Stefana is currently a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Anthropology at the University College London, where she is in charge of the Digital Anthropology programme. Between 2004 and 2009 she developed the User Observatory at Swisscom.
Low investment in wired telecommunication infrastructure has driven increased mobile penetration, creating a user base that supports a rise in mobile innovation and increased interest in content development, according to observers.
User research Is unnatural (but that’s okay), Part I
by Jim Ross
From the perspective of a participant, user research is not very natural. We ask participants to try to act naturally in the artificial environment of a lab, or we impose ourselves on their environment and hope our presence doesn’t affect their behavior. We often forget how unnatural user research can be and what effect it can have on participants.
Part II: Making user research more natural
To minimize the negative effects of these unnatural aspects of user research and get more realistic results, there are many things we can do to keep user research as natural as possible.
There should be limits to usability
by Peter Hornsby
People generally regard improving the usability of products or systems as a major part of our role as UX designers. While there are tradeoffs in all aspects of design, our assumption has generally been that products and systems that are easier to use are preferable to those that are harder to use. However, despite what seemed to be a common understanding, a number of articles have recently reported on research that suggests increased ease of use can be detrimental. This column examines the research underlying these conclusions and looks at some lessons UX designers can learn from them.
That bothers Don Norman, former head of research at Apple and an advocate of user-friendly design.
Having traditional design skills—in traditional artistic pursuits like drawing and modeling—isn’t enough, he says, because the creators of good products and services also must have a working knowledge of everything from the technical underpinnings of microprocessors and programming to the policy aspects of information security.
On the basis of five selected Nordic cases, the study sheds light both on the ways in which storytelling is practiced and how stakeholder cooperation unfolds and seeks to determine the prerequisites for using storytelling as part of a destination development strategy.
Drawing on the literature on storytelling as well as theory on inter-organisational relations, the study develops a theoretical model which centres on four closely interrelated elements: types of stakeholders involved; stages of the storytelling process; outcome of the storytelling process; and destination development. The theoretical model serves as a central tool for the cases presented to illustrate the issues at stake.
The five cases – one each from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – consist of rich sets of data: interviews with main stakeholders; collection of industry documents, marketing material and media coverage; observation of stakeholder meetings; and participant observation of storytelling events.
The findings point to the importance of a location-based story to conceptualize, substantiate, and commercialize a destination. Findings suggest that some cases are characterized by individual stories of many qualities in terms of dramaturgical principles and customer involvement, however, an overall story framework is non-existent which makes the storytelling initiative poorly suited as a means of destination development. In other cases, a more holistic, coordinated story can be identified that ties the individual stories together and on this basis a common identity for the destination seems to materialize. The nature of stakeholder relations helps explain why some storytelling practices have destination development potential whereas others have not. Dedicated leadership, multi-actor involvement and two-way communication appear to be prerequisites for the destination development potential of storytelling activities.
“Although there’s still a substantial gap between aspiration and execution, business leaders are at least now talking about the right things: experience, prototyping, design strategy, and innovation. (…) User experience converts are typically drawn to the glamour of interaction design on shiny technology, and the amateur psychology that helps them sound authoritative about their approaches. Most lack knowledge of basic information architecture, design theory and elementary programming skills.”
“There has been quite a lot of discussion recently about a post by Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen, titled “User-Led Innovation Can’t Create Breakthroughs; Just Ask Apple and Ikea”. Their major claim is: “Great brands lead users, not the other way around.” As expected, this lead to controversial discussions in terms of customer’s role in the process for innovation. The response reminded me of the reaction to one of Roberto Verganti’s polarizing posts.
It’s interesting to see that those discussions mostly result in ‘either-or’ positions – assuming that customer-centered and vision-centered approaches exclude each other. As innovation is about managing tension, I think a ‘both-and’ approach tends to be more promising.
Innovation aims at providing value to customers. Customers eventually decide whether or not an innovative offering is going to be adopted and to become successful. Therefore, the customer needs to be put in the centre of innovation considerations.”
The software uses Web-based 3D virtual reality imaging to give Xerox customers instant access to live support for their printer or multifunction device.
Xerox scientists say the prototype pinpoints ways to ease customer frustration, shorten customer care calls and free up workers to focus on their real business.
To help develop the prototype, ethnography researchers at Xerox’s Research Centre Europe studied the way customers responded to printer issues and examined the calls coming in to service centers.
Read article (including demo video)
On 6 October 2010, the European Commission adopted the “Innovation Union“, a strategic approach to innovation, which is to become a main tool to reach the Europe 2020 targets that will underpin the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth the Europe 2020 strategy is aiming for:
- Employment: 75% of the 20-64 year-olds to be employed
- 3% of the EU’s GDP (public and private combined) to be invested in R&D/innovation
- Climate change / energy: greenhouse gas emissions 20% lower than 1990, 20% of energy from renewables, and 20% increase in energy efficiency
- Education: Reducing school drop-out rates below 10%, and at least 40% of 30-34–year-olds completing third level education
- At least 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion
The Innovation Union will focus Europe’s efforts on tackling major societal challenges, such as climate change, energy and food security, health and an ageing population.
Design and creativity have major prominence in the new EU innovation strategy, with a particular emphasis on (user-centred) design, open and co-creative innovation, and social/public sector innovation, as described in detail in the European Commission Communication and Rationale for Action, published on 6 October last year.
In other words, European innovation policy is moving beyond a technology-only approach and becoming more holistic, by embracing design, openness and broad social issues.
It will take some time for this new focus to spread to local, regional and national governmental institutions across Europe, who still often identify innovation with technological innovation.
To help speed up this process, Experientia, the international user-experience design consultancy based in Torino, Italy, has gone through the European Commission documents in detail, and a 5-page backgrounder highlights those sections that are of major relevance for design companies, design support organisations and therefore also industry organisations.
The text in the backgrounder is mainly excerpted from the Communication, and sometimes expanded with text from the Rationale for Action or from the Innovation Union website.
Please feel free to use this backgrounder to lobby for a more holistic innovation approach also in your own regional context.