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Putting People First

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September 2010
2 September 2010

How mobile devices could lead to more city living

Dead Man Talking
People pushing sustainability don’t tend to be the same types who love our digital-crazed iWorld. And that’s a problem because it means they don’t push one of the great advantages of dense, energy-efficient cities: urban life integrates far better with mobile devices than does its car-logged suburban cousin. Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic’s lead technology writer, explains.

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2 September 2010

The library user experience: services before content

Library Journal
Libraries will have to build a new foundation if they are to recover from these economic hard times—a foundation of valuable services, of user experience, not just free content, writes Aaron Schmidt in Library Journal.

“We need to stop focusing on giving away free content and do something different—something no other institution, civic or commercial, is doing.

This is where user experience and design thinking come into play. We spend a fair amount of time idly discussing what the future will hold. But this is a fool’s errand. It is this passivity that got us squeezed out of the containerless content game in the first place. Our time would be better spent observing the core needs of our communities and thinking of exciting ways to meet them.”

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2 September 2010

To win over users, gadgets have to be touchable

Touch
Researchers say that touch screens are the start of a trend to make computers more open to human gestures, argues the New York Times.

“Device makers in a post-iPhone world are focused on fingertips, with touch at the core of the newest wave of computer design, known as natural user interface. Unlike past interfaces centered on the keyboard and mouse, natural user interface uses ingrained human movements that do not have to be learned. “

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Really? It is thought provoking from a UX point of view to read this article after first reading the criticism on gestural interfaces by Donald Norman and Jakob Nielsen in the current issue of Interactions magazine (see also previous post).

2 September 2010

Interactions magazine on human nuances

Interactions
The current issue of Interactions Magazine is generally on the nuances of what makes us human, writes co-editor-in-chief Jon Kolko, and more in particular “about authenticity, complexity, and design-and the political, social, and human qualities of our work”.

Here are the articles that are currently available for free:

interactions: authenticity, complexity, and design
by Jon Kolko
Frequently, designers find themselves reflecting on the nuances of what makes us human, including matters of cognitive psychology, social interaction, and the desire for emotional resonance. This issue of interactions unpacks all of these ideas, exploring the gestalt of interaction design’s influence.

The meaning of affinity and the importance of identity in the designed world
by Matthew Jordan
When a designer is thinking about ways to create experiences that deliver meaningful and lasting connections to users, it is helpful to consider the notion of our personal affinities and how they affect perception, adoption, and use in the designed world. In our cover story, Matthew Jordan explores the term “affinity,” leading us to consider new and useful ways of informing design thinking and ultimately help us design with more success.

Why “the conversation” isn’t necessarily a conversation
by Ben McAllister
Architects have long understood that the structures we inhabit can influence not only the way we feel, but also the way we behave. This turns out to be true in digital environments like social networks, too. Subtle differences in the underlying structures of these networks give rise to distinct patterns of behavior.

Hope for the best and prepare for the worst: interaction design and the tipping point
by Eli Blevis and Shunying Blevis
Typical interaction designers are not climate scientists, but interaction designers can make well-informed use of climate sciences and closely related sciences. Interaction design can make scientific information, interpretations, and perspectives available in an accessible and widely distributed form so that people’s consciousness is raised.

Gestural interfaces: a step backwards in usability
by Donald Norman and Jakob Nielsen
The new gestural and touch interfaces can be a pleasure to use and a pleasure to see. But the lack of consistency and inability to discover operations, coupled with the ease of accidentally triggering actions from which there is no recovery, threatens the viability of these systems. We urgently need to return to our basics, developing usability guidelines for these systems that are based upon solid principles of interaction design, not on the whims of the company-interface guidelines and arbitrary ideas of developers.

All look same? A comparison of experience design and service design
by Jodi Forlizzi
The comparison of experience design (or UX, as it has been labeled) and service design seems to be a topic of interest in the interaction design community. Can we and should we articulate differences among these fields? Can the methods and knowledge of one successfully transfer to another?

Relying on failures in design research
by Nicolas Nova
The investigation of accidents within a larger process can be inspiring from a design viewpoint. Surfacing people’s problematic reactions when confronted with invisible pieces of technologies highlights their mental model and eventually has implications for design.

Solving complex problems through design
by Steve Baty
What is it about design that makes it so well suited to solving complex problems? Why is design thinking such a promising avenue for business and government tackling seemingly intractable problems?

On academic knowledge production
by Jon Kolko
Now, as design enjoys the corporate credibility of “design thinking” and with the social problems confronting the world growing increasingly intractable, the need for bridging the gap between practitioners and academics is more important than ever.

1 September 2010

Aesthetics of interaction

International Journal of Design
The latest issue of the International Journal of Design, eer-reviewed, open-access journal devoted to publishing research papers in all fields of design, is devoted to the aesthetics of interaction design:

This special issue attempts to provide an overview of current research in the Aesthetics of Interaction. We believe there is no such thing as absolute Aesthetics. Aesthetics always refers to culture, to what people in a specific culture find valuable. In other words, aesthetics refers to ethics.

Table of contents
- Special issue editorial: aesthetics of interaction (Caroline Hummels , Kees Overbeeke)
- Designing behavior in interaction: using aesthetic experience as a mechanism for design (Philip Roland Ross , Stephan Wensveen)
- “It’s so touching”: emotional value in distal contact (Charles Lenay)
- Perceiving while being perceived (Patrizia Marti)
- Studies of dancers: moving from experience to interaction design (Lian Loke , Toni Robertson)
- Pleasantness in bodily experience: a phenomenological inquiry (Marco C Rozendaal , Hendrik N.J. Schifferstein)
- Computational compositions: aesthetics, materials, and interaction design (Mikael Wiberg , Erica Reyna Robles)

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1 September 2010

A weird way of thinking has prevailed worldwide

Anand Giridharadas
If a provocative new study is to be believed, the world lives in a situation where American undergraduates monopolize our knowledge of human nature, writes Anand Giridharadas in the New York Times.

“In the study, published last month in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine and Ara Norenzayan — all psychologists at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver — condemn their field’s quest for human universals.

Psychologists claim to speak of human nature, the study argues, but they have mostly been telling us about a group of WEIRD outliers, as the study calls them — Westernized, educated people from industrialized, rich democracies.

According to the study, 68 percent of research subjects in a sample of hundreds of studies in leading psychology journals came from the United States, and 96 percent from Western industrialized nations. Of the American subjects, 67 percent were undergraduates studying psychology — making a randomly selected American undergraduate 4,000 times likelier to be a subject than a random non-Westerner.”

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1 September 2010

Digital dinosaurs and public gardens

UX Magazine
Two new articles in UX Magazine:

Don’t become a digital dinosaur
by Samantha Starmer
UX professionals can’t constrict a user’s experience to specified devices, touchpoints, or time periods. As devices integrate with each other and with the real world, we have to design for this integration and blurring. UX pros must work on the holistic customer experience—across channels, devices, time, and space. More specifically still, they need to design for the space between—the space between touchpoints, interfaces, and channels.

Unusual settings
by Stephanie Weaver
Seeing how UX design can improve physical-world experiences gives a new perspective on the field. Stephanie Weaver uses the UX design approach to the design of a physical public garden.

1 September 2010

Technology aside, most people still decline to be located

ShopKick
Mostly the young are interested in letting others know their physical location. Others are reticent for safety reasons, or against providing too much information. The New York Times reports:

“Internet companies have appropriated the real estate business’s mantra — it’s all about location, location, location.

But while a home on the beach will always be an easy sell, it may be more difficult to persuade people to start using location-based Web services.” [...]

“For now, many people say sharing their physical location crosses a line, even if they freely share other information on the Web.”

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1 September 2010

Neighborly borrowing, over the online fence

SnapGoods
The New York Times reports on how online start-ups are allowing people to rent out their belongings locally, for a small fee.

“The Roomba was mine for only 24 hours. I had rented it through a service called SnapGoods, which allows people to lend out their surplus gadgetry and various gear for a daily fee.

SnapGoods is one of the latest start-ups that bases its business model around allowing people to share, exchange and rent goods in a local setting. Among others are NeighborGoods and ShareSomeSugar. Other commercial services are springing up, too, including group-buying sites like Groupon, the peer-to-peer travel site Airbnb and Kickstarter, which allows people to invest small sums in creative ventures.

The common thread of all these sites is that access trumps ownership; consumers are offered ways to share goods instead of having to buy them.”

The final quote by Rachel Botsman, co-author of the forthcoming book, “What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption”, is worth reflecting on:

“This new economy,” says Ms. Botsman, “is going to be driven entirely by reputation, which is part of a new cultural shift — seeing how our behavior in one community affects what we can access in another.”

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1 September 2010

French ethnographic research on smartphone use

Smartphones
Le Monde newspaper published (Google translation) today a summary of an ethnographic research project on smartphone use by young adult, presented yesterday at a Virgin Mobile press conference in Paris.

The research was conducted by Olivier Aïm of the Celsa Graduate School, Laurence Allard of the Lille 3 University and Joëlle Menrath of Discours & Pratiques.

Three key conclusions were mentioned in Le Monde:

  • Most use only five apps, and few explore the Web via a browser, as surfing is not something they like to do on their devices.
  • The smartphone has not only become a new status symbol, but the type of smartphone defines your core identity values – with the fight primarily between the “iPhone” people and the “BlackBé” people. No mention is made of Android.
  • Apps are often used in the many moments “in between”, while for some the smartphone replaces the computer entirely
1 September 2010

Dublin, Ireland to host Interaction 12

IxDA
The City of Dublin and the Institute of Art, Design & Technology (IADT) will act as co-hosts for Interaction 12, the annual conference of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) which will take place for the first time in Europe in 2012.

The other submissions came from Berlin, Delft, Helsinki and Paris, from which Berlin, Dublin and Helsinki were shortlisted.

“After a review of the submissions the Board unanimously endorsed this choice, based on the strength of Dublin’s coordinated, city-wide support for the conference, the strength of the local interaction design community, and the quality of the conference facilities on offer.”

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