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Posts in category 'Usability'

22 April 2010

April 2010 issue of Boxes and Arrows

boxesandarrows
The April issue of Boxes and Arrows is recommended reading:

Designing for social interaction – strong, weak and temporary ties
by Paul Adams, senior UX researcher, Google
Our social web tools must start to understand the strength of ties, that we have stronger relationships with some people than with others. Understanding the difference between strong, weak, and temporary ties will help us build better online social experiences.

Faceted finding with super-powered breadcrumbs
by Greg Nudelman
Most of the today’s finding interfaces do not support integrated finding effectively, often creating disparate search and browse user interfaces that confound people with a jumble of controls competing for their attention. In this article, I propose the Integrated Faceted Breadcrumb (IFB) design that integrates the power of faceted refinement with the intuitive query expansion afforded by browse.

Case study of agile and UCD working together – Finding the holistic solution
by James Kelway, senior information architect, Hello Group
Large scale websites require groups of specialists to design and develop a product that will be a commercial success. To develop a completely new site requires several teams to collaborate and this can be difficult. Particularly as different teams may be working with different methods. This case study shows how the ComputerWeekly user experience team integrated with an agile development group.

How to win friends and influence people remotely
by Patrick Stapleton, principal applications engineer, Oracle
Once remotely located a designers ability to interact with other team members and effect change are funneled through the telecommunication mediums that the team uses to communicate. This article, subtitled “Tools to enable simple online collaboration of design and distribution of usability testing” lists the available mediums and analyzes their respective strengths and weaknesses and provides suggestions for their effective use.

11 April 2010

Debunking the myths of online usability testing

Remote testing
Bill Albert, director of the Design and Usability Center at Bentley University, highlights five common myths related to online (unmoderated) usability testing, and explaining why he thinks these myths are not true.

“The motivation for this article is to help UX researchers keep an open mind about online usability testing. There are some researchers who have been using this approach for years and find it useful (in certain situations). Others are new to it, and wanting to learn more about its strength and limitations. Finally, some UX researchers have already formed an opinion about online usability testing, and deemed it not useful for a variety of (unfounded) reasons. I hope by exposing these myths, we (as a UX community) can evaluate this tool based on its actual merits.”

Read article

6 April 2010

Natural user interfaces are not natural

Donald Norman
In his bimonthly column in the ACM CHI magazine, Interactions, Donald Norman argues that most gestures are neither natural nor easy to learn or remember.

“Gestures lack critical clues deemed essential for successful human-computer interaction. Because gestures are ephemeral, they do not leave behind any record of their path, which means that if one makes a gesture and either gets no response or the wrong response, there is little information available to help understand why. The requisite feedback is lacking. Moreover, a pure gestural system makes it difficult to discover the set of possibilities and the precise dynamics of execution. These problems can be overcome, of course, but only by adding conventional interface elements, such as menus, help systems, traces, tutorials, undo operations, and other forms of feedback and guides.” [...]

“Gestural systems are no different from any other form of interaction. They need to follow the basic rules of interaction design, which means well-defined modes of expression, a clear conceptual model of the way they interact with the system, their consequences, and means of navigating unintended consequences. As a result, means of providing feedback, explicit hints as to possible actions, and guides for how they are to be conducted are required.”

Read article

18 March 2010

Creating new concepts, products and services with user driven innovation

Creating new concepts, products and services with user driven innovation
From the Nordic Innovation website:

User driven innovation is emerging as one of the successful ways of creating breakthrough innovations for companies and organisations.

In this project called “Create concept innovation with users“, a Nordic and Baltic consortium lead by FORA has been able to identify four generic methods of working with user driven innovation:
- user test,
- user exploration,
- user innovation, and
- user participation.

Even though these methods might vary slightly from one company to the other, they have some basic features which are common. When working with users, companies might choose to include the users either directly or indirectly in the innovation process, depending on what type of knowledge the company wants to obtain from the user. Users’ ability to communicate and express their problems and needs varies greatly and will also influence the user driven innovation method chosen by a company. Sometimes users are fully aware of what problems they face and which needs they experience, while in other cases they will not be able to communicate or articulate what they are experiencing.

Based on this framework, the project members interviewed companies in the Nordic and Baltic countries about how they work with user driven innovation, what innovation outcomes they achieved and how satisfied they were with the processes during the project. Furthermore the project members wanted to get an understanding of whether there were any differences among the Nordic and Baltic countries regarding the methods they used by mapping the user driven innovation activity among companies and organisations.

Download report

1 March 2010

Internet on mobiles: evolution of usability and user experience

Internet on Mobiles
Anne Kaikkonen, a UI product manager at Nokia, recently presented her doctoral dissertation on the usability and user experience of the mobile internet.

Internet on Mobiles: Evolution of Usability and User Experience (pdf)
Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy presented at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on 11 December 2009.

The mobile Internet is no longer a new phenomenon; the first mobile devices supporting web access were introduced over 10 years ago. During the past ten years technology and business infrastructure have evolved and the number of mobile Internet users has increased all over the world. Service user interface, technology and business infrastructure have built a framework for service adaptation: they can act as enablers or as barriers. Users evaluate how the new technology adds value to their life based on multiple factors.

This dissertation has its focus in the area of human-computer interaction research and practices. The overall goal of my research has been to improve the usability and the user experience of mobile Internet services. My research has sought answers to questions relevant in service development process. Questions have varied during the years, the main question being: How to design and create mobile Internet services that people can use and want to use? I have sought answers mostly from a human factors perspective, but have also taken the elements form technology and business infrastructure into consideration. In order to answer the questions raised in service development projects, we have investigated the mobile Internet services in the laboratory and in the field. My research has been conducted in various countries in 3 continents: Asia, Europe and North America. These studies revealed differences in mobile Internet use in different countries and between user groups. Studies in this dissertation were conducted between years 1998 and 2007 and show how questions and research methods have evolved during the time.

Good service creation requires that all three factors: technology, business infrastructure and users are taken in consideration. When using knowledge on users in decision making, it is important to understand that the different phases of the service development cycle require the different kind of information on users. It is not enough to know about the users, the knowledge about users has to be transferred into decisions.

The service has to be easy to use so that people can use it. This is related to usability. Usability is a very important factor in service adoption, but it is not enough. The service has to have relevant content from user perspective. The content is the reason why people want to use the service. In addition to the content and the ease of use, people evaluate the goodness of the service based on many other aspects: the cost, the availability and the reliability of the system for example. A good service is worth trying and after the first experience, is it worth using. These aspects are considered to influence the ‘user experience’ of the system. In this work I use lexical analysis to evaluate how the words “usability” and “user experience” are used in mobile HCI conference papers during the past 10 years. The use of both words has increased during the period and reflects the evolution of research questions and methodology over time.

Related to her thesis, is her article “Mobile internet: Past, Present, and the future“.

The Mobile Internet is no longer a new phenomenon; the first mobile devices supporting Web access were introduced over 10 years ago. During the past 10 years many user studies have been conducted that have generated insights into mobile Internet use. The number of mobile Internet users has increased and the focus of the studies has switched from the user interface to user experiences. Mobile phones are regarded as personal devices: the current possibility of gathering more contextual information and linking that to the Internet cre- ates totally new challenges for user experience and design.

25 February 2010

Why can’t PCs work more like iPhones?

Online newspaper ads
Why not use the iPhone interface as the basis for a new round of Apple computers? What if Microsoft scrapped the front end of Windows 7 and the troubled Vista OS and moved to the new, elegant interface it is using for its Windows Phone 7 Series mobile phones?

“In an effort to win over less technical users, both Apple and Microsoft dumped that command-line interface for personal computers more than two decades ago, replacing it with visual icons for files, folders and applications. Over the years, they added animations and search technology and other features to make navigating a Mac or Windows PC even easier.

Yet all of the gloss and glitter doesn’t hide the fact that both operating systems are still pretty geeky and difficult for many computer users to navigate.”

Read full story

12 January 2010

The New York Times on gestural interfaces

Gestural interfaces
The New York Times reports on “natural” gestural interfaces in an article entitled “Giving Electronic Commands With Body Language”:

“In the coming months, the likes of Microsoft, Hitachi and major PC makers will begin selling devices that will allow people to flip channels on the TV or move documents on a computer monitor with simple hand gestures. The technology, one of the most significant changes to human-device interfaces since the mouse appeared next to computers in the early 1980s, was being shown in private sessions during the immense Consumer Electronics Show here last week. Past attempts at similar technology have proved clunky and disappointing. In contrast, the latest crop of gesture-powered devices arrives with a refreshing surprise: they actually work.”

Read full story

11 December 2009

Augmented Reality is overhyped and abused

USPS
Augmented Reality is overhyped and abused, writes Matthew Szymczyk in Advertising Age, and we’re in danger of killing off a rather useful technology.

“As web-based augmented-reality applications have exploded, it’s more important than ever to remember AR is a technology based on utility and not gimmicks.

Unfortunately, as with most new and emerging technologies, it’s quickly becoming overhyped and abused. Usability and user experience have been thrown under in the stampede of agencies and brands saying “Hey, look — me too!” Even more disturbing is that most marketers are overlooking the most unique aspect of AR itself: that it’s a technology that can create innovative and sustained engagement between a brand and its target consumer through utility.”

Read full story

19 November 2009

EU ministers: accessible, interactive and customised online public services in Europe by 2015

EU eGov benchmark
EU press release (link):

EU ministers have committed to developing smarter online public services for citizens and businesses by 2015. The Commission has welcomed this step forward in making eGovernment more accessible, interactive and customised. At the fifth Ministerial eGovernment Conference in Malmö (Sweden) today, EU ministers outlined a joint vision and policy priorities on how this should be delivered. eGovernment is a key step towards boosting Europe’s competitiveness, benefiting from time and cost savings for citizens and businesses across Europe.

“Today’s declaration is another step in the right direction to further improve online public services for citizens and businesses. The commitment to shift from a “one-size-fits-all” to a customised approach is more likely to meet users’ needs and will open the path for more interactive and demand-driven public services in Europe”, said Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud.

Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, added: “The Malmö declaration is an encouraging signal sent from Member States towards the achievement of more effective cross-border services and the completion of the Single Market. For such services to become a reality for most citizens there is still more to be done. Achieving government savings in the current economic climate must be a priority. Better cross-border public services must be delivered even with fewer resources available so the investment made in eGovernment must be maximised. The lives of citizens and businesses can be made increasingly easier if they can benefit from efficient public services ranging from simple registration of life events such as births and residence, business services such as company registration and information or more sophisticated applications including those relating to tax, VAT or customs declarations.”

The declaration signed last night in Malmö by the EU ministers outlines a joint forward-looking vision and defines policy priorities to be achieved by 2015. The key objectives that Member States together with the Commission aim to achieve in the next five years are:

  • to empower businesses and citizens through eGovernment services designed around users’ needs, better access to information and their active involvement in the policy making process;
  • to facilitate mobility in the single market by seamless eGovernment services for setting up business, for studying, working, residing and retiring in Europe;
  • to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of government services by reducing the administrative burden, improving organisational processes of administrations and using ICT to improve energy efficiency in public administrations which will result in a greater contribution to a sustainable low-carbon economy.

The European Commission is already working in close cooperation with Member States to set concrete targets for the eGovernment agenda in Europe and will launch an action plan in the second half of 2010 proposing concrete measures to achieve the objectives set out in the ministerial declaration.

The empowerment of citizens and businesses is already supported today by a large number of eGovernment services. Recent figures from the eighth benchmarking report ordered by the European Commission on eGovernment in Europe, released today at the fifth ministerial conference, indicate that the quality and availability of online government services have been on the rise in Europe in the last two years: 71% of the public services measured are fully available online through portals or websites, while this was only 59% in 2007. Austria, Malta, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Slovenia are leading countries in the assessment of availability of services. Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia are making important progress but differences across Europe remain significant.

The report shows also an increased degree of interaction between service providers and users, where Europe stands at 83%, compared to 76% in 2007 (see annex for table). This year’s report looks at the availability of eProcurement, which aims at improving public procurement. It is now at around 60% in the EU, still far from the 100% target for 2010 set by the i2010 eGovernment action plan.

Related information:
- eGovernment Ministerial Declaration
- Benchmarking documents
- eGovernment Benchmark Survey 2009 – Smarter, Faster, Better eGovernment

12 November 2009

Designing for a sustainable world

WUD
To celebrate World Usability Day 2009, System Concepts has put together a video podcast exploring how different stakeholders can enhance the user experience of their designs by including sustainability as a key requirement.

The interviewees include:
- Professor Ben Shneiderman – User Interface guru from the University of Maryland
- John Thackara – Director, Doors of Perception and currently senior advisor on sustainability to the UK Design Council
- Nicolai Peitersen – Founder and CEO of Ethical Economy
- Daniel Liden, Senior Designer at Chris Lefteri Design Ltd, who specialise in materials
- Dina Guth – Director of British design and innovation company TECAtech
- Liz Edwards, Home Editor of the UK Consumer’s Association
- Tom Stewart, President of the UK Ergonomics Society

View podcast

29 October 2009

Computerworld New Zealand on user-centred web design

Computerworld
Computerworld New Zealand introduces user-centred web design.

Introducing user-centred web design
The first article in this series introduces the idea of User-Centred Design (UCD) — a design process that concentrates on designing websites for the people who will use them; rather than to embody the latest trends in web technology, or to simply please the senior management in the company.

User experience: What it is and how to get some
The second article in this series looks at the concept of user experience. As well as explaining user experience in more detail, the article outlines what skills are needed to embody it in good web design.

User experience in action
This article looks at some of the methods that can be used to implement UCD in real websites. It considers some case studies drawn from the experience of Wired Internet Group, a Christchurch-based company striving to promote the principles of UCD in the local web industry. These case studies will reveal some of the “real world” usability issues that may be encountered, and the sometimes simple steps that you can take to remedy them, and give your site the user experience your customers deserve.

5 October 2009

How to visualise energy savings

kW
Kevin Anderson reports in The Guardian on how a new generation of monitors can generate data about your energy use and help you cut your costs and carbon.

“These energy monitors not only show you real-time information about your energy consumption, many of them also record that data. Government-provided national energy data is great, but with your own data, you can make decisions that can help you conserve energy, save cash and cut your carbon footprint. [...]

I’m going to focus on devices that can easily export data and not simply display it in the applications that ship with the monitors.”

Read full story

2 October 2009

Panoremo, a tool to assess the emotional experience of environments

Panoremo
As part of his Design for Interaction MSc. at the TU Delft, David Güiza Caicedo worked on developing a tool to measure emotional reactions towards ‘services’, from which an early concept has recently spun-off into a more developed tool to aid in the assessment of emotions towards ‘physical spaces’.

The tool, now called Panoremo, is meant to collect feedback from users in order to evaluate their emotional reaction towards any sort of physical spaces.

This opens up the door to a plethora of possibilities and applications: evaluating an urban environment to know how people feel about their surroundings (emotions in architecture and urbanism), finding out how people feel about that new interior design that you are developing for a new store (emotions in retail design) or identifying the critical emotional points of a restaurant or of a hotel lobby (emotions in experiential services) are but a few of the examples to think of.

26 September 2009

Yahoo looks to improve search experience

Elizabeth Churchill
The Mercury News reports on how Yahoo believes it can build its search audience by focusing on the user “experience,” rather than viewing search as a raw data query.

“‘What’s notable about many of the stable of researchers at Yahoo backing that effort is that many of them [...] aren’t even computer scientists.

They are part of a team of social scientists — cognitive psychologists, sociologists, economists and ethnographers — that Yahoo hopes will help close the search gap with the dominant Google. [...]

The plan to broaden Yahoo Labs into a multidisciplinary team where social scientists work directly with computer scientists is one element of Yahoo’s strategy to hold people on its Web properties, after its new branding campaign — Yahoo’s single largest integrated global campaign ever — brings them in the door.”

Read full story

24 August 2009

The iPhone is not easy to use: a new direction for UX Design

Nothing to undo
Fred Beecher argues on Johnny Holland that “the iPhone is surprisingly difficult to use, but it sure is fun! And that is why it’s a game-changer.”

“As a user experience designer, I thought my job was to make things not suck. Until recently. As technology has evolved, human behavior has evolved along with it. Since behavior is the basis of user experience design, my job has evolved as well. Now, my job is to make things people love. At the 2009 IA Summit, Karl Fast articulated the value proposition of user experience design with sparkling clarity. “Engineers make things,” he said, “we make people love them.” And then he held up an iPhone as an example.

This is a crucial change, the importance of which cannot be overstated.”

Read full story

24 August 2009

BBC Online shares its usability and accessibility methodologies

No mobile
The User Experience Design blog reports that Jonathan Hassell of BBC online shared a presentation on the challenges and methodologies of the company’s Usability & Accessibility team.

The short presentation describes the challenges, such as a wide range of platforms and audience types, as well as the wide-range of research tools that are used to understand and address them, from card sorting to ethnographic research.

The video of the presentation is also available (requires registration, go to “Web 2.0, Social Networking, Usability, Design & Build Theatre,” then “Wednesday at 13:00″).

30 July 2009

Designing waits that work

Waiting lines
The MIT Sloan Management Review has published Donald Norman’s paper ‘Designing Waits That Work‘ (available for $6.50).

It is based on a 2008 paper by Norman, entitled ‘The Psychology of Waiting Lines‘ (which is freely available), but sections have been added on “Variations of basic waiting lines” (including triage, categorization of needs, and self-selection of queues) and “Deliberate Chaos.”

According to Norman, “the original is better in the amount of detail and formal analyses, worse in the rough draft and inelegance of the writing as well as a lack of examples which I added for SMR.”

Here is Norman’s introduction to the 2008 paper:

Waiting is an inescapable part of life, but that doesn’t mean we enjoy it. But if the lines are truly inescapable, what can be done to make them less painful? Although there is a good deal of practical knowledge, usually known within the heads of corporate managers, very little has been published about the topic. One paper provides the classic treatment: David Maister’s The Psychology of Waiting Lines (1985). Maister suggested several principles for increasing the pleasantness of waiting. Although his paper provides an excellent start, it was published in 1985 and there have been considerable advances in our knowledge since then.

In the PDF file, The Psychology of Waiting Lines, I bring the study of waiting lines up to date, following the spirit of Maister’s original publication, but with considerable revision in light of modern findings. I suggest eight design principles, starting with “emotions dominate” and ending with the principle that “the memory of an event is more important than the experience.” Examples of design solutions include double buffering, providing clear conceptual models of the events with continual feedback, providing positive memories and even why one might deliberately induce waits. These principles apply to all services, not just waiting in lines. Details will vary from situation to situation, industry to industry, but the fundamentals are, in truth, the fundamentals of sociable design for waiting lines, for products, and for service.

28 July 2009

Stanford seminars on people, computers and design

Stanford HCI
CS547. Human-Computer Interaction Seminar (Seminar on People, Computers, and Design)” is a course of the Stanford HCI Group, coordinated by Terry Winograd, on topics related to human-computer interaction design.

Below is a run-down of the 2008-2009 speakers (all videos are available online):

September 26, 2008 – Tristan Harris , Apture
New models for browsing (video)

October 3, 2008 – David Merrill, MIT Media Lab
Natural Interactions with Digital Content (video)

October 10, 2008 – Karrie Karahalios, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana Champaign
Visualizing Voice (video)

October 17, 2008 – Jesse James Garrett, Adaptive Path
Aurora: Envisioning the Future of the Web (video)

October 24, 2008 – Peter Pirolli, PARC
Information foraging theory (video)

October 31 , 2008 – Justine Cassell, Northwestern University
Building Theories: People’s Interaction with Computers (video)

November 7, 2008 – Merrie Morris, Microsoft Research
SearchTogether and CoSearch: New Tools for Enabling Collaborative Web Search (video)

November 14, 2008 – Gail Wight, Stanford Dept. of Art and Art History
Unreasonable Interactions (video)

November 21, 2008 – Sergi Jordà
Exploring the Synergy between Live Music Performance and Tabletop Tangible Interfaces: the Reactable (video)

December 5, 2008 – Jaroslaw Kapuscinski, Stanford Dept. of Music
Composing with Sounds and Images (video)

January 9, 2009 – Todd Mowry, CMU
Pario: the Next Step Beyond Audio and Video (video)

January 16, 2009 – Hayes Raffle, Nokia Research
Sculpting Behavior – Developing a tangible language for hands-on play and learning (video)

January 23, 2009 – Dan Saffer, Kicker Studio
Tap is the new click (video)

January 30, 2009 – Bobby Fishkin, ReframeIt
Social Annotation, Contextual Collaboration and Online Transparency (video)

February 6, 2009 – Bjoern Hartmann, Stanford HCI Group
Enlightened Trial and Error – Gaining Design Insight Through New Prototyping Tools (video)

February 13, 2009 – Vladlen Koltun, Stanford CS
Computer Graphics as a Telecommunication Medium (video)

February 20, 2009 – Michal Migurski & Tom Carden, Stamen Design
Not Invented Here: Online Mapping Unraveled (video)

February 27, 2009 – Sep Kamvar, Stanford University
We Feel Fine and I Want You To Want Me: Case Studies in Internet Sociology (video)

March 6, 2009 – Jeff Heer, Stanford HCI Group
A Brief History of Data Visualization (video)

March 13, 2009 – Barry Brown, UCSD
Experts at Play (video)

April 3, 2009 – John Lilly and Mike Beltzner, Mozilla Foundation
Firefox, Mozilla & Open Source — Software Design at Scale (video)

April 10, 2009 – Clara Shih, Salesforce.com
Social Enterprise Software Design (video)

April 17, 2009 – Alex Payne, Twitter
The Interaction Design of APIs (video)

April 24, 2009 – Jim Campbell, electronic artist
Far Away Up Close (video)

May 1, 2009 – Gary and Judy Olson, UC Irvine
What Still Matters about Distance? (video)

May 8, 2009 – Dan Siroker, Carrotsticks
How We Used Data to Win the Presidential Election (video)

May 15, 2009 – Scott Snibbe, Snibbe Interactive
Social Immersive Media (video)

May 22, 2009 – Will Wright, Maxis / Electronic Arts
Launching Creative Communities: Lessons from the Spore community experience (video)

May 29, 2009 – Robert Kraut, Carnegie Mellon
Designing Online Communities from Theory (video)

Archived lectures from CS547 can also be downloaded from iTunes.

26 July 2009

Indian Design for All newsletter features German design

Design for All
The Design for All Institute India has published a special issue of its newsletter together with IDZ International Design Centre, Berlin. Guest Editor is Prof Birgit Weller.

Design for All Institute Of India is a self financed, non-profit voluntary organization, located in Delhi, India, which seeks corporate and public partnership in order to carry forward its very ambitious agenda of pro-actively building bridges of social inclusion between the design community and all other groups whose activities can be positively influenced by a coherent application of design methodology. Design for All means creating products, services and systems to cater to the widest possible range of users’ requirements. We initiated the concept and have received enormous encouragement from domestic as well as International communities.

Download newsletter (125 pages)

18 July 2009

Technology for more than one language, please

Earth
Technological tools are not made for people who speak more than one language, and there are many of us: immigrants, travellers, polyglots, emerging market facilitators, people from smaller language communities … In fact, people who are not Anglo-Saxon frequently use more than one language.

But technology is not made for us.

Although computers have operating systems in many languages, once you have chosen one of them you are completely locked in: support in any other language means going through complicated menus that are usually not immediately reachable and that have way too many options (e.g. every time I change my spell check language I have to select between ALL languages, not just between those that I actually speak); key widgets are available in the main OS language only (try installing an English language Apple dictionary/thesaurus on your Mac, while also installing an Italian and a Dutch one); going through user forums; or relying on the web.

Nokia, which is a company that should know better (as Finnish is only spoken by 6 million people), is not much of an example either. European phones come pre-installed with dictionary support for language regions (no help if you are a Belgian living in Italy), and it is nearly impossible to change that unless you start mucking around with the firmware of the phone. Even changing my T9 language support during messaging from let’s say English to Italian takes me at least 8 clicks (Options > 4 down on the list: Writing language > 3 down on the list: Italiano).

In the end you end up messing around, tinkering, hacking solutions together, struggling and being frustrated.

Has there been any research on this? Any article? Any best practices?