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Putting People First

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April 2012
6 April 2012

Don Tapscott: The internet’s real killer app is saving the planet

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All our global institutions — from the United Nations to the World Trade Organization to the International Monetary Fund to the G20 to the G8 — are broken, according to Don Tapscott, the best-selling author of Macrowikinomics.

In an 8 minute video interview on TechCrunch – recorded last week at The Economist‘s Innovation event in Berkeley – he outlined how we can rebuild these global institutions in the digital 21st century.

We need to rebuild our institutions around open source technology, wikis, social media and all the other distributed models that are shaping our networked world, says Tapscott, who has brought together a number of other leading thinkers – Jonathan Zittrain from Harvard and writers Parag Khanna and Richard Florida, for example – to participate in this ambitious project to reinvent the planet in our digital century.

It sounds highly if not over-ambitious.

Watch video

6 April 2012

Ambient Devices CEO Pritesh Gandhi on ‘glanceable’ data

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Chris Ziegler of The Verge had a chance recently to chat with Ambient co-founder and CEO Pritesh Gandhi to hear about the company’s past, present, and future.

“We’re perpetually bombarded with information, 24 hours a day. That’s just our connected reality now, and there’s very little hope of escaping it. On Valentine’s Day, I penned an editorial on how I believe that the secret to distilling this information — the key to preventing humans from collapsing under the ever-growing weight of this data — has been right under our noses for years.

They’re called “glanceable” devices, and Massachusetts-based Ambient Devices has been developing them for over a decade. The company spun out of a project at MIT’s famed Media Lab with the goal of integrating data points into our lives in a natural, organic way. Ambient’s path to building a real business has been an unusual one, producing oddities likes the Orb — a glass sphere capable of glowing different colors to indicate a temperature, stock price, or anything else the user can dream up — and the Umbrella, whose handle would glow when rain was in the forecast.

These days, Ambient has largely turned its attention to bigger customers, focusing on power companies who can deliver glanceable products to end users that help them trim their energy costs. But will we ever see something like the Umbrella again?”

Read interview

5 April 2012

Imperialist Tendencies, Part 2: A Backgrounder for Corporate Design Research

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Jan Chipchase, Frog Design’s Executive Creative Director for Global Insights, continues his argumentation on the importance of corporate design research.

After a somewhat confusing introduction (it’s very much for insiders), Chipchase focuses on the core issue: a backgrounder on the role of design research / ethnography and some of the nuances of the approach “that make the process one that is rewarding for the individuals concerned, their communities, our teams that conduct the research and employer, and ultimately the client.”

Read article

> Read also this interview with Chipchase in The Hindu

5 April 2012

Project Glass, new disruptive interface concept by Google

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Google released a YouTube video Wednesday showing the everyday uses of “Project Glass,” wrap-around virtual reality glasses with all the qualities of a smartphone – and much more.

“Google has once again unveiled a project mock-up that, if realized, would turn the technology industry on its head. This time, it’s Project Glass, wrap-around glasses that display reminders, the weather, messages, and more – right in front of the user’s eyes.”

Articles: New York Times | Christian Science Monitor

In a reflection on TechCrunch, Josh Constine asks how this will disrupt Apple and Facebook, and what should they do to defend themselves.

4 April 2012

Experientia working towards ECOFAMILIES

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Experientia® is partnering with the Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment (CSTB) of Nice, France and a series of other agencies on Ecofamilies, a project aimed at the enhancement and promotion of eco-responsible behaviours in family homes.

Starting from March 2012, and continuing until June, co-design workshops are being conducted with 30 volunteer families, in a participatory approach which aims to discover the real behaviours, attitudes and needs of families when it comes to energy consumption.

The final goal of the project is to produce an innovative technological solution which will allow families, parents and children alike, to have a concrete understanding of their energy consumption, and the choices that are available to reduce it, with personalised tips and detailed, useful information on household energy use.

Experientia® is a consultant on the project, as part of a growing profile in the field of behavioural change for sustainability.

In the past three years, Experientia® has developed a framework for sustainable behavioural change.

Experientia’s other sustainability focused projects include developing an environmental road map for Kortrijk Xpo in Belgium to become the most environmentally sustainable trade fair complex in Europe; and Low2No, where they are focusing on behavioural change, service design and an advanced smart metering device, to help people achieve more sustainable lifestyles.

4 April 2012

The UK Government’s digital design principles, alpha release

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The UK Government has published an alpha release of its digital design principles with examples of how they have been used so far.

1. Start with needs
2. Do less
3. Design with data
4. Do the hard work to make it simple
5. Iterate. Then iterate again.
6. Build for inclusion
7. Understand context
8. Build digital services, not websites
9. Be consistent, not uniform
10. Make things open: it makes things better

(via Bruce Sterling)

4 April 2012

The elements of navigation

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Petter Silfver, an interaction designer from Stockholm (Sweden), has published an article on Smashing Magazine on “the tiniest of details that goes into creating the main centerpiece of your digital product—the construction of the elements of your navigation”.

“When users look for information, they have a goal and are on a mission. Even before you started to read this article, chances are you did because you either had the implicit goal of checking what’s new on Smashing Magazine, or had the explicit goal of finding information about “Navigation Design”.

After a couple of seconds of scanning this article, and maybe reading parts of the introduction, you may have started to ask yourself whether the information that you’re consuming at the moment is actually relevant to you—the user. Unfortunately (and as certain as death and taxes), if users cannot find the information they are looking for, chances are they will abandon their track, never to return.

Being the compassionate human being that I am, I’ll try to explain to you what this article is about, so you can make your choice either to continue reading, or not. This article is not about where you should place the menu of your website or mobile application, or about the number of options a menu should contain. It is also not about how you visually enforce the perceived affordance of a user-interface element, and why that is so important.

This article is about the tiniest of details that goes into creating the main centerpiece of your digital product — the construction of the elements of your navigation. This is the most important aid you can possibly give to your users as they are constantly seeking a reason to walk out on you.”

Read article

4 April 2012

On Facebook, some friendly energy rivalry

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Opower [is a company] that blends behavioral science and data analysis to find ways to help utilities get their customers to use less electricity.

[Their] thinking is that it’s not so much factual information that motivates behavioral change — knowing that smoking is bad for you, or that most electricity generation emits heat-trapping carbon dioxide – but the way that such information plays off social relationships and creates peer pressure. Now the company is harnessing social media to further that kind of psychological connection as well.

Teaming with Facebook, energy conservation advocates and the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, Opower released a new app on Tuesday that will allow interested parties in 20 million households served by 16 utilities to post their energy use on their Facebook pages and invite friends to do so as well. The option is available from participating utilities in California, New York and points in between.

Read article

4 April 2012

Capturing user research

 

Jim Ross, Principal of Design Research at Electronic Ink, provides a good technical overview on the methods of capturing information during user research.

4 April 2012

Transformative UX – Beyond Packaged Design

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Markus Latzina, SAP AG, and Joerg Beringer, SAP Labs, LLC. have republished an article they have written for Interactions Magazine on the Transformative User Experience.

“Instead of designing for many discrete applications, the Transformative User Experience approach aims to natively support a larger variety of task flows by replacing application boundaries with elastic, situational environments that allow transitions between different task states. Imagine businesspeople who work collaboratively on a large display to discuss business issues and make decisions (see Figure 1). This display must be able to surface relevant content. During the discussion, content may be moved, clustered, annotated, or synthesized to analyze information and capture insights. Areas on the display might represent certain task contexts typical for knowledge-intensive work, such as prioritizing, querying, inspecting, and displaying analytical information.”

Read article

> Check this video to find out more about the SAP User Experience team

4 April 2012

Book: Cross-Cultural Technology Design

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Cross-Cultural Technology Design
Creating Culture-Sensitive Technology for Local Users
by Huatong Sun
Hardback, 352 pages
Oxford University Press – Feb 2012
[Amazon link]

The demand and opportunity for cross-cultural technology design is rapidly rising due to globalization. However, all too often resulting technologies are technically usable, yet cannot be immediately put to meaningful use by users in their local, concrete contexts. Support for concrete user activities is frequently missing in design, as support for decontextualized actions is typically the focus of design. Sun examines this disconnect between action and meaning in cross-cultural technology design and presents an innovative framework, Culturally Localized User Experience (CLUE), to tackle this problem. Incorporating key concepts and methods from activity theory, British cultural studies, and rhetorical genre theory, the CLUE approach integrates action and meaning through a dialogical, cyclical design process to design technology that engages local users within culturally meaningful social practices.

Illustrated with five in-depth case studies of mobile text messaging use by college students and young professionals in American and Chinese contexts spanning years, Sun demonstrates that a technology created for culturally localized user experience mediates both instrumental practices and social meanings. She calls for a change in cross-cultural design practices from simply applying cultural conventions in design to engaging with social affordances based on a rich understanding of meaningful contextualized activity. Meanwhile, the vivid user stories at sites of technology-in-use show the power of “user localization” in connecting design and use, which Sun believes is essential for the success of an emerging technology like mobile messaging in an era of participatory culture.

This book will be of interest to researchers, students, practitioners, and anyone who wants to create culture-sensitive technology in this increasingly globalized world that requires advanced strategies and techniques for culturally localized, participatory design.

3 April 2012

Mayo Clinic on empathy and design

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James Oliver Senior and Adam Dole, resp. designer and business planner at Mayo Clinic, argue that health-related apps often fail to take into account any understanding of medicine.

“At Mayo Clinic, we work on inter-disciplinary product teams that include designers, strategists, health care professionals, technology partners, and most importantly patients. Yet even with designers embedded inside Mayo Clinic, we routinely encounter wicked problems (problems that are impossible to solve because of unclear or changing requirements) when it comes to implementing solutions into clinical operation. Driving product development towards better health care outcomes requires the coordination of many aspects of the health-delivery system.”

Read article

3 April 2012

Service design talk by Anna Meroni in Sweden

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Anna Meroni, PhD, is a scholar and professor in Service and Strategic Design at Politecnico di Milano. She works on design activism, social innovation and sustainability, with a specific focus on food and housing systems.

In her two-hour lecture, given to design students at Malmö University, Meroni outlines the basic concepts of service design and discusses the insights she have gained while working with diverse stakeholders in multiple design projects.

(Disclosure: I am lecturing this Spring at Anna Meroni’s Product Service System Design course in Milan.)

View video