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Putting People First

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March 2013
31 March 2013

How habits can impact user behavior

UXHabitLoops-125x125

In the book The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg explains how habits are formed and what it takes to break an ingrained habit. The book references a 2006 study from Duke University that found that 40% of the actions that people perform each day are habits, not purposeful decisions. Habits impact our daily lives in many different ways, even in how we interact with websites and applications. Being aware of how habits may influence interactions users have with your products can help you design better user experiences.

31 March 2013

Five things about Ubiquitous Computing that make Anne Galloway nervous

 

Dr Anne Galloway (@annegalloway) is Senior Lecturer, School of Design and Principal Investigator, Design Culture Lab, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Trained in sociology and anthropology, Anne teaches courses in design and culture, and researches relations amongst people, places, animals and technologies.

Here are the five things that make her nervous about Ubiquitous Computing:

1. Technological determinism & defeatism
Or, the cultural belief that technological development and progress is inevitable, and we have to adapt.

2. Technological solutionism
Or, the cultural belief that technology is the best solution to life’s problems.

3. Quantification imperatives
Or, the cultural belief that everything can and should be measured, and that everyday life would be better if all our decisions were based on these data.

4. Connection & sharing imperatives
Or, the cultural belief that everyday life would be better if more information was transmissible and accessible to people.

5. Convenience & efficiency imperatives
Or, the cultural belief that people would be better off if there were more technologies to make daily life more convenient, and common tasks more efficient.

31 March 2013

Web privacy, and how consumers let down their guard

PRIVACY-articleLarge

Consumers insist that they treasure their online privacy. But their mouse clicks tell a far different tale, as the experiments of a behavioral economist show.

In a series of provocative experiments, Alessandro Acquisti, a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, has shown that despite how much we say we value our privacy — and we do, again and again — we tend to act inconsistently.

29 March 2013

Debate in Milan: The Long View of Interaction Design

ixd14

The people behind the upcoming Interaction14 conference invite you to attend a panel discussion in Milan on the “Long View of Interaction Design”.

On Monday 8 April at 6pm (on the eve of the Salone del Mobile), Claudio Moderini, Fabio Sergio, Jan-Christoph Zoels and Todd S. Harple will debate with Alok Nandi on how to design for those interaction design challenges that go beyond the immediate consumer product/service launch cycle.

What if your interaction design has to be integrated in a hospital or a building or a city? How do you design if your creation has to last 10, 20 or even more years into the future? What tools can you use as an interaction designer? How do you make it adaptive and resilient? How to avoid obsolescence?

Speakers

Attendance: free and open to the public

Location: Domus Academy, via Carlo Darwin 20, Milan (Navigli area)

Live streaming: Yes! The event will be available in streaming live (and recorded for viewing afterwards). Join us on Monday at 6pm Italy time by clicking here.

Hashtag: #ixda

Sponsor in kind: Domus Academy (thank you!)

Disclosure: I am the behind the scenes organizer of it all.

29 March 2013

The next Big UI Idea: gadgets that adapt to your skill

slideflowux

As gadgets get more complicated, UI’s must be able to teach their users over time. Philip Battin shows how flow can be used to improve the user experience in interactive electronic consumer products in an article for FastCo.Design.

“More and more interactive products are being returned. In 2002, 48% of all returned products were technically fully functional but were rejected for failing to satisfy user needs (28%) or purely due to users’ remorse (20%). Even though a product may have all the features one can hope for, complexity and bad user experience can prevent users from integrating it into their lives.

User experiences are subjective and dynamic, but by and large, interactive products are not designed to take people’s changing capacity and experience into account. But they could. Here, I present a model for how designers can use the fundamentals of video games and the psychological principles of flow to design enhanced user experiences.

28 March 2013

Is Open Government working?

opengov

In an insightful blog post, Reboot principal Panthea Lee asks if open government initiatives make citizens more informed and engaged, and make governments more accountable to their people? What impact have open government initiatives had so far?

Reboot is a USA-based service design firm working in the fields of global governance and development.

Four questions, she writes, might be worth considering for those working to measure and achieve impact in this space:

1. Who gains from Open Government?
Which populations have the access and motivation to use these channels? Frequently, programs and platforms privilege certain groups over others.

2. How do we reach “The Other Side”?
There are two sides to the open government coin: citizens and governments. The goal is to facilitate constructive dialogue between the two, but many projects seem to focus on one side or the other.

3. Can we do better than equating scale with success?
Replication and scale are not always appropriate indicators of success. The effectiveness of most open government initiatives will be context dependent. Replication requires programs to standardize as many elements of its models and activities as possible.

4. How do Open Government processes change people?
Open government initiatives seek to mobilize citizens and to motivate governments to respond. But what are the processes through which change occurs?

28 March 2013

What can ethnography bring to the study of deliberative democracy?

 

Open government initiatives offer new, often technologically enabled avenues for civic participation. But which populations have the access and motivation to use these channels? Frequently, programs and platforms privilege certain groups over others.

An ethnographic study of participatory budgeting in Rome (conducted by Julien Talpin of the University of Lille) found that participation skewed towards those who were already active in civic affairs and in relative positions of power. Sixty-three percent of participants were activists. White-collar workers and those over 50 were also over-represented.

Abstract

The study of the individual effects of participation has mainly focused on the impact of deliberation on actors’ preferences, mostly based on quantitative and experimental research. I argue here that ethnography, based on a praxeologic and process approach, can offer broader results on actors’ learning in participatory devices than the cognitive effects generally emphasized.

Grounded in a case-study of a participatory budget in Rome, the research shows participation allows learning new skills and civic habits but may also bring about a greater distrust with politics.

Explaining the learning process, the paper stresses the different learning potential of participatory institutions. A condition for the durability of the effects observed is that participation be repeated over time. This requires integration within the institution, which happens for only a few; the majority of participants being disappointed stop participating. Speaking the language of the institution, some participants are however integrated enough to acquire further civic skills and knowledge, and even to endure a politicization process.

Finally, the study of actors’ long-term trajectories allows drawing conclusions on the social conditions of civic bifurcation. Ethnography thereby allows grasping the long-term consequences of civic engagement.

25 March 2013

Human-centred systems innovation

hcsi

How do we help or support people that live in situations that do not fit into a system’s categories, e.g. by transforming perceptions of what a system can be? This question is constantly reoccurring in the development of our public service systems, writes Jesper Christiansen, anthropologist at MindLab, a Danish cross-ministerial innovation unit, on the NESTA site.

“A very obvious example where this matter is persistent is the area of social care for vulnerable families. This area is increasingly becoming a nightmare scenario for Western nation states across the world. These are often at-risk families, which access many different services and are involved in several case plans at the same time. The challenge is to coordinate and integrate services that are addressing such different issues like child behaviour and education, domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, unemployment or work injury, financial crisis, unstable housing, physical or mental illness or other more or less common hardships of everyday life.

Working with Australian design agency ThinkPlace, MindLab took part in a project that set out to address these issues and transform the service system dealing with vulnerable families in the ACT region of Australia. The purpose was to develop new capabilities and processes to co-design and co-produce services with current service users as part of introducing a new human-centred, systemic approach to improve outcomes for vulnerable families.”

Other recent readings by MindLab:

Co-production (pdf)
How do we ensure collaboration with all the actors who can potentially make a contribution to the challenges we face? Can juvenile first time offenders be sentenced by youths with a criminal record? To see the citizens’ resources and design welfare with them rather than to them – that is what we call co-production. Read cases and useful principles on the subject in this pamphlet. [Video]

Design-Led Innovation in Government
Christian Bason’s reflections on design-led innovation in the public sector and the three challenges it raises.
(Published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review)

24 March 2013

Big Data and personal data for behavioral analysis and behavioral change

logoMTL2

In a broader article on Big Data and privacy, the New York Times writes about the work of Alex Pentland, a computational social scientist, director of the Human Dynamics Lab at the M.I.T., and academic adviser to the World Economic Forum’s initiatives on Big Data and personal data.

His M.I.T. team, writes the New York Times, is also working on living lab projects. One that began recently, the Mobile Territorial Lab, is in the region around Trento, Italy, in cooperation with Telecom Italia and Telefónica, the Spanish mobile carrier. About 100 young families with young children are participating. The goal is to study how much and what kind of information they share on smartphones with one another, and with social and medical services — and their privacy concerns.

The Mobile Territorial Lab (MTL) aims at creating an experimental environment to push forward the research on human-behavior analysis and interaction studies of people while in mobility. MTL has been created by Telecom Italia SKIL Lab, in cooperation with Telefonica I+D, the Human Dynamics group at MIT Media Lab, the Institute for Data Driven Design (ID³) and Fondazione Bruno Kessler, and with contributions from Telecom Italia Future Center.

The data presents a valuable and unique source for investigating personal needs, community roles, phone usage patterns, etc. and for providing benefits to people in terms of personal, economic and social benefits.

MTL aims at exploiting smartphones’ sensing capabilities to unobtrusively and cost-effectively access to previously inaccessible sources of data related to daily social behavior (location, physical proximity of other devices; communication data (phone calls and SMS), movement patterns, and so on. The Mobile Territorial Lab (MTL) in Trentino aims at fostering mobile phone related research activities with real people on a very responsive territory. This include the involvement of a significant number of committed users with the goal of having a continuous and active user base to interact with and cutting down the experimentation setup costs. Not only.
A continued and active user base equipped with smartphones, enabling users to access (from everywhere) online services and to collect personal or contextual information from the integrated sensors, represents a valuable and unique sample for investigating new paradigms in the management of personal data.

22 March 2013

She’s not talking about it, but Siri is plotting world domination

siri

Apple has a vision of a future in which the disembodied voice of Siri is your constant companion.

It goes something like this: You arrive home at the end of a long day and plop down on the couch. A beer in one hand, your phone in the other, you say, “Siri, open Netflix and play The IT Crowd.” Midway through the program, you feel a draft. “Siri, it’s cold in here.” Siri politely tells you the temperature, and asks if you’d like it raised. The furnace kicks on. As the credits roll down the TV screen, Siri reminds you of your dinner date downtown. In the car, she gives you turn-by-turn directions to the restaurant and sends your date a text message to say you’re on the way. Halfway to dinner, you realize you need movie tickets. No problem. Siri takes care of that, too.

This is where Apple is headed with Siri, as the nascent voice-activated AI spreads from our phones to our desktops, our homes and even our dashboards to become our concierge to the digital world. Cupertino is moving aggressively to develop a distinct personality for Siri that will make interaction more natural and fluid, and kindle the innate human tendency to anthropomorphize objects.

Read article

22 March 2013

The next wave in branding: merging experiences across markets

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It’s time to start thinking strategically about designing user experiences for interconnected ecosystems like health care, argues frog’s Fabio Sergio.

“Within [massive inter-connected service ecosystems such as education, finance, or health care] the aim to shape an “experience” out of a jumble of disconnected products and platforms provided by different and sometimes competing brands and organizations can feel like an insurmountable, complex challenge.

This level of opportunity is great for consumers, who get to choose their own preferred route to satisfy a need or desire, but it poses novel challenges for experience design. Designers must now think about how to conceive and design such complex sequences of loosely choreographed interactions so that the overall experience can still generate a coherent set of impressions, ultimately cementing in people’s recollections and reflections the desired perception of a brand’s values.”

21 March 2013

Sustainable living and behavioural change

Houses in Valparaiso, near Santiago, Chile.

A Unilever sponsored sustainability supplement to The Guardian contains a short articles by Dan Lockton that is worth exploring.

Design for sustainability: making green behaviour easy describes how design can enable sustainable behaviour by understanding everyday needs rather than treating people as the problem.

“Design has a massive opportunity: enable more sustainable behaviour through making it easier to do things in a more sustainable way. Lower the barriers to sustainable behaviour – do research with people, in everyday contexts, to find out what the barriers are, and address them directly.”

20 March 2013

Book: A History of Future Cities

a-history-of-future-cities

A History of Future Cities
by Daniel Brook
W. W. Norton & Company
2013 – 480 pages
[Amazon link]

The new book A History of Future Cities looks at the attempts of places like Dubai, Shanghai, and Mumbai to create Western-looking areas in an attempt to create a sense of modernity.

Abstract

A pioneering exploration of four cities where East meets West and past becomes future: St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Dubai.

Every month, five million people move from the past to the future. Pouring into developing-world “instant cities” like Dubai and Shenzhen, these urban newcomers confront a modern world cobbled together from fragments of a West they have never seen. Do these fantastical boomtowns, where blueprints spring to life overnight on virgin land, represent the dawning of a brave new world? Or is their vaunted newness a mirage?

In a captivating blend of history and reportage, Daniel Brook travels to a series of major metropolitan hubs that were once themselves instant cities— St. Petersburg, Shanghai, and Mumbai—to watch their “dress rehearsals for the twenty-first century.” Understanding today’s emerging global order, he argues, requires comprehending the West’s profound and conflicted influence on developing-world cities over the centuries.

In 1703, Tsar Peter the Great personally oversaw the construction of a new Russian capital, a “window on the West” carefully modeled on Amsterdam, that he believed would wrench Russia into the modern world. In the nineteenth century, Shanghai became the fastest-growing city on earth as it mushroomed into an English-speaking, Western-looking metropolis that just happened to be in the Far East. Meanwhile, Bombay, the cosmopolitan hub of the British Raj, morphed into a tropical London at the hands of its pith-helmeted imperialists.

Juxtaposing the stories of the architects and authoritarians, the artists and revolutionaries who seized the reins to transform each of these precociously modern places into avatars of the global future, Brook demonstrates that the drive for modernization was initially conflated with wholesale Westernization. He shows, too, the ambiguous legacy of that emulation—the birth (and rebirth) of Chinese capitalism in Shanghai, the origins of Bollywood in Bombay’s American-style movie palaces, the combustible mix of revolutionary culture and politics that rocked the Russian capital—and how it may be transcended today.

A fascinating, vivid look from the past out toward the horizon, A History of Future Cities is both a crucial reminder of globalization’s long march and an inspiring look into the possibilities of our Asian Century.

Fast Company review

The four are as much “ideas” as places, he argues–Eastern cities in agrarian backwaters that copied the West architecturally in hopes of borrowing their modernity. To whatever extent they’ve succeeded, they point the way forward for the next urban billion.

20 March 2013

Ethnography: Ellen Isaacs at TEDxBroadway

 

Ellen Isaacs (personal site), a user experience designer and ethnographer at PARC, spoke on January 28 at TEDx Broadway about the power of ethnography and how it might be useful in inspiring the future of Broadway.

As per usual with TEDx events, a video is now available.

20 March 2013

Smart homes: our next digital privacy nightmare

smart-appliances

The hyper-connected smart home of the future promises to change the way we live. More efficient energy usage, Internet-connected appliances that communicate with one another and cloud-enhanced home security are just some of the conveniences we’ll enjoy. It’s going to be amazing. It will also open up major questions about privacy. John Paul Titlow reports on ReadWriteWeb.

“Every time we connect another one of our household appliances to the Internet, we’re going to be generating another set of data about our lives and storing it some company’s servers. That data can be incredibly useful to us, but it creates yet another digital trail of personal details that could become vulnerable to court subpoenas, law enforcement requests (with or without a warrant) or hackers.”

Meanwhile, OvenInfo, the oven review site by Reviewed.com, is running a five-part series about smart appliances and connected homes. Where they are now, how they got here, and most importantly, whether they’ll earn a place among our smartphones and tablets as an everyday part of our lives. So far, three have been published:

1. What is a smart appliance?
The next generation of “smart” appliances will likely connect to your phone, negotiate rates with the power company, and even communicate with other appliances.

2. The history of smart appliances
Everything seems to be trending toward highly automated households, controlled by a mobile device. What’s different now is that this trend is being pushed not merely by what’s possible, but by technologies that are practical and already integrated into our daily lives.

3. The business of smart appliances
Smart appliances are not big business yet—at least not within the scope of the entire industry. In 2012, smart appliances sales totaled a modest $613 million, a fraction of the worldwide bottom line. But that isn’t stopping a few manufacturers from trying to make the future of smart appliances happen right now.

4. The future of smart appliances
Touchscreens and Twitter are fine, but smart appliances will need to save time and money.

5. How to buy a smart appliance right now
Smart appliances still can’t do your laundry on their own, but a few good models are ready for a place in your home.

14 March 2013

Book: Present Shock – When Everything Happens Now

presentshock

Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now
by Douglas Rushkoff
Current Hardcover
March 2013, 216 pages
[Amazon]

Abstract

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for, explains award-winning media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, but we don’t seem to have any time in which to live it. Instead we remain poised and frozen, overwhelmed by an always-on, live-streamed re­ality that our human bodies and minds can never truly in­habit. And our failure to do so has had wide-ranging effects on every aspect of our lives.

People spent the twentieth century obsessed with the future. We created technologies that would help connect us faster, gather news, map the planet, compile knowledge, and con­nect with anyone, at anytime. We strove for an instanta­neous network where time and space could be compressed.

Well, the future’s arrived. We live in a continuous now en­abled by Twitter, email, and a so-called real-time technologi­cal shift. Yet this “now” is an elusive goal that we can never quite reach. And the dissonance between our digital selves and our analog bodies has thrown us into a new state of anxiety: present shock.

Rushkoff weaves together seemingly disparate events and trends into a rich, nuanced portrait of how life in the eter­nal present has affected our biology, behavior, politics, and culture. He explains how the rise of zombie apocalypse fic­tion signals our intense desire for an ending; how the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street form two sides of the same post-narrative coin; how corporate investing in the future has been replaced by futile efforts to game the stock market in real time; why social networks make people anxious and email can feel like an assault. He examines how the tragedy of 9/11 disconnected an entire generation from a sense of history, and delves into why conspiracy theories actually comfort us.

As both individuals and communities, we have a choice. We can struggle through the onslaught of information and play an eternal game of catch-up. Or we can choose to live in the present: favor eye contact over texting; quality over speed; and human quirks over digital perfection. Rushkoff offers hope for anyone seeking to transcend the false now.

Absorbing and thought-provoking, Present Shock is a wide-ranging, deeply thought meditation on what it means to be human in real time.

See also:
- Wall Street Journal excerpt
- New York Times review

14 March 2013

UK Government Service Design Manual

royal

The UK Government Service Design Manual provides a (draft) digital by default service standard, as well as guidance and tools for building world-class digital services.

The Government Digital Strategy set an ambitious target for teams building services: services so good that people prefer to use them.

(via InfoDesign)

13 March 2013

Design and public services

restartingbritain

Design and Public Services is the second publication in the UK Design Commission‘s ‘Restarting Britain’ series. The first set out the strategic importance of design education as a driver of economic renewal and growth. This 64-page report turns to the question of public service renewal.

In the context of politics and governing, the word ‘design’ is applied liberally – the design of legislation, the design of policy, the design of public services – with little thought as to the significance of the word itself. Here the Design Commission shifts its focus to that word ‘design’, and explore its potential for creating cost-effective public services in the 21st century. Part-polemic, part-manual, this report is the culmination of a nine month inquiry, and the Commission’s response to a substantially increased appetite for more information on the subject of design in public services.

Co-author Nat Hunter of The RSA writes: “Design can make a huge impact in public service but is not commonly used to do so. It is still often misunderstood as being all about posters and soft furnishings, and not seen as a discipline that has potential to create enormous change that is better for the end user and saves money to boot. Good design turns problems on its head and starts with walking in the shoes of the users, not with the problems of the providers. During the inquiry we heard many examples of how great design had created huge organisational change, bringing empathy and kindness into public service, bearing in mind inclusion and access at all times, and, of course, saving vast amounts of money.”

13 March 2013

methods@manchester: research methods in the social sciences

 

methods@manchester is a website created by the University of Manchester to highlight and explain research methods in the social sciences. Many sections come with lecture videos and reading lists.

Readers will be particularly interested in the sections on collaborative approaches, ethnographic methods and qualitative interview analysis.

13 March 2013

No to NoUI

 

‘The best design is invisible’ is the interaction design phrase of the moment. Design and technology will ‘disappear’, become ‘invisible’, and the ‘best interface is no interface’… A cluster of thinking which Timo Arnall calls ‘invisible design’.

Arnall agrees with some of the reasons driving this movement; that design’s current infatuation with touchscreens is really problematic. In response he has been researching and inventing interfaces for taking interaction out from under the glass.

Yet, he also takes issue with much of this thinking for a few reasons that he outlines in a blog post.

Highly recommended (and timely).