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Posts in category 'UXnet'

21 March 2010

A conversation with Microsoft’s UX gurus Bill Buxton and Albert Shum

Bill Buxton and Albert Shum
Microsoft’s Channel 9 conducted a half hour video interview with Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher for Microsoft Research and Albert Shum, Director of Mobile Experience Design for Windows Phone 7 Series on creating compelling user experiences, how developers and designers can work together in harmony and random Canadian trivia.

View interview

Check also this interview with Lili Cheng on designing experiences for social computing:

“Meet Lili Cheng, general manager of Microsoft’s Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs, which focuses on software and services that are centered on social connectivity, real-time experiences, and rich media. Lili’s a big fan of and active participant in social communication and the interactive design of social computing on the web.”

18 March 2010

Creating new concepts, products and services with user driven innovation

Creating new concepts, products and services with user driven innovation
From the Nordic Innovation website:

User driven innovation is emerging as one of the successful ways of creating breakthrough innovations for companies and organisations.

In this project called “Create concept innovation with users“, a Nordic and Baltic consortium lead by FORA has been able to identify four generic methods of working with user driven innovation:
– user test,
– user exploration,
– user innovation, and
– user participation.

Even though these methods might vary slightly from one company to the other, they have some basic features which are common. When working with users, companies might choose to include the users either directly or indirectly in the innovation process, depending on what type of knowledge the company wants to obtain from the user. Users’ ability to communicate and express their problems and needs varies greatly and will also influence the user driven innovation method chosen by a company. Sometimes users are fully aware of what problems they face and which needs they experience, while in other cases they will not be able to communicate or articulate what they are experiencing.

Based on this framework, the project members interviewed companies in the Nordic and Baltic countries about how they work with user driven innovation, what innovation outcomes they achieved and how satisfied they were with the processes during the project. Furthermore the project members wanted to get an understanding of whether there were any differences among the Nordic and Baltic countries regarding the methods they used by mapping the user driven innovation activity among companies and organisations.

Download report

13 March 2010

Guardian supplement on service design

Service design
The Guardian, one of the leading UK newspapers, has publish an eight-page supplement on service design (pdf) – subtitled “Design innovation in the public and private sector – in association with the Service Design Network (that Experientia is a member of).

“Service design is a relatively new discipline that asks some fundamental questions: what should the customer experience be like? What should the employee experience be like? How does a company remain true to its brand, to its core business assets and stay relevant to customers?

Design is a highly pragmatic discipline. That is why it is of such interest to business: it gets results. But if at its heart lies the idea of experience, then, as this supplement shows, the methods and ideas behind service design can equally be applied to the public sector. We reveal how service methods can help design experiences that are more efficient and more effective.

We also take a look at developments in sustainability for transport and water systems, as well as at changes in the voluntary sector, where the question: “Can design help change the world?” is increasingly gaining relevance.”

Articles cover service innovation management in major industries, service reform in the public sector, sustainability in the financial sector, car design as service ecosystem design, environmental design and social innovation. Much attention is devoted to methodology. Also included are interviews with Dan Pink (author), Joe Ferry (Virgin Atlantic) and others.

4 March 2010

The analogue human and the digital machine

Portigal
Steve Portigal, Julie Norvaisas and Dan Soltzberg of Portigal Consulting were invited by Core77 to discuss what makes their clocks tick: the analogue human and the digital machine.

Steve Portigal:
“I feel like there’s this tension that goes on in business and especially in marketing, this conceit that we can take humans—you know, messy, irrational, organic—and somehow cut them open and figure out the binary, rational, predictable, money-making algorithms that determine what they do. You see all this harnessing of science, you know, whether it’s neuro-this or lie detector-that or psychotherapy-this that gets used in the service of, not helping people, but helping marketers crack the nut of what people want, where is the desire center in the brain. You know, that we can learn things about people in a way that is “true”—that is predictable and true, and will determine consumption patterns. I find the idea that we should be able to do that just fascinating, because that’s not the world of people that we live in as people, so why as marketers or designers or producers do we think that we should turn people into things that they really aren’t?”

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1 March 2010

Internet on mobiles: evolution of usability and user experience

Internet on Mobiles
Anne Kaikkonen, a UI product manager at Nokia, recently presented her doctoral dissertation on the usability and user experience of the mobile internet.

Internet on Mobiles: Evolution of Usability and User Experience (pdf)
Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy presented at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on 11 December 2009.

The mobile Internet is no longer a new phenomenon; the first mobile devices supporting web access were introduced over 10 years ago. During the past ten years technology and business infrastructure have evolved and the number of mobile Internet users has increased all over the world. Service user interface, technology and business infrastructure have built a framework for service adaptation: they can act as enablers or as barriers. Users evaluate how the new technology adds value to their life based on multiple factors.

This dissertation has its focus in the area of human-computer interaction research and practices. The overall goal of my research has been to improve the usability and the user experience of mobile Internet services. My research has sought answers to questions relevant in service development process. Questions have varied during the years, the main question being: How to design and create mobile Internet services that people can use and want to use? I have sought answers mostly from a human factors perspective, but have also taken the elements form technology and business infrastructure into consideration. In order to answer the questions raised in service development projects, we have investigated the mobile Internet services in the laboratory and in the field. My research has been conducted in various countries in 3 continents: Asia, Europe and North America. These studies revealed differences in mobile Internet use in different countries and between user groups. Studies in this dissertation were conducted between years 1998 and 2007 and show how questions and research methods have evolved during the time.

Good service creation requires that all three factors: technology, business infrastructure and users are taken in consideration. When using knowledge on users in decision making, it is important to understand that the different phases of the service development cycle require the different kind of information on users. It is not enough to know about the users, the knowledge about users has to be transferred into decisions.

The service has to be easy to use so that people can use it. This is related to usability. Usability is a very important factor in service adoption, but it is not enough. The service has to have relevant content from user perspective. The content is the reason why people want to use the service. In addition to the content and the ease of use, people evaluate the goodness of the service based on many other aspects: the cost, the availability and the reliability of the system for example. A good service is worth trying and after the first experience, is it worth using. These aspects are considered to influence the ‘user experience’ of the system. In this work I use lexical analysis to evaluate how the words “usability” and “user experience” are used in mobile HCI conference papers during the past 10 years. The use of both words has increased during the period and reflects the evolution of research questions and methodology over time.

Related to her thesis, is her article “Mobile internet: Past, Present, and the future“.

The Mobile Internet is no longer a new phenomenon; the first mobile devices supporting Web access were introduced over 10 years ago. During the past 10 years many user studies have been conducted that have generated insights into mobile Internet use. The number of mobile Internet users has increased and the focus of the studies has switched from the user interface to user experiences. Mobile phones are regarded as personal devices: the current possibility of gathering more contextual information and linking that to the Internet cre- ates totally new challenges for user experience and design.

1 March 2010

Interaction’10 videos online

Interaction10
Many videos of the Interaction10 conference are now online. Here are the one of the speakers mentioned in the recent review by Experientia partner Jan-Christoph Zoels.

Paola Antonelli – Talk to Me
Whether openly and actively, or in subtle, subliminal ways, things talk to us, and designers write the initial script that will let us develop and improvise the dialogue.

Richard Banks – The 40 Year-Old Tweet
Most entries on Twitter are throwaway. They’re mundane, in the moment, with an expected period of interest of only a few minutes. This is true of much of what we put online. Yet as we grow older, breadcrumb like these, little traces of what we did in the past, will become more and more important as a way of looking back, and reminiscing on our lives. What seems mundane now will likely seem odd and forgotten in the future, and play an important role in triggering our memories. I suspect we’ll want to see, in 30 or 40 years time, what we were motivated enough about in 2009 to Tweet.
There’s a danger, though, that when we get old the services we used to express ourselves, and make records of our interests and activities in the past will either no longer exist, or will have changed beyond recognition. Do you think Twitter will still exist in 2049?
This presentation will talk about the role of the digital objects, products and services we are designing today as they take over from physical things as the primary way we remember our past. What are our responsibilities as designers in making sure not only that people’s lives are preserved for reminiscing, but also that the record of their past can be passed on to their offspring and become part of a family’s history?

Matt Cottam – Wooden Logic: In Search of Heirloom Electronics
In this session Matt Cottam will present a recent project entitled Wooden Logic: In search of Heirloom Electronics. The project represents the first phase in a hands-on sketching process aimed at exploring how natural materials and craft traditions can be brought to the center of interactive digital design to give modern products greater longevity and meaning.
Where furniture and fine art are cared for and handed down through generations as heirlooms, the value of digital products rarely survives beyond their short useful lifespan. Their rapid obsolescence makes them seem poor candidates for the use of natural materials and time-consuming manufacturing techniques. Yet these objects also occupy a very privileged and intimate position among our possessions, often living in our pockets, handbags and at our bedsides.
For centuries artisans have had the ability to sketch with wood and hand tools to craft high-quality, precious objects. With digital technology the functionality of objects became less tangible and visible, and their making fell almost exclusively to engineers and computer scientists. It is only in the past decade or so that the community and tools have evolved to the point that designers can sketch with hardware and software. This project seeks to combine seemingly dissonant elements, natural, material and virtual, and explore how they can be crafted to feel as if they were born together as parts of a unified object anatomy that is both singular and precious.

Timo Arnall – Designing for the Web in the World
From NFC mobile phones to Nabaztag and Nike+, there is an entirely new class of consumer product that becomes almost useless when disconnected from the network. How can designers deal with the vast complexity of designing not only interactive physical products, but the connections and resulting interactions with the data that they produce? In the Touch project we have been working with designing interactive products and services that involve RFID, NFC and mobile devices. The project has developed useful models for designing across tangible and mobile interactions, networks and the web, that allow us to see where existing products succeed or fail, and to get to a grip on the design of new networked products.

Kevin Cheng – Augmented Reality: Is It Real? Should We Care?
This year, we’ve seen the mobile market make incredible strides in technology. The iPhone, Android and Palm platforms have increased their functionality well beyond just being a phone and have added critical functions such as faster internet connectivity, video cameras, GPS and compasses. Handheld gaming devices have also converged, adding cameras and accelerometers to their devices.
The combination of all of these pieces have made Augmented Reality—overlaying information and technology virtually over what you see—become a true possibility. Suddenly, science fiction has become much less fictional.

Gretchen Anderson – The Importance of Facial Features
The tactile controls of an electronic, interactive product form its most recognizable aspects, or “facial features.” Choosing which controls to use and how they appear has an enormous impact on the impact the product makes on first impression. The process of deciding on your product’s facial features is tricky; a team must collaborate closely across multiple disciplines to determine what controls are needed, how they should appear and how they relate to the product’s form. Even with touch- and gesture-based interfaces, people need cues that point to (or obscure) the function, value, and lust-factor of the product.
This session will look at some well-known products and illuminate best practices for integrating interaction designers, industrial designers, and engineers to make well-informed decisions about a product’s (inter)face. This session looks at how design teams can make sense of user research to inform the design of the user interface as well as the aesthetic expression. It will also look at how emerging interactive models (gesture, touch and voice) change the historical relationship of industrial and interaction design.

Peter Morville – The Future of Search
Search is among the most disruptive innovations of our time. It influences what we buy and where we go. It shapes how we learn and what we believe. It’s a wicked problem of terrific consequence and a radically cross-disciplinary, creative challenge. In this talk, we’ll define a pattern language for search that embraces user psychology and behavior, multisensory interaction, and emerging technology. We’ll identify design principles that apply across the categories of web, e-commerce, enterprise, desktop, mobile, social, and realtime. And, we’ll show how futures methods and user experience deliverables can help us to create better search interfaces and applications today, and invent the unthinkable discovery tools of tomorrow.

Tom Igoe – Open Source Design: Camel or Unicorn?
Open source development has taken hold in software design, and is beginning to show up in electronics hardware design as well. Thus far, however, open source has been limited mainly to the engineering side of development. Open source tools for design tend to be abysmal, largely because there are no designers working on them. And open source has not made a blip on consumer-facing issues like licensing, warranties, and customer support. Should it? What impacts could it have, and how can the design community help to bring that about? How does the open source “democratic project development” model fly in design? In this session, I’ll examine some current examples of how open source is expanding beyond software, and discuss ways in which is might continue to do so.

Nicolas Nova – From Observing Failures to Provoking Them
One of the reasons why product and technology failures are important is that they can be seen as “seeds of the future” or “good ideas before their time”. A common example lies in the use of personal communication with pictures, which failed several times in its phone instantiation, but is now a huge success with laptops, PCs, webcams and Skype.
In the context of design, this talk with discuss how failures can be explored through field research and eventually help creating innovative products or services.
The underlying rationale of field research in design is generally to conduct studies so that the results can bring out insights, constraints and relevant material to design inventive or groundbreaking artifacts. When it comes to failures, this investigation can be tackled through two approaches. On the one hand, research can observe design flops and identify symptoms of failures. On the other hand, I am interested by a much more radical approach: provoking product failures as a way to document user behavior. What I mean here is the conscious design of questionable prototypes to investigate user experience. The point is to have “anti-probe”: failed materialization of the principles of technology that can be shown to people to engage them in open-ended ways. This alternative to start dialogue with users highlight inspirational data about how people would really happened.
The presentation will describe different case studies about failures following these two approaches to shed some light on original design questions.

Nathan Shedroff – Meaningful Innovation Relies on Interaction and Service Design
Interaction designers can play a key role in creating a more meaningful, sustainable, and post-consumer world. come learn about frameworks and approaches that help designers make real change for customers.

Dan Hill – New Soft City
The way the street feels may soon be defined by the invisible and inaudible. Cities are being laced with sensors, which in turn generate urban informatics experiences, imbuing physical space with real-time behavioural data. The urban fabric itself can become reflexive and responsive to some extent, and there are numerous implications for the design and experience of cities as a result.
Multi-sensory interaction design merges with architecture, planning and an urbanism informed by the gentle ambient drizzle of everyday data. Drawing from projects in Sydney, Masdar, Helsinki, Seoul and elsewhere, I’ll explore the opportunities implicit in this new soft city – how we might once again enable a city alive to the touch of its citizens – and what this means for an urban interaction design.

Kendra Shimmell – Environments: The Future of Interaction Design
What is the future of interaction design? I propose that it’s movement — natural, fluid interactions — your body interfacing with the environment around you.
As an interaction designer, I understand the inherent drawbacks of hardware-based interfaces — the range of movement is limited and it is frankly kind of lame to be bound to a device.
In 2001 I became involved with the Environments Laboratory at The Ohio State University. Our focus was to explore movement analysis, motion capture, and interactive performance. Since then, I have befriended a few choreographers that have been developing very sophisticated tools to explore the reality of the human body as interface.
Some questions that I’ve been exploring: Can we obtain meaningful data on human motion? Is there a design research implication? What are the potential industry applications for this type of technology? Can gesture and movement be standardized (Laban Movement Analysis and American Sign Language)?
Join me in exploring the human body as interface. You will get to try it out (yes, control light and sound with your body), and I will lead you in a workshop to explore the more practical use cases for such a technology moving forward.

Dave Gray – A Grammar for Creativity and Innovation
We’re moving from an industrial to a knowledge economy, where creativity and innovation will be the keys to value. New rules apply. Yet two hundred years of industrial habits are embedded in our workplaces, our schools and our systems of government. How must we change our work practices to thrive in the 21st Century? Dave Gray will share insights from his upcoming book on the work of creativity and innovation, due to be published in the first quarter of 2010.

Christopher Fahey – The Human Interface (or:Why Products are People too)
In the half-century since the first transistor was invented we’ve seen radical changes in how humans interact with computers and digital systems: We’ve gone from punch cards to text commands, from mouse pointers to touchscreen gestures, from menus to voice recognition.
What all of these user experience innovations have in common is an inexorable movement towards interfaces that behave more and more like the way real humans have interacted with one another for millenia.
Our interactions with systems increasingly feel like interactions with real people because our systems are increasingly designed to sound, look, and behave just like humans do. We’re interacting with web sites and software on a conversational, physical, and emotional level. In a way, our interfaces are actually becoming more human.
We can no longer ask users to think like machines just to be able to use software. Instead, our systems must act more like people. User experience designers, in turn, need to stop thinking about interfaces as dumb control panels for manipulating machines and data and start thinking about them (in many ways literally!) as human beings.
This talk will explore diverse areas of non-digital human experience – including language and theater, neurology and sociology – in order to frame and showcase some of the most exciting current and emerging user experience design practices, both on the web and in other media such as video games and the arts. The objective is quite simply to inspire designers to humanize their interfaces. This new way of understanding user experience design crosses many disciplines, from branding and content strategy (your product’s voice and personality) to interaction design and information architecture (your product’s behavior and motivations), and has many practical applications at every point in current and future design scenarios.
More importantly, this kind of thinking can be framed as part of a longer term trend in interaction design generally: Looking even further ahead – but probably sooner than many of us might imagine – future UX designers will almost certainly be moving from designing screens to designing actual personalities, for example artificial intelligences, virtual characters, and even human-like androids. We’ll peek a little further out and look at what the next generation of human interfaces will be and discuss what skills future interaction designers will need to have.”

Ezio Manzini – Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability
1. In the last decades we have been witnessing a growing wave of social innovation. A multiplicity of institutions, enterprises, non-profit organisations, but also and most of all, individual citizens and their associations have been capable to move outside the mainstream models of living and producing and to invent new and sustainable ones.
2. Social innovation is driven by diffuse creativity and entrepreneurship. That is, by resources that, in a densely populated and highly connected world, are very abundant (if only they are recognized and valorised). In the next future, social innovation has high potentialities to become a major driver of change. But something has to be done to help the process.
3. Social innovation cannot be planned, but it can be made more probable creating favourable environments and empowering creative people. Creative people can be empowered by specifically conceived sets of products, services and communication artefacts, i.e by conceiving and developing enabling solutions, and in particular, enabling digital platforms.
The presentation articulates the previous statements and introduces the discussion on what interaction design can do to catalyse diffuse creativity for sustainable changes.

Jon Kolko – Keynote: My Heart is in The Work
In 1900, Andrew Carnegie quietly declared that his “heart is in the work” – that he had found an endeavor worth pursuing, and that he would passionately follow-through on that endeavor until it was complete. We interaction designers feel that passion on a daily basis, as we’ve found ourselves at the heart of industry, policy, and culture. Our endeavors are worth pursuing and we approach them with the whole of our hearts. We build the artifacts and frameworks that support engagement, that keep us entertained, aroused, engaged and productive. We are building the culture we live in, and we possess the capability to enable massive change in an increasingly fragmented and tense world.
This talk will examine our ability to affect change at the intersection of experience, behavior, meaning, and culture, and will emphasize our responsibility to approach our work with philanthropic enthusiasm that would make Carnegie proud.

Also online are:

18 February 2010

Design bugs out

Hospital design
The Design Council and the Department of Health partner to combat the spread of infection in U.K. hospitals. David Sokol reports in Metropolis Magazine.

“Patients go into hospitals to be cured of what ails them, but the ugly truth is that some get sick from being there. In 2007, around 9,000 people in the United Kingdom died from hospital-borne infections. Though the National Health Service has implemented procedural changes that have halved the number of antibiotic-resistant staph infections, or MRSAs, in the last three years, the agency is not content to stop there. [...]

In July 2008, the DH turned to the Design Council for solutions. The resulting program, called Design Bugs Out, began with a team conducting interviews for a month with patients and caregivers in NHS hospitals in Huddersfield, Manchester, and Southampton. From that research, health-care experts determined 11 categories of products in which redesigns could drastically reduce infection-related fatality rates.”

Read full story

14 February 2010

Conversations in a weekend village — Interaction10 impressions

Interaction10
Written by Experientia partner Jan-Christoph Zoels.

Interaction10 is over. Four days of presentations, workshops, games, installations stimulated vivid exchanges of ideas and reflections on the changing landscape of interaction design. Hosted in beautiful downtown Savannah by the international Interaction Design Association and Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), the conference set the stage for lively face to faces encounters, practice discussions and sensory southern food discoveries. Deep thoughts and constant twittering.

Co-chairs Bill DeRouchey (Ziba Design) and Jennifer Bove (Kicker Studio and a graduate of Interaction Design Institute Ivrea) moderated a salon style conference across several historic venues getting the participants out onto the squares and into the charming nooks of Savannah. SCAD has over the years preserved historic buildings and filled them with live through their educational programs such as those in Interaction Design and Service Design, led by professors such as Dave Malouf, Jon Kolko and Diane Miller. A great experience! The following notes give some impression on select highlights.

Learning from the past – Talk to me

Paolo Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at MOMA, laid out her exhibition plans charting the ‘subtle, subliminal ways, things talk to us’. Her talk showcased outstanding examples of how objects and interactions changed our way of seeing, mapping and explaining the world. She traced the impact of networks and systems on our capability to make and mix worlds to the shifting face of things. Examples range from Muriel Cooper‘s Visual Language workshop at MIT to Ben Fry‘s scientific information visualizations, and from the changing nature of prototyping via open source design tools Processing and Arduino, visionary scenarios such as Apple’s 1087 Navigator video to Applied Minds Touch landscapes. Take her title ‘Talk to me’ literally – Paola is looking for visionary artefacts from the history of interaction design.

Our scattered distribution of memories – The 40 year old tweet

Is there a life after the half hour half-life of tweets? How to approach your parents’ Flickr collection or find the heirloom experiences in your grand parents’ SMS exchanges? How does the web of metadata become part of our reminiscences years later? Richard Banks of Microsoft Research Cambridge explored in several prototypes the sentimental value, burden and sense of obligation digital exchanges will pose to future generations. Matt Cottam extends this search to heirloom electronics and our design capabilities to give modern products greater longevity and meaning.

Making it – Designing for the web in the world

Timo Arnall, Kevin Cheng, Ben Fullerton, Gretchen Anderson and Raphael Grignani offered diverse strategies to engage people’s experiences of physical products and digital services.

Timo Arnall explored in the Touch project controversial issues of technology usage such as leaking RFiD fields and the tangible experience of invisible data. Which kind of graceful interactions remain when a connected object goes offline or is without power? In his research and work with Berg, a London based interaction design studio, he proposes that interactive objects need to provide an immediate tangible experience even if not in use, that the purpose of being connected and data sharing should become obvious, and that long-term services and data visualizations provide feedback loops.

Twitter’s Kevin Cheng gave an excellent overview about the challenges and opportunities of Augmented Reality (see also his book in progress). He documented how context based smartphone applications expand our experience spaces such as in Yelp, Nearby, Layar, Arg DJ, Lego selections in retail stores, a USPS shipping box simulation, and ARhrrr games. Challenges are the lack of design patterns, glanceable interfaces and usability issues.

Gretchen Anderson, IxD director at Lunar, showcased our visceral reactions to facial features – ‘those key things your users see first’ – in products. What is the impression which we are giving? What can we understand at a first glance? Imbuing objects with a sophisticated character can enhanced the storytelling potential and interaction magic.

According to Bruce Sterling ‘Sense of wonders have short shelf life’. Our search capabilities have undergone dramatic change. Peter Morville of Semantic Studios spoke about the future of search. He introduced various behavioral and design patterns from his latest book Search Patterns. What we find, changes what we are looking for. How will we search in the future – feels like, tastes like, looks like, sounds like, smells like? Multi-sensory search is an untapped area of exploration – moving search beyond the web.

ITP professor Tom Igoe demanded to extend open source design to products and services to enable public knowledge and participation in the modification and/or reproduction of a product. Consequences might be flexible warranty agreements, impact on recycling and reverse engineering, or community patent reviews. Practical layers of openness need to include the whole value chain from physical construction, bill of materials, code, extendibility and reprogrammability, API’s and communication protocols, interoperability as well as design and interaction guidelines. This also requires to address frequent usability issues of open source projects.

From observing failures to provoking them was Nicholas Nova‘s contribution in addressing product non-usage, real-time accidents, traces and individual blame bias. ‘Failures are often overlooked in design research’. He proposed to actively provoke failures as a design tactic and to observe responding people’s behaviors.

Designing for the next billion

Nokia Design has over the years embraced ethnographic research and design discovery processes to shape mobile experiences and accelerate decision making processes. Raphael Grignani, head of Nokia’s San Francisco design studio, engaged workshop participants in exploring incremental and radical design innovation through community-based ethnographic design approaches. Nokia sends 3-4 times per year design teams to search for extreme behaviors in remote locations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe. Raphael guided us through the design process – discover, define, develop and deliver – with examples from the open studio project – My mobile phone, to Lifeblog to Remade and Homegrown.

See also:
Patterns in UX Research
Deconstructing Analysis Techniques
Mobile Literacy
Homegrown people planit profit

Processes and reflections – Design is the process of evoking meaning

Nathan Shedroff, chair of the MBA program in Design Strategy at California College of Arts in San Francisco, started of the row of thought leaders in situating meaning, behavioral change and sustainability as key challenges for interaction designers. How does a more meaningful world look like? Or a post consumer society?

Easy answers are difficult to come by. Next year’s conference needs a track of fast paced inspirational show & tells and the design thinking behind it. Dan Hill from Arup came closest in establishing a vision of a new soft city, merging multi-sensor interaction design ‘with architecture, planning and urbanism informed by a gentle ambient drizzle of everyday data’ – alive to the touch of its citizen. In his closing talk he exhibited a range of responsive well-tempered environments supporting civic relationships between individuals and communities around them. Examples of his call for civic sustainability feedback loops are projects in Barangaroo, the State Library of Queensland and the Sydney Metro in Australia, Arup’s contribution to the Masdar city centre, and the low2no carbon emissions project for Helsinki Harbor by Arup, Sauerbruch Hutton and Experientia.

A further exploration of the poetics of space were Kendra Shimmell‘s staging of interactive environments sensitive to movement and intent. Trained as a ballet dancer she presented motion capture studies in real time. Every movement unleashed auditory qualities in the space. A blink of an eye turned into sound, a raise of an arm provoked a tonal scale, fast movements elicit under her control musical compositions. Robert Wechsler provided the artistic motion tracking software.

‘You find things that you are nor looking for, when you are not looking’. Dave Gray continued the playful approach to innovation in his presentation of Knowledge Games: The visual thinking playbook. Fuzzy goals can lead to prospecting unexpected sensory, emotional and functional discoveries. Unfortunately he illustrated his engaging talk with a glorification of the AK47 as a ‘powerful tool of change’. His agnostic design philosophy hides an ethical ambivalence and repositions designers as hired hands of industry who do whatever is needed – even weapons of mass destruction. Can’t we find ethical examples which enable people, but don’t kill?

Chris Fahey applied the Uncanny Valley hypothesis of robotics to interface design. As interfaces behave eerily humanlike, people find them repulsive until they become more realistic representations of human behaviors. Human interface need to be ‘responsive to human needs and considerate of human frailties’. Qualities are sentience – the ability to feel subjectively, intimacy and personality. Character and personality may imbue interfaces with meaning and make them memorable. Now just watch your step, the uncanny valley is calling.

Ezio Manzini spoke about our growing desire for de-intermediated relationships between consumer and producers. Examples range from neighborhood markets and festivals, to community supported agriculture, urban farms, collaborative welfare servicesm etc. Digital platforms become catalysts of social resources and can support our vision of sustainable futures. Keywords to describe these futures are small-connected-local-open. Small-local interweaves issues of scale, relationships and identities, generally associated with control of a smaller set of variables and therefore supporting happiness. Open-connected outlines the rise of new organizational forms, whereas small-connected establishes nodes in a network society with the density of these links becoming important. Local-open: in a sustainable society the local is open, the connected local – resulting in an increase of cultural diversity and dialog between cosmopolitan participants. Manzini called on us to design enabling systems and engage in programs such as the US Social Innovation Fund, funded with 50 million USD by the US Government as announced by Michele Obama: “The idea is simple: Find the most effective programs out there and then provide the capital needed to replicate their success in communities around the country, … By focusing on high-impact, results-oriented nonprofits, we will ensure that government dollars are spent in a way that is effective, accountable and worthy of the public trust.”

If it’s not ethical, it is not beautiful. Jon Kolko expanded on Andrew Carnegie‘s “My heart is in the work” to ‘approach our work with philanthropic enthusiasm that would make Carnegie proud. Design for real cultural change starts by understanding how people really behave. He called on designers to emphasize with people, build trust and purposefully change behaviors. His heart is now in the new Austin Center for Design, a place for wicked problem solving.

Interaction11 is coming. See you on February 10-12, 2011 in Boulder, Colorado.

10 February 2010

Reflecting on the Interaction10 conference

Interaction10
Both Jon Kolko (frog design) and Rob Tannen (Bresslergroup) reflect on their experience at the Interaction10 conference that took place last weekend in Savannah, Georgia.

Jon’s thoughtful analysis starts with a reflection on why he thinks the profession of Interaction Design reaching a critical divide.

“The divide seems to break down around two forces of gravity, loosely identified as:
A. Design, as a discipline. A locus of study, similar to science or art in breadth and depth, and focused on criticism, behavioral change, craft, empathy, humanism, and reflection.
B. UX, as a form of applied design in the context of marketing, and focused on consumption, speed, innovation, and often, apparently, compromise.”

Rob on the other hand emphasises the retrospective nature of this year’s conference.

10 February 2010

Live at Interaction’10: day 3

Interaction10
Niklas Wolkert & Brad Nunnally round up their reporting on Johnnyy Holland on the Interaction10 conference in Savannah, Georgia – this time focused on the third and final day.

This review covers presentations by Jeffery Blais, Cindy Chastain, Gretchen Andersson, Kel Smith and Dan Hill.

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8 February 2010

Microsoft Research Social Computing Symposium 2010

Microsoft Research Social Computing Symposium
For the past four years, Microsoft Research (MSR) has sponsored a symposium on social computing that “brings together academic and industry researchers, developers, writers, and influential commentators in order to open new lines of communication among previously disconnected groups.”

The theme of the 2010 symposium, held at ITP at NYU, was “The city as platform”, which revolved around various sub-topic such as urban informatics, the city as a social technology, pervasive games and government infrastructure/data.

Participants included Genevieve Bell, Julian Bleecker, Ben Cerveny, Tom Coates, Anil Dash, Russell Davies, Alexandra Deschamps-SonsinoAdam Greenfield, Liz Goodman, Usman Haque, Tom IgoeNatalie Jeremijenko, Steven Johnson, Matt Jones, Jennifer Magnolfi, Mike Migurski, Nicolas Nova, Ray Ozzie, Clay Shirky, Kevin Slavin, Molly Steenson, Linda Stone, Alice Taylor, Anthony Townsend, Duncan Wilson and many more.

You can read elaborate and well-written symposium reports by Nicolas Nova (LIFT Lab) and Dan Hill (City of Sound / ARUP).

By the way, do also check Dan Hill’s urbanistic take on the iPad.

7 February 2010

Live at Interaction’10: day 2

Interaction10
Niklas Wolkert & Brad Nunnally provide their second report on Johnnyy Holland on the Interaction10 conference in Savannah, Georgia – this time focused on the second day.

“After a night of some great parties, and even better conversation, the second day of Interaction 10 began with a preview of the new IxDA.org website redesign. The team doing the redesign covered all the great new features that are coming, and went into detail on how local groups will be able to leverage the new site for their own networks and events. The excitement from yesterday was easily carried over, and people were pumped to see what the presenters had in store for us today.”

This time they review presentations by Ezio Manzini, Shelly Evenson, Timo Arnall, Ben Fullerton, Kevin Cheng, Steve Baty, Chris Fahey, and Paola Antonelli.

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6 February 2010

Live at Interaction’10: day 1

Interaction10
Niklas Wolkert & Brad Nunnally report on Johnnyy Holland on the first day of the Interaction10 conference in Savannah, Georgia.

“If one thing had to describe the overall theme of the first day it would be the importance of providing meaning in the work that we do. Below are recaps of the opening and closing keynotes, as well as some of the sessions from the day.”

Check their review on presentations by Nathan Shedroff, Dave Gray, Nate Bolt, Matt Cottam, Kendra Shimmell, Nicolas Nova and Jon Kolko.

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1 February 2010

Stowe Boyd: outdated UX metaphors are holding us back

Stowe Boyd
Stowe Boyd arguest that the metaphors of computing user experience are holding us back from new ways of structuring our interaction through computers.

“the thing that is blocking us from moving forward, to a better user experience centered on social interaction and not physical data, are the existing metaphors of OS’s. Since we are living in a world of general purpose computers running Unix, Mac OS, and Windows — and we need to have them interoperate — we seem stuck in the 90’s.
To have a break with the past, and to make the past a platform, we have to push it under and not pretend that its constructs are desirable. We need to push files, folders and the notion of a desktop under the surface of a better user experience, and keep it under. Let a new generation of user experience shield us from that drudgery and detail.

The only way forward is to build a new user experience on top of the physical hardware and software that form a platform for it, and conceal it’s nasty details from us.

This is one aspect of the genius of the iPhone and iPad generation of devices: we don’t need to know about the files and folders. We don’t need a desktop with data bundles lying in piles.”

But, he says, “This break with the past is made faster and less difficult if the new system is closed.”

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23 January 2010

Ethnographic research could make Google more relevant in China

Tricia Wang
Ethnographer Tricia Wang wrote an excellent and long comment on why Google is having troubles in China:

While unfortunate that Google.CN may be shutting down, my ethnographic work in China revealed five things that aren’t being told in the current story:

  1. Many Chinese internet users don’t find Google to be very useful. Therefore, a Google withdrawal would not have any immediate impact on the daily Chinese internet user because most people search with Baidu, the reigning search engine in China.
  2. Many Chinese internet users prefer Baidu over Google because using Baidu makes them feel more “Chinese.” Baidu does an excellent job at tapping into nationalistic fervor to promote itself as being the most superior search engine for Chinese users.
  3. Chinese internet users don’t know how to get to the Google site. While they may “know” of Google, it’s a whole other matter when it comes to typing or saying Google’s name.
  4. Google is primarily used by highly educated netizens. And even these users prefer Google.COM over Google.CN.
  5. Google is not successful at reaching the mobile internet market.

[...]

It’s one thing if Google’s difficulties could just simply be attributed to government interference, and bad marketing and publicity. But that’s not the case. Their services just simply are not useful for most Chinese users. I suggest that Google dedicate itself to understanding the Chinese market in a socio-anthropological way. They should be hiring teams of Chinese and non-Chinese ethnographers, sociologists, and anthropologists to work intimately in all phases with human-computer interaction designers, programmers, and R&D managers. Google should invest in long-term fieldwork for teams to immerse themselves in a diversity of environments. While usability tests and focus groups are useful for specific phases of app development, they aren’t as useful for understanding cultural frameworks and practices because by the time an app is being tested, it already has accumulated so many cultural assumptions along the way in the design process that users are asked to test something that functions in the programmer’s world, not the user’s world.

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(via danah boyd)

21 January 2010

FT on cultural differences in Chinese internet use

Chinese mouse
Western companies are struggling to bridge the growing gap created by the evolution of a cyberspace with Chinese characteristics. Kathrin Hille explains some of the cultural (and political) differences in today’s Financial Times.

“[Chinese people] tend to roam the web like a huge playground, whereas Europeans and Americans are more likely to use it as a gigantic library. Recent research by the McKinsey consultancy suggests Chinese users spend most of their time online on entertainment while their European peers are much more focused on work. [...]

Foreign companies have taken a long time to figure out – then adapt to – one of the key features of Chinese consumers: they do not like to type. “Typing is a pain in Chinese,” explains Zhang Honglin, demonstrating how he has to enter a search word in Latin transcription, then pick the right character scrolling through sometimes dozens of different choices in a pop-up window. This is because Mandarin has many thousands of characters. So when 35-year-old Mr Zhang sneaks away from his family’s tobacco and liquor shop in Beijing to an upstairs internet café for hours on end, he navigates almost entirely using the mouse.

Most portals have reacted by filling their pages with hundreds of colourful links competing for attention – creating a cluttered and disorderly view to the western eye but making life easier for Chinese users.

Beyond aesthetics, Chinese web users are much more lively than their western peers – a characteristic that forms consumption preferences.”

The articles also contains a thoughtful reflection on the cultural importance of user-generated content in China.

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20 January 2010

If your kids are awake, they’re probably online

Generation M2
The average young American now spends practically every waking minute — except for the time in school — using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Those ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with such devices, compared with less than six and a half hours five years ago, when the study was last conducted. And that does not count the hour and a half that youths spend texting, or the half-hour they talk on their cellphones.

And because so many of them are multitasking — say, surfing the Internet while listening to music — they pack on average nearly 11 hours of media content into that seven and a half hours.

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20 January 2010

Nokia’s design and user experience library

Forum Nokia
In recognition of the importance that good design and user experience plays in creating successful products and services, Forum Nokia has renewed and extended it support available for those looking to improve the quality of their mobile applications. Central to this effort has been the launch of a new User Experience program and resources for designers.

Most useful of all is the launch of the Design and User Experience Library. It contains essential basic principles and key information needed when creating services for mobile devices.

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19 January 2010

“Turn right after the petrol pump” – User research improves navigation on Google Maps India

Landmarks
Interesting Google Blog article on how user research dramatically improved driving directions on Google Maps India.

The research was based on the fact that street names are not commonly known in India and the typical wayfinding strategy is to ask someone on the street. Now Google Maps India describes routes in terms of easy-to-follow landmarks and businesses that are visible along the way.

“We knew from previous studies in several countries that most people rely on landmarks — visual cues along the way — for successful navigation. But we needed to understand how people use those visual cues, and what makes a good landmark, in order to make our instructions more human and improve route descriptions. To get answers to these questions, we ran a user research study that focused specifically on how people give and get directions. We called businesses and asked how to get to their store; we recruited people to keep track of directions they gave or received and later interviewed them about their experiences; we asked people to draw us diagrams of routes to places unfamiliar to us; we even followed people around as they tried to find their way.

We found that using landmarks in directions helps for two simple reasons: they are easier to see than street signs and they are easier to remember than street names. [...]

We also discovered that there are three situations in which people resort to landmarks.

The first is when people need to orient themselves — for instance, they just exited a subway station and are not sure which way to go. Google Maps would say: “Head southeast for 0.2 miles.” A person would say: “Start walking away from the McDonald’s.”

The second situation is when people use a landmark to describe a turn: “Turn right after the Starbucks.”

The third use, however, is the most interesting. We discovered that often people simply want to confirm that they are still on the right track and haven’t missed their turn.”

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19 January 2010

Book: Pervasive Information Architecture

 
Pervasive Information Architecture – Designing information space in ubiquitous ecologies is a book being written by Andrea Resmini and Luca Rosati for Morgan Kaufmann-Elsevier which promotes a holistic approach to information architecture and user experience.

“Information is going everywhere, bleeding out of we thought was cyberspace and back into the real world: increasingly, many tasks we perform every day not only constantly require us to move between different media, but actually have us move from the digital to the physical environment and back.

Computation is everywhere, and so are search and interaction. It’s time to move beyond the computer screen to design information space in these new ubiquitous ecologies.

The book presents an holistic, heuristics- and methodology-driven approach to information architecture and user experience for the design of ubiquitous ecologies, emergent systems where old and new media and physical and digital environments are designed, delivered, and experienced as a seamless whole.”

Table of contents
Manifesto
Anticipatory papers

(via InfoDesign)