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Putting People First

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Posts in category 'User experience'

9 April 2014

Ethnography in action at Wells Fargo

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Only a few years ago, the corporate view of retirement planning at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank tended to focus on dollars and cents — how much an individual needed to invest, by when and for how many years,” write Julien Cayla, Robin Beers and Eric Arnould, authors of the article “Stories That Deliver Business Insights,” in the Winter 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review. This segmentation did not account for context such as whether a person was inclined to think about long-term financial goals.

“As part of an ethnographic project commissioned by the bank, researchers had customers walk through a life timeline and recount activities they engaged in that related to retirement planning in each decade of their lives — their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond,” write the authors. The stories showed that baby boomers faced “a complex phenomenon of continually negotiated personal travails and marketplace dynamics.”

As a result of what they heard, the Wells Fargo team reworked how they think of customers. The bank developed a behavior-based segmentation that divided retirement approaches into three groups — Reactor, Pooler and Maximizer. [...]

As a result, the bank adjusted its marketing strategy and “designed its retirement planning site to include the various life stages used in the ethnographic research to convey the message ‘we meet you where you are’ and provide relevant, unintimidating guidance — as opposed to producing numbers-dense material filled with endless financial projections.”

9 April 2014

Tell me a story: augmented reality technology in museums

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Museums around the world today face the challenge of increasing and maintaining visitor numbers, especially with younger audiences. A fall in visitors is seen by most as a negative outcome, both financially and in terms of wider social and educational impact. It can happen due to a range of factors, but one of the most important is that museums can often find themselves competing with the products of the entertainment industry, which at its heart is in the business of telling a good story.

The EU-funded Chess project (a shorter name for the much longer Cultural Heritage Experiences through Socio-personal interactions and Storytelling) plans to make interactive content such as games and augmented reality available to the entire museum sector.

“The project relies on visitor profiling, matching visitors to pre-determined “personas” – which are designed as a representative description of the various people that constitute a given museum’s visitor base. These are created through data from surveys, visitor studies and ethnographic observations. A given visitor is matched initially through a visitor survey to one of several representative personas, which in turn influences fundamentally the experience delivered by the Chess system.

Doing this makes the visitor experience non-linear. The system constantly adapts to a visitor’s preferences. For example, if a visitor fails in a game or stays longer in front of certain artefacts, the system can adapt the storyline. It makes the experience more dynamic and relevant, so instead of sending the visitor to X exhibit, the system might instead choose to send you to Y exhibit, where you will get more information that’s relevant to what you’ve shown an interest in.”

8 April 2014

[Book] A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences

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A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences
by Sarah Horton & Whitney Quesenbery
Rosenfeld Media, 2013
288 pages

In their new book, A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences, Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery make a case for accessibility that begins and ends with people. “We believe that great design starts by thinking about how to make products work for everyone.”

The book is a great resource for those trying to implement accessibility measures without making sacrifices that compromise design or innovation. In this excerpt, you’ll meet the personas (illustrated by Tom Biby) that are referenced throughout the book.

Sarah Horton is a consultant for strategic planning for websites and web applications. She also does accessibility and usability reviews. Sarah started her career in interaction design in 1991 at the Yale Center for Advanced Instructional Media, creating award-winning interactive instructional software. She was an instructional technologist at Dartmouth College for 11 years before becoming director of web strategy and design. As director, she was responsible for planning and developing Dartmouth’s digital environment, and she led a team of user-experience professionals responsible for web and media design, development, and production. More recently, Sarah was Web Strategy Project Lead at Harvard University, responsible for strategy and user experience design for the Harvard Web Publishing Initiative. Sarah is currently Director of Accessible User Experience and Design with The Paciello Group. Sarah is co-author with Patrick Lynch of Web Style Guide, now in its third edition and translated into at least eight languages. She also wrote Web Teaching Guide, which in 2000 won the American Association of Publishers award for best book in computer science. Her third book, Access by Design, combines the disciplines of universal design, accessibility, and usability into guidelines for designing websites that are universally usable.

Whitney Quesenbery is a user researcher, user experience practitioner, and usability expert with a passion for clear communication. She has been in the field for too many years, working with organizations from The Open University to the National Cancer Institute. She enjoys learning about people around the world and using those insights to design products where people matter. Before a little beige computer seduced her into software, usability, and interface design, she was a lighting designer in the theater. Like every other element of the production, lighting has to help tell the story. The scenery, lighting, costumes, direction and acting all have to work together tell the same story. She learned a lot about the craft of storytelling from watching hours of rehearsals. Whitney has served as president of the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA), on the boards of the Center for Plain Language and UXnet, and as a manager of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) Usability and User Experience Community. As a member of two U.S. government advisory committees, she is working to update accessibility requirements and to improve the usability and accessibility of voting systems for U.S. elections. Whitney is a frequent author and presenter in industry events and is a contributor to UXmatters.com. Her first publication on storytelling was a book chapter on “Storytelling and Narrative” in The Personas Lifecycle, by John Pruitt and Tamara Adlin. She’s also proud that her chapter “Dimensions of Usability” in Content and Complexity turns up on so many course reading lists.

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
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.”

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)

27 February 2014

[Book] The Moment of Clarity

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The Moment of Clarity: Using the Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Problems
by Christian Madsbjerg, Mikkel Rasmussen
Harvard Business Review Press
2014, 224 pages

Traditional problem-solving methods taught in business schools serve us well for some of the everyday challenges of business, but they tend to be ineffective with problems involving a high degree of uncertainty. Why? Because, more often than not, these tools are based on a flawed model of human behavior. And that flawed model is the invisible scaffolding that supports our surveys, our focus groups, our R&D, and much of our long-term strategic planning.

In The Moment of Clarity, Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen examine the business world’s assumptions about human behavior and show how these assumptions can lead businesses off track. But the authors chart a way forward. Using theories and tools from the human sciences—anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and psychology—The Moment of Clarity introduces a practical framework called sensemaking. Sensemaking’s nonlinear problem-solving approach gives executives a better way to understand business challenges involving shifts in human behavior.

This new methodology, a fundamentally different way to think about strategy, is already taking off in Fortune 100 companies around the world. Through compelling case studies and their direct experience with LEGO, Samsung, Adidas, Coloplast, and Intel, Madsbjerg and Rasmussen will show you how to solve problems as diverse as setting company direction, driving growth, improving sales models, understanding the real culture of your organization, and finding your way in new markets.

Over and over again, executives say the same thing after engaging in a process of sensemaking: “Now I see it . . .” This experience—the moment of clarity—has the potential to drive the entire strategic future of your company. Isn’t it time you and your firm started getting people right?

Christian Madsbjerg is one of the founding partners of ReD Associates, an innovation and strategy consultancy. Madsbjerg advises the executive suite of many Fortune 300 companies on top-level strategic issues, integrating sophisticated techniques traditionally used in the human sciences into each company’s problem-solving processes. His work has had a significant impact in the market for each of his clients, and he is known for debunking more traditional market research practices.

Mikkel B. Rasmussen, also a founding partner of ReD Associates, is an expert in innovation and business creativity. As the director of ReD Associates Europe, he works closely with the top management of some of Europe’s most forward-looking companies, including Adidas, LEGO, and Novo Nordisk.

See also:
- TEDx talk by Christian Madsbjerg (Oct 25, 2013)
- Book review, Financial Times (quite critical, towards the end)

12 February 2014

Data and design in innovative citizen experiences

 

The past decade has brought enormous and growing benefits to ordinary citizens through applications built on public data.

Any release of data offers advantages to experts, such as developers and journalists, but there is a crucial common factor in the most successful open data applications for non-experts: excellent design, writes Cyd Harrell, UX Evangelist at Code for America.

In fact, open data and citizen-centered design are natural partners, especially as the government 2.0 movement turns to improving service delivery and government interaction in tandem with transparency.

It’s nearly impossible to design innovative citizen experiences without data, but that data will not reach its full potential without careful choices about how to aggregate, present, and enable interaction with it.

“Design is a critical practice for enabling open data to reach its full transformative potential. Without citizens being able to interact with government data directly, we are unlikely to trigger a revolution in how services are provided. We all know how much we need that revolution, for reasons of cost, fairness, and human dignity.

Methods drawn from the user experience field are the easiest way to translate open data into a format that’s usable and accessible for the average (or non-average) citizen. The most successful and broadly used open data projects have always relied on design, whether or not people formally trained in design were part of the teams. Our task now is to bring our best design ideas into our shared movement and take advantage of everything the discipline has to offer. With design, we can give the public back its data in real use, as well as in name.”

9 February 2014

There is no UX, there is only UX

 

Leisa Reichelt, Head of User Research at the Government Digital Service [GDS] in the UK Cabinet Office, argues that UX belongs everywhere and nowhere. That there is no UX team, but that everyone is the UX team.

“At GDS we don’t have a ‘UX team’ and no one person has a job title that includes the term ‘UX’. We have designers and researchers who work as part of multidisciplinary, agile teams and who practice user centred design (UCD).

On the surface that may all sound pretty trite. The truth is that, for many of our projects, the truly challenging user experience issues come not from designing the interface*, but from the constraints of the product that must be designed. Those constraints and challenges tend to come from our friends in policy or standards, or procurement or other parts of the organisation. Try as you might, you can’t interface away inappropriate policy.

It is really important that no one in the team can point to someone over in the corner and put all the burden of user experience on that guy. No one person, no small group of people can be made responsible for the user experience of a service. It is down to the entire team to achieve this, and we need to drag people into the team who make decisions way before we get on the scene.”

12 January 2014

Solving the right problem and finding your own solution: an interview with Don Norman

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At the LAUX Meetup Group, Media Contour’s Luke Swenson was able to track down Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition and get his thoughts on problem solving, identifying the right problem, and why copying your competitors is unwise in a world where you should be focusing on your own strengths.

What about “featuritis.” Why is focusing on strengths so much more important than copying your competition?

You have to stand out. You have to look different from the others. Take the number of Android phones on the market today. They all look the same, right? Don’t feature match. Don’t design match. Make your phone stand out from the crowd. It’s about your company, not about your competitors. What are your strengths? What does your website design say about your company? What does your product design say about your company?

For instance, if your company is a fun, whimsical clothing company, your website needs to reflect that. You might not resonate with EVERY person who comes to the site, but you don’t WANT every person to buy your clothing. You want those who fit in with your company’s identity. That applies to every single business out there. You need to express what your business is like, what your image is, and then connect with people who share that. You need to show that you can solve their problem.”

12 January 2014

The UX of commercial drones

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In order for commercial drones like Amazon’s or Australian startup Flirtey’s to become a reality, the drone (or any future-world technology, really) can’t merely do its job—meaning, it can’t randomly drop off deliveries and simply fly away as the drone in the Amazon demo video does. There’s a lot more to it than that. To make this kind of service take off (literally), companies will have to consider the user experience, and especially the microinteractions, the drones will have with customers, writes Dan Saffer in UX Magazine.

There are quite a few issues to be resolved, clearly.

12 January 2014

150,000 job listings in the user experience field in the USA alone

 

Hiring managers know that design plays, and will continue to play, a critical role in the success of their companies because: What has been seen cannot be unseen., writes Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman of the Unicorn Institute.

And what has been seen is companies like Apple, which are investing a lot of resources in design. We can see how much design matters by looking at Apple’s profits in comparison with their competition.

This understanding is leading to an increased demand for designers, and even more specifically it’s leading to an increase in demand for user experience designers. In fact, in the United States alone, there are around 150,000 job listings in the user experience (UX) field.

12 January 2014

Discover the world’s best mobile UX

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To help you build better mobile experiences, UX Archive finds and presents mobile’s most interesting user flows so you can “compare them, build your point of view, and be inspired.”

“Documenting user flows is probably something many UX designers already do to some degree. Now a great collection is in one place, and wired to grow as new discoveries are added to the archive. Even more useful, the site is set up so you can easily filter user flows based on specific tasks, such as onboarding, purchasing and sharing, and compare just those.”

A side project of Feedly co-founder and designer [and former Experientia collaborator] Arthur Bodolec, and developers Chris Polk and Nathan Barraille, UX Archive is a lean, clean site that just does one thing and does it really well, writes Penina Finger.

31 December 2013

How do e-books change the reading experience?

 

Mohsin Hamid and Anna Holmes discuss in the New York Times Book Review how technology affects our reading habits.

Mohsin Hamid argues that in a world of intrusive technology, we must engage in a kind of struggle if we wish to sustain moments of solitude.

“As we enter the cyborg era, as we begin the physical shift to human-machine hybrid, there will be those who embrace this epochal change, happily swapping cranial space for built-in processors. There will be others who reject the new ways entirely, perhaps even waging holy war against them, with little chance — in the face of drones that operate autonomously while unconcerned shareholding populations post selfies and status updates — of success. And there will be people like me, with our powered exoskeletons left often in the closet, able to leap over buildings when the mood strikes us, but also prone to wandering naked and feeling the sand of a beach between our puny toes.”

Anna Holmes writes that who or what we choose to read can be as telling as the clothes we wear, and an e-book feels like a detail withheld, a secret kept.

“No matter how fancy the refinements made to, say, Apple’s much heralded Retina display or Amazon’s electronic ink, an e-book offers little promise of discovery or wonder. Browsers may be ubiquitous in our e-portal age, but an e-book doesn’t encourage actual browsing.”

17 December 2013

American-centric UI is leveling tech culture — and design diversity

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An article with a title like this cannot but intrigue me (being a non-American leading a non-USA company) – and even more so after I found out that it was written by an American working in an American company.

In a very frank and thoughtful article, Sean Madden, Executive Managing Director at Ziba, argues that the interactions designed into our devices overwhelmingly reflect a perspective native to modern, affluent, urban America.

“That our smartphones can be customized through the installation of apps assumes we want a device that is unique and personal. That our wearable devices track and analyze physical movement — as opposed to, say, proximity to friends or family — assumes that individual activity is the kind most worth monitoring. That our gaming consoles are designed primarily with a single, networked player in mind assumes we prefer remote interaction to the in-person kind; compare that to what Korean and Chinese gamers do, which is cluster in cafes.

This focus on individuality and personal mobility is deeply American, and it’s being taught to the rest of the world through the medium of American technology. And the age of invisible design, with its focus on experiences (as opposed to just products and interfaces) has made cultural influence the elephant in the room: obvious, ignored, and hugely powerful. Especially because technology platforms favor the culture that spawned them.”

Madden doesn’t stop at analysis, but sets out a vision for what the next challenge will be:

“Just as user-centered design transformed technology in the 1990s and early 2000s, cultural fluency needs to transform it today: user experience (UX) design that’s familiar enough with a user’s cultural background to meet him or her halfway.

Cultural fluency demands abandoning the idea that functionality is a universal language, and that “good UX” is culturally agnostic. [...]

It requires tremendous discipline to overcome the cultural biases of American design and engineering, to avoid teams building their own cultural norms into how the systems facilitate human interactions. Cultural fluency will require another expansion in design, one that incorporates anthropological, psychological, and historical insights in addition to everything that’s come before. And it will require understanding the broader impact on culture and society when devices begin making decisions and transacting on their own, as promised by the Internet of Things.”

14 December 2013

UX review of Samsung Galaxy Smartwatch

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Smartwatches are the future, but the Samsung Galaxy Gear is only partway there, writes Raluca Budiu, a senior researcher with Nielsen Norman Group, in her detailed and extensive UX review of the Samsung Galaxy Smartwatch.

“One big reason to believe in watches is that this form factor has already been victorious. Historically, before wristwatches were invented, many people carried pocket watches. But the time needed to fish a device out of your pocket was much more than the time needed to whip around your wrist to face your face. Wristwatches are a much faster way to check the time (and maybe date) than using a pocket watch. As a result, you hardly ever see a pocket watch these days.

In the case of computers, the wrist computer (smartwatch) will not eradicate the pocket computer (mobile phone) the way wristwatches eradicated pocket watches, because a phone-sized screen can do so much more than a watch-sized screen. Most likely people will carry both.

The key is simplicity (you can do it more easily on a watch) and spontaneity (you can do it right away). Phones already encourage spontaneous use; watches will be for those moments when phones are too big and too slow to access. We’ll need to learn ways to make the apps more direct and distill their essence, so that a quick glimpse on a tiny screen will be enough to get what we need.”

See also this article on the iWatch by her colleague Bruce ‘Tog’ Tognazzini

14 December 2013

The lack of closure experience in digital products and services

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There’s an ever-growing tide of inactive, dormant, or extinct customer accounts and other online personal data swallowing up the digital landscape, writes Joe Macleo in UX Magazine.

As designers, one of our objectives when creating digital services and products should be to incorporate a “closure experience” that allows customers to end their relationship with the service as easily as they started it. A good closure experience brings a satisfactory conclusion to a product or service relationship, with each party feeling satisfied with the completed transaction. It should be a fair and just conclusion without consequence.

Users will feel increasingly vulnerable as more and more services fail to deliver closure, leaving user data hopelessly exposed in endlessly open digital relationships. Increased consideration for closure experiences in our designs can help with this.

8 December 2013

Robert Fabricant on scaling your UX strategy

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Leading businesses like Google are exploring scalable strategies that make UX relevant to engineers and MBAs across their organizations.

Robert Fabricant has posted a quick look at some of the different strategies that they are deploying:
1. Lean UX
2. UX in R&D
3. Baby-Step UX
4. Six Sigma UX
5. Customer-Driven UX

6 December 2013

The psychology behind information dashboards

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With its interactive and intuitive interface and its ability to visualize data in a single screen, the information dashboard is becoming a critical tool in the hands of the business user. Moreover, it is also making its way into apps used by laypeople for managing day-to-day activities like budget tracking and fitness management.

So what makes information dashboards so appealing to the human mind? What is it that the human mind seeks that is so nicely provided by information dashboards? Shilpi Choudhury explores.

In synthesis: Any product that has an information dashboard as one of its key offerings should keep the psychological needs of its end users in mind. Users like being in control, they have a limited short-term memory, and they love things that are simple. These three factors should form the foundation of all dashboard designs. Understand your user’s requirements and add in your design best practices and you have the ingredients for creating the perfect information dashboard.