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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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August 2011
28 August 2011

Kids today need a licence to tinker

Tinker
Forget the dysfunctional approach of the national curriculum, we need to open young minds to the creative possibilities of computing, writes John Naughton in today’s The Observer.

“Instead of laying the dead hand of key stages 1-4 on our children, we could be opening their minds to the disruptive and creative possibilities of computing and networking, reversing the decline in entrants to computer science departments and – who knows? – even seeding the development of the ARMs of the future.”

Read article

28 August 2011

What marketing executives should know about user experience

Cycle
A strong experience strategy, derived from qualitative user research and experience workshops, can bring a collected vision to your organization and not only identify the true value of your products but help you transform the way your company does business, argues Nick Myers on the Cooper blog.

“Like it or not, the digital world has changed at a wicked pace, and more and more interactions between companies and their customers now happen via an interface. Software serves us everywhere, and the user experience now shapes these interactions every day. At the center of all this change sits the brand. TV and print advertising now regularly feature digital experiences from the likes of Apple, Google, Toyota, GE, and Amazon. The visual interface has become the new face of your brand. [...]

The question has become: How can marketers connect customers and brands in the digital era, and direct their organizations to guide products that inspire lasting engagement?”

Read article

28 August 2011

A long-wave theory on today’s digital revolution

Elin Whitney-Smith
Historian Elin Whitney-Smith looks at previous periods of disruption to understand what companies (and people) are going through today.

“According to Elin Whitney-Smith, executives facing technological and economic change have a major decision to make: Will they handle disruption like the Spanish grandees who dominated the 17th-century economy or like the English weavers who supplanted them by embracing the printing press? This is only the sixth time since the dawn of civilization, says this long-wave theorist and economic historian, that human societies have faced a wave of change similar to the one that humanity is going through today. Each time, the disruption has been triggered by an innovation in information technology, which prompts a new form of organization. Today’s leaders have an advantage over the old guard in the five previous waves of change: They can see what’s happening more clearly. But whether they will heed the lessons of the past remains to be seen.”

Read interview

(via Roger Dennis)

24 August 2011

Interview on Experientia’s strategy on sustainable living in Helsinki

e-Periscope
This month’s e-Periscope review has a brief interview with Experientia® partner Mark Vanderbeeken, talking about Experientia’s strategy on sustainable living in Helsinki and how its work on the Low2No project won the Italian National Prize for Service Innovation.

e-Periscope is the online economic review of the Italian Piedmont Region, and has featured Mark before, as one of the first businessmen they interviewed, back in 2008.

The quarterly regional bulletin of economic news about Italy and its regions examines international, Italian and regional economic data and statistics, accompanied by a regional marketing section with news for business.

Read article

23 August 2011

Book: Applying Anthropology in the Global Village

Applying Anthropology in the Global Village
Applying Anthropology in the Global Village
Christina Wasson (Editor); Mary Odell Butler (Editor); Jacqueline Copeland-Carson (Editor)
288 pp. – Nov, 2011
Left Coast Press
Hardback (978-1-61132-085-5)
Paperback (978-1-61132-086-2)
[Amazon link]

Synopsis

The realities of the globalized world have revolutionized traditional concepts of culture, community, and identity—so how do applied social scientists use complicated, fluid new ideas such as translocality and ethnoscape to solve pressing human problems? In this book, leading scholar/practitioners survey the development of different subfields over at least two decades, then offer concrete case studies to show how they have incorporated and refined new concepts and methods. After an introduction synthesizing anthropological practice, key theoretical concepts, and ethnographic methods, chapters examine the arenas of public health, community development, finance, technology, transportation, gender, environment, immigration, aging, and child welfare. An innovative guide to joining dynamic theoretical concepts to on-the-ground problem solving, this book is also an excellent addition to graduate and undergraduate courses.

Table of Contents

Introduction, Christina Wasson, Mary Odell Butler, Jacqueline Copeland-Carson
1. Public Health in Global Localities: Managing Infectious Disease, Mary Odell Butler
2. Transportation and Infrastructure: Culture on the Move, Mari Clarke
3. Community Development in Globalizing Cities: Housing and Finance, Jacqueline Copeland-Carson
4. Sex Trafficking: Feminist Anthropological Practice, Susan Dewey
5. Climate Change and the Global Environment, Shirley J. Fiske
6. International Migration and Aging, Madelyn Iris
7. Neoliberalism and the Privatization of Social Services, Susan Racine Passmore
8. Internationalism and Systems Thinking in Community and Public Health, Eve C. Pinsker
9. Localizing the Global in Technology Design, Susan Squires and Christina Wasson
Conclusion: Globalization, Community Research, and the Politics of Science, Jean J. Schensul
Index
About the Authors

Ken Banks adds some further reflection to the matter, and thinks the book is a must-read “for anyone interested in how anthropology can be usefully applied in the modern world.

23 August 2011

“Digital natives” need help understanding search

University library
A two-year, five-campus ethnographic study on how students view and use their campus libraries showed that students rarely ask librarians for help, even when they need it. The idea of a librarian as an academic expert who is available to talk about assignments and hold their hands through the research process is, in fact, foreign to most students. Those who even have the word “librarian” in their vocabularies often think library staff are only good for pointing to different sections of the stacks.

“The ERIAL (Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries) project — a series of studies conducted at Illinois Wesleyan, DePaul University, and Northeastern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois’s Chicago and Springfield campuses — [...] enlisted two anthropologists, along with their own staff members, to collect data using open-ended interviews and direct observation, among other methods.

One thing the librarians now know is that their students’ research habits are worse than they thought.

At Illinois Wesleyan University, “The majority of students — of all levels — exhibited significant difficulties that ranged across nearly every aspect of the search process,” according to researchers there. They tended to overuse Google and misuse scholarly databases. They preferred simple database searches to other methods of discovery, but generally exhibited “a lack of understanding of search logic” that often foiled their attempts to find good sources. [...]

The prevalence of Google in student research is well-documented, but the Illinois researchers found something they did not expect: students were not very good at using Google. They were basically clueless about the logic underlying how the search engine organizes and displays its results. Consequently, the students did not know how to build a search that would return good sources. (For instance, limiting a search to news articles, or querying specific databases such as Google Book Search or Google Scholar.)”

- Read article [Inside HigherEd]
- Same article [USA Today]

(via BoingBoing)

21 August 2011

A focus on qualitative research in France

Paris
In a series of blog posts Rebecca S. Kuchar of Sylver Consulting illustrates the challenges and rewards of orchestrating global and multi-cultural research.

A first focus is on France and Rebecca talks with Caroline Baker, founder and managing director of European Market Research Associates (EMRA). Born and raised in the U.K., Caroline is a top-notch qualitative researcher who moderates in both French and English, and in the interview she explores some of the language and cultural issues she has observed over the past 28 years that she has been living and working in France.

A recommended read.

Part 1 | Part 2

16 August 2011

Creating human-to-human design

Human
In the ever-changing and expanding world of the web, reaching the end user effectively is paramount in the minds of businesses, writes Stephanie Hamilton on Onextrapixel (OXP), a weblog dedicated to delivering useful, comprehensive and innovative information for designers and web developers.

We are entering a new age of Web design and development where this concept is apparent now more than ever,” she says. “It’s not enough to have any old website – it must communicate your goals seamlessly to your audience through its rich content. When you take into account the diversity of methods used to access a given website – such as mobile devices – the result is a more dynamic and engaging web that must respond to the end users needs as quickly as possible.”

“In designing websites with the end user in mind, it’s important to take into account principles such as simplicity and clarity, with a focus on accessibility and customization. By tailoring your website to the individual, they’ll feel more appreciated and less like a faceless user who chanced upon your website. This translates into a positive experience for them as well as your business, brand, or service.”

Read article

16 August 2011

International Journal of Design devoted to service design

Cover 28
The latest issue of the peer-reviewed research journal, International Journal of Design, is devoted to service design.

It is edited by Birgit Mager of the Köln International School of Design, Cologne, Germany, and Tung-Jung (David) Sung of the Department of Industrial and Commercial Design, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Taipei, Taiwan.

Special issue editorial: designing for servicespdf | html
Birgit Mager, Tung-Jung David Sung

Designing service evidence for positive relational messagesabstract | pdf | html
Kathy Pui Ying Lo

Service innovation through touch-points: development of an innovation toolkit for the first stages of new service developmentabstract | pdf | html
Simon David Clatworthy

Transformative services and transformation designabstract | pdf | html
Daniela Sangiorgi

Designing for service as one way of designing servicesabstract | pdf | html
Lucy Kimbell

Benefits of co-design in service design projectsabstract | pdf | html
Marc Steen, Menno Manschot, Nicole De Koning

Evaluating serviceability of healthcare servicescapes: service design perspectiveabstract | pdf | html
Seunghae Lee

Case study: Service design and change of systems: human-centered approaches to implementing and spreading service designabstract | pdf | html
Michael Lin, Bobby Hughes, Mary Katica, Christi Zuber, Paul Plsek

11 August 2011

Mobile Learning Toolkit published

Mobile Learning Toolkit
The mobile phone is now a ubiquitous item even among the world’s poorest, and in fact over 70% of the mobile phones on the planet are in developing countries.

With this in mind, a new Mobile Learning Toolkit has been launched to empower trainers in developing contexts to integrate mobile learning into their teaching.

The 98‐page toolkit contains 15 mobile learning methods divided into 4 categories that trainers can choose from depending on their needs – whether they’re looking deliver content; assign tasks; gather feedback; or provide support to their training participants.

These methods have been designed to be as inclusive as possible, with most requiring only low end devices (basic mobile phones with voice calling and SMS capability), allowing interactive learning experiences to be delivered right to the Base of the Pyramid.

In addition to the methods, an overview of mobile learning is included in the beginning of the guidebook and a set of practical tools that allow the methods to be immediately put into practice.

The Mobile Learning Toolkit was developed by the young designer Jenni Parker as part of her master thesis on Mobile Learning for Africa and during her internship with the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITC‐ILO) of the United Nations in Italy (with some additional support by Experientia).

As well as a general guide, the toolkit includes recommendations for customising the methods for the delivery of a specific training course called “my.coop”, a programme currently being launched by the International Labour Organization to teach the principles of managing agricultural cooperatives in developing regions worldwide.

However, the Mobile Learning Toolkit has been designed to have a value not only within the context of this training programme, but for use in the delivery of all kinds of training within any developing context. Anyone can pick up the toolkit and be inspired to use mobile learning.

The toolkit is an open source resource that can be downloaded for free at http://jenniferparker.posterous.com/mobile-learning-toolkit.

7 August 2011

Designing for a workforce that acts more sustainably

Gerd Waloszek
In a six part article series Gerd Waloszek of SAP User Experience [who is very inspired by Nathan Shedroff's latest book 'Design is the Problem'] approaches the topic of the sustainable behavior of a workforce from a designer’s point of view.

Part 1: Action fields for designers
In its efforts to make the behavior of its workforce more sustainable, SAP addresses the following focus topics (which are action fields for designers): (1) commute and travel, (2) energy, resource, and waste management (including paper management), and (3) organization of distributed teams (including social aspects).

Part 2: Action items for designers
Based on the three fields defined in the first article, Waloszek identifies possible action items for designers – particularly user interface (UI), user experience (UX), and interaction (IxD) designers: (1) the design of information and communications technology (ICT) solutions for remote collaboration, and (2) persuasive design or technology. He then steps back to identify the sustainability aspects, as defined by Nathan Shedroff (2009), in which designers can have an impact. Combining action fields with sustainability aspects, he collects four possible action items.

Part 3: Designing for remote collaboration and communication
Waloszek now discusses the first action item in more detail: ‘designing for remote collaboration and communication’.

Part 4: Using ambient media to support awareness of remote colleagues
In this article, Waloszek looks at the second of the four action items: “using ambient displays for supporting the awareness of remote colleagues” – which he interprets more broadly than just visual information. The article therefore refers to ambient media rather than ambient displays.
> Examples and proposals (in progress)

Part 5: Using persuasive design/technology
In this fifth article in the series, Waloszek looks at the “using persuasive design/technology” action item – which is the third of four action items he identified for designers. We will see that, on the one hand, this item competes with other approaches aiming at improving sustainability, and on the other hand, that it can also complement these approaches.

Part 6: Replacing physical objects with virtual (digital) ones
In preparation – To be published in August 2011.

7 August 2011

The web brings people together and keeps us sociable, not lonely

Visiting Facebook
The commonly held belief that the internet is turning an entire generation into solitary web-junkies is a myth, according to new research. In a paper to be presented to a gathering of Nobel prize winners later this month, three influential economists claim their work demonstrates the internet is actually making us more socially active.

“The three economists found that once adults had access to broadband, their attendance at theatres, cinemas, bars or restaurants actually increased. They also found evidence that far from curtailing children’s extracurricular experiences, a broadband internet subscription at home increased the number of children’s out-of-school social activities, such as sports, ballet, music, painting lessons, or joining a youth club.”

Read article
Download paper

7 August 2011

Storytelling in the digital age

Once upon a time
Digital technology allows us to tell tales in innovative new ways. As the tools available to publishers grow more sophisticated, it’s up to us, writes Aleks Krotoski in The Guardian, to experiment and see what sticks.

“The Edinburgh international book festival begins this week, featuring a fortnight of storytelling and literati self-promotion. Looking at the 17 packed days of a programme filled with debates, talks, readings and keynotes, I’ve noticed that there is virtually no reflection on the cards for the “dead tree” version of the story that is threatening to shake-up publishing’s centuries-old foundation. More so, it is surprising given the “digital first” bent of its headline sponsor, the Guardian, that there’s no mention of apps, digital extensions or the new, multiformatted way of telling stories that’s emerging among a new and talented crop of content creators supported by innovative and risk-taking storytelling outlets.”

Read article

6 August 2011

Insights from Research Magazine

Sofa
Four interesting articles in Research Magazine, a UK industry magazine.

This month we… browsed a virtual supermarket
Robert Bain explores a simulated supermarket used to research products and store designs.

Behind the sofa
Simon Lidington thinks researchers have forgotten the art of conversation. Turns out all you need is a sofa, a video camera and some cool interactive transcript technology to get people talking.

Slow down! You move too fast
Attempts to curb speeding on the roads usually involve a mix of scary messages and the threat of fines or driving bans. But behavioural economics is starting to be applied to this social issue in creative ways, says Crawford Hollingworth.

Mobile research: No time like the present
Jay Pluhar of research software and services provider MarketTools says that when it comes to adopting mobile research techniques, fortune will favour the brave.

6 August 2011

How to determine what media airline passengers will choose while travelling

Airport
Kevin Miller, global head of insight at in-flight magazine publisher Ink discusses how the environment impacts airline travellers psychologically and in turn affects their choice of media.

“The airline passenger journey, from home to boarding the plane and beyond, is a dynamic and emotional experience, with many media messages and retail choices along the way. But how can we measure these changing emotions and the effect they have on the passenger’s state of mind? And what messages types are most likely to be understood in these states of mind?

Recent research by psychologists, specialising in the field of ethnography (the observation of respondents in the natural environment) has identified the passenger experience to be an unusually highly dynamic and stimulating experience. Hannah Knox, a British-based behavioural psychologist has described airports as “An increasingly intensive use of space where anything might happen…”

Red Border has carried out in-airport and cross-media ethnography, identifying distinct emotional zones in the flyer’s journey, as well as the experience of magazine reading.”

Read article

6 August 2011

Home builders need to look beyond the focus group to learn what buyers want

Home buying
Architects and construction companies can learn a lot still from the techniques of ethnographers and UX designers. Here is an example from the Real Estate section of the Washington Post:

“What do home buyers want?

For more than two decades, home builders have sought to answer this perplexing question by sifting through the information gleaned from focus groups. Typically, the people who participate are looking for a new home or have recently purchased one. The builders ask them questions and incorporate their responses into the making of the next subdivision. But the focus group input does not dramatically affect the sales, and the builders fume that “buyers are liars.”

Not at all, said Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University. The problem is the subject under discussion, not the truthfulness of the respondents.

It’s difficult for people to understand their relationship with their home, Ariely said. “We do things, but we are completely unaware of the environment around us, and we don’t understand its effects on our behavior and well being,” he said.”

Read article

6 August 2011

Journal of IA Issue 1, Volume 3 Released

0301-cover
The Spring 2011 Journal of Information Architecture, Issue 1, Vol. 3 is now available, with an editorial by IA Institute Board member, Dan Klyn describing this addition’s articles as a collection of “…no-fuss, panoramic views into IA’s way of seeing the design of information, spaces and information spaces.”

Read on for SnowSense, a case study in user-centered location based services from Jan Eckert of the University of Venice, an examination of Web Information Architecture as a diverse and inclusive practice within the enterprise from Sally Burford of Canberra University, and Architectures, a broader look at “Environments for Understanding” from former IAI president, Jorge Arango.

The Journal of Information Architecture is an independent initiative of REG-iA, the Research & Education Group in IA. It is sponsored by the Information Architecture Institute and by Copenhagen Business School.

6 August 2011

Designing for social norms (or how not to create angry mobs)

Danah Boyd
Danah Boyd thinks we need a more critical conversation about the importance of designing with social norms in mind.

“Good UX designers know that they have the power to shape certain kinds of social practices by how they design systems. And engineers often fail to give UX folks credit for the important work that they do. But designing the system itself is only a fraction of the design challenge when thinking about what unfolds. Social norms aren’t designed into the system. They don’t emerge by telling people how they should behave. And they don’t necessarily follow market logic. Social norms emerge as people – dare we say “users” – work out how a technology makes sense and fits into their lives. Social norms take hold as people bring their own personal values and beliefs to a system and help frame how future users can understand the system. And just as “first impressions matter” for social interactions, I cannot underestimate the importance of early adopters. Early adopters configure the technology in critical ways and they play a central role in shaping the social norms that surround a particular system.”

Danah Boyd is a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Read article

6 August 2011

Five lessons from a year of tablet UX research

Using an iPad
Tablet platforms break traditional paradigms of computer and mobile use, shows ethnographic and interview-based research conducted over the last year by UX research firm AnswerLab.

“We have learned that although many people purchased iPads thinking they would be “big iPhones,” nearly everyone said the iPad exceeded their expectations. Yet the tablet platform breaks the mold from certain commonly accepted paradigms on traditional computer and mobile platforms, and raises unique concerns and potential barriers to adoption in some areas. As a guide for developers, designers, and product managers, we have identified three key trends across our tablet UX research and provide five lessons for creating tablet experiences.”

Read article

3 August 2011

Ezio Manzini on the economics of design for social innovation

Ezio Manzini
Sarah Brooks of Shareable has just published the second part of her interview with the Italian design strategist Ezio Manzini, who is one of the world’s leading experts on sustainable design, author of numerous design books, professor of Industrial Design at Milan Polytechnic, and founder of the DESIS (Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability) network of university-based design labs.

Manzini speaks particularly about a community-supported agriculture project in Milan, that I like very much:

“At present, the most relevant project we have in this field is Nutrire Milano (Feeding Milan). It is an initiative promoted and developed in Milano by Slow Food, Politecnico di Milano, Facoltà di Scienze Gastronomiche and several other local partners. This project aims at regenerating the Milanese peri-urban agriculture (that is the agriculture near the city) and, at the same time, at offering organic and local food opportunities to the citizens. To do that implies to promote radically new relationships between the countryside and the city. That is, to create brand-new networks of farmers and citizens based on direct relationships and mutual support.

The project’s first step had been recognizing the existing (social, cultural and economic) resources and best practices. Moving from here, a strategy has been developed considering the emerging trends towards a new possible synergy between cities and their countryside (as the ones towards zero-mile food and proximity tourism). On this basis, a shared and socially recognized vision has been built: the vision of a rural-urban area where agriculture flourishes, feeding the city and, at the same time, offering citizens opportunities for a multiplicity of farming and nature related activities.

To enhance this vision, the program is articulated in local projects (which are several self-standing projects, each on of them supporting, in different ways, a farmer’s activity) and framework actions (including context analysis, scenario co-creation and communication, promotion and coordination of the different individual local projects).

It is remarkable that, in a large project like this (a five-year project involving a very wide regional area), thanks to its adaptability and scalability, a first concrete result (a very successful Farmers’ Market) has been obtained in less than one year since starting-up, that two other initiatives will be realized in the next years and that several others are underway and will be implemented in the near future (keeping in account the very concrete experiences of the first three ones).”

Read full interview