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Putting People First

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August 2012
31 August 2012

The new multi-screen world: understanding cross-platform consumer behavior

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Google published yesterday a research report on how consumers use different devices together and navigating the new multi-screen world.

They set out to learn not just how much of our media consumption happens on screens, but also how we use these multiple devices together, and what that means for the way that businesses connect with consumers.

One of the key insights is that 90% of people move between devices to accomplish a goal, whether that’s on smartphones, PCs, tablets or TV.

A blog post provides further highlights from the research.

31 August 2012

The best interface is no interface

 

Golden Krishna of Cooper argues that it’s time for us to move beyond screen-based thinking.

“Because when we think in screens, we design based upon a model that is inherently unnatural, inhumane, and has diminishing returns. It requires a great deal of talent, money and time to make these systems somewhat usable, and after all that effort, the software can sadly, only truly improve with a major overhaul.

There is a better path: No UI. A design methodology that aims to produce a radically simple technological future without digital interfaces.

He proposes three simple principles to design smarter, more useful systems that make our lives better.
Principle 1: Eliminate interfaces to embrace natural processes.
Principle 2: Leverage computers instead of catering to them.
Principle 3: Create a system that adapts for people.

29 August 2012

Report: Managing Megacities (by UX Lab at Ericsson Research)

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Megacities may be congested and complex, but are also among the planet’s most exciting places to live. They have proven effective at stimulating creativity, innovation, freedom and economic development.

Today, 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities, a figure expected to reach about 70 percent by 2050. Almost all demographic growth over the next 30 years will be urban, and there is a constant stream of people moving from rural areas to cities.

The rise of the megacity has made an enormous contribution to the development of modern society. However, bigger populations also create challenges that megacities must address in order to retain their advantages.

The maturity level of a megacity is often closely connected to its ICT maturity, and therefore affects which types of ICT solutions are relevant and most effective. Megacities have a huge range of ICT opportunities, with countless potential connections, but on a very general level there are similarities between the most appropriate solutions for megacities within each maturity level.

There is no single set of solutions to suit every megacity and all their residents with their subjective views on quality of life. Any solutions must take local conditions into account. This is also one of the most important considerations for us at Ericsson when we create the fundamental building blocks for ICT solutions to meet megacity challenges around the world. They must be designed for diversity, flexibility, locality, transparency and uniqueness.

This report – compiled by User Experience Lab at Ericsson Research – highlights some of the effects of, and challenges stemming from, rapid urbanization and the emergence of megacities. It looks at how governments can manage the largest cities in the world, the significance of a city’s maturity level, and what “good quality of life” means for city dwellers around the world. The sources include publicly available material such as reports and data from international organizations, academic studies and business papers from management consultants. In-house research conducted by the Ericsson Networked Society Lab and Ericsson ConsumerLab is also among the key sources.

29 August 2012

What data can’t tell you about customers

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Across industries, companies are using the vast amounts of user-generated data to guide innovation of new products and services. But data mining does not equate to developing “customer intelligence,” write Lara Lee and Daniel Sobol of Continuum on Harvard Business Review’s Blog.

Human behavior is nuanced and complex, and no matter how robust it is, data can provide only part of the story. Desire and motivation are influenced by psychological, social, and cultural factors that require context and conversation in order to decode.

Data can reveal new patterns that point a firm in the right direction, but it can’t indicate what to do once there. It reveals what people do, but not why they do it. And understanding the why is critical to innovation.

Read article

21 August 2012

The first Informal Economy Symposium in Barcelona – October 12, 2012

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HOW WILL the informal economy impact the global business landscape?

The landscape of the Informal Economy is vast – from street vending to P2P networks, from piracy to ad-hoc businesses – it is the fastest growing sector of both emerging and developed markets. In fact, the global informal sector has been growing even in the face of economic recession.

  • If the global informal economy were a country, its GDP would be on the order of $10 trillion a year, which would make it the second largest economy on earth after the United States.
  • In Europe the informal sector amounts for 20% of the annual GDP. In developing countries in Asia and Africa this can go up to between 25 to 40%.
  • 1.8 billion of the total working force of the world – that means half of it – works in informal economy. This ratio is predicted to be 2/3 by 2020.
  • In countries like India, the ratio of informal workers can go up to 85% of the total working force.

This means that now is a critical moment for businesses to investigate the scope of the informal economy, and the challenges and opportunities it poses for them.

THE FIRST Informal Economy Symposium in Barcelona: October 12, 2012

A group of thinkers and doers, engaged in a variety of projects that challenge conventional views of the informal economy, are gathering for a day of keynotes and panels in Barcelona. Drawing inspiration from street-level ingenuity, alternative currencies, P2P networks, copy-cat innovation, crowdsourcing and other drivers in the informal economy, the symposium seeks to better understand the relationship between informal commercial practices and formal economic structures. A better understanding of this relationship is the first step towards new business models, innovation approaches, and collaborations within, across, and between the formal and informal.

Visit the Informal Economy website.

Confirmed speakers include

14 August 2012

Care at a Distance : On the Closeness of Technology

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Care at a Distance : On the Closeness of Technology
By Jeannette Pols
Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam
2012, 204 pages

This widely researched study demonstrates convincingly that neither grandiose promises nor nightmare scenarios have much to do with actual care practices employing telecare.

Combining detailed ethnographic studies of nurses and patients involved in telecare with a broad theoretical frameworky from various disciplines, the author concludes that these practices leads to more rather than less intense caring relations, resulting from a spectacular raise in the frequency of contacts between nurses and patients.

Patients are much taken with this, not because they feel they are finally able to manage themselves, but because they can ‘leave things to the experts’. The patients find that caring is something that is best done for others.

The book frames urgent questions about the future of telecare and the ways in which innovative care practices can be built on facts rather than hopes, hypes or nightmares.

Jeannette Pols is a researcher at the Amsterdam Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam.

Download study (free)

14 August 2012

Touch in cars is still too complicated

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It is not a secret that touch is not as easy as it seems and very difficult to get right, writes Wolfgang Gruener on Conceivable Tech. Cadillac is the first company that is trying to translate touch in a comprehensive way to be used in conjunction with a car’s entertainment system. He and his colleagues have had a few days to play with the CUE system and they walked away impressed and confused at the same time.

“I wrote about CUE (Cadillac User Experience) a few weeks ago after an initial demonstration that was admittedly breathtaking. However, that was in a parked car and only a product demonstration. This time I actually was given Cadillac’s new XTS sedan for a test drive over a week to see what CUE can accomplish in driving scenarios. After 200 miles, I am still impressed by the execution of this system, but I am convinced that not everyone will like the no-compromise translation of the smartphone/tablet concept into an in-car entertainment system. There is no grey area – either you like it and it is going to convince to buy the car around it, or you are going to simply hate it.”

Read review

7 August 2012

How to reimagine wearable technology

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PSFK spoke to Dhani Sutanto, a Digital Art Director who became fed up with swiping his Oyster card through the reader like millions of other Londoners each day.

He decided to tinker around with the card and create a more fashionable way to get in and out of the sensor-driven turnstyles.

They spoke to him about his first creation, a ring that contains an Oyster Card chip and how reimagining form factors can not only result in more pleasureable transporation solutions, but also everyday transactions.

7 August 2012

Interaction design for data visualizations

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Interactive data visualizations are an exciting way to engage and inform large audiences. They enable users to focus on interesting parts and details, to customize the content and even the graphical form, and to explore large amounts of data.

At their best, they facilitate a playful experience that is way more engaging than static infographics or videos.

Lars Grammel lists several ideas and concepts of interaction design for data visualizations on the visual.ly blog, using 11 examples from the web.

7 August 2012

Service design at IKEA

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Walking through IKEA over the weekend with two young children, writes Shailesh Manga on UXMovement, was a healthy reminder of what contributes to an ideal customer experience: innovative product design and thoughtful service design.

IKEA covers product design with innovative home furnishings that are cost effective.

Providing this outstanding product experience is only made complete by wrapping an amazing service experience around it.

7 August 2012

Tablet versus PC: a creative decision

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By fighting over whether tablets or PCs are better tools for creating content—as a sort of proxy war over whose vision owns the future of computing devices—we may be overlooking something important: the possibility that these very different devices may simply be good at different kinds of creativity and that their differences may actually complement one other.

In other words, both form factors have creation or production in their DNA, but with very different emphases, contexts, and approaches. The big difference between them is this: the typewriter form factor (that is a the root of the PC) has its roots in creation that is formal, mechanistic, and professional, while people have historically used tablets to create content of a more personal or intimate nature.

Both tablets and traditional PCs have strengths in content creation, but they are strengths of different types. And their different strengths have more to do with the creative process than the content itself.

Read article

5 August 2012

What marketing executives should know about user experience

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What marketing executives should know about user experience” is the title of a short and introductory piece, mainly aimed at marketing people, by Nick Myers, managing director of visual design & branding at Cooper (a design and strategy firm in San Francisco that I had the pleasure of visiting two weeks ago).

His central question is how marketers can connect customers and brands in the digital era, and direct their organizations to guide products that inspire lasting engagement.

The language and approach in this short article can provide guidance to all of us in the UX community on the kind of arguments we can use with the marketing executives whom we often face as (prospective) clients.

5 August 2012

Social media’s neoliberal world view (and how it affects us all)

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Recently I have embarked on trying to understand better the underlying ideology and world view of the Silicon Valley tech scene, and how this is impacting our daily lives through the products and services they create.

My mission is still far from complete and reading suggestions are more than welcome. On Twitter, Brian Schroer guided me to a few books and to this inspiring 2010 NYU doctoral dissertation by Alice E. Marwick, currently an Assistant Professor in Fordham University’s Department of Communication and Media Studies. Previously she was a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research New England in the Social Media Collective (and therefore a frequent co-author with danah boyd), and a visiting researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.

Marwick’s 511 page dissertation, which she is now reworking into a book for Yale Press, is based on ethnographic research of the San Francisco technology scene and explains how social media’s technologies are based on status-seeking techniques that encourage people to apply free-market principles to the organization of social life.

Rather than re-publishing the abstract, I want to cite a few paragraphs (on pages 11-13) from her introduction:

“David Harvey defines neoliberalism as “a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade” (Harvey 2007, 2). Neoliberal policies emphasize “trade openness, a stable, low-inflation macroeconomic environment, and strong contract enforcement that protects the rights of private property holders” (Ferguson 2006). [...] Neoliberalism is also an ideology of the integration of these principles into daily life; neoliberal discourse reproduces by encouraging people to regulate themselves ―according to the market principles of discipline, efficiency, and competitiveness‖ (Ong 2006, 4). Aihwa Ong identifies “technologies of subjectivity,” which use knowledge and expertise to inculcate this expertise in individual subjects. Exploring such technologies reveals how neoliberalism is experienced, and how these subjectivities are formed.

I argue that social media is a technology of subjectivity which educates users on proper self-regulating behavior. Internet and mobile technologies create the expectation that white-collar professionals should always be on the job, decreasing personal agency and creating conflicts between the often-contradictory demands of work and home life (Middleton 2007). Social media encourages status-seeking practices that interiorize the values of Silicon Valley, which is a model of neoliberal, free-market social organization. In the technology scene, market-based principles are used to judge successful social behavior in oneself and others, extended through social media. Status increases up to a point with the ability to attract and attain attention online. The ability to position oneself successfully in a competitive attention economy becomes a marker of reputation and standing. Web 2.0 discourse is a conduit for the materialization of neoliberal ideology. I isolate three self-presentation techniques rooted in advertising and marketing to show how social media encourages a neoliberal subject position among high-tech San Francisco workers: micro-celebrity, self-branding, and lifestreaming.”

3 August 2012

Book: UX Best Practices

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UX Best Practices – How to Achieve More Impact with User Experience
Helmut Degen & Xiaowei Yuan (Eds.)
McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, 2011
ISBN-10: 007175251X, ISBN-13: 978-0071752510
304 pages
(Amazon)

Helmut Degen, Ph.D., works as a program manager for Siemens Corporate Research (SCR). He was previously a user experience design lead and senior user experience manager for Vodafone Global Marketing in Dusseldorf, Germany, and for the Siemens User Interface Design center in Munich, Germany.

Xiaowei Yuan, Ph.D., is an expert commissioner of the Standardization Administration of the People’s Republic of China, and the founder of ISAR User Interface Design. He was previously head of the Siemens User Interface Design Center, Beijing, China.

Gerd Waloszek of SAP User Experience wrote a lengthy review on the book. Here are his concluding paragraphs:

“As I have already mentioned, the editors’ vision of the book is that “readers change perspective from a ‘how-to’ perspective to an ‘impact’ perspective”, that they “then apply the new perspective to their organization or customers’ organization systematically to achieve greater impact with UX contributions more often.” However, in recognition of the survey results from October 2011, they are more modest in their goals for the book when they state,”The UX practices described in the success stories in this book can be used as a starting point to improve existing UX processes,” because “the UX success stories in this book are rather exceptional in the UX industry and can be considered as benchmarks.” Of course, this is by no means a contradiction and both aspects are useful. But when the editors finally promote the “model” perspective for the book, it has eventually become what they initially intended not to publish: a “how-to” book.

Nonetheless, considering its broad perspective with respect to industries (in-depth case studies from Yahoo!, Siemens, SAP, Haier, Intuit, Tencent, and more), its cross-regional coverage (USA, Europe, China), and its variety of user experience techniques (for example, analyzing user needs and expectations, creating design concepts, prototyping, using agile development, conducting usability testing, developing user interface guidelines, defining user interface patterns, and specifying metrics), the book is definitely a rich and unique resource for readers who want to learn about the state of the UX industry, find the gaps between what would be desirable and what is still the current state of affairs in the industry, and, last but not least, get familiar with approaches that help provide UX teams with more impact on products and organizations.”

3 August 2012

Ethnography for user experience

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In three essays John Payne, Principal of Moment’s Experience Design practice, reflects on his workshop, Ethnography for User Experience, and their field research with Occupy Wall Street.

Payne was recently asked by IxDA NY’s local leadership to lead a workshop on Ethnography for User Experience. His goal was to provide the attendees, a group of 25 interaction designers, some working principles of ethnography that they could adapt to their day-to-day design work; in essence, to help them shape a more “ethnograph-ish” approach to user experience design.

As he prepared the workshop materials, Payne suggested to the IxDA organizers that Zuccotti Park (or Liberty Square, depending on your persuasion) might be a good research site. For the uninitiated, this is the nexus of the global Occupy Wall Street movement. Ground Zero for “We are the 99%.” At that point, in early November, Payne hadn’t yet visited the park, but everything he was reading and hearing about it made it seem an ideal (if perhaps a bit risky) site for a group of eager workshop attendees to get some real-world experience putting ethnographic principles into practice.

They took on the task of trying to understand how the occupiers communicated and coordinated within the group and with other occupy sites around the world. Their design goal was to gather information to inform the design of digital products that could help that communication and coordination process.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

3 August 2012

Intel’s futurist envisions life in 2022

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Brian David Johnson gets paid to predict the future. He is the first, the one, and the only futurist at Intel, charged with envisioning how people will interact with technology a decade from now.

Currently, Johnson’s task is to foresee what life will be like in 2022. The main difference between then and now, he noted, is the prominence data will play in people’s lives.

This weekend Johnson was one of the keynote speakers at WorldFuture 2012, a gathering of some 500 futurists at Toronto Sheraton Centre and this gave Kristina Skorbach of the Epoch Times the opportunity to interview him.

1 August 2012

Design principles for eating sustainably

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“Design Principles for Eating Sustainably: Bridging the Gap Between Consumer Intention and Action” is the title of an ethnographic research driven service design project by Canadian design and innovation firm Cooler Solutions.

Experience suggests that our intentions and actions are not always aligned. This is certainly true when it comes to eating: where food is concerned, making real, lasting change is challenging, even when the desire is there.

In their study of sustainable eating, the Cooler Solutions team conducted ethnographic research to explore the relationship that people have with their food and to determine ways to elicit positive change. From this research they identified actionable design principles in order to guide service designers, retailers, policy-makers and other interested parties to ultimately increase sustainable food-consumption behaviours among the public.

Read article
Download report

1 August 2012

Don Norman: John Maeda and I failed to connect

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As part of its Power of 10 lecture series, PARC Forum invited John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design, and Don Norman, Co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, last week for a dialogue on design and innovation.

The video is now online.

Here is what Don Norman had to write about it:

“It was a weird discussion. Although John and I have known each other for some time and started out in similar ways (he is a course 6 graduate of MIT — Electrical Engineering). So am I (my specialty was circuit design.) Both of us now consider ourselves to be designers. Moreover, I am a fan of his work. But it was difficult to engage.

I wanted to talk about complex design: interaction design, design planning, etc. He wanted to talk about the beauty of fonts, of knives, and even of the office chair. I tried to say these were simple products that barely needed any understanding of human behavior and cognition — I want to design the complex. He didn’t understand my point. In fact, when I specifically asked him how to design a networking connection scheme that would work for everyday people his answer was a long ramble that never even started to address the issue. Later, he admitted he had forgotten the question (which to me is evidence he either failed to understand it or didn’t care about it – I think the latter).

I agreed that form was not my focus. I guess he agreed that interaction was not his.

So we failed to connect. But many seemed to find the discussion of interest. Decide for yourself.”

1 August 2012

The ethnographer’s reading list

 

Ethnography Matters has embarked on a new series called “The Ethnographer’s Reading List” with UX professionals discussing their summer reading. Here are the latest three instalments:

Nicolas Nova
Nicolas Nova, who holds a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction from the Swiss Institute of Technology (EPFL, Switzerland), is a consultant and researcher at the Near Future Laboratory, and and editorial consultant for the Lift Conference. He also teaches user research in interaction design at HEAD-Geneva and ENSCI-Les Ateliers in Paris. This summer he is spending the months of July and August in California for a visiting researcher’s residence at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, working on a project about rituals and gestures of the digital everyday. Because of that topic, the books he has bought for the summer are quite influenced by this project. They’re not about methodologies, but more about case studies concerning design, material culture, ethnography and architecture.

Christina Dennaoui
Christina Dennaoui, who did graduate studies in anthropology, media, and religion at the University of Chicago, is now working as a digital planner and strategist for a digital marketing agency in Chicago. Christina, who can be described as a social theorist working in industry, also runs the Modern and Im/Material Things blog. Her shelves are full of work that relate to her professional work in digital strategy and planning. Although there is no grand theme uniting all of the books on her list, there are a few sub-themes worth calling out: archiving and identity, personal branding, quantifying individual interests, and the meaning of “strategy.”

Elisa Oreglia
Elisa is a PhD candidate at the UC Berkeley School of Information. She studies the circulation and use of mobile phones and computers in China, especially in the countryside. Her summer reading deviates from the usual goal-driven reading of the rest of the year.