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Posts in category 'UXnet'

30 June 2010

Goodbye to UXnet “News” readers

UXnet
For nearly three years, selected Putting People First posts — 837 to be precise — have also been published on the website of UXnet.

Now that UXnet is being disbanded, the site will be archived and these posts will stay on the archive site. You can also find all UXnet posts directly on the Putting People First blog.

We thank the community for their interest in our news and invite all of you to continue reading Putting People First where all the UXnet posts came from.

19 June 2010

UXnet disbanded

UXnet
Louis Rosenfeld, president of the Board of Directors of UXnet, announced last night that the user experience network is being disbanded:

“On behalf of UXnet’s board of directors, I have a bit of difficult news to share: we are disbanding UXnet.

UXnet simply is not structured to achieve its goal of building a sustainable network of UX people. We don’t have the ability to tackle or pay for the kind of development work that such a goal requires. We’ve tried hard for eight years, but it’s time to recognize that our approach isn’t the right one and move on.”

Read announcement

14 June 2010

UX leadership

UX leadership
Will Evans (Director, Experience Design for Semantic Foundry) and Daniel Szuc (Principal Usability Consultant at Apogee) have created UX Leadership, a new publication and forum to discuss leadership in the context of the UX community, and “to start a user experience revolution”.

Their vision:

“We believe that the world faces great challenges: lack of information access; health care; sustainability and global poverty. User experience professionals practicing the disciplines of information architecture, interaction design, usability analysis and accessibility, are positioned to face these great challenges.

At its best, user experience design involves more than form and content and behavior, crafted in a meaningful context that leaves an impact over time. The highest aspirations of our profession will only be achieved when leadership and excellence are joined. Our profession as a whole must demonstrate the understanding and perspectives that can only come from the intertwingling of many different backgrounds, cultures and experiences.”

(via Konigi)

12 June 2010

Using stories for a better user experience

Storytelling
Whitney Quesenbery and Kevin Brooks, authors of the book “Storytelling for User Experience: Crafting Stories for Better Design”, describe how storytelling can help you collect, analyze and share user research information.

“Stories can help you collect, analyze and share qualitative information from user research and usability, spark design imagination and keep in touch with your audience. Storytelling and story listening are not a new methodology, but something you can add to your current practice to deepen and richen your understanding of users and their experience.

Three places where stories are a good fit are:

  • Collecting stories from your audience to create a richer picture of how, when and why they use your products and documentation.
  • Adding stories to personas to share your audience analysis, blending facts and information to make an emotional connection.
  • Using stories for more naturalistic usability testing (planning those stories, or gathering them on the spot).”

Read articles: WritersUA | Johnny Holland

9 June 2010

Handbook of Global User Research

Handbook of Global User Research
Handbook of Global User Research
by Robert Schumacher (editor)
Morgan Kaufmann
October, 2009
336 pages

User research is global – yet despite its pervasiveness, practitioners are not all well equipped to work globally. What may have worked in Nigeria may not be accepted in Russia, may be done differently in Brazil, may partly work in China, and may completely fail in Kuwait. And what often goes less noticed, but can be equally vexing are technical, logistical and planning issues such as hiring qualified translators, payment procedures, travel issues, setting up facilities and finding test participants.

The Handbook of Global User Research is the first book to focus on global user research. The book collects insight from UX professionals from over 20 countries and, following a typical project timeline, presents practical insights into the preparation, fieldwork, analysis and reporting, and overall project management for global user research projects. Any user experience professional that works on global projects — including those new to the field, UX veterans who need information on this expanding aspect of user research, and students — will need this book to do their job effectively.

(via InfoDesign)

8 June 2010

Rapid prototyping at UNICEF

UNICEF
On 10-11 May, UNICEF New York organised the Design Days, where they invited designers and engineers who have worked with UNICEF to discuss the organisation, the (rapid prototyping) design process, and recommendations for future design collaborations.

They have now produced a video that is a synopsis of the projects, themes and trouble-shooting expressed at the event.

“We have edited down a conversation between UNICEF sponsored rapid design prototypers to profile what they have created in order to respond to and alleviate actual needs of families and children. This video is intended to help make transparent the iterative process that development must undergo in order to create a new device that can respond to global concerns. Also touched on are ways for the organization to make the process of creating prototypes more streamlined, and to take what is developed and make it open source in order to create a sustainable and beneficial outcome to those that need it.”

Watch video

2 June 2010

Videos of IIT Design Research Conference

DRC
Videos of the recent IIT Design Research Conference are currently being uploaded. Here is the list of the presentations (alphabetical by speaker’s last name), with video links (where available):

Tim Brown | IDEO (conference bio)
We’re all design researchers now (34:15)

Solving some of society’s biggest challenges today will require large scale behavior change. Tim will talk about putting design thinking into the hands of everyone to inspire change and tackle the world’s biggest problems.

Allan Chochinov | Core77 (conference bio)
First Person Plural: The value of getting it from the horse’s mouth (24:15)

In a maturing world of design research methodologies, the value of primary research cannot be overstated. This talk will move through a series of student-initiated projects, each triggered by a singular, profound insight or leveraged to an engagement with a community far beyond the designer’s anticipated reach. We will discuss specific techniques for soliciting input from target audiences, and ways to recognize the good stuff when you see it. It all starts with the first person.

Joyce Chou | Core77
The steampunk solution to disruptive technology (14:04)

Martha Cotton | gravitytank (conference bio)
Accidents and Plans: A few good tools for collaboration (25:47)

Once upon a time, marketers saw truth mostly in numbers. But there have been some key shifts in the last 10 or so years: Design Research has broken out of its niche status and quantitative research has been stripped of its compulsory status. Design research has moved to the mainstream; quantitative research has become but one of many tools for decision making.
“Truth” about consumers is now found in many ways: stories, photos, video, quotes, anecdotes, sketches, conceptual frameworks, and more. Accompanying this shift our community has developed, and will continue to develop, more useful and interesting ways to gather qualitative data.
This talk explores a variety of compelling ways we are now able to gather qualitative data. She also expands the context to explore ways other phases in the qualitative research lifecycle can be done in more rich and effective ways including participant recruiting, analysis, and accessing project data over time.

Erica Eden | Smart Design, Femme Den (conference bio)
Sex Ed: Clients, Designers, and Everyone Else (27:40)

Why is gender important? Smart Design’s Femme Den explores the gap between assumptions and realities about women. As practicing designers and design researchers, we apply new ways to design for the elusive women’s market. To create products and experiences that women love, we must better understand their lives, as well as our clients’ objectives and designers’ perspectives. In this talk, we will be sharing our methodologies to meet the needs of and effectively communicate with these three interconnected groups.

Kim Erwin | IIT Institute of Design (conference bio)
Diane Fraley | D.S. Fraley Associates (conference bio)
Our world is flat, too: the paradigm shift of online research (30:08)

When Thomas Friedman declared the world flat, in his seminal book by the same name, he summarized the dramatic shift in commerce and competition across the globe brought about by the Internet. This technology, he notes, puts nearly everything within reach of nearly everyone, and our global economy is now essentially free of geographic restraints—it’s a level playing field. What’s to become of us of all, he asks?
We should be asking this, too. As with most professions, the Internet is reshaping the landscape of user research. This is happening on two levels: the business model of user research, and the practice model of user research.
On the business side, large online research houses are capturing a growing portion of research work, leveraging economies of scale and exclusive contracts designed to appeal to the finance people inside organizations.
On the practice side, research design has become a vastly more complex and interesting proposition. The Internet and digital media combine to form a powerful set of new data collection tools, while also giving us access to participants across geographies and time zones.
The new playing field dramatically expands what’s possible: Micro-blogging, asynchronous video, synchronous video, video diaries, remote activity monitoring—we can now do it all, all at once. As researchers, we can be everywhere at the same time. We can instantly review data collected remotely. We can have intimate contact with participants while miles apart.
All of this challenges our research processes and logic—“web work” now joins “field work” to reshape the paradigm for bringing producers closer to their consumers. How do we leverage this new paradigm to enrich research design and the resulting data? How might we use “web work” to deliver against objectives in an increasingly time-constrained development environment? How does our new reach inform user research for strategy development—one of the bigger frontiers of practice.
In this talk, Diane Fraley and Kim Erwin share a new approach that hybridizes “field work” and “web work.” Working with graduate students at the Institute of Design, Kim and Diane designed and executed the first phase of a multi-phase, exploratory project—integrating multiple online technologies to deliver a picture of how shopping behavior is rapidly shifting as early majorities adopt the Internet and smart phones to manage their homes.

Heather Fraser | Rotman DesignWorks (conference bio)
Design (Research) as a Shared Platform (video not yet available)

We live in a world where VUCA is the new acronym for ‘Holy cow, this is a tough nut to crack.” Faced with complex challenges, design, and most critically design research, is not only an important field for new methodologies and tools; it is also a shared platform for building a common campfire and a shared understanding of the purpose and actions for all organizations. Through our work at Rotman DesignWorks with students of all disciplines and executives across all functions, we have witnessed the power of shared discoveries and appreciation for design research as the foundation and fuel for creating new value and mobilizing organizations to rise to today’s challenges.

Usman Haque | Pachube (conference bio)
Notes on the design of participatory systems – for the city or for the planet (25:42)

Cooperation is difficult. Even when everybody agrees on an end goal, and even when everybody agrees on what is needed to achieve that end goal, it does not mean that everyone (or even anyone) will be able to take the first step, which is the most important step. The talk discusses the paradoxical structures of collaboration and ways that the paradoxes can be harnessed, illustrated occasionally with concrete examples from past work.

Cathy Huang | China Bridge International (conference bio)
Looking Inward: Design Research in China (25:17)

Conducting design research in an emerging market like China takes cultural understanding, patience, along with a level of empathy that is not normally gained overnight. In this presentation, Cathy Huang will take an inward look at China to bring forward key challenges that China Bridge International (CBi) is encountering while trying to gain insight through design research in China.
How does Social Conformity, Confucius, Utilitarianism and the belief that concealing ones economic status create obstacles for gaining insight in China? How does a research project navigate the many cultural, social, psychographic, and geographical differences when doing research in China?
These represent a few of the questions Cathy will discuss in her presentation. The background and foundation for her thoughts and perspectives are presented from the findings of many cases studies and experiences gained from her work at CBi — an insight-based innovation and design strategy firm.

Stokes Jones | Lodestar (conference bio)
Stokes Jones: Getting Embedded: In Search of Alt-innovation (video not yet available)

Whatever innovation process you favor, chances are it’s a relatively ‘top-down’ one. In this presentation, I will explore the roots of, and a working model for, an alternative type of innovation that is ‘bottom-up’ and anthropologically grounded. What we call “embedded innovation” is not something companies do to the world – after a staged series of research and workshop events – but a cultural process that people are continually unfolding in the world over time. In this approach, the key focus for design research and strategy becomes ‘attunement’ not invention – identifying the embedded innovation already taking place in a context or marketspace, then aligning to and enhancing it.
We look at cases of how this method has been applied cross-culturally by Lodestar; for researching with P&G the design of new over-the-counter medicines in South Africa; for social networking in Brazil, as well as by comparison to a familiar household product in the US. We will then consider the implications of complementing the usual ‘heroic’, company-led innovation with this more humble form. We believe research into embedded innovation leads to solutions that are truly human centered and empathic because it connects people to the value inherent in proposed products and services by designing offers from the inside out of their own ‘folk models’ and situated practices.

Anjali Kelkar | Studio for Design Research (conference bio)
Getting the most out of design research in Asia (24:46)

How can the Design Research practice uncover and understand cultural nuances of consumers in new markets better? Also, does this practice the way we conduct it in the West, really work in China and India? Do we need new tools or do we need to approach this practice differently? The talk will address the above questions with case studies from various projects.

Gerald Lombardi | Hall & Partners (conference bio)
The deskilling of ethnographic labor: an emerging predicament and a possible solution (11:10)

An oft-stated rule in the world of design has been, “Good, fast, cheap: pick two”. The success of ethnography as a support to design, branding and marketing has forced this rule into action with a vengeance. Companies now demand that more and more ethnographic knowledge be produced in ever-shorter timeframes and on ever-lower budgets. Our work output has become a mass production item, and the pressure is on. Ethnographers like me find that our Ph.D.s and cosmopolitan outlooks are scant protection as we undergo the same process experienced by many other highly trained workers over the past two centuries: job deskilling.
Job deskilling is a two-edged sword that brings opportunity and misery at the same time, though not always to the same people. Without taking a position on merits or demerits, in my talk I will first review the mechanisms of professional deskilling as the manufacture of ethnographic output has expanded. I will also give examples from my experience as someone who is on both sides of the issue, often finding my own work situation deskilled, and sometimes required by business objectives to submit others to that kind of regime.
The resulting picture is a bit grim. Are those of us who practice ethnography for industry condemned to the same fate as the skilled automobile craftsmen of Detroit circa 1908? (They were replaced by machines, and now there are 680 million motor vehicles on Earth.) And are the outputs of our creative research destined to be commoditized, to the sad detriment of the products we help bring into the world? Perhaps not. So much is made these days of the need for disruptive innovation — what if we apply that outlook to the conditions of our own labor? I have in mind a collusion between ethnographic laborers and their more enlightened employers, in the service of a better paradigm, a realignment of “Good, fast, cheap” so there’s a chance for more “Good” to peek through.
But that’s impossible, right? Business would never stand for it…. To the contrary, I assert that the material conditions of global production are soon going to require a disruptive change regardless of what the business world thinks. I explain what and why that is, and urge that we make our new professional motto this one: “Why pay less?”

Doug Look | Autodesk (conference bio)
Up in the Air (15:54)

What’s next? Perhaps we need to go beyond the discovery aspects of design research and now focus on ways to go beyond, to figure out ways of executing and delivering real business success. Instead of declaring that Design Research has won or that there’s widespread acceptance, we might want to pause a bit for some reflection on how to take the critical next steps toward implementation and execution. And here’s a hint–it isn’t easy.
What have been effective methods and tools from within a corporate environment? What are some of the challenges you might face within an engineering-centered organization? Where is the scarcity and what skill sets provide utility? Doug Look will reflect on insights gathered over the past five years in his journey from an academic setting at the Institute of Design to an engineered-centered corporate culture.

Bill Lucas | LUMA Institute, MAYA Design (conference bio)
Encouraging everyone (from K through CEO) to look with care (video not yet available)

As the field of design research matures, an exciting new activity is emerging. Seasoned practitioners are extending their knowledge and passion to non-specialists of various ages and backgrounds. In this talk, I will present stories from LUMA Institute, an educational venture dedicated to helping everyone from K through CEO learn and apply the practices of Human-Centered Design (including the critical activity of looking and listening with care). I’ll talk about the wonderful things that happen when experienced professionals facilitate workshops aimed at raising the awareness and competence of people from all walks of life.

Dominick J. Misino | NYPD (conference bio)
Building Rapport: Lessons from a Hostage Negotiator (30:42)

Don Norman | Nielsen Norman Group (conference bio)
The Research-Practice Gulf (40:22)

There is a great gulf between the research community and practice. Moreover, there is often a great gull between what designers do and what industry needs. We believe we know how to do design, but this belief is based more on faith than on data, and this belief reinforces the gulf between the research community and practice.
I find that the things we take most for granted are seldom examined or questioned. As a result, it is often our most fundamental beliefs that are apt to be wrong.
In this talk, deliberately intended to be controversial. I examine some of our most cherished beliefs. Examples: design research helps create breakthrough products; complexity is bad and simplicity good; there is a natural chain from research to product.

Sona Patadia-Rao | PDT (conference bio)
Lisa Yanz | PDT (conference bio)
A Case Study: The Collaborative Redesign of the Perkins Brailler (28:28)

“Good Design” means something different to everyone, especially to an audience that experiences the world through their fingertips. As designers we are accustomed to immersing ourselves into the lives of our targeted users and pulling out meaning, values and aspirations. However, when the targeted audience interprets the world in an unique way, the design team’s methodology need to be flexible, conclusions are never final and bringing the users into the fold of the process is essential.
Through this discussion attendees hear the development story of redesigning the fully mechanical Next Generation Perkins Braille Writer for the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown MA. This device is the “pen and paper” for the visually impaired community, making it an essential teaching tool worldwide. The original Perkins Brailler was designed in the 1940′s, has over 600 moving parts, and has remained the unchanged, extremely reliable workhorse for decades.
We look to tell the story honestly, addressing successes, stumbles, surprises and how we were changed both professional and personally by the experience. This is a case study in blurring the formalized lines between research, design and engineering to create a product that meets the needs of a very adaptable and impressive user group.

Ron Pierce | Stuart Karten Design (conference bio)
360-Degree Research (video not yet available)

The power of design research lies in its connection to the end user. But too often, the focus on the end user is watered down as a product passes through many hands on its way to production. Ron Pierce proposes an alternate model of 360-degree research— an ongoing process in which researchers engage with the client and the end user throughout product development, putting solutions through rigorous testing at multiple phases.
Sharing the story of Stuart Karten Design’s engagement with hearing aid manufacturer Starkey Laboratories, Inc., Ron will show how a 360-degree research process can provide better results for the end user and significant financial returns for the corporation.
During a three-year strategic partnership with Starkey, Ron and his team at SKD have collaborated to develop products that greatly improve a frustrating end user experience. By continually engaging with stakeholders, distribution channels and a wide range of hearing aid wearers during various stages of the product development process, from foundational research through evaluative testing of functional prototypes, Ron and his team have reinvented Starkey’s product line with a focus on the user.
He shared SKD’s 360-degree research process, which recently culminated with the introduction of Starkey’s S Series hearing aid, featuring a touch-activated control proven to solve one of users’ most poignant frustrations. The first-of-its-kind innovation has increased Starkey’s market share and cemented the company’s position as a global leader.

Heather Reavey | Continuum (conference bio)
Envisioning Breakthrough Ideas (video not yet available)

A deep understanding of people is one lens that inspires designers to envision new experiences. Moving from inspiration to impact is another matter. What is a breakthrough idea, and how can you deliver it in a way that makes your audience believe? This session is all about big ideas: where they come from, how you know when you might have a game-changer. And how you can use design and storytelling to communicate a new opportunity in an experiential, emotional, human way that motivates clients and organizations to become advocates of change.

Rick E. Robinson | Sideriver Ventures (conference bio)
Crankiness is Overrated: Good Work is Harder Than Grumbling (28:15)

When we take hold of a powerful tool and use it to shape the daily lives of real people, we are laid under an obligation, a responsibility, to understand not only how that shaping could affect those daily lives, but how it should do so. The “good” in “good design” has, in the last twenty years or so, migrated from the relatively simple appreciation of an end-product’s formal properties to include the ways in which a product becomes what it is: the process of designing. In the course of that migration, “users” and “experience” have become central to the way design works, to how the things which it produces are evaluated. Under any number of labels (“user-centered design research”, “ethnographics,” “anthrojournalism” and so on) the (largely) social sciences-derived research which informs the work of design has grown into a small industry of its own. Taken as a whole, design research has resulted in a collective paying of more attention to people rather than less. That’s a ‘good’ in pretty much anyone’s book. But it is also, in practice, a bit like supposing that because an M.D. is doing rounds, looking into patients’ rooms and signing the charts, good medical care is being practiced. If designers have been less than explicit about the values that inform the choices they make, it seems that design research as a whole has been even less so. The most widely accepted ‘point’ of design research is to inform the work of design. To provide a basis from which the work of design, development, and strategy can proceed. It is a bit circular: we do research to inform the process of design, which requires that we understand the users. Circular or not, it would be just fine if what was required to “inform” design were no more than a scan of current conditions. A pH strip dipped in the pool. A thumb licked and held up in the breeze. But the best design work doesn’t need the thumb in the air; good designers or teams or practices are usually plugged in and working at the ragged front end anyway. What we need from research is more than description, and especially, more than a list of “needs,” explicit or implicit, met or unmet. We need a way to explicitly articulate the values that inform those decisions, and a basis on which to do so.

Kevin Starr | Rainer Arnhold Fellows (conference bio)
Design for (Real) Social Impact (24:56)

Designing a product that will make life better for the poor isn’t easy. You can’t just design a cool product that works; you have to make sure it will get into the hands of those who need it most and that it will be used to good effect. As investors in tools and products to benefit the poor – and get them out of poverty – we’ve developed an approach to vetting product ideas that is based on the successes and failures we’ve seen over the years. We’ve found that using it in the design phase can help avoid the pitfalls that waste effort and money, and ensure that good ideas turn into real impact.

Rob Tannen | Bresslergroup (conference bio)
Design Research Tools for the Physical World (25:28)

In 2008 Rob presented an overview of the latest in digital user research technology, including the FieldCREW tablet concept. This year he is back to discuss tools and techniques to capture physical behavior, which is essential for the design of gestural, interactive devices.
The presentation includes:
* An introduction to “observational ergonomics” so researchers can qualitatively identify design problems and opportunities
* Demonstrations and reviews of the latest tech tools for conducting user research, including tactile sensing and wireless information tagging

Helen Walters | Bloomberg Businessweek (conference bio)
Wrap-up of Day One of DRC 2010 (13:36)

Eric Wilmot | Wolff Olins (conference bio)
How Fast? 21st Century Approach To Speed & Innovation (24:58)

Over the past decade design-thinking and user-insight practices have grown to become integral process within the worlds top organizations. This has lead to product, digital, and brand innovation consultancies to differentiate their services by framing new ways of doing things.
During the last decade we have witnessed a layering of methodologies and activities in an attempt to differentiate how we discover, define, design, and deliver new solutions. Ironically, over much of this same time, the process itself has remained an assumption for practitioners across the business community.
Overall, what challenges exist for the next generation of research methods when applied to a process model that was born before the Internet? Nimble clients are making it difficult for consultancies to keep up. Demand for faster launches is challenging the effectiveness of traditional processes. Technology is shifting control where offerings can be “pulled” into the market, reducing risk from the traditional “push” model.
The business environment is demanding change. This talk will highlight new client demands and market forces that are reframing the question from “How might design-thinking be better used within the current development process?” to “How might the process itself be changed to enable new and better uses for design-thinking and research?”

28 May 2010

Moving past user needs

IIT DRC
Tara Mullaney (and not Allan Chochinov as erroneously reported earlier) has published her reflections on IIT’s 2010 Design Research conference on Core77.

Although there were about 30 speakers, Mullaney focuses on the contributions by Donald Norman, Rick Robinson (Elab), Doug Look (AutoDesk), Tim Brown (IDEO), Martha Cotton (gravitytank), Heather Fraser (Rotman DesignWorks), Eric Wilmot (Wolff Olins), Kim Erwin (IIT’s Institute of Design), Usman Haque (Pachube), Kevin Starr (Rainer Arnhold Fellows Program), and Cathy Huang (China Bridge International).

“What has been and always will be true about Design Research is its consideration of people. The future lies not in ignoring needs, but in broadening our horizons. We need to think about more than just insights. We need to be collaborators and co-creators not only with the companies we are designing for, but also the communities and individuals we are researching. The increasingly elaborate tools available to us will enable these connections to happen in both traditional fieldwork and through digital interactions. The present calls for new business models where design researchers will function as the translators between society and industry.”

Read article

17 May 2010

Embedded anthropology

Simon Roberts
Anthropologist Simon Roberts, who manages the social science research and design research team for Digital Health Group at Intel in Ireland, spoke last week at an RSA event on Embedding Design in London, UK, on the role of anthropology within large organisations.

“I would argue that much of the work of corporate anthropologists is spent not doing fieldwork or analysing that fieldwork, but engaging with people within their organisations. The reason for this is that they know that their success is contingent on them engaging in a long conversation with their organisations.

For ‘embedded’ or resident anthropologists the transfer of their knowledge, or their research findings, is not an event. It is very rarely a matter of merely presenting of ‘ethnographically sensitive deliverable’ to a selected audience, although it may entail such communication. Rather it is a process, a long conversation, with multiple stakeholders all differentially located within the business (geographically, functionally, hierarchically): it is an ongoing set of interactions.

The intention is not merely to ‘debrief and depart’, but to inform and engage.”

Read article

4 May 2010

Findability and Exploration: the future of search

 
Stijn Debrouwere, a Belgian information architect, has published a long Peter Morville-inspired post on findability related issues.

“The majority of people visiting a news website don’t care about the front page. They might have reached your site from Google while searching for a very specific topic. They might just be wandering around. Or they’re visiting your site because they’re interested in one specific event that you cover. This is big. It changes the way we should think about news websites.

We need ambient findability. We need smart ways of guiding people towards the content they’d like to see — with categorization and search playing complementary goals. And we need smart ways to keep readers on our site, especially if they’re just following a link from Google or Facebook, by prickling their sense of exploration.

Pete Bell recently opined that search is the enemy of information architecture. That’s too bad, because we’re really going to need great search if we’re to beat Wikipedia at its own game: providing readers with timely information about topics they care about.”

Read article

Check also his earlier posts this month:
- Navigation headaches
- We’re in the information business
- The basic unit of information

(via InfoDesign)

3 May 2010

Book: Storytelling for User Experience

Storytelling
Storytelling for User Experience – Crafting Stories for Better Design
By Whitney Quesenbery & Kevin Brooks
Rosenfeld Media
April 2010
Availability: Paperback + PDF

We all tell stories. It’s one of the most natural ways to share information, as old as the human race. This book is not about a new technique, but how to use something we already know in a new way. Stories help us gather and communicate user research, put a human face on analytic data, communicate design ideas, encourage collaboration and innovation, and create a sense of shared history and purpose. This book looks across the full spectrum of user experience design to discover when and how to use stories to improve our products. Whether you are a researcher, designer, analyst or manager, you will find ideas and techniques you can put to use in your practice.

24 April 2010

User experience in eGovernment

Stamps
Stepan Doubrava and Jakub Franc of ExperienceU (Czech Republic), argues on the Global User Research blog for the proper use of user-centred design principles in eGovernment projects.

“eGovernment, or the transfer of government activities to the Internet [...] brings with it a number of clear benefits for both citizens and civil servants. Electronic bureaus can be open 24 hours a day, citizens can communicate with them from anywhere, and electronic forms can be interactive and provide help when being filled in. By eliminating communication barriers, eGovernment enables citizens to participate in greater measure in civic matters, which supports the democratic principle.

Other advantages include the fact that information is in electronic form from the very beginning (eliminating manual data entry from paper forms), human resources can be coordinated more effectively (data processing can be distributed to various regions and outsourced), and electronic communication can reduce costs significantly.

However, from our field’s perspective, there is a serious problem, namely the ability of all citizens to cope with and accept electronic communication with authorities. One must realize the rapidly growing demands for technological skills, and the differences between individuals in this context. [...]

It would be advisable to concentrate more on user research, thoroughly define user needs, motivations and roles at the beginning of the project, and perform periodic usability testing during implementation.”

Read article

22 April 2010

April 2010 issue of Boxes and Arrows

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

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

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

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

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

11 April 2010

Interactions Magazine – March/April 2010 issue

interactions
The latest issue of Interactions Magazine is about a new intellectualism of design, write co-editors Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko: one that embraces discourse, dialogue, systems thinking, and the larger role of designers in shaping culture.

Here are the articles available for free online:

interactions: exploring aspects of design thinking
Richard Anderson, Jon Kolko
Popular discussion of “design thinking” has reached a point of frenzy. Unfortunately, there is often little depth to the discussion, and for many, the topic remains elusive and vague. While each issue of interactions has included articles about or reflecting the application of design thinking, this issue addresses the topic a bit more directly.

Evolution of the mind: a case for design literacy
Chris Pacione
As we come to the end of the first decade of the 21st century and what many consider the end of The Information Age, a recent flurry of books, articles, and initiatives seem to indicate that a new, pervasive mind shift is afoot. It’s called design, and like arithmetic, which was once a peripheral human aptitude until the industrial age forced it to be important for everyone, recent global changes and the heralding of a new age are positioning design as the next human literacy.

Design thinking in stereo: Brown and Martin
Paula Thornton
By 2006 an IIT Institute of Design interview with Roger Martin, titled “Designing Decisions,” told of his conversion to the concept when noting the language and behaviors of designer friends. That same year, Tim Brown presented fundamental thoughts on design thinking that also caught my attention. By the end of 2009 both Martin and Brown had released books on the topic.

Designing interactions at work: applying design to discussions, meetings and relationships
Roger Martin, Jennifer Riel
Ultimately, designers and business leaders want the same thing: transformative ideas that can be translated into real value. Yet, even with this common purpose, the interactions between design teams and business leaders often represent the biggest stumbling block to the development of breakthrough ideas. How often has a brilliant design idea been strangled in its infancy by a client who could not, or would not, “get it”? How often is breakthrough innovation stopped short by number crunchers who don’t understand the process of design or the insights afforded by it? And how often do business folks moan that designers lack even the most basic understanding of cost and strategy?

From Davis to David: lessons from improvisation
Liz Danzico
Improv is extending its practicality. Designers have been adopting improvisation design methods in their own practices. Made more visible by organizations such as IDEO and Pixar and the research of people from Elizabeth Gerber at Northwestern University and Steve Portigal at Portigal Consulting, we’re seeing how improvisation can be powerful in interaction design work. With collaboration activities in particular, improv becomes especially important when untangling complex problems that require teamwork or just getting a client unstuck.

Technology first, needs last: the research-product gulf
Don Norman
Design research is great when it comes to improving existing product categories, but essentially useless when it comes to breakthroughs.

Sugared puppy dog tails: gender and design
Elizabeth Churchill
Designers are not passive bystanders in the production, reproduction, reinforcing, or challenging of cultural values. We actively create artifacts and experiences. We design products with implicit or explicit assumptions about how products will be used and by whom. We mentally simulate the product user who is part of an imagined story of the product in use – these imaginary people are drawn from our everyday lives and usually have a gender, perhaps a shape, size, age and ethnicity. Thus we embed imagined, gendered others into our designs, inadvertently reproducing cultural norms because they seem so “natural.” And so in a chain of reification and reproduction, products are wired in subtle ways that reflect and reinforce existing cultural assumptions.

The lens of feminist HCI in the context of sustainable interaction design
Shaowen Bardzell, Eli Blevis
One might identify feminism’s central tenets as commitments to agency, fulfillment, identity, equality, empowerment, and social justice. I think these commitments make feminism a natural ally to interaction design. As computers increasingly become a part of everyday life, feminism is poised to help us understand how gender identities and relations shape both the use and design of interactive technologies – and how things could be otherwise, through design.

MyMeal: an interactive user-tailored meal visualization tool for teenagers with eating disorders
Desmond Balance, Jodie Jenkinson
Since patients with eating disorders (EDs) have demonstrably abnormal perceptions of the size of food, a meal-visualization tool could help patients with EDs feel more comfortable about portions by helping them understand what appropriate food portions look like in the context of a balanced meal.

On design thinking, business, the arts, STEM …
Jon Kolko, Richard Anderson
Why [is it] only now [...] that the language related to the intellectual and intangible aspects of design is beginning to catch on?

11 April 2010

Debunking the myths of online usability testing

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

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

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6 April 2010

Natural user interfaces are not natural

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

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

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

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2 April 2010

Co-creation: not just another focus group

Twist
To launch Twist, a new men’s fragrance in its global Axe brand, Unilever turned to a preapproved crowd of eager young amateurs for help. Venessa Wong reports in Business Week.

“In July 2008, Unilever executives convened 16 regular young men and women from around the world at a meeting in New York. Why? To tap them for ideas for a new global fragrance for Axe, a brand of men’s body spray, antiperspirant, and shower gel. The company had previously experimented with consumer-driven product development for local launches, but never for one on such a large scale.”

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29 March 2010

Search Patterns – an interview with Peter Morville

Search Patterns
Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender recently released their brand new book “Search Patterns: Design for Discovery“. It’s an excellent, must-read book for the user experience community.

Brad Nunnally, user experience designer at Perficient, had the honor to chat with Peter about what drove him to write his new book, why he thinks search is such a challenge still, and his thoughts on where the future of search lies.

The interview is available on Johnny Holland.

27 March 2010

AP’s ethnographic studies look for solutions to news and ad “fatigue”

AP
A new study by the Associated Press has come to the conclusion that consumers are “tired, even annoyed, by the current experience of advertising,” and that, as a result, they don’t trust very much of it. But at the same time, AP found, consumers do want information relevant to their needs, as well as ways to socialize that information.

Although it tends to move cautiously and deliberately, AP has been subtly and quietly introducing tools aimed at improving relevance and socialization, and may have plans for an ad-supported aggregation business that applies what it has been learning. [...]

The findings are part of a study called “A new model for communication,” released two weeks ago with little fanfare and no press coverage, even by AP’s own reporters (pdf link to report). The research was done in conjunction with Context-Based Research Group of Baltimore, and was a followup to a 2008 study called “A new model for news” (pdf link to report). Both studies used ethnographic research techniques to do a ‘deep dive’ into consumer behavior and motivations. [...]

To combat “ad annoyance,” the study recommends restoring trust, noting that social vetting of information is now often “filling a role historically played by trusted packagers of information, such as local newspapers, which connected readers with advertisers in a trusted environment.” This led the study team at Context to suggest a what they call Communitas, consisting of collaboration, social contract (understood rules), kinship, honesty, reciprocity and relevance.

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22 March 2010

Sustainable user research

UX Matters
Now, more than ever, it’s important to determine when it’s feasible to save money and the environment by conducting more user research remotely. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of remote research. Jim Ross reports in UX matters.

“Although lack of time and money for travel have always been barriers to conducting in-person user research, the current recession and concerns about global warming and wasted resources have pressured businesses to cut back on business travel and conduct more business remotely. Should user research be any different? [...]

Remote user research can be either moderated or unmoderated. In both cases, the participants and researcher are in separate locations. However, in moderated, remote user research, the researcher and the participants go through the research activity together virtually, while in unmoderated, remote user research, the researcher is not involved during the study.

In this column, I’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of moderated and unmoderated, remote user research. Then, I’ll reflect on some deciding factors for conducting either in-person or remote user research—or both in combination. Understanding all of these considerations can help you to decide when it’s most appropriate to use in-person or remote methods of user research—and if the latter, whether to do moderated or unmoderated research—or to combine both approaches and get the best of both worlds.”

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