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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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August 2013
29 August 2013

User-centred mobile app development in Kenya

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The success of a mobile app – its high adoption rate and actual use – largely depends on the degree of involvement of the end user during the development stage.

Mark Kamau, Kenyan web solution expert at the iHub UX Lab in Nairobi, believes a user-centric approach to mobile app development is critical to building a sustainable ICT-based solution.

“The failure rate of mobile apps is high and many development man-hours are wasted when user experiences are not taken into account right from the start of the development process. That is why people like Kamau and initiatives such as the UX Lab seek to convince developers to include the users in the earliest possible stage of the design process to better understand their needs and wants, and how, when and where they would use the new mobile app.”

29 August 2013

Seeing the elephant: defragmenting user research

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“Forget Big Data — right now, our bigger problem is fragmented data that comes from siloed user research teams.”

Just as we favor the research tools that we find familiar and comfortable, large organizations often use research methods that reflect their own internal selection biases. As a result, they miss out on detecting (and confirming) interesting patterns that emerge concurrently from different research silos. And they likely won’t learn something new and important.

IA thought leader Lou Rosenfeld explains how balance, cadence, conversation, and perspective provide a framework enabling your research teams to think across silos and achieve powerful insights even senior leadership can understand.

28 August 2013

Ethnographic stories for market learning

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The July 2013 issue of the Journal of Marketing (a publication of AMA, the American Marketing Association) describes the results of a comprehensive study (pdf) by Julian Cayla and Eric J. Arnould on the way various organizations use ethnography to better represent the customer’s lived experience to managers.

The authors’ findings highlight how in many leading firms, ethnographic stories play a creatively disruptive role in: 1) challenging firms’ received wisdom about consumer behavior; 2) helping managers walk in the customer’s shoes; and 3) developing new business ideas.

In these three areas (market understanding; consumer empathy; market innovation), ethnographic storytelling has been a driving force in improving the tracking of market evolution, changing the way organizations connect with consumers, and stimulating innovative thinking.

“Although ethnography has become a popular research approach in many organizations, major gaps exist in the field’s understanding of the way it operates in the corporate world, particularly in how ethnography facilitates market learning. Drawing from extensive fieldwork in the world of commercial ethnography, the authors describe how ethnographic stories give executives a unique means of understanding market realities. By working through the rich details of ethnographic stories infused with the tensions, contradictions, and emotions of people’s everyday lives, executives are better able to grasp the complexity of consumer cultures. Overall, this research should help managers leverage the catalytic effects of ethnographic storytelling in their efforts to learn about and understand market contexts.”

Julien Cayla is Assistant Professor of Marketing, Nanyang Business School; Research Fellow at the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight; and Visiting Professor, Euromed Management. Eric J. Arnould is Professor of Marketing, University of Bath, and Visiting Adjunct Professor, Southern Denmark University.

28 August 2013

Exploring the use of tablets in educational settings

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MindShift, a service by KQED and NPR, has published a four-part series to explore the four dimensions of using tablets in educational settings, examining how teachers can take students on a journey from (1) consumption of media, to (2) curation, (3) creation, and (4) connection.

Each of the instalments explores the challenges ahead using the Someday/Monday template:

“The Someday/Monday dichotomy captures one of the core challenges in teacher professional development around education technology. On the one hand, deep integration of new learning technologies into classrooms requires substantially rethinking pedagogy, curriculum, assessment, and teacher practice (someday). For technology to make a real difference in student learning, it can’t just be an add-on. On the other hand, teachers need to start somewhere (Monday), and one of the easiest ways for teachers to get experience with emerging tools is to play and experiment in lightweight ways: to use technology as an add-on. Teachers need to imagine a new future—to build towards Someday—and teachers also need new activities and strategies to try out on Monday. Both pathways are important to teacher growth and meaningful, sustained changes in teaching and learning.”

27 August 2013

Designing for transparency and the myth of the modern interface

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UX consultant Thomas Wendt argues that the arguments in favor of invisible interfaces are making a few key mistakes, namely:

  • Many are assuming that invisibility equates to seamless user experience
  • There is an assumption that an interface can be either visible or invisible
  • There is a conflation between interfaces in general and digital, screen-based interfaces
  • They are not taking in to account the vast amount of theory available about how humans interact with technology

Wendt elucidates these points through a discussion of Martin Heidegger’s analysis of technology and objects in the world, arriving at a new solution: transparent interface design.

“The desire to create invisible interfaces or describe current natural user interfaces (voice, gestural, etc.) as invisible is a mistake. A change in vocabulary from “invisible” to “transparent” is not simply a semantic quibble; it is necessary to frame the discourse and mindset around better interface design. Invisibility is an impossible and undesirable goal. Transparency allows for movement, flexibility, and adaptation between different modes of interaction, which is necessary for modern systems design.”

23 August 2013

The UK’s Behavioural Design Lab

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The UK’s Behavioural Design Lab is a new collaboration between Warwick Business School and the Design Council, uniting behavioural science with design-thinking. They help organisations transform a better understanding of people into innovative solutions that improve society.

Our Belief
The biggest issues in society, from obesity to climate change, are due to behavioural and lifestyle factors people embrace on a daily basis.
Most attempts to change behaviour rely on the outdated assumption that people are governed by a rational self-interest. The result is a range of programmes with a firm rationale but minimal impact.
We believe the best way to solve these issues is to not only research how and why people actually make decisions, but use the design of products, services and places to help us all make better decisions.

Our Approach
Innovation requires two things. The ability to generate creative ideas and a way of testing them.
Our approach uses design-thinking and behavioural insights to reframe problems as an opportunity for enterprise, providing a platform for creative ideas.
We then use our network to bring teams together to tackle the briefs, supporting them through development. As ideas become real, they are tested and refined using experiments.

23 August 2013

Empowering women with Mobile Money. Enough research to support further investments.

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Hannes Van Rensburg, founder and CEO of Fundamo, a VISA company based in South Africa, writes that there is enough research on empowering women with Mobile Money to support further investments.

The industry have made big gains getting to understand the need and the benefits to women through the work of the GSMA mWomen Programme with support from Visa. Research reports covering these aspects have been released conducted in five key countries Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania. It is worthwhile to have a look at some of the clips posted where women talk these studies (Video for Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan and PNG). USAid also performed a study looking at the access that women have to mobile technology in Afghanistan. (Read here).

With Mobile technology women are empowered to entry into the financial mainstream much more easier. They now get access to life-enhancing services such as savings, payments, health-care, education, and entrepreneurship. However, the research shows that the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage still reduce the access that women have in many countries to these benefits. In order to achieve the full potential of the role mobile technology can play in women’s empowerment globally, it is critical that service providers understand what women need and design products that effectively reach this audience.

There are three key characteristics to women’s financial management that is of relevance in looking at mobile money: the difference in roles between men and women for managing money, the demands living in rural areas – compared to cities and the general lack of control women often have over their own finances. It is clear that the new capabilities made available through mobile money do and will have an positive impact in the lives of women in emerging markets.

Note also the excellent work by CGAP on the same topic.

22 August 2013

User modes as the raw ingredients of digital experience

 

The best way to design successful digital products is by understanding how users’ behaviour changes according to their mode, according to MEX.

Modes can be defined as the common ways people engage with digital products depending on their intent, environment, time and technology constraints. Where more simplistic measures such as designing for a particular device type or screen size may fail, understanding modes can deliver design insights closest to the users’ true needs.

It is these modes which explain why a user’s behaviour may vary substantially from app to app and from time of day to time of day. There are times when people are explorers and times when they are consumers or creators or communicators. In each of these modes, design should adapt to their needs.

As a starting point, MEX are currently researching six modes:

  1. Explore: Discovering novelty on an evolving path
  2. Augment: Enhancing activity with additional layers
  3. Communicate: Exchanging meaning with others
  4. Consume: Absorbing and interpreting information
  5. Control: Simplifying life through commands and automation
  6. Create: Originating something with expressive or functional qualities
20 August 2013

Does big data have us ‘fooled by randomness’?

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Being surrounded by data makes it easy to see the noise rather than the signal, and the trees rather than the forest, writes Andre Mouton in USA Today.

“Nassim Nicholas Taleb achieved notoriety with several books written before the housing crisis, criticizing the financial industry for putting so much faith in its predictions. He argued in Fooled by Randomness that there are problems with our attempts to understand the past, and even larger issues when we use it to predict the future. Those criticisms turned out to be justified.

“Big data” is allowing more industries to try their hand at fortunetelling. With social media and portable devices, we can watch society just like traders watch the stock market. People can be measured, quantified, modeled. As we enter this brave new world, it’s worth considering some of Taleb’s points and seeing how they might apply to big data.”

He concludes: “If businesses and governments see [big data] as a tool for self-measurement, they’ll find it useful. If they see it as a way to “crack the code,” or quantify human nature, or predict the unpredictable, they’re probably fooling themselves.”

20 August 2013

IBM on user experience design

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IBM believes that all users have the right to an enjoyable experience when using a computer. They have therefore decided to share the knowledge they have acquired from their own practical experience to help others create hardware and software that is easy for everyone to use.

Design concepts
In this section IBM discusses the users’ bill of rights that it subscribes to, the principles that drive successful user interface design, and models that promote designing for ease of use.
What is user experience design?
What is a user interface?
Design principles
User rights
The three models

Design patterns
Users employ software to achieve specific goals. Also, user interface designers have goals for the designs they create. Design Patterns provide established solutions based on sound design principles that enable these goals as they occur within specific task and environmental contexts.

Initial experience
The initial experience a user has in taking a new product out of the box and setting it up, in preparation for use, creates a lasting impression and constitutes an important aspect of the total user experience. We offer these guidelines and insights to help other software and hardware companies design initial experiences that are productive and satisfying for users. We also offer suggestions for effective evaluation and testing of the initial experience.

User-Centered Design
User-Centered Design is a well-established process that is used by IBM and many other organizations to deliver products that meet users’ expectations. This process has been supplemented by the Outside-In Design approach, which brings a focus on business value, and by the Agile approach to development, which is a set of best practices that can be used to support iterative development to improve time to market and stakeholder value.

An Agile approach to User Experience and Design
With more development moving to an Agile process, User Experience and Design (UXD) professionals are faced with the task of adapting their activities, deliverables, and even their own role to an Agile development process. Education on general Agile development principles and activities is readily available. While Agile development principles and best practices such as continuous user feedback and iterative development are familiar to UXD professionals, the focus on efficiency and time-boxed iterations can present a challenge. All these best practices are targeted at maintaining a focus on stakeholders and users while increasing productivity and efficiency.

20 August 2013

eBook: Rethinking UX

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Rethinking UX
Formats: PDF, EPUB, Kindle (DRM-free)
Pages: 62
Language: English
Released: August 2013
Publisher: Smashing Magazine GmbH

Abstract
In “Rethinking UX”, various UX professionals share their lessons learned and provide practical advice from their very own personal experience. The eBook is packed with interesting thoughts and concepts that let us reflect on our own practices. Every designer has their own user research techniques and strategies, but leaving the office and talking to people on the streets can foster innovation even more as any thought-out strategy ever could.

Is empathy possibly the best guarantor for great UX? Overcoming traditional patterns and designing with a new type of user in mind is among the many topics of this eBook.

Of course, you can also get your hands on some future scenarios. The Smashing authors dare to sneak a peak at some new challenges that we could face with the rise of innovative technologies such as Google Glass and Leap Motion, and explore how we can embrace entirely gesture-driven interfaces today. This eBook is a springboard for developing a new perspective and for creating future-proof user experiences.

20 August 2013

Exploring customer centricity in financial inclusion

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CGAP (a World Bank affiliated but independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor) has partnered with Janalakshmi Financial Services, one of India’s largest urban microfinance institutions to implement customer centricity in providing financial services to the urban poor. As a first step, the team commissioned Innovation Labs (consulting division of IMRB International, India) to build innovation capability within Janalakshmi and use new approaches to understand customers.

A Facebook journal follows the project over the next several months as it goes through the different phases of understanding customers, designing effective delivery and making the economics work. Here are the three initial posts:

Entry 1 – Creating a Customer-Centric Culture
The project with Janalakshmi Financial Services kicked off in Bangalore on July 1, 2013 with a workshop ‘Customer Centric Innovation’ conducted by Innovation Labs team for over 20 stakeholders at Janalakshmi from various functions including product marketing, strategy, IT and service centers.

Entry 2 – The Inside-Out View: How does a provider think about its clients?
A deep dive into Janalakshmi’s perspective on the customer and how this understanding affects their financial services offering.

Entry 3 – Ground Reality: Finance Management Skills of the Financially Underserved
The project team visited six households in Bangalore to gain a nuanced understanding of the lives of current and prospective customers. The purpose was to see how the customer-view of financial services matches up with that of Janalakshmi’s.

19 August 2013

Social scientists find story in data to attract more customers

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Social scientists say that tech companies are showing an increased interest in their skills, especially with the rising importance of social networking and big data, and that their roles within those companies are changing. A report by Janet I. Tu, the Seattle Times technology reporter.

In the past few years, with the rise of social computing and social media, tech companies have come to understand that, “It’s not enough to understand the individual user,” said Donald Farmer, a Seattle-based vice president of product management at QlikTech, a software company. “You have to understand them in a social context.” […]

Tracey Lovejoy, a senior user research lead for Office, has used her anthropology training at Microsoft as a user experience researcher and an ethnographer, researching how technology is embedded in people’s lives.

Recently, she and her team conducted a field study of about three dozen people, talking to people and observing them in their environments to understand the kinds of work they do on their tablets and how those tablets fit within their wider technology ecosystem.

One theme that emerged was that many tablet owners used their devices for more “casual productivity” and in more relaxed positions, such as reclining on the couch — information useful for future iterations of Office.

These days, Lovejoy observed, it’s the researchers themselves who are more embedded into product teams, “becoming more impactful, and influencing decisions at the strategic level.”

17 August 2013

What’s lost when everything is recorded

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Who wouldn’t delight in hearing Lincoln at Gettysburg in the same way we can go back and witness President Obama on the campaign trail? But with so much data capture and storage, which is preferable for our hearts and minds, the theater of politics or deference to the algorithm? Quentin Hardy, the deputy tech editor of the New York Times explores the matter on the newspaper’s Bits blog.

“While we fret about losing privacy and other dangers of the digital revolution, one sad change is happening with little notice: Our technology is stealing the romance of old conversations, that quaint notion that some things are best forgotten.

Remember the get-to-know-me chat of a first date or that final (good or bad) conversation with someone you knew for years? Chances are, as time has passed, your memory of those moments has changed. Did you nervously twitch and inarticulately explain your love when you asked your spouse to marry you? Or, as you recall it, did you gracefully ask for her hand, as charming as Cary Grant?

Thanks to our near-endless access to digital recording devices, the less-than-Hollywood version of you will be immortalized on the home computer, or stored for generations in some digital computing cloud.” […]

“That quintessential American trait, self-reinvention, may well be threatened in the hard world of video and audio documentations and the chase of objective truth.”

17 August 2013

Lessons from monks about designing the technologies of the future

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Our technologies are designed to maximize shareholder profit, and if that means distracting, confusing or aggregating the end-user, then so be it.

But another path is possible, argues Alex Soojung-Kim Pang in his new book The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul (Amazon link).

Pang calls the idea “contemplative computing,” and Techcrunch’s Klint Finley reflects on his book:

“Pang’s notion of mindful, or contemplative, computing is useful, but ultimately it’s just a way of coping with a world of applications designed without our best interests at heart. Just as meditation, prayer and weekend retreats can help us cope with the harsh realities of the modern world, so too can it help us cope with flame wars, feral inboxes and the non-stop rush of social media. But just as citizens can demand safer cities, more humane governments and even economic reform, we can demand a new class of technologies.”

17 August 2013

A manifesto to connect experience design with content thinking

 

Under the title “Content re-framing: A digital disruption survival kit“, Bas Evers and Peter Bogaards have launched a manifesto to connect experience design with content thinking.

New challenges are upon us content people. The era of digital disruption requires adaptation at many levels by anyone involved with content, whatever its form or shape. As content crusaders, we want to point the road to travel with 10 imperatives:

“Old School” and cutting-dege content organizations and professionals all face the same challenge of inventing and discovering mechanisms, rules and principles of unknown territories for content application.

With this manifesto, we intend to reduce the friction in our collective journey of credible, useful, and relevant content for the digital era.

The 10 imperatives:
1. Grok the nature of digital content
2. Think of content like finance, as oxygen
3. Shape content to fit everybody
4. Create content for customers, not for yourself
5. Empower others to (re)find your content
6. Determine content first, container next
7. Innovate in single content item delivery
8. Extend management dashboards with content controls
9. Materialize the added value of content
10. Act as a content entrepreneur

15 August 2013

By Us, For Us: The power of co-design and co-delivery

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At the core of a People Powered Health approach is collective ownership of health and wellbeing. Professionals need to start from the position of not necessarily knowing the right answer, which is a significant challenge. Creating a health system driven by the people within it, not by the institutions that provide care, requires engagement in all stages – in designing, delivering or using, and in evaluating the service. This recognises that those who provide and experience services should have an equal say and role in how services are designed and delivered.

This requires going beyond ‘engagement’, ‘involvement’ and ‘person-centred’ towards real co-design and co-delivery at every level of the health service. There are many definitions, and many facets, of co-design and co-delivery. What all of them have in common is an ethos and recognition that those who provide and experience services should have an equal say and role in how such services are designed and delivered.

By us, For us: the power of co-design and co-delivery is one in a series of learning products which explain why People Powered Health works, what it looks like and the key features needed to replicate success elsewhere.

It draws on the experience of the six teams who took part in People Powered Health, which was led by Nesta and Innovation Unit from summer 2011 to winter 2012.

The series includes:

15 August 2013

Book: Lean UX

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Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience
by Jeff Gothelf (Author) and Josh Seiden (Editor)
O’Reilly Media
February 2013
(Amazon link)

“The Lean UX approach to interaction design is tailor-made for today’s web-driven reality. In this insightful book, leading advocate Jeff Gothelf teaches you valuable Lean UX principles, tactics, and techniques from the ground up—how to rapidly experiment with design ideas, validate them with real users, and continually adjust your design based on what you learn.

Inspired by Lean and Agile development theories, Lean UX lets you focus on the actual experience being designed, rather than deliverables. This book shows you how to collaborate closely with other members of the product team, and gather feedback early and often. You’ll learn how to drive the design in short, iterative cycles to assess what works best for the business and the user. Lean UX shows you how to make this change—for the better.

  • Frame a vision of the problem you’re solving and focus your team on the right outcomes
  • Bring the designers’ toolkit to the rest of your product team
  • Share your insights with your team much earlier in the process
  • Create Minimum Viable Products to determine which ideas are valid
  • Incorporate the voice of the customer throughout the project cycle
  • Make your team more productive: combine Lean UX with Agile’s Scrum framework
  • Understand the organizational shifts necessary to integrate Lean UX

Review by Ambroise Little:

The answer [to the pains associated with the staggered prints approach associated with the established Agile engineering process] situates itself within the Lean approach to product development. A lot of people seem to confuse Lean with Agile, and while they share some common characteristics, I would say that Lean is far more prescriptive. As Gothelf points out, Lean UX synthesizes the highly iterative structure of Agile with the creative and scientific methodologies of design thinking and Lean Startup (a set of concepts popularized by Eric Ries in his Lean Startup book), utilizing multiple frameworks to determine solutions.

Lean UX proposes a number of core principles and the ones that most directly address the key pain points mentioned above are:

  • Cross-functional teams – have UX folks integrated into the teams, not external consultant-type model
  • Minimize waste – few deliverables and handoffs

As Jeff relates in Chapter 4, the process is one that involves the whole team (as much as possible) in the user research and early design ideation. It goes further to have the team focused on the same problems at the same time. Together, this approach goes a long way towards eliminating the staggered sprint problems, and it also has other benefits around reduced waste and getting everyone on the same page more easily.”

15 August 2013

Why a new Golden Age for UI design is around the corner

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Cliff Kuang writes in Wired how designers are working on their most ambitious challenge yet: weaving the digital world into our everyday lives so seamlessly that we don’t even notice.

“Over the past 30 years, as every facet of our lives, from our shopping to our schooling, has migrated onto computer screens, designers have focused on perfecting user interfaces—placing a button in just the right place for a camera trigger or collapsing the entire payment process into a series of swipes and taps. But in the coming era of ubiquitous sensors and miniaturized mobile computing, our digital interactions won’t take place simply on screens. As the new Disney World suggests, they will happen all around us, constantly, as we go about our day. Designers will be creating not products or interfaces but experiences, a million invisible transactions. […]

But as designers move off of screens and into the larger world, they’ll need to consider every nuance of our everyday activity and understand human behavior every bit as well as novelists or filmmakers. […]

Designers, who’ve always been adept at watching and responding to our needs, must bring to bear a better understanding of how people actually live. It’s up to them to make this new world feel like something we’ve always wanted and a natural extension of what we already have.”

13 August 2013

Adaptive Path’s guide to experience mapping

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Customers are increasingly choosing products and services based on the quality of the experiences they have with them. These experiences often break down when they span multiple channels. As a result, organizations need a holistic, human-centered view of the experiences they create. In short, they need a map.

To help the community in creating such maps, Adaptive Path has released a free Guide to Experience Mapping, that provides a succinct overview and basic building blocks of the process of mapping experiences in collaboration with your organization.

“Organizations collectively spend billions of dollars each year on experiences intended to attract, serve, and retain customers. They build new stores and launch new websites; answer thousands of questions in call centers; market, advertise, and promote in multiple channels; experiment with trendy mobile apps; roll out new products; and re-engineer services. In short, organizations create and manage a myriad of touchpoints that they want to add up to a differentiated customer experience.

Of course, customers don’t care about these efforts. they care about meeting their needs across touchpoints and across the competitive landscape.

When done well, an experience map illuminates the holistic customer experience, demonstrating the highs and lows people feel while interacting with your product or service. the process of mapping uncovers the key customer moments that, once improved, will unlock a more compelling and more valuable overall experience. We’ve used experience mapping in our practice, among other methods, to generate insights, support new initiatives, and build stronger futures for the organizations we partner with.”