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Posts in category 'User research'

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

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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.”

11 January 2013

How research misses the human behind the demographic

distance

Deutsch’s Douglas Van Praet discusses how focus-group feedback, and the whole notion of the consumer, are misguided and how research should focus on understanding the unconscious and improving human lives.

“How [market] research studies are done is at sharp odds with what science now knows. The elephant in the room is that the vast majority of our decisions are made unconsciously. What is a no-brainer for any cognitive scientist remains mind-boggling to marketers. The conscious mind is simply not running the show, but we’ve created an entire industry pretending that it does.

Advertisers are doubling down on this myth, investing in exhaustive investigations of self-reported preferences, attitudes, opinions, and beliefs. These deceptions become guideposts for product and campaign development. For $150 and a ham sandwich, panelists are drilled for hours in formal focus groups before two-way mirrors and cleverly concealed microphones that elicit groupthink and inauthenticity. The best become “professional respondents” glibly dominating groups on the topic du jour–from potato chip to microchip.

The problem is we’re profoundly social beings having spent 99% of our evolution relying on vital resources from tribal affiliates whose opinions mattered. Group rejection likely meant a death sentence. So it’s no surprise we still only put our best face forward while artfully maneuvering ourselves competitively in the pecking order.

The brain is designed to hide most of our intentions and promote self-confidence, an adaptive function that improves lives and prevents information overload. So we invent stories and believe our lies and confabulations. Social science experiments reveal that we are inherently self-righteous and consistently overrate our knowledge, autonomy, and abilities. We say advertising doesn’t influence us even though sales say otherwise. And we maintain these self-serving delusions when wired to a lie detector, which means we are lying to ourselves and not intentionally to the experimenters.

Douglas Van Praet is the author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing. He is also Executive Vice President at agency Deutsch L.A., where his responsibilities include Group Planning Director for the Volkswagen account. Van Praet’s approach to advertising and marketing draws from unconscious behaviorism and applies neurobiology, evolutionary psychology, and behavioral economics to business problems.

9 January 2013

Focus groups are dangerous and kill innovation

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Gianfranco Zaccai is co-founder and president of the global design and innovation consultancy Continuum. And he doesn’t like focus groups very much (and neither do we):

Why Focus Groups Kill Innovation, From The Designer Behind Swiffer
18 October 2012
The Aeron chair, the Swiffer, and the Reebok Pump – none of these breakthrough products would have gotten high marks from a focus group. Here, Continuum’s Gianfranco Zaccai lists four steps to take before introducing a design to the masses.

Focus Groups Are Dangerous. Know When To Use Them
9 January 2013
Focus groups won’t give rise to innovative ideas, maintains Continuum’s Gianfranco Zaccai. But they can help refine the core concept when used at the right moment in the design process. Here’s how to do it.

3 January 2013

Research on the impact of tablets in secondary schools

tabletsforschools

Two months ago I wrote about what was then one of the first qualitative studies on the impact of tablets in schools:

“Carphone Warehouse (corporate site), a UK mobile phone retailer, recently commissioned the Family Kids and Youth research agency to conduct a qualitative study of schools situated in Belfast, Kent and Essex where children are already benefiting from tablet use. The aim of the research, which ran from April to July 2012, was to find out more about how tablets are actually being used in education.”

Now the full report (95 pages) of that study is online on a new Tablets for School website.

“The report summarises findings from an evaluation study that looked at the feasibility of giving pupils in secondary schools one-to-one tablets. Research was carried out between September 2011 and July 2012 and included a literature review, a review of global evaluation studies, and an evaluation of three secondary schools that had chosen to give pupils one-to-one tablets in September 2011. The three schools were in Belfast, Kent and Essex, with the main focus of the research on the Essex school, and included a nearby ‘control school’ that did not have one-to-one tablets, plus two feeder primary schools. Interviews with school leadership were carried out in all schools, plus observation of tablet learning in the three Tablet schools across a range of subjects. In addition eighteen focus groups were carried out with pupils, parents and teachers. Results suggest several benefits to learning including an increased motivation to learn; increased parental engagement; more efficient monitoring of progress between pupil and teacher; greater collaboration between teacher and pupil and between pupil and pupil. It appears that one-to-one Tablets offer a sense of inclusion that allow children, irrespective of socio-economic status or level of attainment, an opportunity to thrive through a new pedagogical model of pupil-led learning.”

The research summary page also lists separate downloads of the key findings (Word, 8 pages), executive summary (Word, 17 pages), and executive presentation (PowerPoint, 70 slides).

In the coming weeks a new, follow-up research project is about to start.

Most interestingly, the site also links to four other research studies that are worth exploring:

2011 Horizon Report for K12 Education (40 pages)
The NMC Horizon Report series is a research venture that identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years in education around the globe.

Smart Classrooms, Queensland – Is the iPad suitable as a learning tool in schools? (51 pages)
A study in two schools on the use of the iPad, as part of the Queensland Department of Education and Training’s technology initiatives. Throughout the trial, participating students and teachers evaluated the iPad’s performance in a day-to-day school setting.

Project Red : The Technology Factor (180 pages)
A detailed report looking at the use of technology in the education sector. Project RED provides unprecedented scope, breadth, and depth, examining 997 schools to produce outputs for 11 diverse education success measures and 22 categories of independent variables (with many subcategories). These include demographic measures and the effects of various student-computer ratios (1:1, 2:1 etc).

Virginia Department of Education : Beyond Textbooks, Year One Report (29 pages)
In November 2009, the Virginia Department of Education launched a project to explore the implications of introducing traditional textbook alternatives into classrooms. The Beyond Textbooks pilot was part of Learning without Boundaries, an initiative of the Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology that incorporates wireless mobile handheld technology into teaching and learning.
This report shares findings from Phase 1 of the project. Fifteen classrooms — representing four school divisions — participated in the pilot. Using a design-based research approach, evaluators collected data through formal and informal interviews, direct observations, web site posts, and e-mail messages

20 December 2012

Seven questions with library anthropologist Nancy Fried Foster

Nancy-Fried-Foster

In her work anthropologist Nancy Fried Foster applies anthropological principles to the study of the university’s libraries and their users. By focusing on the work that people are doing inside these spaces, they can identify needs and imagine new solutions to address those needs.

“My background provides me with a lot of field experience and a grounding in anthropological theory, all of which I apply when I look at what happens in libraries or, more generally, in academic work. At the same time, I have read and received on-the-job training in work-practice study and user-centered design, which are more recent applied social science traditions.

In participatory design projects we learn about the work practices of faculty members, grad students, undergrads, and our own colleagues in the library. As we learn, we discover opportunities to provide better technology, services, and spaces. To dig a little deeper, the way we learn is by including a lot of different kinds of experts in the design process—both the traditional experts such as software engineers and the people who are experts on the work that is to be done and how best to do it.

My broader studies—the projects that are not specifically related to building a piece of software, but are more generally about investigating how people do their work—resemble ethnographic studies. The focus is always on the work that people are doing: how they are working, where they are encountering obstacles, what they are trying to achieve. We are looking at people’s work practices in their broader life context and our goal is to understand and support their work.”

Read the interview

14 December 2012

Are the older generation getting tech-savvy?

oldpersonipad

BBC News has published a 5 minute video feature on Cambridge University’s Design Centre where they test how elderly people use technology.

Must-have modern gadgets are designed by young people with young people in mind – that is the view of Ian Hosking, who works at Cambridge University’s Design Centre.

This can mean that elderly people, who have much to gain from modern technology, feel excluded.

Mr Hosking’s mission is to improve the accessibility of modern, mass-produced devices like smartphones and tablets. To this end, he conducts experiments with volunteers.

The Design Lab conducts tests on individual products, but the general findings that Mr Hosking discusses here apply to digital communication devices across the market.

BBC News also posted a longer article on the same topic.

14 December 2012

McKinsey’s iConsumer Global Research Initiative

mckinsey

Recent reports from McKinsey’s iConsumer Global Research Initiative:

Moving from “mobile first” to “touch first”
December 2012 (published on the EconomistGroup site)
Already, more than a third of the time people spend web browsing, using social networking sites, and using e-mail/messaging software is on mobile devices. In a couple of years, we expect it to be more than half. This is creating a ‘touch first’ computing paradigm, which means overhauling how information is delivered to and accessed by the consumer.

The rise of the African consumer
October 2012
The single-largest business opportunity in Africa will be its rising consumer market. A McKinsey report, one of the first of its kind, offers a detailed profile of African consumers, including their demographics, behavior, and needs.

The complex path to purchase taken by Europe’s iConsumers
June 2012
What are Europe’s iConsumers thinking? To find out, McKinsey & Company studied the digitally-based purchasing behavior of 40,000 Europeans in eight countries for the second year in a row. This study sheds light on future threats and opportunities by comparing European consumers and examining the resulting business implications.

The next stage: Six ways the digital consumer is changing
April 2012
The Internet, not yet 20 years on from its emergence into the consumer mainstream, is evolving as fast as ever.

12 December 2012

On Digital Ethnography: mapping as a mode of data discovery

wendyhsu

While digital ethnography is an established field within ethnography, we don’t often hear of ethnographers building digital tools to conduct their fieldwork. Wendy Hsu wants to change that.

In the first of her four-part guest post series on Tricia Wang’s Ethnography Matters, she showed how ethnographers can use software, and even build their own software, to explore online communities.

Part 2 of of Wendy’s Digital Ethnography series focuses on the processing and interpreting part. In fascinating detail, Wendy discusses mapping as a mode of discovery. We learn how using a customized spatial “algorithm that balances point density and readability” can reveal patterns that inform the physical spread of musicians’ fans and friends globally. Geo-location data clarified her qualitative data.

In her next post she will talk about how we can discern patterns and discover new knowledge as take our data into other sensory dimensions such as the sonic. She will also formulate some thoughts regarding the issues around big data (or small data) from the perspective of ethnography.

3 December 2012

How Ford makes its cars smarter

mascarenas

In the fast-evolving world of connected cars, CTO Paul Mascarenas is bringing Detroit and Silicon Valley together to chart Ford’s path into the future.

Brian Cooley of CNet interviews him during a walk through Ford’s advanced research facilities.

3 December 2012

Intel’s UX research on touch interface usage and Ultrabooks

darialoi

One of the more innovative studies to come along at Intel in regards to user experience and the Ultrabook is Daria Loi’s global survey of touch interface usage.

Dario Loi, who is UX Innovation Manager at Intel’s PC Client Solution’s Division, presents in this video, entitled “How Multi-Region User Experience Influences Touch on Ultrabook (video),” an overview of a recent multi-region User Experience study and discusses how it is influencing Intel’s Ultrabook strategy, particularly in view of Windows 8.

The study, a qualitative UX investigation focused on the use of touch in clamshell devices, was conducted in Q3 and Q4 2011 in US, Italy, PRC and Brazil. The talk focuses on the research’s motivations, insights, recommendations, strategic impact and influence, providing a number of key examples which are narrated through users’ voices.

To read more about this research, see the article The Human Touch – Building Ultrabook Applications in a Post-PC Age.

The topic of touch features in Ultrabook apps is further explored in an ongoing Intel series by Luke Wroblewski. He provides a thoughtful look at how various touch factors work when integrated into working apps. The videos are by Luke Wroblewski, the accompanying articles by Wendy Boswell:
1. Touch interfaces: Video | Article
2. Touch target: Video | Article
3. Touch gestures: Video | Article
4. Location detection (article by Wendy Boswell)

Intel has also posted three overview articles on the topic:

Keyboard and Touch: Like Peanut Butter and Jelly
by Wendy Boswell
Is there really validity for a so-called “pure” touch experience? Is getting rid of the keyboard something that should even be seriously considered? Are we moving towards a completely touch-only computing age? In this article, we’re going to take a look at the touch experience without the keyboard, evaluating this perspective both from the developer and the consumer side. We’re going to pretend that the upcoming touch-based Ultrabook isn’t coming with a nifty keyboard, and in fact, only offers touch as an input method. Let’s take a look at what all of this might look like.

Innovating for User Experience on Intel Ultrabook
by Rajagopal A
Get the secrets of innovating for your users. This article (video) gives you the approach, the design concept to innovate User Experience on your app. We share with you how we created an cool Ux on the Intel Ultrabook. To find out a novel way to interact with your PC, see the videos in this article.

User Experience and Ultrabook™ App Development
by Wendy Boswell
In this article, we’re going to take a look at what user experience is all about, especially in regards to Ultrabook devices and Ultrabook app development. We’re also going to figure out how usability fits in with user experience, and how UX can impact app development (for better or for worse).

29 November 2012

Nestor’s World, a Belgian social design tool

nestor

The full service design agency Pars Pro Toto in Ghent, Belgium built the “Wereld van Nestor” [Nestor's World], a social design tool meant to help local governments in Flanders create a better world for their elderly citizens.

The tool is built on 10 personas and their experience with eight different topics. These eight topics – housing, mobility, public spaces and the built environment, social participation, respect and social engagement, active participation and employment, communication and information, public and health services – are areas where local government can make a real difference for their elderly citizens. They are based on the WHO report Global age-friendly cities.

Local governments can now construe their senior citizen plans based on the relevance and impact of their planned services on one or more of these personas.

The project came about through a collaboration with the Social Welfare Agency of the City of Ghent, and with the support of Design Flanders. The research that it was based on is not very clearly described, but the site mentions interviews and workshops.

For now the tool only exists in Dutch (and the socio-cultural context is also distinctively Flemish), but if you have any special questions, please contact Johan Bonner (info@parsprototo.be) on +32 (0)9/244.62.20.