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Posts in category 'User research'

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

imgres

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?

bigdatatg-Cartoon

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.”

23 April 2013

Report: Survey of European schools on ICT in education

Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 11.47.12

This study collected and benchmarked information from 31 European countries (EU27, HR, ICE, NO and TR) on the access, use, competence and attitudes of students and teachers regarding ICT in schools.

ICT provision and use in European schools is improving but several obstacles remain. First, teachers still believe that insufficient ICT equipment is the biggest obstacle to ICT use in many countries. Second, whilst teachers are using ICT for preparing classes, ICT use in the classroom for learning is infrequent. Teacher training in ICT is rarely compulsory and most teachers devote spare time to private study. Third, students and teachers have the highest use of ICT and ICT learning-based activities when schools combine policies on ICT integration in teaching and learning. However, most schools don’t have such an overarching policy. Therefore it is not surprising that teachers generally believe that there is a need for radical change to take place for ICT to be fully exploited in teaching and learning.

The study was carried out for the European Commission by European Schoolnet and the University of Liège in Belgium. The report was published on 18 April 2013.

Press release
Project site

19 April 2013

Five reasons why kids need special user research

3baa6c7

Sabina Idler, who runs a UX research company in Amsterdam, provides five reasons why kids need special attention when it comes to user research:

1. Kids form their own target group
2. Kids form a diverse target group
3. You have to ask kids what they think to validate your ideas
4. Put kids in charge and benefit from their unbiased creativity
5. Build products that kids love and parented appreciate

(via InfoDesign)

19 April 2013

How Facebook design researchers evaluate the first-time user experience

how-facebook-design-researchers-evaluate-first-time-user-experience

Chris Dannen, the editor of Co.Labs at FastCompany, sat down with Facebook UX Researcher Marco De Sa to learn his thoughts on enticing first-time users.

The interview is split out in two parts:
Part One: What are you looking for in a first time user experience?
Part Two: all other questions

Nothing much revealing in the interview, except how superficial research leads to superficial results.

15 April 2013

Book: Interviewing Users (by Steve Portigal)

interviewing-users

Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights
by Steve Portigal
Rosenfeld Media
To be published: early May 2013

Interviewing is a foundational user research tool that people assume they already possess. Everyone can ask questions, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Interviewing Users provides invaluable interviewing techniques and tools that enable you to conduct informative interviews with anyone. You’ll move from simply gathering data to uncovering powerful insights about people.

Interviewing Users will explain how to succeed with interviewing, including:

  • Embracing how other people see the world
  • Building rapport to create engaging and exciting interactions
  • Listening in order to build rapport.

With this book, Steve Portigal uses stories and examples from his 15 years of experience to show how interviewing can be incorporated into the design process, helping you learn the best and right information to inform and inspire your design.

24 March 2013

Big Data and personal data for behavioral analysis and behavioral change

logoMTL2

In a broader article on Big Data and privacy, the New York Times writes about the work of Alex Pentland, a computational social scientist, director of the Human Dynamics Lab at the M.I.T., and academic adviser to the World Economic Forum’s initiatives on Big Data and personal data.

His M.I.T. team, writes the New York Times, is also working on living lab projects. One that began recently, the Mobile Territorial Lab, is in the region around Trento, Italy, in cooperation with Telecom Italia and Telefónica, the Spanish mobile carrier. About 100 young families with young children are participating. The goal is to study how much and what kind of information they share on smartphones with one another, and with social and medical services — and their privacy concerns.

The Mobile Territorial Lab (MTL) aims at creating an experimental environment to push forward the research on human-behavior analysis and interaction studies of people while in mobility. MTL has been created by Telecom Italia SKIL Lab, in cooperation with Telefonica I+D, the Human Dynamics group at MIT Media Lab, the Institute for Data Driven Design (ID³) and Fondazione Bruno Kessler, and with contributions from Telecom Italia Future Center.

The data presents a valuable and unique source for investigating personal needs, community roles, phone usage patterns, etc. and for providing benefits to people in terms of personal, economic and social benefits.

MTL aims at exploiting smartphones’ sensing capabilities to unobtrusively and cost-effectively access to previously inaccessible sources of data related to daily social behavior (location, physical proximity of other devices; communication data (phone calls and SMS), movement patterns, and so on. The Mobile Territorial Lab (MTL) in Trentino aims at fostering mobile phone related research activities with real people on a very responsive territory. This include the involvement of a significant number of committed users with the goal of having a continuous and active user base to interact with and cutting down the experimentation setup costs. Not only.
A continued and active user base equipped with smartphones, enabling users to access (from everywhere) online services and to collect personal or contextual information from the integrated sensors, represents a valuable and unique sample for investigating new paradigms in the management of personal data.

20 March 2013

Ethnography: Ellen Isaacs at TEDxBroadway

 

Ellen Isaacs (personal site), a user experience designer and ethnographer at PARC, spoke on January 28 at TEDx Broadway about the power of ethnography and how it might be useful in inspiring the future of Broadway.

As per usual with TEDx events, a video is now available.

13 March 2013

methods@manchester: research methods in the social sciences

 

methods@manchester is a website created by the University of Manchester to highlight and explain research methods in the social sciences. Many sections come with lecture videos and reading lists.

Readers will be particularly interested in the sections on collaborative approaches, ethnographic methods and qualitative interview analysis.

11 March 2013

Re-designing (or redefining) UXD

UXD2013_Hero

Putting People First rarely plugs conferences (before they happen) but this one seems intriguing:

RE:DESIGN/UX Design will take place in Silicon Valley on April 29–30, 2013. The events are capped at 125 attendees and the focus is on small-scale, spirited, salon-style discussions with industry leaders and peers.

The theme for 2013 is “James Bond is an Experience Designer: What UXD Can Learn from How Others Think”

“As we hurtle into the future and the concept of “experiences” changes dramatically by the day, what it means to be an “experience designer” is changing, too. At RE:DESIGN/UXD we’ll dive in and see what we can learn about crafting the future of experience by thinking like a British spy, a journalist, a genome-code cracker and beyond.”

The speaker line, very much focused on interactive media and Silicon Valley type software companies, is impressive, with such greats as Peter Merholz, Eric Rodenbeck and Jeff DeVries.

I wonder if they will discuss the rich debate currently unrolling on the changing role of UX research, particularly in Silicon Valley.

23 February 2013

Cultivating empathic design in an analytical world

circuitry

There is an empathy gap in technology development, argues April Demosky on the FT’s Tech Blog.

“In the analytic, data-driven world of Silicon Valley, emotions often do not get factored into the latest product design.

This comes down to the way engineers and technicians think, says Anthony Jack, the director of the mind, brain, and consciousness lab at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. [...]

That tension appears in the hallways of Google and Facebook, where technical thinkers reign. Understanding how people in Africa use a product, or how people who speak Dutch use it, often starts with looking at data. [...]

At the Wisdom 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, Mr Jack urged technology leaders to do more to incorporate empathic-minded people into the production process, so that their tools were more relevant and useful to everyday folk.

“It’s still hard for a Google employee to really understand what it’s like for an average user to use a Google product,” Mr Jack said.”

Related article: Cerebral circuitry on on whether gadgets are changing how our brains work as regards empathy and human interaction:

“Online culture, and social networks in particular, are oriented toward outer lives, rather than inner lives, [says Jaron Lanier, a prominent Silicon Valley technologist]. It favours objective, quantitative thoughts over subjective, qualitative feelings.

Today’s dominant internet programs reflect the analytic minds of the engineers who built them and fail to capture the humanistic elements of everyday life, he says. As a result, technology is reducing the range of cognitive styles, similar to monocropping in agriculture, where the cultivation of one massive crop of wheat on the same land year after year reduces the diversity of soil nutrients and results in less resilient plants.”

22 February 2013

How will big data change design research?

bigdatatg-Cartoon

Will design researchers (and our models and explanations) be replaced by data tables and “experience actuaries” that tell us what to build, for whom, and what it should be like? Artefact’s Dave Mc Colgin doesn’t think so.

“In our field of designing products and experiences, the ‘why’ stays at the center of our process and creativity. Many designers work mostly on new products and services for which there may not yet be reliable data available. To do this work, we need to understand whether insights from the past are applicable to new people and contexts. While Big Data can inform designers on how to improve once they put something out there, it is design research that provides principled guidance towards good solutions all along the way. Big Data can’t help us do that right now.

However, Big Data can augment design in other ways. It 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.”