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Putting People First

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December 2010
8 December 2010

Ken Banks on technology, anthropology, conservation and development

Mobile message
In Mobile Message, a new series of blog posts for Nat Geo News Watch starting today, innovator, anthropologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Ken Banks shares exciting stories about how mobile phones are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives.

“These are some of the themes we will explore in the “Mobile Message.” Over the next few months we will delve into the human stories behind the growth of mobile technology in the developing world. We’ll take a closer look at the background and thinking behind FrontlineSMS, and hear from a number of users applying it to very real social and environmental problems in their communities. We will also hear thoughts and insights from other key mobile innovators in the field, from anthropologists to technologists to local innovators.”

Read article

8 December 2010

Interview with Mike Kuniavsky, author of “Smart Things”

Smart Things
David Bevans of Morgan Kaufmann Publishers interviewed Mike Kuniavsky, writer, designer, researcher and entrepreneur and co-founder of both ThingM, an electronic hardware design, development and manufacturing company, and Adaptive Path, and author of “Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design (previously featured on Putting People First).

Dave Bevans: You can look at how technology works and what tools can work best, but what drives you to make them easier?

Mike Kuniavsky: “Easier” is a difficult question. I like to think of it as using technology in appropriate places. And I can think of it as creating technologies that help people live their lives better. What tools can we build to help people have happier and more productive lives? Part of that is understanding the appropriate places for technological interventions based on the available technology, and part of that is understanding the way to make those technological interventions appropriate to people and to what they’re trying to do. I think the combination of those things is what combines to form the concept of easier. Because when technology is easy to use, it means that it’s appropriate to the task and it’s sufficiently understandable to be able to be used for that task.”

Read interview

(via InfoDesign)

5 December 2010

Cisco’s vision on user-centred design

Cordell Ratzlaff
The UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph profiles Cordell Ratzlaff, director of user-centred design at Cisco Systems, and former head of Apple’s Human Interface Group.

“Like a lot of prominent technology companies, Cisco has recognised that its products aren’t as intuitive to use as they could be, so has brought in Ratzlaff to take a fresh approach.

Ratzlaff is no stranger to shaking up the user experience, having previously been tasked with making the Mac interface so enticing that users would almost want to lick the screen, rumour has it. From Apple, he went on to become creative director at Frog Design, where he designed for Disney, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Yahoo!.

At Cisco, he has researchers whose role is to get among users and identify needs they don’t yet realise they have. Significantly, Ratzlaff doesn’t see a distinction between professional users and consumers. “There’s no such thing as an enterprise user — people’s values and skills don’t change as they put on their work clothes,” he notes.”

Read article

3 December 2010

Emotional intelligence and product design

 
In a long blog post, digital product designer Daniel McKenzie makes a case for emotional and human empathy.

“The ability to put oneself in another’s shoes and accurately intuit their experience is one of the most overlooked skills, not only in the area of design but also business, politics, education and the many other facets of our society. Empathy and the human connection is so fundamental to understanding our audience that without it, no amount of analysis, documentation, engineering or management will save us.

And yet, business is often times strangely at odds with exploring the emotional side of things. […]

In the world of business and design, the ability to acutely recognize areas of pleasure or friction could be the difference between a successful product and a bomb.”

Read article

3 December 2010

Automation suppliers strive to boost product usability

Automation
Automation World reports at length on how human-centered design techniques are gaining attention in the world of industrial controls and automation, as more users struggle with complex user interfaces.

“Many of today’s industrial products, with their ever-growing feature sets, have become too complex and difficult to use, leading to increased training costs and lost time, and in some cases, even robbing manufacturing companies of the very benefits that the features were intended to produce. But more vendors are beginning to take notice. Increasingly, as a way to differentiate their products and help customers become more productive, automation suppliers are stepping up their efforts to reduce complexity in their products and make them easier to use.”

Read article

3 December 2010

The world in 2036

The Economist
To mark the 25th edition of “The World in”, The Economist’s annual collection of predictions for the year ahead, the newspaper asked some people to peer 25 years ahead.

Economy: Jim O’Neill
Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management

Food: Jamie Oliver
Chef, restaurateur and campaigner

Religion: Paul Saffo
Managing director, foresight, Discern Analytics, and visiting scholar at Stanford University
> Audio: Paul Saffo on why he thinks a new religion could emerge

Collaboration: Don Tapscott
Chairman of nGenera Insight and co-author (with Anthony Williams) of “Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World” (Portfolio Penguin)

Technology: John Battelle
Founder and CEO of Federated Media Publishing

Design: Paola Antonelli
Senior curator of architecture and design, New York Museum of Modern Art

Weather: Doug Smith
Head of decadal climate prediction research, the Met Office

Fragility: Nassim Taleb
Professor of risk engineering at New York University; author of “The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms” (Random House and Penguin, January 2011)
> Audio: Too fragile to survive

Friends: Mark Pincus [no link yet]
CEO, Zynga

Leadership: Vineet Nayar
CEO of HCL Technologies, and author of “Employees First, Customers Second” (Harvard Business Press)

Sports: Usain Bolt
World and Olympic champion sprinter

2 December 2010

UX efforts in a context of retail and marketing

UX Magazine
Two new articles in UX Magazine:

Crafting the UX of REI’s retail experience
by Samantha Starmer
Video interview (with text transcript) on the strategy, techniques and thinking behind translating REI‘s warm, hand-crafted in-store experiences into the digital space.

Customer Experience Nirvana: How UX and marketing are set to increasingly collaborate
by David Moskovic
Article examines how UX and marketing can collaborate to manage digital touchpoints and to build the next generation of customer engagement.

2 December 2010

Report calls for radical redesign of cities to cope with population growth

Istanbul
The Megacities on the Move report says authorities must start planning their transport infrastructure now for a future when two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities.

The Forum for the Future report devotes a lot of attention to new types of user-centred mobility solutions, as reported by The Guardian:

“Moving away from car ownership, using real-time traffic information to help plan journeys and having more virtual meetings will be vital to prevent the megacities of the future from becoming dysfunctional and unpleasant places to live, according to a study by the environmental think tank Forum for the Future. […]

One issue is to integrate different modes of transport: citizens will want to walk, cycle, access public transport, drive personal vehicles or a mixture of all modes in one journey. “Information technology is going to be incredibly important in all of this, in terms of better integrating and connecting physical modes of transport,” said [Ivana] Gazibara [, senior strategic adviser at Forum for the Future and an author of the report]. “But we’re also going to see lots more user-centred ICT [information and communication technology] so it makes it easier for us to access things virtually.”

Of particular interest too are the four scenarios for urban mobility in 2040, which paint vivid pictures of four possible worlds in 2040. Scenario animations bring each world to life, as they follow a day in the life of an ordinary woman, examining the mobility challenges and solutions in each world:

Planned-opolis
In a world of fossil fuels and expensive energy, the only solution is tightly planned and controlled urban transport.

Sprawl-ville
The city is dominated by fossil fuel-powered cars.The elite still gets around, but most urban dwellers face poor transport infrastructure.

Renew-abad
The world has turned to alternative energy and high-tech, clean, well-planned transport helps everyone get around.

Communi-city
The world has turned to alternative energy, and transport is highly personalised with a huge variety of transport modes competing for road space.

2 December 2010

Creating informal learning environments

Creative World
In the field of exhibition design, the quality of User Experience makes the difference between success and failure. When designing exhibits for museums or science centers, exhibition designers consider interaction, experience, interface and, critically, environment.

Cheryl Downes McCoy of Cooper considers how we construct the settings in which learning happens. Part of this is about thoughtful design, she says, but much of it is about creating an appropriate space and then getting out of the way.

Here are her suggestions

1 December 2010

Announcing the IxDA Interaction Awards

IxDA
Today, the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) announced the launch of the IxDA Interaction Awards, a first-of-its-kind awards program dedicated to celebrating global excellence in the discipline of Interaction Design.

The inaugural Interaction Awards will recognize and promote 10 outstanding works completed in the last two years across domains, platforms, environments, and cultures, that embody and improve meaningful relationships between people and the products and services they use.

“These awards will shine a spotlight on the important work emerging from our global community of interaction designers , illustrating the power of good interaction design to those outside of the discipline, as well as providing inspiration for practitioners worldwide,” said Janna DeVylder, president of the Interaction Design Association. “The addition of the Interaction Awards to the IxDA program furthers our mission to advance the discipline of interaction design throughout the world. We’re excited to see the work put forward by the community for this new award.”

Entries will be judged by an expert jury comprised of practitioners, academics business leaders, and elected community members. The jury chair and members will be announced early next year. The Interaction Awards 12 will open for submission Spring 2011, and will be awarded at the Interaction 12 Conference in Dublin, Ireland, February 2012.

The Interaction Awards program is chaired by Jennifer Bove and Raphael Grignani, with the support of IxDA president Janna DeVylder, and advisers Marc Rettig, Mark Breitenberg, and Steve Baty. A call to community members to join the organizing committee will be published in December. Grounded in our volunteer-led organisational philosophy, the Interaction Awards program is a community initiative spearheaded and powered by volunteers dedicated to interaction design. The global IxDA community are invited to actively participate in its development and success.

1 December 2010

Reflecting on the book “Living with Complexity” by Donald A. Norman

Living with Complexity
I just finished reading Living with Complexity by Donald A. Norman (previously announced here) and consider an important contribution to our field, and this for three precise reasons.

First, Norman has a huge reputation, also outside of our professional UX sphere. His books are often the first (and sometimes the only ones) that managers, academics, policy makers and business people will read if they want to know something more about user experience. And he does an excellent job at living up to that reputation by making the difficult digestible and easy to grasp, understand and implement in daily practice.

During a recent trip to Korea, I was again reminded of how influential Norman is, and frankly said, we have an excellent spokesperson in him advocating our field to an extremely important non-UX audience (who often become our clients and interlocutors).

This book is his latest contribution in sharing our practice, as it explains how the often heard strive for simplicity is a mistaken ambition, and that designers – interaction and service designers in particular – need to concentrate instead on supporting people in managing the necessary complexities of daily life.

The second reason why I like Norman’s writing is that he sometimes manages to explain an idea with greater clarity than I have ever read before – and it that sense he can also teach us, UX professionals a lesson. Take this little story about how the field of interaction design came about and how it evolved (page 143-144):

“Most of my work has been with computer and telecommunication companies and with startup firms that make use of these technologies. These companies manufacture electronic products: computers, cameras, cell phones, navigation systems, and so on. In the early days of these new technologies, people had enormous difficulties understanding and using them. These were interactive devices, where an action by a person would lead to a change of state of the machine and then the requirement to do some new action. In many cases the person and the device had to engage in a form of conversation in order to set up the right parameters for the action that was to take place. As a result of the difficulties being faced, computer scientists, psychologists and other social scientists, and designers developed a new discipline, interaction design, to figure out the most appropriate ways of handling the interactions. As the technologies have evolved, and as the sophistication of the people using them has increased, the field of interaction design has had to deal with more and more advanced techniques and philosophies of interaction. From understanding and usability the field expanded to incorporate emotional factors, toward a focus on experience and enjoyment. Today, more and more products contain hidden, embedded microprocessors (computers) and communication chips. As a result, interaction design is now a major component of almost all design.”

Norman then goes on to define service design with the same clarity, which he considers – rightfully – to be “far more complex than product design.”

Finally, while the book can sometimes seem a little digressive, Norman does a great job in tying it all together in the final chapters, where he presents a series of cleverly structured design principles for managing complexity – to be used by design educators, design students, young professionals and senior designers alike – and a number crucial challenges that address the larger social, cultural and business ecosystem of our work.

1 December 2010

Book: Designing Media by Bill Moggridge

Designing Media
Designing Media, the new book by Bill Moggridge, director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and founder of IDEO, is now available in hard copy, as a DVD and as a downloadable pdf.

Abstract

Mainstream media, often known simply as MSM, have not yet disappeared in a digital takeover of the media landscape. But the long-dominant MSM—television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and books—have had to respond to emergent digital media. Newspapers have interactive Web sites; television broadcasts over the Internet; books are published in both electronic and print editions. In Designing Media, design guru Bill Moggridge examines connections and conflicts between old and new media, describing how the MSM have changed and how new patterns of media consumption are emerging. The book features interviews with thirty-seven significant figures in both traditional and new forms of mass communication; interviewees range from the publisher of the New York Times to the founder of Twitter.

We learn about innovations in media that rely on contributions from a crowd (or a community), as told by Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales and Craigslist’s Craig Newmark; how the band OK Go built a following using YouTube; how real-time connections between dispatchers and couriers inspired Twitter; how a BusinessWeek blog became a quarterly printed supplement to the magazine; and how e-readers have evolved from Rocket eBook to QUE. Ira Glass compares the intimacy of radio to that of the Internet; the producer of PBS’s Frontline supports the program’s investigative journalism by putting documentation of its findings online; and the developers of Google’s Trendalyzer software describe its beginnings as animations that accompanied lectures about social and economic development in rural Africa. At the end of each chapter, Moggridge comments on the implications for designing media. Designing Media is illustrated with hundreds of images, with color throughout. A DVD accompanying the book includes excerpts from all of the interviews, and the material can be browsed at www.designing-media.com.

The book also features interviews with thirty-seven significant figures in both traditional and new forms of mass communication; interviewees range from the publisher of the New York Times to the founder of Twitter – also these can be viewed on the website.

Interviews with: Chris Anderson, Rich Archuleta, Blixa Bargeld, Colin Callender, Fred Deakin, Martin Eberhard, David Fanning, Jane Friedman, Mark Gerzon, Ira Glass, Nat Hunter, Chad Hurley, Joel Hyatt, Alex Juhasz, Jorge Just, Alex MacLean, Bob Mason, Roger McNamee, Jeremy Merle, Craig Newmark, Bruce Nussbaum, Alice Rawsthorn, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Paul Saffo, Jesse Scanlon, DJ Spooky, Neil Stevenson, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Shinichi Takemura, James Truman, Jimmy Wales, Tim Westergren, Ev Williams, Erin Zhu, Mark Zuckerberg

Bill Moggridge, Director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City, is a founder of IDEO, the famous innovation and design firm. He has a global reputation as an award-winning designer, having pioneered interaction design and integrated human factors disciplines into design practice.

1 December 2010

U DriveIT – User-Driven Innovation – Transfer from the IT sector to traditional businesses

U DriveIT
Norden, the Nordic Innovation Center, has published the results of a research project between Denmark, Norway and Iceland, that explored the increasingly strong connection between ICT and user-driven innovation in those countries, and how this approach could be transferred from the IT sector to traditional businesses.

Abstract

The project has worked with the relation between ICT and user-driven innovation. Traditionally, the Nordic region has had a position of strength regarding the part of the ICT area that deals with ICT and users. This is very much reflected in the Participatory Design Tradition and the Nordic position of strength within HCI. Furthermore, ICT has today moved from playing a role within work and business life to being the driving factor within all sorts of activities. This is reflected in phenomena such as Web 2.0, open source and social media etc. The project is therefore based on the assumption that the ICT field has been one of the leading fields within development via user-driven innovation during the last decades. The project has focused on methods, tools and experiences from these various areas which can be used in general regarding initiating user-driven innovation within a long line of different business areas.

The report describes and accounts in short for the Nordic tradition of user involvement in the ICT development and through a number of research interviews it extracts pivotal ideas and experiences from this tradition. At the same time experiences with user involvement in connection with new media is presented – both in a sales perspective and in a production perspective. Besides, a long row of cases and examples from other projects are presented, and courses and results from a number of workshops and knowledge activities initiated via the project will be mentioned. Finally, a range of recommendations for political focus areas are stated which based on the project experiences may be part of strengthening the basis for user-driven innovation in the Nordic region.

Download report