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Putting People First

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February 2012
29 February 2012

Nudging consumers into making better life choices

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Designers are beginning to understand how irrational thinking plays into the decisions people make, writes Rob Girling of Artefact. That knowledge can be used to openly influence consumers to make responsible choices.

“Recent advances in neuroscience and behavioral economics, cognitive psychology and anthropology are helping us better understand how our brains work and how decision-making takes place. A core finding of this work is that we are not primarily the products of our conscious thinking; we are instead the products of thinking that happens below the level of awareness. Reason, it turns out, is highly dependent on emotional value judgments and therefore is highly susceptible to bias. [...]

Designers have been influencing behavior for a long time. Graphic design, for example, has generally been concerned with either the visual communication of information (implying static transfer of knowledge but not behavioral change) or the creation of attractive, eye-catching, coherent brand stories (attempting to encourage consumer purchasing and loyalty). This design concerned itself with changing or shaping attitudes and emotions toward brands and engaging their rational sensibilities. However, consciously “changing” the behavior of the users is something we argue is a relatively new role.”

- Read article
- Download white paper

29 February 2012

Connected homes for connected people

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The French think tank Fing (who was also behind the LIFT France event last year) collaborated last year with VIA, Promotelec, Renault Group, La Poste, Minatec Laboratory (CEA), CNR Santé, ESIR Engineering school on a research project called “Connected homes for connected people” (Habitants Connectés) and have now posted key materials of the project including the presentation (in French) and five (English subtitled) video scenarios.

“How do digital technologies change ways of living and the housing ? Do they cause new problems ? Which new opportunities ? How can the resident be autonomous at home, and create new services, himself ? Here are some questions the “Connected homes for connected people” program has worked on…

More deeply than home automation, digital technologies have invaded homes through mobile phones, personal computers, boxes, TV, game consoles, etc. ”Smart home”, imagined more than 20 years ago, proves to be primarily a communicational and relational home, continuously crossed by various flows. Residents try to manage, control or even shut down these flows. Digital technologies have sustainably transformed our ways of living and housing. Objects, furniture and devices in the house, have gained through digital, new affordances. As a result, new perspectives of uses and living come for the inhabitants. Operators and providers can deliver new services. But there are also new annoyances, discomforts, problems for which improvements and solutions have to be found.

The subject of “Connected homes for connected people” has been explored, through 4 themes, 4 “innovation territories “. 17 “innovation paths” have been developed, suggesting new infrastructures, services, objects and forms of mediation ; 5 videos have been produced to develop them.”

In January, 2012, Fing organized a workshop at Google Zürich, also untitled “Connected Home for Connected People”. This one-day workshop, gathered about twenty people, including Fabio Carnevale Maffé of Experientia.

It enabled them to work on 4 “innovation paths” selected from the 17 paths of “Digital Residents” program. Participants developed three ideas of project : “Tack-tiles”, “Bread Assistant” and “Social scales”.

An English language presentation of the workshop is now also available.

29 February 2012

Habits are the new viral: why startups must be behavior experts

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The economic value of web businesses increasingly depends on the strength of the habitual behavior of their users, argues Nir Eyal on Techcrunch. These habits ultimately will be a deciding factor in what separates startup winners and losers.

“Increasingly, companies will become experts at designing user habits. Curated Web companies already rely on these methods. This new breed of company, defined by the ability to help users find only the content they care about, includes such white-hot companies as Pinterest and Tumblr. These companies have habit formation embedded in their DNA. This is because data collection is at the heart of any Curated Web business and to succeed, they must predict what users will think is most personally relevant.

Curated Web companies can only improve if users tell their systems what they want to see more of. If users use the service sparingly, it is less valuable than if they use it habitually. The more the user engages with a Curated Web company, the more data the company has to tailor and improve the user’s experience. This self-improving feedback loop has the potential to be more useful – and more addictive — than anything we’ve seen before.”

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29 February 2012

Two more posts by Sam Ladner on corporate ethnography

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After her much talked about piece “Does corporate ethnography suck?” – which presented a cultural analysis of academics critiques of industry ethnography as a second rate or illegitimate forms of ethnography – Sam Ladner followed up with two more posts on corporate ethnography:

Is rapid ethnography possible? A cultural analysis of academic critiques of private-sector ethnography
Sam extends the cultural analysis from her first piece and offers methods that are more fitting for the shorter cycles of industry ethnography. She points out that research output can be compromised regardless if the ethnography is working in corporate or academic settings. What methods do you use to avoids compromising research in private-sector ethnography or academic setting ethnography?

Practicing Reflexivity in Ethnography
In this, her final post, Sam discusses how to maintain reflexivity in ethnographic practice.

29 February 2012

User environment driving technology

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Sierra Wireless’ new USB cellular modems show how user-centred design can help differentiate products in a commoditised market.

Matt Plested of Alloy, the agency which helped Sierra design the products, explained to Mex how they explored user environments for USB modems to better understand customer needs.

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27 February 2012

And the Oscar goes to: Interaction

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[Guest post by Jan-Christoph Zoels, senior-partner of Experientia®]

Avoiding one of the shortcomings of Oscar ceremonies, the international jury of the first Interaction design awards, selected a diverse range of winners from all over the world – from Ford’s smart speed gauge to a Dutch shopping application Ice Mobile to a Brazilian museums installation Interaction cubes.

The inaugural award drew over 300 entries from 33 countries showcasing mobile and web-based applications, social media campaigns, product interfaces, installations, games and toys. 26 winners were selected among six categories highlighting the different facets of meaningful relationships between people, products and services.

The choice of categories – disrupting, connecting, empowering, engaging, expressing, optimizing – showcases the focal shift from product categories to categories of experiential impact. Imagine a time at the Oscars when we could truly see a disruptive movie…

The wide range of winning entries stimulate a discussion on the role and value of design and provide tangible examples of design excellence for years to come. Evaluation criteria were based on context, impact, craft and overall presentation.

Thanks goes to Jennifer Bove and Raphael Grignani for organizing and chairing the Interaction Awards, and an international jury of interaction design heavy hitters including Massimo Banzi (Milan, Italy), Janna DeVylder (Sydney, Australia), Matt Jones (London, UK), Younghee Jung (Bangalore, India), Jonas Löwgren (Malmo, Sweden), Helen Walters (New York, USA), and Jury Chair Robert Fabricant (New York, USA).

The awards were celebrated during IxDA’s Interaction|12 Conference in Dublin, Ireland on February 3rd, 2012.
 

And the Oscar goes to:

LoopLoop, the recipient of Best in Show – an interactive music toy created by Stimulant for Sifteo. The playful cubes use engaging visuals and sounds to let anyone create music. Responsive to touch and cognizant of other cubes, playful sounds emerge.

Interaction Cubes by Fundação Oswaldo Cruz/Museu da Vida, from Rio de Janiero was awarded the People’s Choice Award as well as Best in Category Engaging. The cubes enable playful learning of the periodic table in a science museum using videos and interactive explorations to showcase everyday connections to each element.

 

Connecting
Facilitating communication between people and communities.

Best in Category

Pepsi Refresh Project designed by HUGE in New York, USA, won Best in Category Connecting.
A truly refreshing project – from fleeting seconds in Super Bowl advertising to local community impact released over time.

In 2010 Huge created for Pepsi a community catalyst revolving around issues and ideas that people personally cared about. The Pepsi Refresh Project was designed to give millions of dollars in grants in the U.S. to fund good ideas, big and small that move communities forward. In times of economic crisis, actions like that give hope to some regenerative ideas in the world of advertising. A best practice to copy …

Other winners:

  • FoodHub: a digital community where local food people. ISITE Design, Portland, USA
  • Plug-In-Play: an interactive installation exploring the future of the connected city. Rockwell Group, New York, USA
  • Steps: an online resource and community for educators. Art Center College of Design, Los Angeles, USA
  • Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango): Putting People First. Second, Metro – a new design language. Third, Fierce Reduction – a design approach enabling simple experiences. Microsoft, Seattle, USA

 

Disrupting
Re-imagining completely an existing product or service by creating new behaviors, usages or markets.

Best in Category

Ford SmartGauge by Smart Design in San Francisco, USA, won Best in Category Disrupting. The SmartGauge is an intuitive and beautiful LCD instrument panel to help Ford Fusion drivers to save fuel in adapting their driving styles.

In building an emotional connection and creating awareness of driving choices the SmartGauge affects behavioral change over time. “Efficiency Leaves” give feedback over time and suggest driver actions.

According to Dan Formosa, president of Smart Design, the SmartGauge also reduces the cognitive load in reducing glance time for drivers through increased contrasts and enhanced peripheral vision.

Smart Designs team of six designers took it from interface concepts to interactive prototypes and usability tests of readability, helpfulness, and glance time. Resulting in an automotive gauge “designed to be read without being looked at.”

Other winners

  • Spotify Box: tangible interactions with a service. Umea Institute of Design, Umea, Sweden
  • SWYP: See What You Print: see and manipulate, in 1:1 scale, what the finished result will look like before you print. Artefact, Seattle, USA
  • Peel: a smart remote suggesting programs you’ll love to watch on TV. Peel, Mountain View, USA
  • The Waste Land: an iPad app to explore every facet of a poem – from its inception to its interpretation. Touch Press LLP, London, England

 

Expressing
Enabling self expression and/or creativity.

  • LoopLoop, Stimulant/Sifteo, San Francisco, USA (Best in Category, Expressing; Best in Show)
  • The Film Room: learning basketball from the very best. R/GA, New York, USA

 

Engaging
Capturing attention, creating delight and delivering meaning.

 

Empowering
Helping people to do things they otherwise couldn’t do.

Best in Category

ReadyForZero, ReadyForZero, San Francisco, USA
ReadyForZero is a free, online financial program that helps people get out of debt. It automatically pulls in all their financial data, helps them make a plan, and tracks their progress as they change their financial behavior for the better.

With the recent financial crash and consistent unemployment, the time could not be better for a service like ReadyForZero to help people take control of their financial lives.
readyforzero.com
blog.readyforzero.com/2011/09/19/readyforzero-success-profile-colin

Just imagine a budget balancing tool for debt-ridden nations of this world from Greece to Italy to the USA. What could we cut first of our unsustainable expenditures – defense budgets, tax subsidies for the superrich, the most polluting companies and tax avoiding multinationals? Which Open data app will surprise us at next years Interaction Awards?

Other winners

 

Optimizing
Making daily activities more efficient.

Best in Category

The Best in Category Optimizing was awarded to Appie, a simple and thoughtful mobile shopping application designed by IceMobile in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Created for the Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn it simplifies shoppers groceries lists. Previous purchases, recipes, current offerings and discounts, as well as a detailed walking route of a store of choice, makes this mobile shopping list easier as its pen & paper brethren.

Let’s just hope Albert Heijn licenses its best practice application to other enlightened retailers.

Other winners

  • B-Cycle: a next-generation bike-sharing program. Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, Boulder, USA
  • Out of Box Experience – Accu-Chek Aviva: testing diabetes made simple. Frontend.com, Dublin, Ireland
  • Xero: beautifully designed accounting software for small businesses. Xero, Wellington, New Zealand
    xero.com

 

Best Concept

Best in Category

Out of the Box by Vitamins, London, UK, is a simple yet effective solution for the increasing number of cell-phone users who have difficulties with learning to use a new smartphone.

For older people, this experience can be particularly frustrating as they apply analogue modes of learning to digital experiences – looking in the box for help that simply is not there.

Vitamins created a set of books which would act as the packaging and provide an entire learning experience for any device.

The books actually contain the phone, and use each page turn to reveal the elements of the phone in the right order, helping the user to set up the SIM card, battery and even slide the case onto the phone. The phone then slots into the book, which acts as the main manual. Arrows point to the exact locations the user should press, avoiding confusion and eliminating the feeling of being lost in a menu.

A beautiful solutions which reminds me of Dynamic Diagram’s (Krzysztof Lenk, Paul Kahn, and Ronnie Peters) unfolding poster to assemble an IBM Thinkpad notebook dating from 1996. Association like this make the newly founded Interaction Design award an inspiration, an archive and a celebration of smart practices.

 

Best Student

Pas a Pas by CIID student Ishac Bertran is an interactive educational tool that enables children to learn and experiment through animation.

An excellent example of self-directed learning in animating abstract concepts of time and movement through playful and creative discovery.

The prototype builds on Montessori concepts of tangible explorations and is intended for kindergarten and primary school kids. CIID rocks!

 

24 February 2012

Youth and Digital Media: From Credibility to Information Quality – New Report from the Berkman Center

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The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University published a substantial new report from the Youth and Media project: “Youth and Digital Media: From Credibility to Information Quality” by Urs Gasser, Sandra Cortesi, Momin Malik, & Ashley Lee.

Building upon a process- and context-oriented information quality framework, this paper seeks to map and explore what we know about the ways in which young users of age 18 and under search for information online, how they evaluate information, and how their related practices of content creation, levels of new literacies, general digital media usage, and social patterns affect these activities.

A review of selected literature at the intersection of digital media, youth, and information quality—primarily works from library and information science, sociology, education, and selected ethnographic studies—reveals patterns in youth’s information-seeking behavior, but also highlights the importance of contextual and demographic factors both for search and evaluation.

Looking at the phenomenon from an information-learning and educational perspective, the literature shows that youth develop competencies for personal goals that sometimes do not transfer to school, and are sometimes not appropriate for school. Thus far, educational initiatives to educate youth about search, evaluation, or creation have depended greatly on the local circumstances for their success or failure.

Key Findings:
1. Search shapes the quality of information that youth experience online.
2. Youth use cues and heuristics to evaluate quality, especially visual and interactive elements.
3. Content creation and dissemination foster digital fluencies that can feed back into search and evaluation behaviors.
4. Information skills acquired through personal and social activities can benefit learning in the academic context.

To access the full report (150 pages) and additional material, please visit: http://youthandmedia.org/infoquality

24 February 2012

Free eBook: Six Circles – An Experience Design Framework

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As technology has advanced, the importance of how humans interact with systems, machines, and each other, have also advanced into a fusion of disciplines, coalescing under the banner of “user experience.” And though “experience” is a vast and abstract notion that is highly contingent on the user, successful experiences in either service or product design are ultimately based upon solid design principles.

James Kelway started the ebook Six Circles – an Experience Design Framework, as an enquiry into how different design principles can be applied to the field of digital product design. The principles studied led to the emergence of six core themes — the “Six Circles”; persuasion, behavior, visual design, usability, interaction and content.

Good products and services combine these themes into better experiences; they induce or entice users into engaging, and guide and assist them as they work through the experiences to reach their goals. Creating these experiences requires a holistic mindset and a multi-disciplinary approach.

The Six Circles framework is a way of judging the effectiveness of digital products in the marketplace, and also of putting any given design problem into a structured context to help examine and solve the problem.

The Six Circles – An Experience Design Framework eBook is available as a free download from UX Magazine’s resource section in two formats:
- as a PDF file
- as an eBook file (an eBook reader device or software is required)

23 February 2012

Designing perceptual persuasion

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All web designers use perceptual persuasion in their designs, but without knowing they do. Interaction designer Wouter Middendorf delves into the matter:

“Persuasive design is hot. Especially on the web as designers found out that the internet perfectly lends itself for persuasion. The combination of both interpersonal and mass communication as well as its interactivity creates a perfect environment to apply persuasive techniques like the ones described by Maurits Kaptijn in his article on Persuasion Profiling. These kind of persuasive techniques can be traced back to psychological principles that rely on symbolic strategies to trigger emotions or emotional aspects in order to motivate people towards a preferred behavior. Almost all of these techniques work on the level where users interact with the website. A good example of such a persuasive technique on that interaction level can be found on LinkedIn. Users are persuaded (or motivated) to complete their profile through the completeness bar that is placed next to their LinkedIn profile. The psychological principle that is at work here is the fact that people crave for completion, which is why it works so well.

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23 February 2012

The future of television is not television

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Television is breaking free of old paradigms and constraints. Consumers have no shortage of places to look for the content they want — online, on-demand, broadcast. But with added choice comes added complexity. As television becomes decentralized, holistic user interfaces can make sense of the various content options and unify them under one experience. A perspective by Punchcut.

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21 February 2012

Principles of Social Interaction Design: An Essay

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Adrian Chan, social media expert and social interaction theorist at Gravity7, has written a long essay to collect his thoughts on social interaction design.

“Imperfect and unfinished as any project on contemporary products will be, my Principles of Social Interaction Design is now available for free download. This project has taken a couple of years, and in places bears the marks of a theory worked out over time. Some of my core concepts appeared in my blog posts first. These include the idea of frames — for both conceptualizing interactions, as well as for design thinking. Concepts of mediation, of symbolic tokens, of realtime streams may also be familiar from topics I have blogged about over the years. I have developed these into simple logics.

Now, as always, I believe that mediation is real — mediated interactions should not be understood by their simple reference to face to face situations. Mediation makes a real and measurable difference. And this difference is experienced and produced as a mental engagement, by means of which users fabricate, imagine, project, internalize, and much more, their interpretations of others and of social worlds in general.

As always, I believe that any designer of social tools should appreciate the multi-faceted manner in which these experiences become motives; orientations; activities; and ultimately, social practices. The user experience is, in social interaction design, both more necessary, and farther from reach.

Many sources were drawn upon for this project: from contemporary designers/thinkers/bloggers to canonical sociological, psychological, and linguistic frameworks. My effort to pull together theoretical and conceptual architecture from outside the design world, in order to accommodate the needs of both mediated user experiences and emergent social practices, is unorthodox. Hence I am calling this an essay. I am excited to see it develop over time.”

Download essay

(via Johnny Holland)

21 February 2012

User experience design is dead; Long live user experience

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With Apple, Inc. having the largest market capitalization of any company in the world, and an endless stream of CEOs and pundits talking about the importance of user experience, Peter Merholz suspects the phrase “user experience design” is no longer necessary, and could even be harmful.

Harmful because it suggests that the only folks who need to worry about user experience are the designers, when in fact companies need to treat user experience no different than they treat profitability, or corporate culture, or innovation, or anything else that’s essential for it’s ongoing success. The companies that succeed best in delivering great experience are those that have it as an organization-wide mindset.

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21 February 2012

Four new articles from UX matters

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UX matters posted yesterday four new articles:

The world of services user experience
By Baruch Sachs
In a services organization, you are not only the UX expert, you are also expected to be a thought leader in areas that go far beyond UX. How will your user experience interact with other initiatives within an enterprise? Will the success of your project give you the ability to shine and offer you greater opportunity with your client? Is the organization for which you’re working mature enough to handle a robust UX program?

Cargo-cult user experience? There’s an app for that
By Peter Hornsby
In user experience, as in other fields, accepting received wisdom may seem to be the safe path. If a client is saying they want everything above the fold or a maximum of three clicks away, pushing back in a way that the client can understand can be hard. It’s harder still to push back if the received wisdom happens to be accepted by your peers in user experience. However, by spending the time to reflect on when and why something works and what its limitations are, you’ll become a better UX designer—without succumbing to the delusions of the cargo cult.

More lessons in the art of empathetic design and spontaneity from Degas
By Traci Lepore
Degas may have said that he knew nothing of inspiration or spontaneity, but in reality, he knew their meaning better than most artists. More important, he understood the work that is necessary to make either happen. So, I continue to be fascinated by Degas, his process, and the beauty of his work. Therefore, I am choosing to get a little off topic to explore some important lessons from Degas and what I like to call his performance art.

Gaining control over chaos: designing the emergency service experience
by Laura Keller
When service design is done well, the outcome may be a memorable vacation or a perfect latte. On the other hand, unsuccessful service design leads to unhappy customers, disgruntled employees, and often a floundering business. However, such outcomes pale in comparison to what’s at stake when designing emergency services. When emergency services are successful, their outcome is much simpler: people are safe and secure.

17 February 2012

Why personas are critical for content strategy

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The most popular content strategy tools borrow from the discipline of information architecture, but there is one invaluable tool that is imperative to the process of strategy and implementation of tactics that we can thank our user experience cousins for: personas.

“Content strategy is more than just a discipline. It’s an approach to content that must be adopted at all levels of an organization to be effective. As it becomes ubiquitous to the way in which traditional disciplines create and manage content (marketing, communications, public relations, etc.) across digital channels, the tools that we use now to plan for content will need to evolve beyond the out-dated approach of target audience segmentation. With the demise of top down communications and a increasingly fractured digital channel landscape, organizations must continue to plan for and produce content that remains liquid and linked to engage users on their terms.

That’s why personas are such a critical component to an organization’s overall content strategy. You can’t provide the right content, at the right time, on the right device to every user without it. Over the long term, personas are the insurance policy that all organizations need to protect a key component of one of their largest digital assets – their content.”

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17 February 2012

World IA Day 2012 keynote talks

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World IA Day 2012 is about bringing the Information Architecture community together, and the first ever World IA Day, which took place on 11 February, featured keynote presentations by Peter Morville, Lou Rosenfeld and Jorge Arango.

- Peter Morville: Cross-training for ubiquitous information architecture
- Lou Rosenfeld: Thoughts on the last 14 years and the future of information architecture
- Jorge Arango: The Well

16 February 2012

GE infographics offer hints about future of data-driven management

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A pair of remarkable projects created by Ben Fry (co-developer of Processing) and his company Fathom may seem like simple marketing, but one day soon could enterprise software look like this?

“The point is, as the data we produce continues to grow–a trend many people call Big Data–there will be more and more value gained by simply making sense of data that already exists. Reams of raw figures like the ones hinted at above don’t help if they’re too big to be captured by human intuition. And that, ultimately, is the great hope of infographics: To help us add intelligence and insight to the digital noise buzzing around us every day.”

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16 February 2012

Why user experience is critical to customer relationships

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User experience is a priority that should, in some way, find a home within the design of any new-media strategy, writes Brian Solis.

“The reality is that the relationship businesses hope to have with customers through these new devices, applications, or networks and their true state are not one in the same. In fact, it is woefully one-sided, and usually not to the advantage of customers, which for all intents and purposes still affects businesses.

Rather than examine the role new technologies and platforms can play in improving customer relationships and experiences, many businesses invest in “attendance” strategies where a brand is present in both trendy and established channels, but not defining meaningful experiences or outcomes. Simply stated, businesses are underestimating the significance of customer experiences.”

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16 February 2012

What the demise of Flash means for the user experience

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Adobe’s decision to cease development of the mobile Flash platform and increase their investment in HTML5-related efforts created perhaps the final piece of conclusive evidence that HTML5 is the current go-to technology for creating ubiquitous user experiences regardless of device. A reflection by SuAnne Hall, a user experience designer at EffectiveUI.

“While there’s been an abundant amount of discussion on what this means to developers, there’s been a lack of focus on what this means to the overall user experience (UX). If HTML5 thrives where Flash struggled and becomes the dominator in the choice for new mobile and desktop technology, will users benefit from the transition? Yes, as long as designers and developers do their jobs right.”

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16 February 2012

‘Right to be forgotten’ matters in Internet Age

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Increasing privacy infringement on the Internet has set off a campaign to uphold the “right to be forgotten,” which allows users to demand information about them be deleted by social networking websites. Si-Soo Park provides an Asian angle on the matter in the Korea Times, particularly looking at how upcoming EU regulation could have an impact on Korean legislative thinking as well.

“Many celebrities here [i.e. in South Korea] are haunted by articles and photos they posted on social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Some carelessly-written comments during wayward teenage years are reproduced and stir controversy, causing irrevocable damage to their hard-won reputations. Old photos unintentionally divulge their untold story of having perfect looks thanks to surgical help.

An increasing number of ordinary people have also been badly affected by the endless lifespan of online data.

But existing regulations give website operators the exclusive right to delete or modify reproduced content, leaving their customers helpless when it comes to self-control of their own privacy online.

This shortcoming has galvanized people to recognize the significance of the “right to be forgotten” in the Internet age. Promotional campaigns for the unheard-of rights are increasingly gaining momentum worldwide.”

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10 February 2012

Dan Lockton on behavioural heuristics

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Behavioural change researcher Dan Lockton discusses an approach which has emerged out of some of the ethnographic work he has been doing for the Empower project, working on CarbonCulture with More Associates, where asking users questions about how and why they behaved in certain ways with technology (in particular around energy-using systems) led to answers which were resolvable into something like rules: behavioural heuristics [which are] rules (of thumb) that people might follow when interacting with a system.

“I would envisage that with user research framed and phrased in the right way, observation, interviews and actual behavioural data, it would be possible to extract heuristics in a form which are useful for selecting design patterns to apply. While in the workshop we ‘decomposed’ existing systems without doing any real user research, doing this alongside would enable the heuristics extracted to be compared and discrepancies investigated and resolved. The redesigned system could thus match much better the heuristics being followed by users, or, if necessary, help to shift those heuristics to more appropriate ones.”

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