenuity of people in the private sector, especially social entrepreneurs.

A social entrepreneur is, in essence, someone who develops an innovative answer to a social problem (for instance, a business model for helping to tackle poverty). A decade ago the term was scarcely heard; today everyone from London to Lagos wants to be one. Social-entrepreneurship conferences are invariably the best attended events for students at leading business schools.

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21 August 2010

Innovation in Kenya’s informal economy

Making Do
In Making Do: Innovation in Kenya’s Informal Economy, Steve Daniels of Brown University illuminates the dynamics of Africa’s informal economy to enhance our understanding of emerging systems of innovation.

“Wandering through winding alleys dotted with makeshift worksheds, one can’t help but feel clouded by the clanging of hammers on metal, grinding of bandsaws on wood, and the shouts of workers making sales. But soon it becomes clear that this cacophony is really a symphony of socioeconomic interactions that form what is known as the informal economy. In Kenya, engineers in the informal economy are known as jua kali, Swahili for “hot sun,” because they toil each day under intense heat and with limited resources. But despite these conditions, or in fact because of them, the jua kali continuously demonstrate creativity and resourcefulness in solving problems.

In Making Do: Innovation in Kenya’s Informal Economy, Steve Daniels illuminates the dynamics of the sector to enhance our understanding of African systems of innovation. The result of years of research and months of fieldwork, this study examines how the jua kali design, build, and manage through theoretical discussions, visualizations of data, and stories of successful and struggling entrepreneurs. What can we learn from the creativity and bricolage of these engineers? And how can we as external actors engage with the sector in a way that removes barriers to innovation for the jua kali and leverages their knowledge and networks to improve the lives of those who interact with them?”

Download book

21 August 2010

Clay Shirky’s digital populism

Cognitive Surplus
In this review of the book Over the holidays, I read Clay Shirky’s new book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age and found it quite wanting.

In an excellent review of the book, researcher and author Evgeny Morozov explains what is wrong with it and I support his analysis entirely.

“Shirky’s digital populism not only blinds him, McLuhan-style, to inconvenient facts, it blinds him to the immense complexities and competing values inherent in democratic societies. He says he is writing about Western democracies, but they are unrecognizable in his book, for they appear to have been sterilized completely of social conflict.

Shirky presents a world without nationalism, corruption, religion, extremism, terrorism. It is a world without any elections, and thus no need to worry about informed voters. Class, gender, and race make a few appearances, but not as venues of systemic oppression. They are just more testimony to the mainstream media’s elitism.”

Read review

21 August 2010

It pays to be useful

50 ways
In this review of the book 50 Ways to Make Google Love Your Website, published by The Hindu, the author emphasises very strongly the importance of usefulness.

“Create your website for your users, advise Steve Johnston and Liam McGee in “50 Ways to Make Google Love Your Website“. Every design decision should be referred back to what we know about the users of the site, not simply to the beliefs, prejudices or even brilliant insights of the site owner or the site?s designer, the authors urge.

In this user-centred world you can only pursue your goals through supporting the goals your users have, because your users don’t start on your home page; they start at Google, as reads a sobering thought in the book. Typically, the users type in a query that reflects their goal, and the pages that Google returns will be those that Google believes supports that goal, namely the most ‘useful’ pages it can find.

And if the users arrive on your site and do not immediately see something that suggests their goal will be supported, they will leave, the authors caution. Reminding that the web is a pull medium, not a push medium, they note that the power is with the user, not the site owner, which is why it is more important to design for their goals than for yours.”

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21 August 2010

Why web tracking isn’t bad

Privacy
Companies spend so much money on free services because of online advertising that trades in personal information. If Web users supply less information, the Web will supply less information to them, says Jim Harper in the Wall Street Journal.

“If Web users supply less information to the Web, the Web will supply less information to them. Free content won’t go away if consumers decline to allow personalization, but there will be less of it. Bloggers and operators of small websites will have a little less reason to produce the stuff that makes our Internet an endlessly fascinating place to visit.”

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21 August 2010

Finding happiness while spending less

Happiness
Stephanie Rosenbloom writes in the New York Times on what will make us happy.

“The practices that consumers have adopted in response to the economic crisis ultimately could — as a raft of new research suggests — make them happier. New studies of consumption and happiness show, for instance, that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material objects, when they relish what they plan to buy long before they buy it, and when they stop trying to outdo the Joneses.

If consumers end up sticking with their newfound spending habits, some tactics that retailers and marketers began deploying during the recession could become lasting business strategies. Among those strategies are proffering merchandise that makes being at home more entertaining and trying to make consumers feel special by giving them access to exclusive events and more personal customer service.”

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21 August 2010

The dirtiest word in UX: complexity

Complexity
In an article for UX Mag designer Francisco Inchauste examines some of the many faces of complexity and explores the balance we need to find for successful solutions.

Simplicity for its own sake should not be the goal. Balancing the amount of complexity that we engage with is something that UX people deal with on a daily basis. A good experience should be the result of using UX design to find what is meaningful to that end user and present it in the best way possible. Donald Norman puts it best: “Complex things will require complexity. It is the job of the designer to manage that complexity with skill and grace.”

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21 August 2010

Information seeking behaviour of Generation Y doctoral students

Graduate student
Emerging findings from the first annual report of a major three-year study into the information seeking behaviour of Generation Y doctoral students show that there are striking similarities between students born between 1982 and 1994 and older age groups.

The first annual report of this longitudinal study, commissioned by JISC and the British Library, and conducted by Researchers of Tomorrow, has just been completed and includes evidence-gathering from three groups of doctoral students in the UK, including: a cohort of 60 Generation Y doctoral students from 36 universities; responses to a national context-setting survey returned by over 2,000 Generation Y scholars and responses to the same national context-setting survey returned by 3,000 older doctoral students.

Generation Y students and older students concur on a number of areas:

Open access and open source
Like students of other ages, Generation Y researchers express a desire for an all-embracing, seamless accessible research information network in which restrictions to access does not restrain them. However, the annual report demonstrates that most Generation Y students do not have a clear understanding of what open access means and this negatively impacts their use of open access resources, so this is an area to be followed up in the next year.

Networked research environment
Both Generation Y and older students express exasperation regarding restricted access to research resources due to the limitations of institutional licenses. This is born from a sophisticated knowledge of the networked information environment and students regularly speak favourably about sector-wide shared services and resource sharing.
The research indicates, however, potentially interesting and important divergences between Generation Y and older doctoral students; for example, where students turn for help, advice and support and attitudes to their research environment.

Supervisor and librarian support
Generation Y scholars are more likely to turn to their supervisors for research resource recommendations than older doctoral students. Also, 33% of Generation Y students say they have never used library staff for their support in finding difficult to source material.

Using library collections and services
Library collections are used heavily by students in their own institutions, but only 36% of Generation Y students have used inter-library loan services compared to 25% of older students, with 42% of arts and humanities students using these services regularly compared to 13% among science students.

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21 August 2010

The Internet Generation prefers the real world

Germany sports
They may have been dubbed the “Internet generation,” but young people are more interested in their real-world friends than Facebook. New research shows that the majority of children and teenagers are not the Web-savvy digital natives of legend. Der Spiegel reports.

“Young people primarily use the Internet to interact with friends. They go on social networking sites like Facebook and the popular German website SchülerVZ, which is aimed at school students, to chat, mess around and show off — just like they do in real life. […]

“Most of the respondents saw the Internet as merely a useful extension of the old world rather than as a completely new one. Their relationship to the medium is therefore far more pragmatic than initially posited.”

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5 August 2010

The strategic arc of interaction design

Bike checkout
Steve Baty, principal at Meld Studios and vice president of IxDA, argues in a long article on Core77 that interaction designers now have the opportunity to move their purview beyond the shallow plane of interaction into the design of systems, organisational capability and culture; to tackle very complex problems and affect profound and lasting change.

“As designers of interactions broaden their perspective and take a higher level view of the problem, they simultaneously make another transition: they stop solving interaction design problems and begin solving problems with design. And it is in taking this step that designers—of all types—begin to play a more strategic role in the organisations and societies for which they work.

In this capacity designers of interactions bring their design skills to bear on truly complex, systemic problems—broad in scale and scope—and have the opportunity to affect truly profound and lasting change.”

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