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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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May 2012
17 May 2012

Researchers glean deep UI lessons from a haptic steering wheel

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According to a new driving study, conducted by Professor SeungJun Kim at Carnegie Mellon’s Human Computer Interaction Institute, young people and seniors each perform better with different types of feedback:

“71% of elder drivers thought the auditory modality was the most useful and 59% thought the visual modality was the most annoying. In contrast, 63% of younger drivers thought the visual modality was most useful and 50% of them thought the auditory modality was most annoying. Both groups ranked haptic feedback between auditory and visual feedback.”

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15 May 2012

Short report on EPIC Europe, a conference on ethnography research in industry

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Short report on the first European EPIC meeting by Anna Wojnarowska, UX researcher at Experientia:

Last Friday, 11th of May, around 100 members of the ethnographic research community in Europe gathered in Barcelona for the 1st European EPIC (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference) meeting, to discuss the conditions of ethnographic practice in Europe.

The meeting concentrated on the specifics of European cultures and traditions from the point of view of the research industry. It was developed as a younger sister of the annual EPIC conference, which this year will be held in Savannah, USA, in October.

The meeting included lectures and workshops organized into three panels. The first one, “Mapping Ethnographic Practice in Europe” gave an overview on how the UX industry is evolving in Europe, including the presentation of changes taking place in the Italian market, by Experientia’s partner in charge of user research, Michele Visciola. Emerging innovative ethnographic methods, such as “netnography” and self-ethnography, were indicated as important developing trends.

The second panel, “Evolving Industry-Academia Collaboration”, focused on what can be done to combine the expertise of academics and professionals so that the two parties can effectively support each other’s’ practices and supplement peer knowledge. All the panelists agreed that creating a cooperative platform between the two parties would significantly contribute to research outcomes.

The last panel, “The Corporate Perspective” gave an insight into how the work of an anthropologist can be effectively communicated and implemented in corporations. The discussion ended with a vivid debate on how anthropologists could profit from the increasing amount of data on humans, which is constantly collected through various technologies. How could it be useful during research? Can it positively influence the quality of our work?

14 May 2012

Is the 1,9,90 rule outdated?

 

The BBC have just released some interesting research around participation online, writes Neil Perkin on FutureLab.

The findings (the result of a “large-scale, long-term investigation into how the UK online population participates using digital media today”) have raised a little controversy since they seem to indicate that the long-term model or view of participation online, the 1,9,90 rule, is outmoded.

“The BBC claim that their research (I’ve embedded a presentation of the research findings below) shows that the number of people actively participating online is significantly higher than 10%, with 77% of the UK online population now active in some way and participation now the norm rather than the exception. The key driver of this, they say, is the rise in ‘easy participation’ – activities that once required significant effort but are now seamless and every day. 60% of the online population fall into this category. Interestingly, they also found that despite participation becoming much easier, a significant minority (23%) did not participate at all, a passivity not as closely related to digital literacy as some might expect. This leads them to conclude that digital participation is best viewed through the lens of choice, the decisions we make based on who we are rather than what we have, or our level of digital skill.”

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12 May 2012

New design practices for touch-free interactions

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Brian Pagán of User Intelligence in Amsterdam argues that touch-free gestures and Natural Language Interaction (NLI) may open up further paths toward a true Natural User Interface (NUI).

“User interfaces for computers have come a long way from vacuum tubes and punch cards, and each advancement brings new possibilities and challenges. Touch-free gestures and natural language interaction are making people’s relationship with computers richer and more human. If UX practitioners want to take full advantage of this changing relationship, our theories and practices must become richer and more human as well.”

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12 May 2012

Do you really want your bank following you around all day?

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A conversation with senior Wells Fargo execs reveals a bank trying to use the Internet, social media and mobile technology to worm its way deeper and deeper into their customers’ lives.

“Brian Pearce, senior VP in charge of Wells Fargo’s retail mobile channel, said the bank sees mobile as “a way to be with our customers all day long.”

Wells Fargo’s aim to go wherever its customers go involves more than getting them to use mobile apps, mobile websites and text banking. Pearce wants to move beyond purely mobile interactions into so-called “simultaneous uses.” After all, Pearce pointed out, people always have their phones with them, so they can use them at the same time as they’re engaged with ATMs, tellers or wellsfargo.com.

Customers could use their phone instead of a card to log into the ATM or ID themselves to a teller, for example. Or the bank could use geofencing to identify and alert a customer’s personal banker every time they walk into a branch.”

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11 May 2012

People-powered health co-production catalogue

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The people at Nesta, the UK innovation charity, think that co-production is potentially transformative and its power comes from re-framing the problem and re-establishing relationships to enable more holistic and people-centred approaches. Co-production can also tackle the lack of trust between some users and professionals, a dependency culture where people look to the state to solve their problems and a culture of expertise where professionals are trained to be the sole source of solutions. At its best, co-production can build people’s capacity to live the life they want, in the community where they live.

This catalogue of co-production has been created as part of Nesta’s People Powered Health programme run with the Innovation Unit. People Powered Health is a practical innovation programme, to explore how co-production can support people living with long term conditions. We’re particularly interested in how to move co-production from the margins to the mainstream. Part of achieving that shift will involve a better understanding of what co-production can achieve and what it looks and feels like on the ground.

The catalogue, therefore, brings together some inspiring examples of collaborative public services in action, with a particular focus on health and social care. Each case study has been assessed against the Nesta and nef principles of co-production. This is done in the spirit of exploration rather than judgement – many of the case studies were never meant to represent co-production so it is no surprise they are stronger on some principles than others. The idea is to use these pioneering examples to increase our collective understanding of what co-production is and to raise our sights of what is possible.

To realise the potential of co-production we need to be able to explain it clearly and to build the evidence of what it can achieve. Our hope is that this catalogue contributes to these aims and stimulates some new ideas about how to use co-production to develop truly people powered public services.

11 May 2012

User experience and neuroscience

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Harvard neuroscience researchers have just confirmed what many of us have suspected all along: social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are “brain candy” for Internet users. Every status update, every tweet, every pin is a micro-jolt delivered squarely to the pleasure centers of our brains.

What’s alternately terrifying and inspiring is how all this thinking about emotions, visuals and sensory stimulation is starting to flow through to the actual strategies of leading Internet competitors.

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11 May 2012

Neurologist: Mobile technology is literally changing the way we think

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Leading neurologist Susan Greenfield tells Nokia Conversations that we need a new framework to make sense of our ‘mobile world’

Her argument is that mobile technology, and what we do with it, is now at the center of our family and social life, like the piano was for the Victorians and the TV was for baby boomers. But it’s even bigger than that, because it’s mobile, of course; so we not only do it at home, we do it at work – we do it everywhere.

“I don’t want to turn the clock back,” says Greenfield, “My concern is not that we have too much technology – but that we are not making the most of it.”

With huge increases in life expectancy, and demands for a better quality of life, we should be acutely aware of how we are harnessing technology for our own development.

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5 May 2012

The false question of attention economics

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An older post, but I missed it. So here it is, more than two years after it was published by Stowe Boyd:

“A few posts have emerged recently that recapitulate the well-worn arguments of attention scarcity and information overload in the real-time social web. So, here at start of 2010, a new decade, will try to write a short and sweet counter argument from a cognitive science/anthropology angle. [...]

There is no golden past that we have fallen from, and it is unlikely that we are going to hit finite human limits that will stop us from a larger and deeper understanding of the world in the decades ahead, because we are constantly extending culture to help reformulate how we perceive the world and our place in it.”

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5 May 2012

Customer experience: The natural ally for UX in business

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In a blog post (which is itself a paraphrased transcript of his talk at the Polish IA Summit 2012), Peter Bogaards talks about the relationship between user experience and customer experience, and how user experience designers can extend their influence in businesses.

“A customer-obsessed company focuses its strategy, its energy, and its budget on processes that enhance knowledge of an engagement with customers, and prioritizes these over maintaining traditional competitive barriers.”

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5 May 2012

User experience is strategy, not design

 

Peter Merholz, VP of experience design at Inflection (and founder of Adaptive Path), thinks there is no such thing as a UX design profession. User experience is a strategic framework, he says, a mindset for approaching product and service challenges.

“The practice of user experience is most successful when focused on strategy, vision, and planning, not design and execution. In other words, UX adds value by bringing design practices to strategic endeavors. This means generative and exploratory user research, ideation and concept generation, scenario writing and roadmap planning. The impact of those strategic endeavors will not be limited to product and service design, but should be felt across business development, corporate development, marketing, engineering, sales, and customer service.”

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3 May 2012

Experientia at EPIC Europe meeting

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Experientia® partner in charge of user research, Michele Visciola, will be one of the speakers at the EPIC Europe one-day meeting at the Elisava Design School in Barcelona next week, on 11 May 2012.

The European meeting is the first of its kind for EPIC (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference), and is designed to provide a space for anyone involved in the use of ethnographic research in industry to meet, and explore ethnographic practice from a European perspective. About 100 members of the ethnographic research community in Europe are expected to attend the event.

Michele will be talking on the ethnographic research arena in Europe and especially Italy, and current trends in methodology.

Experientia’s senior partner for user experience design Jan-Christoph Zoels will also be attending, together with Laura Polazzi and Anna Wojnarowska, respectively Experientia’s senior UX researcher and UX researcher.

3 May 2012

How companies like Amazon use big data to make you love them

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Businesses now sit on data goldmines, but very few leverage the data to improve customer service. Ziba’s creative director Sean Madden suggests three ways forward.

“Big Data has gotten a lot of attention over the past 18 months as retail, manufacturing, and technology companies realize the gold mines they’re sitting on and rush to scour them for competitive advantage. Nearly all of this discussion, though, revolves around consumer trends, marketing guidance, new product planning, and other market-level insights. [...]

Perhaps the only business and marketing topic that’s been talked about more than Big Data recently is the evolution of brand relationships into two-way conversations. Now that consumers have seen what social media and mass customization are capable of, they increasingly expect this kind of personalization in their communication with favored brands, not just a passive role absorbing marketing messages. Combine this insight with the rise of Big Data, and you have a clear mandate: In order for interactions to feel individualized and human, they must be well informed. That makes data about the customer you’re talking to right now the most useful data of all.

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3 May 2012

Social TV and the second screen

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Social TV is a major disruption in the rapidly changing television industry.

In the free report “Social TV and the second screen“, Stowe Boyd, acclaimed futurist, managing director of World Talk Research, and a researcher-at-large at The Futures Agency, characterizes the forces at work in the emergence of social TV, presents a framework for understanding the changes that are already at work in the industry, and profiles some of the most innovative companies in the sector.

“The most significant change — from the perspective of the user, at least — will be shift in emphasis toward a rich and social user experience, and a decrease in the emphasis around the content being delivered via TV. This doesn’t mean that people will stop caring about high quality TV: they will still care about quality. But users will demand that TV content fit into the social context.”

The report is made available under creative commons licensing: not for profit, with attribution, without modification.

3 May 2012

How to win the UX war within your organization

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When companies don’t care about user experience, it is clearly reflected in the products they create. Although everyone can agree that software should be intuitive, user-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing, many managers aren’t willing to invest the time and resources it takes to build something compelling.

A large part of our job as UX advocates, argues Girish Gangadharan, is explaining design’s impact on the company as a whole. Determining which battles to win and which battles to lose – even intentionally – can help you win the UX war.

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1 May 2012

To really understand social media, you must also understand online communities

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When we talk about social media we are really only talking about tools that we can use to help us and the people we engage to achieve a task. To make a success in social media we need to understand online communities, argues Matt Rhodes.

“There is a fundamental difference in how people behave when they are primarily in a group of actual friends (such as on Facebook) and how you interact with people not because you know them and are friends with them, but because you share a common interest (such as in a forum for fans of Arsenal football club, a site for mum chatting about nutrition in early years or a group of runners helping each other with training advice and tips as they prepare to run a marathon).

An online community is a group of people who exhibit this second behaviour. They do not necessarily know each other, and may not have any desire to become friends in that broader sense of the word. They do have a common passion, interest, concern or question. And they can find and engage with others online because of this.”

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1 May 2012

The demise of the ethnographic monograph

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As ethnographic practice has spilled out into the broader world of design and policy-making, business strategy and marketing, the monograph has not remained the singular format for presenting ethnographic work.

In the design community and high-tech industry, it is the conference paper (see EPIC, DIS, CSCW, and CHI, etc), the technology demo, and within corporate walls, the PowerPoint slideset or edited video that have become established formats for delivering ethnographic outputs.

There is great pressure in some subfields to offer clearly outlined implications and propose practices alongside (or instead of) the theory and holistic description of the more conventional format.

In light of the publication this week of her own ethnographic monograph titled Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana, Jenna Burrell thought it worth considering the question: why should someone outside of the Academy read her book or any other of this genre?

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1 May 2012

Extending the experience beyond the device

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Tim Todish provides some good examples of companies extending the (user) experience beyond the device as a good way to differentiate from the competition.

“Most of the time when we think about UX, we are thinking within the confines of the digital world. What I’m suggesting, however, is that there are ways to extend the user’s experience from the digital world into the real world. This is by no means an earth-shattering revelation; businesses have been working hard at offering exceptional offline experiences for decades. The explosion of the web and, more recently, mobile devices has given businesses an exciting channel to expand the experience.

This holistic approach can create very powerful experiences, which in turn can build tremendous brand loyalty. Imagine the enjoyment you get when using an application or a website that has a carefully crafted, wonderful experience. Now imagine you’ve just received the product you ordered via that app or site, and the same attention to detail has been paid to the presentation and experience of receiving and unboxing that item. How much more likely would you be to tell your friends about your experience? The next time you need that product or a similar one, where are you going to go? Extending the experience can pay huge dividends in attracting and retaining customers, and some companies are already embracing this practice and providing inspiration for UX practitioners to use in their work.”

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1 May 2012

A retrospective of talks given by ethnographers at Lift Conference since 2006

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Of all the conferences that are dedicated to discussions on technology and society, there’s one that has continued to consistently curate an amazing line of up speakers while maintaining an intimate environment for meaningful exchanges without any elitist barriers to participation – Lift, writes Tricia Wang.

After her talk at Lift 2012, Wang had a chance to chat with one of the people she has been “virtually brain-lusting” for years, Nicolas Nova, ethnographer, co-founder of Lift, and Lift program curator.

Nicolas found time to sit down with her to give a retrospective of past ethnographers who have given talks at Lift.

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1 May 2012

The downside of digital life: disconnection

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“While technology can help strengthen relationships with people you barely know, it can damage relationships with the people that are close to you, like family,” says Team Gantt co-founder Nathan Gilmore.

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