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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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March 2014
30 March 2014

Behavioral approaches to product innovation at the Base of the Pyramid

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Alexandra Fiorillo, Principal of GRID Impact, writes that if we want to achieve full financial inclusion, we cannot simply offer more financial products and services to more people and hope they need, want, like, and use them. Instead, she writes, we should spend the necessary resources to ensure our products and services work for clients by doing two things:

1. Design products that meet the needs, desires, and preferences of our clients by collaborating with them on the design and delivery of these products.

2. Help our clients follow-through with the intentions and goals they have for their financial lives by focusing on taking action rather than just providing more information.

She continues:

“A new approach to product and service innovation, behavioral research and design, attempts to do just this. Drawing on insights from behavioral economics and principles from human-centered design, behavioral research and design attempts to uncover deep personal and contextual motivators and influencers to human behavior so we can better design products and services in a client-centered way. The goal of this method is not to focus on stated preferences and opinion or market research, but rather to develop deep empathy for human needs and desires while also making sense of observable behaviors – which may be contrary to people’s stated preferences.”

GRID Impact is a global research, innovation and design firm that specializes in human-centered approaches to policy, program, and product challenges. They use data and evidence to improve social impact in areas such as financial inclusion, global health, agriculture and education.

29 March 2014

IBM invests $100M in interactive experience labs globally

 

IBM this week announced plans to commit more than $100 million to globally expand its consulting services capability to help clients with experience design and engagement. As part of the investment, the company will open 10 new IBM Interactive Experience labs around the world and plans to add 1,000 employees to create new, personalized models of engagement through data and design.

Located in Bangalore, Beijing, Groningen, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, New York, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, and Tokyo, the new labs provide clients with the opportunity to work side-by-side with researchers and consultants as well as experts in experience design, mobile and digital marketing. These multi-discipline teams analyze business challenges and jointly create solutions that integrate next-generation mobile, social, analytics and cloud technologies. IBM plans to open additional labs in the future to support the global demand for data-driven experiences.

“There’s no longer any real distinction between business strategy and the design of the user experience. The last best experience that anyone has anywhere, becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere, and the quality of that experience is entirely dependent on the use of individualized information,” said Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President of IBM Global Business Services. “As our clients recalibrate what it means to engage with their customers or employees, we’re bringing them the full spectrum of world-class design and IBM Research, book-ended by strategy consulting and our strength in Big Data.”

As hallmarks of the IBM Interactive Experience consulting practice, the new labs will enable companies to engage with their customers in entirely new ways. Researchers within IBM Interactive Experience are developing capabilities to harness the value of data to help clients create personalized experiences, while designers within IBM Interactive Experience are working directly with clients to develop experiences that are increasingly mobile-driven. These experiences leverage IBM’s MobileFirst portfolio to take advantage of the transformational nature of mobile solutions. The combination of these capabilities and design elements hinge on insights IBM converts from data — including information on individual decisions, choices, preferences and attitudes.

In addition to the 10 new labs and four existing locations in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Toronto clients can partner with IBM Interactive Experience teams in IBM Research Labs in 12 locations around the world to personalize their every interaction with consumers.

Along with the new facilities, IBM also unveiled new data-driven innovations from IBM Interactive Experience that help business leaders gain deeper insights into individuals and transform the way customers experience their products, services and brands. IBM researchers within IBM Interactive Experience invented unique algorithms that conduct the analysis for these new capabilities.

Press release ! Core77 interview with Shannon Miller of IBM Interactive Experience

24 March 2014

Crowdfunding for design: ITC-ILO campaign for training and facilitation card set

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Are you a trainer? Do you facilitate meetings?

The International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITC-ILO, a specialised, not-for-profit UN agency and an Experientia client) is currently experimenting with crowdfunding to finance a set of 60 cards featuring participatory knowledge sharing methods. The cards are a handy tool to help workshop facilitators and trainers make informed decisions about the appropriate methods, tools and resources to conduct learning activities.

The cards will feature training and facilitation methods that are frequently used by the ITC-ILO. They have been carefully selected and validated in workshops by the ITC-ILO over many years, and the full-length descriptions are currently available on their Compass website.

Since creating the Compass website, ITC-ILO has had many requests from their own trainers to create a portable tool that is easy to travel with, can be used in offline situations, and offers a brief synthesis of the selected methods.

The card set is highly useful for anyone who conducts training activities, prompting the ITC-ILO to use crowdfunding to develop the project. It not only lets demand drive the project, but offers the available knowledge to a much broader audience. Donors to the campaign receive rewards ranging from digital versions of the eventual card set to varying numbers of full printed sets. The donations will help to fund the design and printing of the cards.

The Compass card set is ideal for people who:

  • need a quick-reference tool to select the right learning methods for a workshop or training session;
  • need a quick refresher on a specific training technique, while actually running workshops and sessions;
  • want to explain to stakeholders how workshops can be participatory and what the variety of training methods can achieve;
  • want a short and visual explanation of participatory knowledge sharing methods, instead of large manuals or tools that are only available online.

Watch the video | Go to the crowdfunding campaign

24 March 2014

What is it that you do exactly?

 

When you work in user experience or one of its many subsets, you tend to hear questions about what you do a lot. UX professionals often get this inquiry from parents, prospects, neighbors, friends, or casual acquaintances.

Too often, Baruch Sachs gets the same level of confusion from clients, people who are actually paying me to provide user experience services.

“Clients who don’t exactly get what user experience is tend to fall into two camps: those who believe that I swoop in and tell them what colors to choose and those who believe that I do everything from end to end without needing to talk to anyone, ever. Their impression in that I am basically a magician who, with a wave of my wand, can either brighten up a color palette or create the next App Store—no matter what data or process I need to have.”

18 March 2014

People first, technology second. It’s time for businesses to get personal

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Todd McKinnon, CEO of Okta, explains in Re/Code how also in a business context a people-centric focus is increasingly essential.

“In order to unlock the opportunity for “people-centric” experiences and to realize the new kinds of business value those experiences can generate, IT leaders need to re-prioritize, understanding their people — employees, customers and partners — and their needs first. The technology that should serve those needs comes second. The ease at which end users are able to interact with your business and get the information they need on their terms becomes the differentiator.[...]

Experiences can now be defined by an individual’s preferences, what information people have access to at various points of time, what devices they’re able to access that information from, and the extent to which they’re allowed to interact with that information. There are a lot more rules to follow — and businesses are under much more scrutiny by which rules are enforced. The only relics of the old world are the users involved in each instance, but even that variable has gotten more diverse and outspread.”

17 March 2014

Six ways to design humanity and localism into Smart Cities

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A long post by Rick Robinson, Executive Architect at IBM specialising in emerging technologies and Smarter Cities, admonishes Smart Cities planners and designers not to overlook the social needs of cities and communities. After all, he says, the full purpose of cities is: to enable a huge number of individual citizens to live not just safe, but rewarding lives with their families.

His well thought-through and experience based reasoning is very much worth a read and ends with an in-depth discussion of six practical steps:

  1. Make institutions accessible
  2. Make infrastructure and technology accessible
  3. Support collaborative innovation
  4. Promote open systems
  5. Provide common services
  6. Establish governance of the information economy
16 March 2014

Why smart cities need an urgent reality check

Cities: smart 3, boston

Responsive urban technology sounds enticing but citizens must not be disconnected from plans drawn up on their behalf, argues Gary Graham in The Guardian.

“It’s not clear at the moment whether future cities are strategic experiments for [large companies such as IBM, Samsung, Cisco and Intel], or if they are genuinely catalysing the regeneration of inner cities. To investigate some of these visions, I went to MIT in Boston for three months last year. The aim was to find out how people would get their goods and services in the city of the future, and how we we get everyone to engage with city plans.

We decided to test out some ideas with the inner-city communities of Boston in a series of workshops. We essentially combined science fact and science fiction by presenting them with a Boston set in 2037, based on current technological trends projected forward through several imagined scenarios.

We combined the traditional science fiction ideas of utopia and dystopia with realistic technological trends such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing and big data and asked Bostonians to come up with fictional stories about their life in these environments.”

And the answers were quite to the point:

“Workshop participants felt smart cities were rather utopian concepts growing from a vision put forward by one group of businesses. There was general agreement that there were often many visions for the city, but “at the moment it’s the rich and powerful who determine that future vision.”

Many were troubled by the notion that people would live in a city purely because of its technology capabilities and thought there were lots of other important social and cultural reasons influencing people’s decisions to live or work somewhere. Just because these urban centres could offer us new ways of living in the future does not negate the importance of the natural environment, history and legacy.”

12 March 2014

A UX view of the future of mobile networks and systems

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The latest post of the User Experience Lab at Ericsson Research presents a UX view of the future of mobile networks and systems.

“The “Remote Control over Mobile Networks” concept is one of several concepts that we have defined in a longer term research project called “UX of future networks”, which is currently ongoing. The main scope for the project is for us at the UX Lab to investigate the next generation of networks and systems (such as 5G) from an UX perspective.”

10 March 2014

Observing the technologists

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Nick Seaver, a PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology at UC Irvine, makes the case for the importance of “studying up“: doing ethnographies not only of disempowered groups, but of groups who wield power in society, like technology developers. This project focuses on the development of algorithmic music recommendation systems.

“Just as ethnography is an excellent tool for showing how “users” are more complicated than one might have thought, it is also useful for understanding the processes through which technologies get built. By turning an ethnographic eye to the designers of technology — to their social and cultural lives, and even to their understandings of users — we can get a more nuanced picture of what goes on under the labels “big data” or “algorithms.” For outsiders interested in the cultural ramifications of technologies like recommender systems, this perspective is crucial for making informed critiques. For developers themselves, being the subject of ethnographic research provides a unique opportunity for reflection and self-evaluation.”

Now I am curious what his research results actually showed.

9 March 2014

Swedish inspirations on design for public policy

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The Forum for Social Innovation Sweden is a meeting place for academia, industry, government, civic society and non-profit organisations in Sweden striving to develop social innovation and social entrepreneurship.

As part of its mission to share news, information, network and what is happening within this field, in Sweden and globally, it is worth calling attention to a few of its events and publications:

Event

Designing Publics, Public Designing
On the 27th an 28th of January, the Forum for Social innovation Sweden, at Malmö University and partners organised an international seminar on the subject of design and social innovation for public policy.
Synthesis article | Report | Conference video

Publications

Public and collaborative, Exploring the intersection of design, social innovation and public policy
Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability, DESIS, has published a public and collaborative book presenting reflections on efforts of DESIS Labs in Europe, Canada, and the United States.

The Power of the Collective
Research article by Andi Sharma that explores how social enterprise and non-profits can fully realize the potential of co-location communities.

> More publications

7 March 2014

The Great Convergence

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Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path argues that the constellations in the user experience field are shifting and that we are experiencing some sort of collision of three different “galaxies”:

“The customer experience community developed out of the marketing and customer support functions in organizations — in other words, the people traditionally mandated to pay attention to customer needs. They’ve led the charge in helping organizations create operational strategies based on measuring customer feedback, and along the way have developed a sophisticated understanding of how to make the business case for experience design initiatives.

Originally championed by a handful of academic design programs, and finding success in the public sector in Europe, service design has now made the jump to the commercial sphere. The service design community wrestles with the operational implications of delivering services by a variety of means, including those messy, ephemeral human-to-human experiences.

Meanwhile, user experience design has pushed beyond its origins in digital product design. More and more people have discovered that the UX toolkit, with its emphasis on the human context of use, isn’t particular to digital products. As a result, the discourse about UX has expanded to encompass the wider world of products of all kinds.”

Either we fight it. Or we embrace it. Obviously Garrett endorses the latter.

7 March 2014

Search results on travel sites: examples and best practices

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Search results pages on travel sites should help customers to find the best deal for them without having to work too hard.

Graham Charlton of Econsultancy looked at a range of search tools from travel websites, which highlighted the importance of flexibility when users search for travel.

For this review he is looking at flight search, but the lessons apply equally to hotel and general holiday search.

He argues that the challenge lies in effective filtering and sorting of results, as well as a presentation style that allows for easy comparison. It’s not always easy though.

These are, according to him, the features of effective search results pages:

  • Ability to sort results. Users should be able to order results according to their own preferences. This may be price and duration of flights, departure times and more.
  • Presentation of results. The default display option should allow users to easily make sense of the information presented. Users should also have options to alter the display to suit their needs.
  • Filtering of results. Users need a good range of options to refine their results.
    Speed. Results should load quickly, and adding and removing of filters should also be smooth.
  • Clarity of pricing. This isn’t always easy for third party aggregator sites, but it can be very frustrating to see what looks to be a good price, only to find lots of extras added by the time you reach the checkout.
  • Quick link to change original search. Searches may produce a small number of results, or the user may not be satisfied, so make it easy for them to amend their search with a clear link.
6 March 2014

How collaborating with patients improves hospital care

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The Guardian reports on how a new UK project where patients and NHS staff work together to improve services shows that even small changes can have a big impact on the quality of care.

The project, with an impossibly long name, has been designed by academics from Oxford university’s health experience research group and studies patients’ experience of illness. Working with professor Glenn Robert at King’s College London, who had developed a new approach to help the NHS make better use of patient feedback, the Oxford academics compiled short videos about patients’ experiences of intensive care and lung cancer services.

They formed the basis for small group discussions between medical staff, managers, patients and relatives who identified priorities for change, many of which were then implemented.

Download background materials

6 March 2014

The user experience of enterprise technology

 

Most big businesses globally are locked into some kind of reliance on enterprise technology. Unfortunately such systems are not only fiendishly difficult to install and maintain, but often equally challenging for the workforce to use. So asks Rob Gilham, why is the user experience of enterprise systems so bad, when the stakes are so high?

“The problem from a user experience perspective is that enterprise systems are generally procured and implemented with the focus purely on solving problems for the business with little attention paid to who the users are and how they want to work. [...]

The result of this lack of user-awareness is that enterprise IT vendors and their business customers often build unfounded assumptions about users into the system – which in turn can lead to a deeply flawed user experience. The consequences of being wrong on this kind of scale can be highly damaging. Companies can find themselves stuck for years with the legacy of a difficult to use, inefficient system with higher-than-expected ongoing costs for user training and helpdesk support to compensate.”

(via InfoDesign)

5 March 2014

De l’importance de l’ethnographie appliquée aux technologies

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For once a post in French!

Hubert Guillaud of InternetActu describes some examples – mostly from the recent EPIC conference – of the great contribution of ethnography in focusing our gaze on real life practices, in pointing out that what technologists do not see, and in explaining how the strictly technological gaze often fails. ["Le grand apport de l’ethnographie est de renverser notre regard sur les pratiques en pointant du doigt ce que les technologues ne voient pas, d’expliquer en quoi le regard strictement technologique bien souvent, échoue."]

“L’ethnographie est une méthode des sciences sociales consistant en l’étude descriptive et analytique, sur le terrain, des moeurs, coutumes et pratiques de populations déterminées. Longtemps cantonnés aux populations primitives, les sociologues, anthropologues et ethnologues ont depuis les années 70 élargies l’usage de ces méthodes à bien d’autres terrains, et notamment à l’étude de nos pratiques quotidiennes, afin de mieux comprendre “les expériences humaines en contexte”. Parmi les repères de la conception ethnographique appliquée à la technologie, citons au moins le travail pionnier de Lucy Suchman au Xerox Parc dès les années 90, ou celui de Genevieve Bell qui poursuit ce travail chez Intel et qui a signé, avec Tony Salvador et Ken Anderson, en 1999, l’un des articles fondateur de l’ethnographie appliquée aux questions technologiques.

Depuis 2011, le site Questions d’Ethnographie (ethnomatters) interroge ces nouvelles pratiques de l’ethnographie et permet à de jeunes chercheurs de discuter la tension entre l’ethnographie universitaire et l’ethnographie appliquée, tel que de plus en plus d’ethnologues la pratiquent. Pour eux, si l’ethnographie est importante, c’est parce qu’elle aide à maintenir “le développement technologique réel”, concret.

Récemment, le site a publié une série d’exemples tirés de présentations qui se sont déroulées lors de la conférence Epic 2013 qui avait lieu en septembre dernier à Londres, une conférence sur la pratique ethnographique dans le monde des affaires (voir le brouillon non finalisé des actes (.pdf)), qui éclaire d’une manière concrète l’intérêt de l’ethnographie appliquée. Le grand apport de l’ethnographie est de renverser notre regard sur les pratiques en pointant du doigt ce que les technologues ne voient pas, d’expliquer en quoi le regard strictement technologique bien souvent, échoue. Prenons quelques exemples pour mieux comprendre les enjeux.”

5 March 2014

Campaign: Mobile card set of facilitation and training techniques

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Are you a trainer? Do you facilitate meetings?

Help the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (an Experientia client) to develop a mobile card set of 60 participatory knowledge sharing methods and technologies that you can use in any of your upcoming workshops or meetings. The cards will help you to make informed decisions about developing learning activities and choosing the appropriate methods, tools and resources to conduct them.

Watch the video | Go to the crowdfunding campaign

5 March 2014

Designers Toolkit: Capturing research | Using video in research

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Lauren Ruiz of Cooper in San Francisco has published two new instalments of the Designers Toolkit:

A Primer On Capturing Research
How you choose to conduct and capture your research will greatly impact your outcomes, and ultimately your client outcomes. I’m going to highlight a variety of research capturing tools, and then we’ll have a future post about how to effectively videotape research. Both the type of research you’re conducting and its purpose will help you decide which capture method is best.

A Primer On Using Video In Research
How can you effectively use video in your research without influencing the participants?
Here are some tips and tricks to minimize the impact of using video in research engagements. Keep in mind, these tips are focused on conducting research in North America—the rules of engagement will vary based on where you are around the world.

5 March 2014

Experientia’s mini-doc for the UN’s International Labour Organization

 

The first destination: The path to decent work in rural economies
Experientia’s short documentary for the UN’s International Labour Organization

It’s always a pleasure to work on a project that is out of the ordinary. Experientia’s short documentary for the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) was not only a rare opportunity for our communications team to take centre stage on a project, it was also a chance to collaborate with a non-profit organisation with a global mission to do good that we solidly support.

The ILO promotes rights at work, encourages decent employment opportunities, enhances social protection and strengthens dialogue on work-related issues. It does this all over the world, combatting forced labour, child labour and unfair conditions, and ensuring that people have the opportunities and skills to rise beyond poverty, through decent work.

Experientia has worked on numerous occasions with the International Training Centre arm of the ILO (the ITC-ILO). In late 2013, an internal ILO group that focuses particularly on building work skills and decent work in rural areas commissioned us to create a short video, showcasing the work the ILO was doing in rural Vietnam.

So in November 2013, two Experientia collaborators travelled to Vietnam, to visit rural villages in Quang Nam province where the local farmers had been developing the skills to run community-based tourism programs, and rattan and cloth weaving cooperatives. The programs put skills development and work creation into the hands of the local people, so that they can improve their income sustainably and autonomously. This desire to ensure people are actively engaged in ILO programs is captured perfectly by Huyen Thi Nguyen, the ILO In-land Tourism National Project Coordinator, at the end of the video: “We always say that people are the first destination in tourism.”

The video’s narrative was developed by Erin O’Loughlin, part of Experientia’s communications team. Yohan Erent and SeungJun Jeong, from Experientia’s design team, developed infographics and motion graphics, to illustrate some of the more theoretical concepts of the ILO’s work.

The video itself is beautifully shot in HD cinema-quality film by Experientia collaborators Marco Mion and Andry Verga, and features interviews with the local villagers against a backdrop of rice fields, temples, and farmland, the ever-present water a reminder of the hardships for subsistence farmers in this lush yet challenging landscape.

The full 8 minute version of the film is now on Experientia’s YouTube and Vimeo channels. A 5 minute version is planned for the near future.

5 March 2014

Has privacy become a luxury good?

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Julia Angwin, a senior reporter at ProPublica, writes in the New York Times about how it takes a lot of money and time to avoid hackers and data miners.

“In our data-saturated economy, privacy is becoming a luxury good. After all, as the saying goes, if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product. And currently, we aren’t paying for very much of our technology.

Not long ago, we would have bought services as important to us as mail and news. Now, however, we get all those services for free — and we pay with our personal data, which is spliced and diced and bought and sold.”

But, she asks, do we want privacy to be something that only those with disposable money and time can afford?

5 March 2014

Reflecting on anthropology and design

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A few weeks back I wrote that Rachel Carmen Ceasar (@rceasara) is running a short series on Savage Minds that features interviews with design researchers, ethnographic hackers, and field work makers with their take on anthropology and design.

Besides her interview with Nicolas Nova, she has now published a couple more interviews:

Anne Galloway – designer, ethnographer, archaeologist
For Anne, the most interesting connection between anthropology and design can be found in how each practice enhances the other. Anthropology provides a kind of thick description that contextualises design processes and products, and design offers anthropology creative means of exploring and representing what it means to be human. She also enjoys the explicit combination of thinking, doing, and making—of blurring boundaries between analytical and creative practice, between rational and emotional experience.

Note Anne’s use of apps:
I record all my interviews with an app called Highlight, which I like because I can flag interesting points during the conversation and return to them later, without interrupting the flow. I do a lot of note-taking, using a regular paper notebook or an app called iA Writer (because that’s where I do most of my writing these days, including right now).”

Silvia Lindtner – DIY maker, hacker, and ethnographic design researcher
Can making and designing for a living also be critical? In which ways? How does critical design in production differ from the kind of critical design we know today?