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Posts in category 'Usability'

22 November 2010

Video message by Experientia’s Michele Visciola at World Usability Day 2010 in Japan

WUD Japan
Experientia president Michele Visciola was invited to send a video message to the World Usability Day 2010 event in Tokyo, Japan.

Michele, who is also European Regional Coordinator for the Usability Professional’s Association, spoke on the event’s theme of communication, and the relationship between communication and usability in research and design activities.

In this short video (with Japanese subtitles), Michele explains how both communication and usability practices boil down to gaining the trust of the customer.

2 November 2010

Lost the remote? Another reason to use an app

Remote
TV viewing habits are changing as more Internet and on-demand content — YouTube videos, streaming movies, shopping sites, Facebook photos — flows directly onto big screens, writes Joshua Brustein in the New York Times. Navigating all of that demands more action from the viewer, including a fair amount of typing, which current remotes cannot handle.

“Some in the technology industry believe that a better alternative would be to simply replace the remote with smartphone apps like the one Mr. Lavoie uses. If you create a specialized smartphone app to control a TV or set-top box, you can pack the phone’s touch screen with virtual buttons in any configuration you like. […]

[Other] companies are not sold on the idea of the smartphone as the remote of the future. They are selling a range of remotes armed with full keyboards, touch screens and motion sensors.”

Read article

2 November 2010

Smartphone form factor’s impact on usability and user satisfaction

Form factor
In a previous TechRepublic column, Debra Littlejohn Shinder stated that hardware design and features are some of the many criteria to consider when deciding which smartphone model is best for you. One aspect of hardware design is form factor, which refers to the size, weight, and shape of a device.

In this article, the author takes a deeper dive into smartphone form factors and discusses how much the form factor impacts the phone’s usability and the user’s satisfaction (or lack thereof) with the user experience.

Read article

2 November 2010

How the shift to mobile is revolutionising online news design

Guardian app
At the recent European Information Architecture Summit in Paris, Oliver Reichenstein, who has done several web design projects for Swiss newspapers, talked about how the traditional layout of the paper was very much wedded to the technology of the time, writes Martin Belam, information architect for Guardian.co.uk.

In the 19th century, if you needed to be able to accommodate sudden changes to layout caused by late breaking news, the easiest way to achieve this with physical type was to have interchangeable blocks of text with common widths. And thus we have the newspaper layout we know and, mostly, still love.

The web design of news is also deeply rooted in the technology of the time, with most major news websites optimised to work well in browsers that were released a few years ago, on desktop-shaped monitors. And most existing content management systems (CMS) are optimised around spitting out chunks of articles of broadly similar length, which are mostly displayed in the browser in broadly similar templates.

There might be the occasional dalliance with a different format, but broadly speaking, an article per page, with a strip of topic-based navigation on top is the de facto standard for delivering news online.

The growth of the smartphone market in the US and the emergence of a range of tablet devices are challenging this orthodoxy of digital news presentation.

Read article

2 November 2010

Reflections on iPad usability

iPad
The former design director for the New York Times has written a blog post giving his thoughts on magazine apps for the iPad (something he clearly gets asked about a lot), reports Mathew Ingram on GigaOm. The bottom line? He hates them. With a passion. Why? Because, Khoi Vinh says, they’re “bloated [and] user-unfriendly” and because they are largely a result of a “tired pattern of mass-media brands trying vainly to establish beachheads on new platforms, without really understanding the platforms at all.”

Related to this is the report by Jakob Nielsen on the iPad usability in general, where he critiques iPad apps being inconsistent and having low feature discoverability, with frequent user errors due to accidental gestures. An overly strong print metaphor and weird interaction styles, he says, cause further usability problems. See also this Guardian article.

24 October 2010

Usability inspection of digital libraries

Ariadne 63
Lorraine Paterson and Boon Low highlight findings from the usability inspection report conducted for the JISC-funded research project, Usability and Contemporary User Experience in Digital Libraries (UX2.0).

Demands for improved usability and developments in user experience (UX) have become pertinent due to the increasing complexities of digital libraries (DLs) and user expectations associated with the advances in Web technologies. In particular, usability research and testing are becoming necessary means to assess the current and future breeds of information environments such that they can be better understood, well-formed and validated.

Usability studies and digital library development are not often intertwined due to the existing cultural model in system development. Usability issues are likely to be addressed post-hoc or as a priori assumptions. Recent initiatives have advanced usability studies in terms of information environment development. However, significant work is still required to address the usability of new services arising from the trends in social networking and Web 2.0.

The JISC-funded project, Usability and Contemporary User Experience in Digital Libraries (UX2.0), contributes to this general body of work by enhancing a digital library through a development and evaluation framework centred on usability and contemporary user experience. Part of the project involves usability inspection and research on contemporary user experience techniques. This article highlights the findings of the usability inspection work recently conducted and reported by UX2.0. The report provided a general impression of digital library usability; notwithstanding, it revealed a range of issues, each of which merits a systematic and vigorous study. The discussion points outlined here provide a resource generally useful for the JISC Community and beyond.

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13 September 2010

A tech world that centers on the user

I live in the future & here's how it works
I live in the future & here’s how it works
Why your world, work, and brain are being creatively disrupted
by Nick Bolton
Crown Business, Sept. 2010
304 pages
Amazon

The New York Times has published an article that was adapted from the book I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works by Nick Bilton, the lead writer for The New York Times technology blog Bits. The book, to be published on Tuesday by Crown Business, examines the impact of technology on our lives.

“Now, we are always in the center of the map, and it’s a very powerful place to be.

When people want to know how the media business will deal with the Internet, the best way to begin to understand the sweeping changes is to recognize that the consumer of entertainment and information is now in the center. That center changes everything. It changes your concept of space, time and location. It changes your sense of community. It changes the way you view the information, news and data coming directly to you.

Now you are the starting point. Now the digital world follows you, not the other way around.”

Read article

6 September 2010

Juicy stories and more

UX Matters
Four new articles in today’s edition of UXmatters:

Juicy stories sell ideas
By Whitney Quesenbery and Kevin Brooks
Storytelling fits into the design process in many places. You probably know that collecting stories is key to user research and ensuring your UX designs tell a clear story makes the resulting user experiences better. But in this column, we’ll focus on that big moment when you have something to share and want everyone on your team to pay attention.

Three reasons why persuasive design isn’t enough to influence change
By Colleen Jones
While there is a lot to like about using design to improve our behavior and our world, achieving that is a tall order. If persuasive design is going to work on a large scale it needs to be complete. Colleen Jones lists three reasons why persuasive design is not enough to make all of its good intentions come to life.

Recruiting participants for unmoderated, remote user research
By Jim Ross
It seems new, online tools for conducting unmoderated, remote user research emerge every week. While this method of doing user research and these tools have generated a lot of interest and discussion, it is also important to consider how best to recruit participants for unmoderated studies. Though one might assume this would be similar to recruiting for moderated studies, very different methods of recruiting are necessary to find the large number of representative participants unmoderated studies require and convince them to participate.

Usability for mobile devices
By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain
The mobile space is the new Wild West of technology. Much like the Web during the 1990s, mobile is the new domain at the forefront of innovation. Users are discovering new capabilities, integrating them with their daily lives, and experiencing new interaction models. The tech equivalent of indie bands, independent developers—working solo or in small teams—can create innovative new software in the form of mobile applications. These apps have the potential of launching a few software engineers from dorm rooms and garages into tech giants, in the tradition of Google or Facebook. Of course, accompanying this new era of innovation is a new set of usability concerns for software that runs on mobile devices small enough to fit in your pocket, which you can use while simultaneously walking around and interacting with the world around you.

21 August 2010

Gender differences in web usability

Gender and technology
Frank Spillers thinks the User Experience community has not fully tapped the potential of gender-specific design aka Woman-centered Design.

According to Spillers, gender as an audience sensitive criteria (differentiation) is barely present in North American technology product design (where it is much easier to do) let alone Web experiences. In Asia there is more design innovation in this area, he says, and Spillers cites the example of Toshiba’s Femininity series.

Comscore just released a new study last month (June 30 2010) entitled Women on the Web: How Women are Shaping the Internet.

The worldwide study adds some key insights into the growing research on gender differences on the Web and in particular around social networking usage. Spillers reports on the key insights and their implications.

Read article

(via Usability News)

21 August 2010

It pays to be useful

50 ways
In this review of the book 50 Ways to Make Google Love Your Website, published by The Hindu, the author emphasises very strongly the importance of usefulness.

“Create your website for your users, advise Steve Johnston and Liam McGee in “50 Ways to Make Google Love Your Website“. Every design decision should be referred back to what we know about the users of the site, not simply to the beliefs, prejudices or even brilliant insights of the site owner or the site?s designer, the authors urge.

In this user-centred world you can only pursue your goals through supporting the goals your users have, because your users don’t start on your home page; they start at Google, as reads a sobering thought in the book. Typically, the users type in a query that reflects their goal, and the pages that Google returns will be those that Google believes supports that goal, namely the most ‘useful’ pages it can find.

And if the users arrive on your site and do not immediately see something that suggests their goal will be supported, they will leave, the authors caution. Reminding that the web is a pull medium, not a push medium, they note that the power is with the user, not the site owner, which is why it is more important to design for their goals than for yours.”

Read article

21 June 2010

On ethnography and balance scorecards

UX Matters
Three new articles have been published on the UX Matters site:

Ethnography in UX
by Nathanael Boehm, user experience and social interaction designer for the Australian Government, Canberra, Australia
“In this article, I want to look at ways in which UX professionals can conduct research, usability testing, and evaluation for the upper rungs of the Human-Tech Ladder—the social elements of technology design and how people interact with a particular technology while working together within an organization.”

User Experience Balance Scorecard
by Sean Van Tyne, user experience director at FICO
“As user experience becomes more established as part of an organization’s overall strategy, a comprehensive Balance Scorecard must include user experience. It would be beneficial for UX leaders within organizations to understand the Balance Scorecard system and how to map their UX groups’ objectives to their organizations’ business strategies.”

International UPA 2010 Conference: Research Themes and Trends
by Michael Hawley, VP Experience Design at Mad*Pow Media Solutions LLC
“For the first time in its history, the International Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA) conference took place outside of North America. […] Unfortunately, it was impossible to attend all of the sessions, but in this conference recap, I will outline several trends I recognized.”

12 June 2010

Using stories for a better user experience

Storytelling
Whitney Quesenbery and Kevin Brooks, authors of the book “Storytelling for User Experience: Crafting Stories for Better Design”, describe how storytelling can help you collect, analyze and share user research information.

“Stories can help you collect, analyze and share qualitative information from user research and usability, spark design imagination and keep in touch with your audience. Storytelling and story listening are not a new methodology, but something you can add to your current practice to deepen and richen your understanding of users and their experience.

Three places where stories are a good fit are:

  • Collecting stories from your audience to create a richer picture of how, when and why they use your products and documentation.
  • Adding stories to personas to share your audience analysis, blending facts and information to make an emotional connection.
  • Using stories for more naturalistic usability testing (planning those stories, or gathering them on the spot).”

Read articles: WritersUA | Johnny Holland

11 June 2010

Poor user experience with smart meters a risk for energy suppliers

Smart meters
Smart meters represent a fork in the road for energy suppliers; engage with customers now and build value-added experiences that re-energise the supplier-consumer relationship, or do nothing and run the risk of third parties exploiting customer data and further eroding brand loyalty.

This white paper on smart meters by Foolproof explores potential applications of smart meters, and the opportunities this rich data source could create beyond basic energy consumption monitoring. A number of scenarios were presented to typical UK energy consumers to explore their potential impact.

The implications being that energy suppliers need to think and act now about how they will use smart meter data to strengthen and deepen customer relationships using the clues in this report. To do this, supply companies need to quickly promote customer experience to being a senior discipline.

Read article

2 June 2010

Videos of IIT Design Research Conference

DRC
Videos of the recent IIT Design Research Conference are currently being uploaded. Here is the list of the presentations (alphabetical by speaker’s last name), with video links (where available):

Tim Brown | IDEO (conference bio)
We’re all design researchers now (34:15)

Solving some of society’s biggest challenges today will require large scale behavior change. Tim will talk about putting design thinking into the hands of everyone to inspire change and tackle the world’s biggest problems.

Allan Chochinov | Core77 (conference bio)
First Person Plural: The value of getting it from the horse’s mouth (24:15)

In a maturing world of design research methodologies, the value of primary research cannot be overstated. This talk will move through a series of student-initiated projects, each triggered by a singular, profound insight or leveraged to an engagement with a community far beyond the designer’s anticipated reach. We will discuss specific techniques for soliciting input from target audiences, and ways to recognize the good stuff when you see it. It all starts with the first person.

Joyce Chou | Core77
The steampunk solution to disruptive technology (14:04)

Martha Cotton | gravitytank (conference bio)
Accidents and Plans: A few good tools for collaboration (25:47)

Once upon a time, marketers saw truth mostly in numbers. But there have been some key shifts in the last 10 or so years: Design Research has broken out of its niche status and quantitative research has been stripped of its compulsory status. Design research has moved to the mainstream; quantitative research has become but one of many tools for decision making.
“Truth” about consumers is now found in many ways: stories, photos, video, quotes, anecdotes, sketches, conceptual frameworks, and more. Accompanying this shift our community has developed, and will continue to develop, more useful and interesting ways to gather qualitative data.
This talk explores a variety of compelling ways we are now able to gather qualitative data. She also expands the context to explore ways other phases in the qualitative research lifecycle can be done in more rich and effective ways including participant recruiting, analysis, and accessing project data over time.

Erica Eden | Smart Design, Femme Den (conference bio)
Sex Ed: Clients, Designers, and Everyone Else (27:40)

Why is gender important? Smart Design’s Femme Den explores the gap between assumptions and realities about women. As practicing designers and design researchers, we apply new ways to design for the elusive women’s market. To create products and experiences that women love, we must better understand their lives, as well as our clients’ objectives and designers’ perspectives. In this talk, we will be sharing our methodologies to meet the needs of and effectively communicate with these three interconnected groups.

Kim Erwin | IIT Institute of Design (conference bio)
Diane Fraley | D.S. Fraley Associates (conference bio)
Our world is flat, too: the paradigm shift of online research (30:08)

When Thomas Friedman declared the world flat, in his seminal book by the same name, he summarized the dramatic shift in commerce and competition across the globe brought about by the Internet. This technology, he notes, puts nearly everything within reach of nearly everyone, and our global economy is now essentially free of geographic restraints—it’s a level playing field. What’s to become of us of all, he asks?
We should be asking this, too. As with most professions, the Internet is reshaping the landscape of user research. This is happening on two levels: the business model of user research, and the practice model of user research.
On the business side, large online research houses are capturing a growing portion of research work, leveraging economies of scale and exclusive contracts designed to appeal to the finance people inside organizations.
On the practice side, research design has become a vastly more complex and interesting proposition. The Internet and digital media combine to form a powerful set of new data collection tools, while also giving us access to participants across geographies and time zones.
The new playing field dramatically expands what’s possible: Micro-blogging, asynchronous video, synchronous video, video diaries, remote activity monitoring—we can now do it all, all at once. As researchers, we can be everywhere at the same time. We can instantly review data collected remotely. We can have intimate contact with participants while miles apart.
All of this challenges our research processes and logic—“web work” now joins “field work” to reshape the paradigm for bringing producers closer to their consumers. How do we leverage this new paradigm to enrich research design and the resulting data? How might we use “web work” to deliver against objectives in an increasingly time-constrained development environment? How does our new reach inform user research for strategy development—one of the bigger frontiers of practice.
In this talk, Diane Fraley and Kim Erwin share a new approach that hybridizes “field work” and “web work.” Working with graduate students at the Institute of Design, Kim and Diane designed and executed the first phase of a multi-phase, exploratory project—integrating multiple online technologies to deliver a picture of how shopping behavior is rapidly shifting as early majorities adopt the Internet and smart phones to manage their homes.

Heather Fraser | Rotman DesignWorks (conference bio)
Design (Research) as a Shared Platform (video not yet available)

We live in a world where VUCA is the new acronym for ‘Holy cow, this is a tough nut to crack.” Faced with complex challenges, design, and most critically design research, is not only an important field for new methodologies and tools; it is also a shared platform for building a common campfire and a shared understanding of the purpose and actions for all organizations. Through our work at Rotman DesignWorks with students of all disciplines and executives across all functions, we have witnessed the power of shared discoveries and appreciation for design research as the foundation and fuel for creating new value and mobilizing organizations to rise to today’s challenges.

Usman Haque | Pachube (conference bio)
Notes on the design of participatory systems – for the city or for the planet (25:42)

Cooperation is difficult. Even when everybody agrees on an end goal, and even when everybody agrees on what is needed to achieve that end goal, it does not mean that everyone (or even anyone) will be able to take the first step, which is the most important step. The talk discusses the paradoxical structures of collaboration and ways that the paradoxes can be harnessed, illustrated occasionally with concrete examples from past work.

Cathy Huang | China Bridge International (conference bio)
Looking Inward: Design Research in China (25:17)

Conducting design research in an emerging market like China takes cultural understanding, patience, along with a level of empathy that is not normally gained overnight. In this presentation, Cathy Huang will take an inward look at China to bring forward key challenges that China Bridge International (CBi) is encountering while trying to gain insight through design research in China.
How does Social Conformity, Confucius, Utilitarianism and the belief that concealing ones economic status create obstacles for gaining insight in China? How does a research project navigate the many cultural, social, psychographic, and geographical differences when doing research in China?
These represent a few of the questions Cathy will discuss in her presentation. The background and foundation for her thoughts and perspectives are presented from the findings of many cases studies and experiences gained from her work at CBi — an insight-based innovation and design strategy firm.

Stokes Jones | Lodestar (conference bio)
Stokes Jones: Getting Embedded: In Search of Alt-innovation (video not yet available)

Whatever innovation process you favor, chances are it’s a relatively ‘top-down’ one. In this presentation, I will explore the roots of, and a working model for, an alternative type of innovation that is ‘bottom-up’ and anthropologically grounded. What we call “embedded innovation” is not something companies do to the world – after a staged series of research and workshop events – but a cultural process that people are continually unfolding in the world over time. In this approach, the key focus for design research and strategy becomes ‘attunement’ not invention – identifying the embedded innovation already taking place in a context or marketspace, then aligning to and enhancing it.
We look at cases of how this method has been applied cross-culturally by Lodestar; for researching with P&G the design of new over-the-counter medicines in South Africa; for social networking in Brazil, as well as by comparison to a familiar household product in the US. We will then consider the implications of complementing the usual ‘heroic’, company-led innovation with this more humble form. We believe research into embedded innovation leads to solutions that are truly human centered and empathic because it connects people to the value inherent in proposed products and services by designing offers from the inside out of their own ‘folk models’ and situated practices.

Anjali Kelkar | Studio for Design Research (conference bio)
Getting the most out of design research in Asia (24:46)

How can the Design Research practice uncover and understand cultural nuances of consumers in new markets better? Also, does this practice the way we conduct it in the West, really work in China and India? Do we need new tools or do we need to approach this practice differently? The talk will address the above questions with case studies from various projects.

Gerald Lombardi | Hall & Partners (conference bio)
The deskilling of ethnographic labor: an emerging predicament and a possible solution (11:10)

An oft-stated rule in the world of design has been, “Good, fast, cheap: pick two”. The success of ethnography as a support to design, branding and marketing has forced this rule into action with a vengeance. Companies now demand that more and more ethnographic knowledge be produced in ever-shorter timeframes and on ever-lower budgets. Our work output has become a mass production item, and the pressure is on. Ethnographers like me find that our Ph.D.s and cosmopolitan outlooks are scant protection as we undergo the same process experienced by many other highly trained workers over the past two centuries: job deskilling.
Job deskilling is a two-edged sword that brings opportunity and misery at the same time, though not always to the same people. Without taking a position on merits or demerits, in my talk I will first review the mechanisms of professional deskilling as the manufacture of ethnographic output has expanded. I will also give examples from my experience as someone who is on both sides of the issue, often finding my own work situation deskilled, and sometimes required by business objectives to submit others to that kind of regime.
The resulting picture is a bit grim. Are those of us who practice ethnography for industry condemned to the same fate as the skilled automobile craftsmen of Detroit circa 1908? (They were replaced by machines, and now there are 680 million motor vehicles on Earth.) And are the outputs of our creative research destined to be commoditized, to the sad detriment of the products we help bring into the world? Perhaps not. So much is made these days of the need for disruptive innovation — what if we apply that outlook to the conditions of our own labor? I have in mind a collusion between ethnographic laborers and their more enlightened employers, in the service of a better paradigm, a realignment of “Good, fast, cheap” so there’s a chance for more “Good” to peek through.
But that’s impossible, right? Business would never stand for it…. To the contrary, I assert that the material conditions of global production are soon going to require a disruptive change regardless of what the business world thinks. I explain what and why that is, and urge that we make our new professional motto this one: “Why pay less?”

Doug Look | Autodesk (conference bio)
Up in the Air (15:54)

What’s next? Perhaps we need to go beyond the discovery aspects of design research and now focus on ways to go beyond, to figure out ways of executing and delivering real business success. Instead of declaring that Design Research has won or that there’s widespread acceptance, we might want to pause a bit for some reflection on how to take the critical next steps toward implementation and execution. And here’s a hint–it isn’t easy.
What have been effective methods and tools from within a corporate environment? What are some of the challenges you might face within an engineering-centered organization? Where is the scarcity and what skill sets provide utility? Doug Look will reflect on insights gathered over the past five years in his journey from an academic setting at the Institute of Design to an engineered-centered corporate culture.

Bill Lucas | LUMA Institute, MAYA Design (conference bio)
Encouraging everyone (from K through CEO) to look with care (video not yet available)

As the field of design research matures, an exciting new activity is emerging. Seasoned practitioners are extending their knowledge and passion to non-specialists of various ages and backgrounds. In this talk, I will present stories from LUMA Institute, an educational venture dedicated to helping everyone from K through CEO learn and apply the practices of Human-Centered Design (including the critical activity of looking and listening with care). I’ll talk about the wonderful things that happen when experienced professionals facilitate workshops aimed at raising the awareness and competence of people from all walks of life.

Dominick J. Misino | NYPD (conference bio)
Building Rapport: Lessons from a Hostage Negotiator (30:42)

Don Norman | Nielsen Norman Group (conference bio)
The Research-Practice Gulf (40:22)

There is a great gulf between the research community and practice. Moreover, there is often a great gull between what designers do and what industry needs. We believe we know how to do design, but this belief is based more on faith than on data, and this belief reinforces the gulf between the research community and practice.
I find that the things we take most for granted are seldom examined or questioned. As a result, it is often our most fundamental beliefs that are apt to be wrong.
In this talk, deliberately intended to be controversial. I examine some of our most cherished beliefs. Examples: design research helps create breakthrough products; complexity is bad and simplicity good; there is a natural chain from research to product.

Sona Patadia-Rao | PDT (conference bio)
Lisa Yanz | PDT (conference bio)
A Case Study: The Collaborative Redesign of the Perkins Brailler (28:28)

“Good Design” means something different to everyone, especially to an audience that experiences the world through their fingertips. As designers we are accustomed to immersing ourselves into the lives of our targeted users and pulling out meaning, values and aspirations. However, when the targeted audience interprets the world in an unique way, the design team’s methodology need to be flexible, conclusions are never final and bringing the users into the fold of the process is essential.
Through this discussion attendees hear the development story of redesigning the fully mechanical Next Generation Perkins Braille Writer for the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown MA. This device is the “pen and paper” for the visually impaired community, making it an essential teaching tool worldwide. The original Perkins Brailler was designed in the 1940’s, has over 600 moving parts, and has remained the unchanged, extremely reliable workhorse for decades.
We look to tell the story honestly, addressing successes, stumbles, surprises and how we were changed both professional and personally by the experience. This is a case study in blurring the formalized lines between research, design and engineering to create a product that meets the needs of a very adaptable and impressive user group.

Ron Pierce | Stuart Karten Design (conference bio)
360-Degree Research (video not yet available)

The power of design research lies in its connection to the end user. But too often, the focus on the end user is watered down as a product passes through many hands on its way to production. Ron Pierce proposes an alternate model of 360-degree research— an ongoing process in which researchers engage with the client and the end user throughout product development, putting solutions through rigorous testing at multiple phases.
Sharing the story of Stuart Karten Design’s engagement with hearing aid manufacturer Starkey Laboratories, Inc., Ron will show how a 360-degree research process can provide better results for the end user and significant financial returns for the corporation.
During a three-year strategic partnership with Starkey, Ron and his team at SKD have collaborated to develop products that greatly improve a frustrating end user experience. By continually engaging with stakeholders, distribution channels and a wide range of hearing aid wearers during various stages of the product development process, from foundational research through evaluative testing of functional prototypes, Ron and his team have reinvented Starkey’s product line with a focus on the user.
He shared SKD’s 360-degree research process, which recently culminated with the introduction of Starkey’s S Series hearing aid, featuring a touch-activated control proven to solve one of users’ most poignant frustrations. The first-of-its-kind innovation has increased Starkey’s market share and cemented the company’s position as a global leader.

Heather Reavey | Continuum (conference bio)
Envisioning Breakthrough Ideas (video not yet available)

A deep understanding of people is one lens that inspires designers to envision new experiences. Moving from inspiration to impact is another matter. What is a breakthrough idea, and how can you deliver it in a way that makes your audience believe? This session is all about big ideas: where they come from, how you know when you might have a game-changer. And how you can use design and storytelling to communicate a new opportunity in an experiential, emotional, human way that motivates clients and organizations to become advocates of change.

Rick E. Robinson | Sideriver Ventures (conference bio)
Crankiness is Overrated: Good Work is Harder Than Grumbling (28:15)

When we take hold of a powerful tool and use it to shape the daily lives of real people, we are laid under an obligation, a responsibility, to understand not only how that shaping could affect those daily lives, but how it should do so. The “good” in “good design” has, in the last twenty years or so, migrated from the relatively simple appreciation of an end-product’s formal properties to include the ways in which a product becomes what it is: the process of designing. In the course of that migration, “users” and “experience” have become central to the way design works, to how the things which it produces are evaluated. Under any number of labels (“user-centered design research”, “ethnographics,” “anthrojournalism” and so on) the (largely) social sciences-derived research which informs the work of design has grown into a small industry of its own. Taken as a whole, design research has resulted in a collective paying of more attention to people rather than less. That’s a ‘good’ in pretty much anyone’s book. But it is also, in practice, a bit like supposing that because an M.D. is doing rounds, looking into patients’ rooms and signing the charts, good medical care is being practiced. If designers have been less than explicit about the values that inform the choices they make, it seems that design research as a whole has been even less so. The most widely accepted ‘point’ of design research is to inform the work of design. To provide a basis from which the work of design, development, and strategy can proceed. It is a bit circular: we do research to inform the process of design, which requires that we understand the users. Circular or not, it would be just fine if what was required to “inform” design were no more than a scan of current conditions. A pH strip dipped in the pool. A thumb licked and held up in the breeze. But the best design work doesn’t need the thumb in the air; good designers or teams or practices are usually plugged in and working at the ragged front end anyway. What we need from research is more than description, and especially, more than a list of “needs,” explicit or implicit, met or unmet. We need a way to explicitly articulate the values that inform those decisions, and a basis on which to do so.

Kevin Starr | Rainer Arnhold Fellows (conference bio)
Design for (Real) Social Impact (24:56)

Designing a product that will make life better for the poor isn’t easy. You can’t just design a cool product that works; you have to make sure it will get into the hands of those who need it most and that it will be used to good effect. As investors in tools and products to benefit the poor – and get them out of poverty – we’ve developed an approach to vetting product ideas that is based on the successes and failures we’ve seen over the years. We’ve found that using it in the design phase can help avoid the pitfalls that waste effort and money, and ensure that good ideas turn into real impact.

Rob Tannen | Bresslergroup (conference bio)
Design Research Tools for the Physical World (25:28)

In 2008 Rob presented an overview of the latest in digital user research technology, including the FieldCREW tablet concept. This year he is back to discuss tools and techniques to capture physical behavior, which is essential for the design of gestural, interactive devices.
The presentation includes:
* An introduction to “observational ergonomics” so researchers can qualitatively identify design problems and opportunities
* Demonstrations and reviews of the latest tech tools for conducting user research, including tactile sensing and wireless information tagging

Helen Walters | Bloomberg Businessweek (conference bio)
Wrap-up of Day One of DRC 2010 (13:36)

Eric Wilmot | Wolff Olins (conference bio)
How Fast? 21st Century Approach To Speed & Innovation (24:58)

Over the past decade design-thinking and user-insight practices have grown to become integral process within the worlds top organizations. This has lead to product, digital, and brand innovation consultancies to differentiate their services by framing new ways of doing things.
During the last decade we have witnessed a layering of methodologies and activities in an attempt to differentiate how we discover, define, design, and deliver new solutions. Ironically, over much of this same time, the process itself has remained an assumption for practitioners across the business community.
Overall, what challenges exist for the next generation of research methods when applied to a process model that was born before the Internet? Nimble clients are making it difficult for consultancies to keep up. Demand for faster launches is challenging the effectiveness of traditional processes. Technology is shifting control where offerings can be “pulled” into the market, reducing risk from the traditional “push” model.
The business environment is demanding change. This talk will highlight new client demands and market forces that are reframing the question from “How might design-thinking be better used within the current development process?” to “How might the process itself be changed to enable new and better uses for design-thinking and research?”

28 May 2010

Usability and user experience in digital libraries

Ariadne
Lorraine Paterson and Boon Low of the UK National e-Science Centre at the University of Edinburgh highlight findings from the usability inspection report they conducted for the JISC-funded research project, Usability and Contemporary User Experience in Digital Libraries (UX2.0). The article was published in Ariadne, the UK web magazine for information professionals in archives, libraries and museums.

“Demands for improved usability and developments in user experience (UX) have become pertinent due to the increasing complexities of digital libraries (DLs) and user expectations associated with the advances in Web technologies. In particular, usability research and testing are becoming necessary means to assess the current and future breeds of information environments such that they can be better understood, well-formed and validated.

Usability studies and digital library development are not often intertwined due to the existing cultural model in system development. Usability issues are likely to be addressed post-hoc or as a priori assumptions. Recent initiatives have advanced usability studies in terms of information environment development. However, significant work is still required to address the usability of new services arising from the trends in social networking and Web 2.0.

The JISC-funded project, Usability and Contemporary User Experience in Digital Libraries (UX2.0), contributes to this general body of work by enhancing a digital library through a development and evaluation framework centred on usability and contemporary user experience. Part of the project involves usability inspection and research on contemporary user experience techniques. This article highlights the findings of the usability inspection work recently conducted and reported by UX2.0. The report provided a general impression of digital library usability; notwithstanding, it revealed a range of issues, each of which merits a systematic and vigorous study. The discussion points outlined here provide a resource generally useful for the JISC Community and beyond.”

Read article

9 May 2010

Homesense project launched

Homesense
Tinker London (the team promoting the use of Arduino in design) started a collaboration with EDF R&D on Homesense, an open user-centered research project investigating the use of smart and networked technologies in the home.

Homesense will bring the open collaboration methods of online communities to physical infrastructures in the home. Over the course of several months, selected households across Europe (UK, France and Italy initially) will have access to the latest in open source hardware and software tools, decide what they want to do with them in the context of their home and share the results with the world. Local technology experts will be selected to support them in the development of their ideas and the whole process from start to finish. The process will be documented by users themselves in the form of blogs, videos and images taken throughout a 3 month long process in the Autumn of 2010.

The team believes that better scenarios and solutions could emerge when design and research in this area can be conducted in an open way. This breaks from tradition as users, rather than seeing products forced on them by a top-down design process, will create their own smart home and live with those technologies they have themselves developed without prior technical expertise.

6 May 2010

Ferrari F10 steering wheel is usability horror

Ferrari steering wheel
Every year, Ferrari fields a team in the Formula One championship, and dumps around $400 million into developing and racing the car.

So, says Cliff Kuang in Fast Company, you’d think that the steering wheel–perhaps the car’s most crucial point of contact, where a human turns all that R&D into championship trophies–would be a masterpiece of interface design. And you would be wrong.

Kuang calls it a “comedically disjointed, confusing mess” and “amazing that the drivers don’t crash these things twice every lap” (and even the people at AutoBlog agree).

Read article (with video)

4 May 2010

Findability and Exploration: the future of search

 
Stijn Debrouwere, a Belgian information architect, has published a long Peter Morville-inspired post on findability related issues.

“The majority of people visiting a news website don’t care about the front page. They might have reached your site from Google while searching for a very specific topic. They might just be wandering around. Or they’re visiting your site because they’re interested in one specific event that you cover. This is big. It changes the way we should think about news websites.

We need ambient findability. We need smart ways of guiding people towards the content they’d like to see — with categorization and search playing complementary goals. And we need smart ways to keep readers on our site, especially if they’re just following a link from Google or Facebook, by prickling their sense of exploration.

Pete Bell recently opined that search is the enemy of information architecture. That’s too bad, because we’re really going to need great search if we’re to beat Wikipedia at its own game: providing readers with timely information about topics they care about.”

Read article

Check also his earlier posts this month:
Navigation headaches
We’re in the information business
The basic unit of information

(via InfoDesign)

3 May 2010

Open positions at Experientia

Experientia
Experientia is an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first. Our dynamic and enthusiastic team, based in Torino, Italy, includes experts in strategy, design, usability, communications, cognitive and social psychology, ethnographic and user research, information architecture, interaction design and information visualization, prototyping and programming, and with skills in over 16 languages.

Experientia is currently looking for people to fill the following positions:
 

Project Manager

This position has been filled.
 

Web prototyper

This position has been filled.
 

Visual interaction designer

We are looking for a visual interaction designer with outstanding visual design skills, methodical thinking, fascination with typography or information visualization, and interest in design for mobile applications or social software.

Required

  • 3-5 years experience in visual interaction design
  • University and/or advanced degree(s) in Interaction Design, Visual Communication Design, or similar.
  • An available portfolio of visual interaction design solutions.
  • Advanced English language skills, with ability in Italian or German also an advantage, strong visual and verbal communication skills.
  • Proficiency in a variety of layout/UI and time based design tools including Flash, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, etc.
  • Understanding of how and why an interface succeeds or fails and ability to spot likely problems in flow, layout, copy or presentation before they go into production.
  • Demonstrated ability to adhere to critical project timelines in a fast-paced environment.
  • Legally entitled to work in the EU

The Visual Interaction Designer will:

  • Excel in design thinking, participate in design research, ideate concepts and truly enjoy design.
  • Understand the parameters of a design problem, and be able to create appropriate visual interaction deliverables.
  • Follow a user-centred methodology and approach.
  • Translate user research and usability findings into tangible designs.
  • Brainstorm on innovative concept solutions around given project themes.
  • Identify tools, resources, methods, and techniques that evolve existing approaches for the larger Experientia community.
  • Work independently, or in teams and in close conjunction with the Design Director, to produce elegant, sophisticated concept designs.

How to apply
Interested applicants should send a motivational cover letter in English, an English or Italian CV, and possible other supporting materials to info at experientia dot com. Your application should be accompanied by a pdf or portfolio or link to an online portfolio. We would like to see a range of final deliverables and interim deliverables created during the course a project. Please indicate your role and contribution for each project submitted.
 

Usability Expert

This position has been filled.

1 May 2010

UX book reviews: May 2010

books
The folks at Johnny Holland have published reviews on no less than four UX related books:

Beyond the Usability Lab
Authors: Bill Albert, Donna Tedesco, Thomas Tullis
Publishers: Morgan Kaufman
[Companion websiteAmazon]

User Experience Re-Mastered
Authors: Chauncey Wilson (editor)
Publishers: Morgan Kaufman
[ElsevierAmazon]

Innovators: Shaping Our Creative Future
Authors: multiple
Publishers: BIS Publishers
[Thomas & HudsonAmazon]

Layout Essentials: 100 Design Principles For Using Grids
Authors: Beth Tondreau
Publishers: BIS Publishers
[Amazon]

Check also the UX Bookstore.

Read reviews