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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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April 2012
27 April 2012

Do people want touch on laptop screens?

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Do people want touch on laptop screens? Daria Loi, user experience manager at Intel, did some research on the matter and the answer is a clear yes: people want a single device with a keyboard that opens, closes and is touch enabled.

In user experience testing conducted by Intel, researchers observed people tilting back the laptop screen and using their thumbs to touch both sides of the screen, similar to how people hold a tablet or smartphone.

Daria Loi uses an Intel reference design Ultrabook with multi-touchscreen functionality. Loi conducted user tests and found that people spent 77 percent of the time touching the laptop screen while running through a variety of tasks such as surfing the Web, watching online video, viewing and editing photos and adjusting the laptop’s setting.

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27 April 2012

Communicating the UX value proposition

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John Dilworth and Matt Miller of LDS Church provide an overall framework to communicate the value of UX within businesses, that directly associates the value proposition of UX with key business objectives.

“It is the job of the UX designer to demonstrate the value that UX work brings to a product or service. If the UX designer can’t articulate the value of their work, can you really blame business managers for lowering its priority or for being suspicious of the value it brings to their project?

The need to communicate the UX value proposition is often overlooked by UX practitioners. This probably happens for several reasons: it is hard to do, it is not part of the UX practitioner’s skill set, and sometimes it just hasn’t been needed.

Some companies have a corporate culture that unconditionally values and performs UX work. Unfortunately, most UX practitioners do not work in such an environment, and the simple argument of “you just don’t get it” won’t cut it.

It is neither uncommon nor unreasonable for a UX professional to be asked to justify the cost of their work in quantitative terms so that a determination can be made on whether or not to proceed. Communicating the business value effectively will help you focus on the most important work, and will help your team and other stakeholders understand the value that attention and focus on UX will bring to a project.”

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27 April 2012

How mobile technologies are shaping a new generation

 

Some interesting data by Tamara J. Erickson on what she calls the “Re-Generation”: individuals at the formative ages of 11 to 13, those born after about 1995 [which, by the way, has a gap of three years].

“My interest is how swimming in this digital soup has shaped the young generation’s view of the world. What assumptions have they formed? Four themes emerge:

A pervasive sense of connection: Connectivity is the basic assumption and natural fabric of everyday life for the Re-Generation. Technology connections are how people meet, express ideas, define identities, and understand each other. Older generations have, for the most part, used technology to improve productivity — to do things we’ve always done, faster, easier, more cheaply. For the Re-Generation, being wired is a way of life.

Options (not obligations): Because technology is so intimately intertwined with the Re-Gen’s sense of self, they control it in a way that older individuals often don’t. While Boomers or X’ers may feel obligated to respond to the technology, the Re-Gen’s use the technology with choice – on their own schedule, at their own pace.

Anonymity and the ability to hide: By connecting through technology, Re-Gens reduce the need to connect face-to-face. Many have friends they’ve never met with whom they interact regularly. This creates a strange sense of anonymity — they can be everywhere if they choose to post or, depending on their preference, nowhere. Physical appearances can be replaced with avatars. The alarming epidemic of childhood obesity may be related to this generation’s ability to hide.

Confidence and control . . . to be an initiator, designer, problem-solver: This is a generation that is used to asking big questions — and is confident of finding answers. Will the water run out? How many children travel to school in a sustainable way? Are cities a good idea? Let’s check the Internet. They have had the experience of digging deeply into a burning question because they have access to a mountain of information.”

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26 April 2012

Design Council revealed new designs to help people live well with dementia

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The UK Design Council, in partnership with the UK Department of Health, ran a national competition to find teams of designers and experts who could develop new ideas to help improve the lives of those affected by dementia, reports Dexigner.

Guided by in-depth research and working with those affected by dementia, the five teams developed the innovative concepts for products and services.

A fragrance-release system designed to stimulate appetite, specially-trained “guide dogs for the mind,” and an intelligent wristband that supports people with dementia to stay active safely, are just some of the resulting prototypes.

They will now be further tested and developed with commercial partners with the aim of making some or all of them available on a large scale as soon as possible.

Read article

> “The capital of the forgetful” is a revealing BBC report by Louis Theroux on what living with dementia actually means.

25 April 2012

The Kickstarter revolution

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The first campaign to break the 1-million-dollar barrier in this revolutionary crowd-funding platform was an industrial design project. Could Kickstarter transform the design industry as we know it? A design report from New York by Joseph Grima on FastCo.Design.

“Put simply, Kickstarter allows anyone with an idea for a “creative project” to seek backing for that project by posting a pitch in video form. A funding goal and timeframe is set; if a sufficient number of backers (or “investors”, as Kickstarter describes them) pledge their support by making a credit card payment, and the goal is reached, Kickstarter releases funds to the project leader.” […]

“Kickstarter is by no means the inventor of crowd funding. Yet it is the only company to have succeeded in positioning it as a mainstream funding mechanism for a broad range of creative initiatives, and this success derives largely from its skill in structuring itself as a social media platform.”

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25 April 2012

The process of co-creation with users

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In an article for UX Magazine, Catalina Naranjo-Bock provides a solid general description of co-designing processes:

“The practice of co-design allows users to become an active part of the creative development of a product by interacting directly with design and research teams. It is grounded in the belief that all people are creative and that users, as experts of their own experiences, bring different points of view that inform design and innovation direction.

Co-design is a method that can be used in all stages of the design process, but especially in the ideation or concepting phases. Partnering with users ensures their inclusion in knowledge development, idea generation, and concept development on products whose ultimate goal is to best serve these same users.

In this article I will examine the different stages of a co-design research process, as well as the methods and practices that are commonly used in each phase. Furthermore, I’ll look at the new forms of co-designing that have emerged as a result of social technologies.”

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22 April 2012

Whether the digital era improves society is up to its users – that’s us

Young people in an internet cafe, in Shanghai, China

Social media in particular has inexorably changed the world, driving openness and fear – but it is not beyond our control, argues Danah Boyd in a long essay for The Guardian.

“Most technology designers engage in their trade to make the world a better place. Technologists love to celebrate the amazing things that people can do with technology – bridge geography, connect communities and transform societies. Meanwhile, plenty of naysayers bemoan the changes brought on by technology, highlighting issues of distraction and attention for example. Unfortunately, this results in a battle between those with utopian and dystopian viewpoints, over who can have a more extreme perspective on technology. So where’s the middle ground?

One of my favourite maxims about the role of technology in society is called Kranzberg’s first law. He argues that “technology is neither good nor bad – nor is it neutral”. It’s irresponsible to assume that the tools being built just wander out into the world with only positive effects. Technology doesn’t determine practice, but how a system is designed does matter. How systems are used also matters, even if those uses aren’t what designers intended. For example, as social media has gone mainstream, some fascinating shifts have emerged that require reflection. Yet, even as the conversation becomes more important to have, it’s often hard to talk in a nuanced way about the role that technology is playing in shifts that are already underway.”

Read essay

22 April 2012

The flight from conversation

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Sherry Turkle is a psychologist and professor at M.I.T., says we use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right: the Goldilocks effect.

“Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are.

We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.”

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22 April 2012

Rise of smart mobile services

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Saar Gur, general partner at Charles River Ventures, discusses a new generation of smart mobile services, which provide user information in the background to make accurate predictions around real-time user intention and will offer suggestions, results and different user interfaces/interactions based on their prediction of state.

“As I think about what these new Smart Services will look like, here are some of the characteristics I have been noodling on:

  • The most disruptive ones will change our physical interactions and be additive to our offline experiences.
  • Services will process things in the background, predicting our state with a high degree of accuracy.
  • Many will primarily interact with the user through interruptions — and they only interrupt when they have something of value to add. (e.g., for Uber: Your car is arriving now.) They won’t feel “heavy” and bombard us with information overload – they will earn the right to interrupt with value.
  • The user interface will look very different from existing web interfaces for some of these apps — as they won’t have things to suggest/interrupt a lot of the time, but when they do they will be very helpful. Example: It is “ok” for the user interface to say: ”Close the app, we don’t have anything for you now.”
  • Understanding context will follow simple heuristics for some services and big data processing for others. As an example, many home automation applications may only need to know that I am in my house to automate music, thermostats, etc. But more sophisticated data analysis and processing will be required for more complicated interactions/recommendations/transactions (ala Square payments).

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22 April 2012

From print to iPad: designing a reading experience

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UX consultant Harry Brignull spoke at UX London 2012 about the design of The Week magazine’s iPad app, telling the story of the project from the initial sketches through to its launch in Apple’s Newsstand.

In a long blog post on 90 percent of everything, he provides an annotated transcript.

“Let me tell you the story of an iPad app that I worked on for a magazine. As you can see (above), this story does turn out good in the end- but that’s not what I want to focus on. I want to focus on the bits that people would normally gloss over when giving a talk like this.”

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22 April 2012

Watching every click you make

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Henry Alford, contributing editor at Vanity Fair, wonders when in the digital age, did privacy become a choice rather than a given.

“When Facebook bought Instagram, the social photo app for iPhone and Android devices, on April 9, a chorus of concern emanated from the Twittersphere: Facebook would have access to Instagram users’ uploaded photos. Would that photo of Aunt Letty in her bathing suit suddenly show up in an ad for embolism stockings?

Granted, some of these invasions of privacy are the result of our not having correctly wrangled an app’s privacy control settings. But when did privacy become a choice rather than a given? And why does slogging through a new app’s voluminous terms of service or figuring out how to activate a site’s privacy control settings sometimes feel as if it requires a graduate degree in tiny print?”

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22 April 2012

Trust and the future of mobile money

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Even within the technology community, 33% agreed with the below statement:

“People will not trust the use of near-field communications devices and there will not be major conversion of money to an all-digital, all-the-time format. By 2020, payments through the use of mobile devices will not have gained a lot of traction as a method for transactions. The security implications raise too many concerns among consumers about the safety of their money. And people are resistant to letting technology companies learn even more about their personal purchasing habits. Cash and credit cards will still be the dominant method of carrying out transactions in advanced countries.”

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22 April 2012

Internet must be a web not for the consumer, but for the citizen

 

In an editorial, The Guardian argues for an open web:

“To protect the web’s founding principle is a matter of what Tim Berners-Lee would call citizen vigilance, of restraining by openness itself the continual pressure for a closed-down, privately owned cyberspace that is the inevitable product of those internet Cecil Rhodes who would like to fence in the riches of the virtual world. It must be a web not for the consumer, but for the citizen.”

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22 April 2012

How to create products hand in hand with your customer

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In his book “Wicked problems: Problems worth solving“, author John Kolko (founder and director of Austin Center for Design) argues that involving end users in the entire design process ensures a humane design solution. He now summarises his argument in this article for FastCo.Design.

“Cultural probes literally probe a given culture, poking at society and trying to extract inspiration through narrative. Because the input comes from non-designers, this becomes a form of “designing with,” as the designer’s role becomes one of interpretation and facilitation rather than visionary. This is still a fully creative endeavor on the designer’s part. But consumers temper and inspire the results.”

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22 April 2012

How user research informed IKEA’s Uppleva TV-furniture unit

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IKEA’s new Uppleva Smart TV-furniture unit was extensively shown at the Milan Design Week (which ends today), and on Core77 I wrote more about the interface design, but here some more about the user research that went into the product.

The user research consisted of two parts: in-home visits and an online survey. The IKEA press kit unfortunately provides very little information on the in-home visits, which is unfortunate, particularly since the results of the online survey are rather straightforward. I therefore hope to update this post later on with more details.

In-home visits
IKEA visits people in their houses and apartments all over the world. The visits were combined with interviews, and carried out in homes of different sizes, income groups, neighbourhoods, and people in a wide range of living situations and living conditions. Marcel Godfroy, who is the Uppleva project lead, writes:

“Fifty percent of IKEA customers wish to renew their living room. We have been visiting people’s homes around the world, and we understood that many people think it is difficult to find functional and beautiful solutions, which hide the clutter and integrate all media devices with the rest of their living room furniture. There simply has been a wish for something else – a complete solution for a new living room experience.”

Online survey
To find out more about how people experience their TV and sound furnishing solutions, IKEA combined the home visits with an online survey conducted in Sweden, Poland, Italy, France and Germany. These are the findings:

  • In all countries, the living room is the most common room to watch TV in. 9 out of 10 German and French consumers watch TV in their living room and almost as many Swedish and Polish. However, a bit fewer Ital­ians, 7 out of 10. (On the other hand, Italian consumers watch TV in the kitchen or the bedroom to a larger extent than consumers in the other four countries).
  • 3 out of 5 Swedish customers have a specific piece of furniture for the TV. 2 out of 5 in Poland, Germany and France, and a third of the Italians have a specific piece of TV furniture.
  • 3 out of 4 people would like less visible cables in their living room. These visible cables and cords ­ or rather the lack of opportunity to hide them ­are also the main reason why people feel dissatisfied with the media furniture today.
  • To Swedish and Polish consumers the media furniture not being stylish is another main reason for dissatisfaction.
  • A majority of the consumers in all five countries would like fewer visible cables.
  • 50% would like to see less of their technical gadgets.
  • 60% OF ALL homes have three remote controls or more. 1­2 out of 10 have only one re­mote control.

Top five reasons for dissatisfaction with living room TV furniture today:

  • Lack of opportunity to hide cords and cables.
  • Media furniture is not stylish enough.
  • Inflexibility.
  • Visible technical gadgets.
  • TV and furniture mis-match.

The online survey by market research institute YouGov comprised 5271 online interviews among a representative sample of the populations in Sweden, Poland, Italy, France and Germany as regards sex, age and region (men and women aged 18-­69 years). The survey was carried out 29th February to 5th March 2012.

It is quite remarkable how fast IKEA went from the online survey to the presentation of a fully functioning product at the Milan Design Week.

22 April 2012

Behaviour change as value proposition

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Chris Risdon, senior experience designer at Adaptive Path, looks at the explosion of smart products, which passively collect data about you and your specific behavior, and tell you a story which is designed to directly influence you, and argues that their very value proposition lies in behaviour change:

“These are products that have an explicit or implicit value proposition based on influencing your behavior. They’ve been around for a long time: smoking cessation and weight lose programs just to name a couple. But these highly personal solutions are exponentially enabled thanks to sensor technology.”

Read article

22 April 2012

Intersection of the physical and digital worlds

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Austin Brown, UX designer at EffectiveUI, and his colleague Lindsay Moore wondered if there was a way to design better, by combinubg the best aspects of interaction design and product design, as well as a little service design. They hoped that this would allow to create a holistic experience that transcends definition, and thus create better user experiences.

To test this idea, they set out to create design concepts for two common household products: an eco-friendly dishwasher and the home thermostat.

The article chronicles their process of combining disciplines and making decisions, and the lessons learned along the way.

“With the ability to incorporate modern techniques and practices to add value, we examined how we could make a dishwasher and a home thermostat more useful, usable, and desirable. These products tend to work just fine for most users, but fall short when it comes to providing a genuinely pleasant, compelling user experience. While some of the things we learned in this experiment could easily be applied to any product or digital interface, these were simulations only and did not result in any new products.”

Read article

18 April 2012

Brains, Behavior and Design

 

Brains, Behavior and Design is a group of IIT Institute of Design students appling findings from the fields of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics to the design process.

It is not clear to what extent the group is still active now, but the site is still alive.

The Brains, Behavior & Design Group is dedicated to exploring how insights from the fields of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics can be used to design better products, services, experiences, and business strategies.

The group is composed of interaction designers, design researchers and design strategists who each came to the field with a range of backgrounds (HCI, advertising, education, finance). We intersect in our two core beliefs that the better we understand people the better we can design for them, and this understanding gains value when it’s transformed into actionable insights.

Niki Pfarr (who is now at The Artefact Group and was featured on this blog earlier today) was one of the members.

18 April 2012

Applying behavioral economics and cognitive psychology to the design process

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Artefact is, like Experientia, a UX design consultancy that is strongly inspired by cognitive and behavioral modeling, and uses all kinds of inputs from cognitive and social science to enrich their design work:

“At Artefact, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the fact that regardless of the type of design challenge we work on, all of the decisions we make on a given project have the potential to influence human behavior – whether we intended them to or not.

As we outlined in our 21st Century Design paper, the toolkit of the modern designer is rapidly expanding. Design practice is maturing, and what was once a focus on aesthetics and usability is broadening to incorporate interdisciplinary knowledge from a variety of fields like4 behavioral economics and cognitive psychology. These disciplines shed light on the factors that impact human decision-making and motivate our behaviors.

Knowledge from these fields can help us better understand why people behave the way they do, help us design to reinforce or change that behavior, and help us make more informed predictions about how people will behave when faced with new decisions in the future.”

Artefact researcher Nikki Pfarr is now exploring the topic in more depth with a video that introduces some of the principles and tips coming from the fields of behavioral economics and human-centered design. We agree with her that these topics could allow us to better understand human behavior, and to design products and services that facilitate better decision-making.

Pfarr also wrote a short paper “Applying Behavioral Economics and Cognitive Psychology to the Design Process“ on the topic.

18 April 2012

Tricia Wang on the geography of trust in social networks (video)

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Tricia Wang is a cultural sociologist interested in understanding how people use digital tools in their day to day lives.

In her talk at the Lift 12 conference, she focuses on a story you may have heard of, concerning a student who ended up making international headlines for throwing shoes at the architect of China’s internet censorship infrastructure and then become the hero for information freedom worldwide.

Tricia tells us what happened to the student and how the outcomes were dependent on a variety of factors that tells us a lot about how we socialize and build trust online.

Watch video