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Posts in category 'User research'

29 September 2013

The problem with big data correlations

 

“The people using big data don’t presume to peer deeply into people’s souls,” argues David Brooks in the New York Times (in an April 2013 column). “They don’t try to explain why people are doing things. They just want to observe what they are doing.”

“The theory of big data is to have no theory, at least about human nature. You just gather huge amounts of information, observe the patterns and estimate probabilities about how people will act in the future. [In other words,] this movement asks us to move from causation to correlation.”

While this approach has yielded some impressive results, he says, one should be also aware of its limits and goes on to list four of them:

  • The challenge of discerning meaningful correlations from meaningless ones
  • People are discontinuous and the passing of time can produce gigantic and unpredictable changes in taste and behavior
  • The world is error-prone and dynamic
  • The distinction between commodity decisions and flourishing decisions

Interesting too, his conclusion: “My worries mostly concentrate on the cultural impact of the big data vogue. If you adopt a mind-set that replaces the narrative with the empirical, you have problems thinking about personal responsibility and morality, which are based on causation. You wind up with a demoralized society.”

29 September 2013

The science behind using online communities to change behavior

brain

Sean Young, a behavioral psychologist, a family medicine professor and director of innovation at the center for behavioral and addiction medicine at UCLA, addresses the challenge of technology entrepreneurs on how to engage people and change behaviors.

Fortunately, he says, “there is a science behind how to change behavior, and the answer to engagement and behavior change lies in understanding people’s psychology.”

“By addressing people’s psychological needs and reasons for not changing behavior (including their social environments, cultural values, and emotions), we can be more effective at behavior change. Once we understand people’s psychologies, then technologies — online communities in particular — become really useful as platforms to rapidly change behavior.

Although social media and online communities might have been developed for people to connect and share information, recent research shows that these technologies are really helpful in changing behaviors.”

Dr. Young argues that newly created online communities can change people’s behaviors by addressing the following psychological needs:

  • The need to trust
  • The need to fit in
  • The need for self-worth
  • The need to be rewarded for good behavior
  • The need to feel empowered
21 September 2013

Financial Times on EPIC conference

epic_ft

This week, business anthropologists from all over the world descended on the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference at London’s Royal Institution, the historic site where Michael Faraday first demonstrated the power of electricity, reports Emma Jacobs in the Financial Times.

Over three days, practitioners discussed applications of anthropology in the business world, covering such issues as big data and clinical trials. Addressed by such luminaries in the field as Genevieve Bell, who has worked at Intel for the past 15 years, the event is an opportunity to meet kindred spirits.

In the US, anthropologists have been hired for more than two decades by technology groups including Intel, Apple and Xerox. Microsoft is said to be the second-largest employer of anthropologists in the world, behind the US government. Technology groups descended on anthropology in order to understand the diverse markets they operated in.

19 September 2013

Who commits virtual identity suicide?

 

Who Commits Virtual Identity Suicide? Differences in Privacy Concerns, Internet Addiction, and Personality Between Facebook Users and Quitters
Stefan Stieger, Christoph Burger, Manuel Bohn, and Martin Voracek. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. September 2013, 16(9): 629-634. doi:10.1089/cyber.2012.0323.
Published in Volume: 16 Issue 9: September 12, 2013

Abstract:
Social networking sites such as Facebook attract millions of users by offering highly interactive social communications. Recently, a counter movement of users has formed, deciding to leave social networks by quitting their accounts (i.e., virtual identity suicide). To investigate whether Facebook quitters (n=310) differ from Facebook users (n=321), we examined privacy concerns, Internet addiction scores, and personality. We found Facebook quitters to be significantly more cautious about their privacy, having higher Internet addiction scores, and being more conscientious than Facebook users. The main self-stated reason for committing virtual identity suicide was privacy concerns (48 percent). Although the adequacy of privacy in online communication has been questioned, privacy is still an important issue in online social communications.

11 September 2013

The consumer has spoken but is anyone listening?

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One would expect that listening to your customers’ needs and wants is a basic prerequisite for any business active in a competitive industry. It also is understandable that no business can satisfy all of its customers’ needs nor always meet the basic needs for most of its customers. This is where a competitive market and assistance of adequate regulation comes into place. It’s about correcting the behaviors of non-performers.

But what happens when an entire industry, not just one firm, persistently refuses to listen to most of its customers?

A reflection by Rene Summer, Ericsson’s Director of Government and Industry Relations on the needs and wants of TV and video consumers.

2 September 2013

Ericsson Report: Identifying the needs of tomorrow’s video consumers

tvandmedia

The Ericsson ConsumerLab TV & Media 2013 report (presentation) looks at how the explosion of connected mobile devices in the home has opened a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to viewing TV and video content.

Consumer viewing habits now involve so much more than just the living room TV and traditional broadcast services. Today people take their entertainment with them around the house – and beyond.

Key findings

Mobile devices make up an increasing share of TV and video viewing
> 72 percent use mobile devices at least weekly for video viewing. 42 percent do this outside the home.

TV is becoming a multiscreen and multitasking activity
> 75 percent multitask by using mobile devices while watching TV. 1 in 4 even watch multiple video sources at the same time.

Even late adopters are becoming advanced video users
> As many as 41 percent of 65–69 year olds studied stream on-demand/time shifted TV and video content, including YouTube, on a
more than weekly basis.

Video-On-Demand (VOD) is increasingly used for relaxation viewing while linear and scheduled TV is shifting to appointment viewing
> The value of linear TV is becoming more focused on live sports, events and other content with high ‘here and now’ appeal. Social viewing continues to be closely linked to this kind of content.

User-Generated Content (UGC) is becoming increasingly important
> It is not only being used for entertainment, but also for education, how-to guides and watching product reviews. In fact, 82 percent use YouTube or a similar service at least monthly.

We are witnessing the birth of aggregated, pick-and-mix TV solutions
> The quest has begun to become the first easy to use, à la carte TV solution provider that aggregates consumer TV and video needs. Consumers rank having an à la carte TV offering as the fifth most important aspect of their viewing experience.

1 September 2013

How we do user research in agile teams

researchanalysis

Getting user research into agile teams in a way that is timely, relevant and actionable is a challenge that teams the world over are tackling. Working effectively in agile has recently been the driver of some fairly significant changes to the way researchers work at the UK’s Government Digital Service.

We’ve been iterating how we do research in the same way we iterate our product design, and learned that the following techniques seem to integrate good research into agile teams more successfully:

- Dedicated researchers for each team
- Test designs at least every fortnight
- Everyone in the team should take part
- A varied toolkit
- See it through from analysis to action
- Sharing what we learn

29 August 2013

Seeing the elephant: defragmenting user research

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

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

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

28 August 2013

Exploring the use of tablets in educational settings

mindshift

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

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

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

19 August 2013

Social scientists find story in data to attract more customers

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 August 2013

Making the most of ethnographic research

five-ethnographic-techniques-small

Applying ethnographic methods to digital experiences can yield myriad benefits that go beyond simply validating that something works or identifying opportunities for improvement, write Jessica Weber and John Cheng of AnswerLab.

Ethnography reveals how digital and physical processes work together to help businesses address gaps and focus on the entire customer experience. Anyone who has done ethnographic research can attest to its value, and to how expensive and time-consuming it can be. That’s why it’s critical to reduce the risk of investing in it. The investment does pay off, and this article presents five techniques to help ensure to make the most of this investment and reap the many rewards ethnography delivers.

25 June 2013

Understanding human behaviour: taking a more complex approach

People resting on steps at Piazzale Michelangelo above Arno River and Florence near sunset

Large-scale surveys are useful but if we are serious about changing behaviours, we must use every tool to understand human complexity, writes Steven Johnson in the Sustainable Business section of The Guardian. Ethnographic approaches allow us to observe consumer behaviour as it happens naturally, rather than retrospectively discussing it in research setting.

“Recent advances in behavioural economics, cognitive neuroscience, network theory and social psychology more generally have overturned our common sense understanding of human behaviour. The rational, autonomous, self-aware agent acting in his own self-interest according to static preferences has faded as we realise that behaviour is largely irrational, unconscious and driven by external contexts. Ladies and gentleman, Homo economicus has left the building. [...]

If we are to deliver on our ambitions to empower new consumer behaviours, it is essential that we listen to the science and go beyond the limitations of traditional self-reporting research methodologies as a source of insight. As I have worked to incorporate these new perspectives into my own work over recent years, the emphasis has shifted towards bespoke approaches based on ethnographic and co-creation principles.”

This is the first in a 5-part series of posts based on Steven Johnson’s upcoming book, ‘Considered Creative‘. Steven Johnson is an independent writer, speaker and consultant specialising in behaviour change and sustainability.

19 June 2013

New Ericsson report on needs of today’s smartphone and mobile internet users

unlockingconsumervalue

A new Ericsson ConsumerLab report, Unlocking Consumer Value, identifies the needs of today’s smartphone and mobile internet users.

“The rapid uptake of smartphones and other connected devices has transformed the mobile broadband landscape – shaping and broadening the way users work, play and communicate. When the uptake of smartphones begins to accelerate in a particular market, it is vital to differentiate between consumers based on what they prioritize in an offering, whether that’s unwavering performance or cost control and data usage.

This report outlines Ericsson ConsumerLab’s findings and details six different mobile internet target groups: the Performance Seekers, the Cost Cutters, the Curious Novices, the Control Seekers, the VIPs and the Devicers.

As an example, for Performance Seekers the interaction with the operator is less important and price is of medium importance while the device and the performance are of high importance. Cost Cutters, on the other hand, only prioritize the price.

The report can be used to help operators and developers better understand what is important to their users. This information can enhance overall consumer experience and loyalty by creating more value through relevant services and offerings.”

4 June 2013

Understanding people core strategic goal of World Bank financial inclusion group

cgap

The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) is an independent policy and research center, affiliated with the World Bank, dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor.

Their next five-year strategic direction lays out five priority themes, desired outcomes, and activities against each priority. The first one is “Understanding demand to effectively deliver for the poor”.

“To ensure that access to financial services improves the lives of poor, low-income and underserved people, financial inclusion must be client-centric. Client-centricity is about providing financial solutions based on a deep understanding of poor people’s needs, preferences, and behaviors. This will require a shift from a transactional approach (i.e., narrow focus on selling a product to a customer) to a relationship approach (i.e., broad focus on understanding the dynamic needs and behaviors of customers over their lifecycle).”

The strategic direction document provides quite some detail on how they intend to implement this user-centered approach.

CGAP is supported by over 30 development agencies and private foundations who share a common mission to alleviate poverty. The Group provides market intelligence, promotes standards, develops innovative solutions and offers advisory services to governments, microfinance providers, donors, and investors.

27 May 2013

A selection from academia.edu

academia

Academia.edu, the platform for academics to share research papers, contains quite a few documents from fields such as design research, experience design and interaction design.

Below a selection of the last few months, sorted by upload date (most recently uploaded papers come first):

Designer Storytelling
David Parkinson and Erik Bohemia, Northumbria University
This paper aims to explore the approaches that designers take when storytelling. Design artefacts, such as sketches, models, storyboards and multimedia presentations, are often described in terms of stories.

Innovation in the Wild: Ethnography, Rurality and Communities of Participation
Alan Chamberlain and Andy Crabtree, University of Nottingham, UK
This paper presents a series of insights, discussions and methodologies relating to our experiences gained while carrying out research ‘in the wild’ in order to drive IT-based innovation within a rural context.

Ethnographic approach to design knowledge: Dialogue and participation as discovery tools within complex knowledge contexts
Francesca Valsecchi, Paolo Ciuccarelli, INDACO Department, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
This paper explores two main concepts: a) the ethnography as a thick andqualitative observation method, which refers to an active interpretation of the traditional ethnography by the communication design research mindset; b) the definition of design knowledge space, as extended boundaries for the physical place of design activities.

Interaction design and service design: Expanding a comparison of design disciplines
Stefan Holmlid, Human-Centered Systems, Linköpings Universitet, Sweden
In this paper we seek to identify common ground and differentiation in order to create supportive structures between interaction design and service design.

Prototyping and enacting services: Lessons learned from human-centered methods
Stefan Holmlid, Linköpings universitet, Sweden, and Shelley Evenson, Carnegie Mellon University, USA
In service development, finding new ways to prototype the service experience could potentially contribute to higher quality services, more well-directed service engineering processes, and more. In this paper, we draw on experience from the field of interaction design, which has a rich tradition of practice with the methods over the last two decades.

Connected Communities Of Makers
Marzia Mortati and Beatrice Villari, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy
The paper analyses the idea of crowd to understand how design is being influenced by the practices of mass participation both in the idea generation and innovation processes. Focusing on crowdfunding as a specific kind of crowdsourcing, we have analysed the case of Kickstarter using the filter of Communities of Practice. Two main reflections have emerged: the idea of a Temporary Community of Makers (TCoM), and connectivity as one of the elements to be designed in such environments.

Ethnographic Stories for Market Learning
Julien Cayla and Eric Arnould, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Drawing from extensive fieldwork in the world of commercial ethnography, the authors describe how ethnographic stories give corporate executives a unique means of understanding market realities. B

20 May 2013

Ericsson studies on people’s behaviors and values

ericsson

Ericsson’s ConsumerLab studies people’s behaviors and values, including the way they act and think about ICT products and services. Here are some of their recent publications:

How young professionals see the perfect company
April 2013
A new study from Ericsson ConsumerLab called “Young professionals at work” looks at the latest generation to enter the workforce: the Millennials.

Mixing schoolwork and leisure
March 2013
According to a ConsumerLab study, almost half of Estonian pupils use school computers for leisure activities. Many pupils also bring their own mobile phones and tablets to school to use for study purposes. This bring-your-own-device behavior blurs the boundary between leisure and school work.
> Video

Consumers’ TV and video behaviors (video)
March 2013
Niklas Heyman Rönnblom, Senior Advisor at Ericsson ConsumerLab, shares insights about consumer’s TV and video behaviors and priorities. The consumer insights highlighted in the video include the importance of HD quality, super simplicity and allowing consumers to personalize their own TV-packages.

Keys for success in the Personal information Economy
February 2013
A new report from Ericsson ConsumerLab shows that consumer awareness of how their information is being shared is still low and anonymous big data is rarely perceived as a big issue.

Network quality and smartphone usage experience
January 2013
New findings from Ericsson ConsumerLab have underlined the crucial role of good connectivity and network quality in smartphone user experience and operator loyalty.

On the same level as the ConsumerLab, sits Ericsson’s Networked Society Lab, which researches ICT-driven transformation in society, industry and service provider business.

They recently published a report on the future of learning:

As technology continues to transform our society, those responsible for our current systems of learning and education are facing overwhelming pressure to adapt.

Education technology, connected learning and the rise of the Networked Society are transforming the established concept of learning, teachers’ roles and even the nature of knowledge itself.

In an associated video (YouTube | Vimeo), Ericsson asked experts and educators to explain how learning and education are shifting away from a model based on memorization and repetition toward one that focuses on individual needs and self-expression. Obviously based on very friendly Silicon Valley-inspired technology that supports it all.

10 May 2013

How do you interview an interview specialist?

steve

Ethnography Matters took on a difficult challenge with this interview of Steve Portigal about his new book “Interviewing Users“.

EM: In your 18 years in this business, what has been some of the biggest shifts that you have witnessed in the field?

SP: When I entered the field, it was barely a field. There was no community, there were few people practicing, and there wasn’t a lot of demand for the work. I think the growth in the user experience field, through the web and then mobile devices has really pulled us along. Of course, there are researchers working in categories I have less visibility into so their shifts would be different. I saw insights about customers regarded as a luxury in the 2001 recession and thus low demand; but in 2008 companies talked about trying to innovate their way through the downturn and so insights and design were no longer expendable ingredients in product development.

Steve Portigal is the founder of Portigal Consulting, a bite-sized firm that helps clients to discover and act on new insights about themselves and their customers. Over the course of his career, he has interviewed hundreds of people, including families eating breakfast, hotel maintenance staff, architects, rock musicians, home-automation enthusiasts, credit-default swap traders, and radiologists. His work has informed the development of mobile devices, medical information systems, music gear, wine packaging, financial services, corporate intranets, videoconferencing systems, and iPod accessories.

Putting People First readers have a 20% discount off the list price of the book — simply place your order through Rosenfeld Media and use the coupon code PPF2013 upon checkout.

8 May 2013

Interviewing Users book – Special offers for Putting People First readers

interviewing-users

A few weeks ago, I announced Interviewing Users, the new book by Steve Portigal published by Rosenfeld Media. It is now available for purchase, both in print and in digital version.

Steve and his publisher provide Putting People First readers with two special offers:

  • Giveaway: the first three people leaving a reply on this post why they would love to get a free copy of this book, will get a mail from me with the code for exactly that: a free paper copy!
  • Discount: all others get something too: an exclusive 20% discount off the list price of the book — simply place your order through Rosenfeld Media and use the coupon code PPF2013 upon checkout.

Also note that Steve has posted a long excerpt from Chapter 2 “How to Uncover Compelling Insights” on Core77: . This part off the book sets up the overarching framework for successful interviewing: most experts have a set of best practices—tactics, really—that they follow. But what really makes them expert is that they have a set of operating principles. This ends up being more like a framework for how to be, rather than a list of what to do.

Grant McCracken meanwhile has posted his foreword to the book.

Thank you Louis, Mary and Steve.

6 May 2013

Tweeting Minarets: joining quantitative and qualitative research methodologies

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In the last post of the EthnographyMatters Ethnomining edition (edited by Nicolas Nova), David Ayman Shamma @ayman gives a personal perspective on mixed methods. Based on the example of data produced by people of Egypt who stood up against then Egyptian president and his party in 2011, he advocates for a comprehensive approach for data analysis beyond the “Big Data vs the World” situation we seem to have reached. In doing so, his perspective complements the previous posts by showing the richness of ethnographic data in order to deepen quantitative findings.

“Discovering how communities organize, grow, and communicate under times of distress is difficult even when technology hasn’t been cut. While many things surfaced on Twitter during the revolution, like the Hardees in Tahrir being used as a safe house, many questions were left unexplained or assumed to be the work of online social networking.

This is where ethnography matters–by surfacing what to look for in the big data and highlighting what might be salient trends and features despite not being dominant. And mostly, by identifying people’s motivations and giving a deeper understanding of why things happen. From there we can start to unravel the complex communication structures at play and define new metrics informed by human action. The effort is ongoing, as we surface what has been done and what we now know through, it still says we don’t know.

It’s not a race, it’s a partnership, a marriage. The goal isn’t to get to the end as quickly as possible but rather to work together over time and build a richer world. We should strive to find these links between the quantitative and qualitative, and leave the silos which have us fragmented as a research community.”

David Ayman Shamma is a research scientist in the Internet Experiences group at Yahoo! Research for which he designs and evaluates systems for multimedia-mediated communication.

23 April 2013

How will Big Data change design research?

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Dave McColgin of Artefact writes about the relationship of design research to the ultimate outcome-focused research tool: Big Data.

“Big Data [...] provides us with new resources when determining which people our products should be made for. Its ability to find patterns and correlations allows us to reach a broader set of research participants. Over time, it can deepen our understanding of human behavior, interaction and preferences, making our designs better and our ability to understand and predict the outcome of our work more accurate.”