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Search results for 'portigal'
15 April 2013

Book: Interviewing Users (by Steve Portigal)

interviewing-users

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

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

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

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

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

27 November 2005

Steve Portigal’s reflections on recent UX conferences

 
Steve Portigal pointed out to me that he just wrote up his own impressions on four user experience related conferences he attended this autumn:
Creative CanUX in Banff in September
About, With, and For (AWF) in Chicago in October
Designing for User eXperience (DUX) in San Francisco in November
Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC) in Seattle in November

I just read all of Steve’s impressions, and aside from giving you a close insight on what went on at these conferences, his comments also teach you a thing or two about what makes a good conference to begin with. I cannot fail to conclude that conferences themselves need their own experience designers.

24 July 2014

Persona Power

persona-power-banner

Article by Shlomo Goltz on “integrating the hero’s journey as part of the user-centered design process”:

“There are many prominent and outspoken members of the design community, such as Steve Portigal and Jason Fried, who feel that personas are unnecessary. They make compelling arguments, but they also rule out the use of personas entirely, which I feel is too strong a stance.

Like any other tool in your utility belt, personas have times when they are extremely powerful, and other times when they are simply not warranted—the trick is knowing when to use them, and then to use them effectively.”

10 May 2013

How do you interview an interview specialist?

steve

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

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

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

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

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

8 May 2013

Interviewing Users book – Special offers for Putting People First readers

interviewing-users

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

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

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

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

Grant McCracken meanwhile has posted his foreword to the book.

Thank you Louis, Mary and Steve.

22 December 2011

Julian Bleecker: creating wily subversions

Near Future laboratory

Steven Portigal interviews Julian Bleecker about the near future, design fiction and storytelling.

Julian Bleecker is a designer, technologist and researcher in the Advanced Projects studio at Nokia Design in Los Angeles and the Near Future Laboratory where he investigates emerging social practices around new networked interaction rituals. His focus is on hands-on design and prototyping as a way to raise questions about commonly held assumptions about digital media and digital devices so as to explore possibilities for innovation. He lectures and leads workshops on the intersections of art, design, technology and the near-future possibilities for new social-technical interaction rituals.

Read interview

10 March 2011

Repost: Reflections on the LIFT conference 2011

Lift
Two weeks ago, Core77 published my review of the LIFT conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
In the interest of completeness, I also publish it here:

lift_01.jpgAll images by Ivo Näpflin, courtesy of LIFT Conference – Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

A few weeks ago I was, together with about 1000 other people, in Geneva, Switzerland, to attend the 2011 LIFT conference.

LIFT is really a series of events, launched in 2006 and now taking place in France, Korea and Switzerland, built around a community of pioneers who get together to explore the social implications of new technologies. The LIFT conferences are driven by a dynamic and informal team of people whose public faces, Laurent Haug and Nicolas Nova, are quite well known in the user experience community.

lift_02.jpg

lift_03.jpg

The main event is the acclaimed three-day yearly conference in Geneva (now in its 6th edition) and this year the theme was: What can the future do for you?

Writing about a design and technology conference has changed a lot recently — especially when that conference streams all sessions immediately and Twitter comments have become pervasive.

So I chose to wait a bit, look back at some of the videos (they are all online here), let it all sink in and look back in reflection.

My angle is personal of course, but it struck me that there were a number of core themes that drove a substantial part of the discourse at this year’s LIFT. They are also, I think, the main challenges we as experience and interaction designers will need to address: networks, identity, people and openness, and algorithms.

NETWORKS

lift_04.jpgDon Tapscott

Today we are vividly witnessing the fact that revolutions don’t get made by leaders anymore. And this is illustrative of a larger social paradigm shift in our society, argued Don Tapscott, author of the 2006 bestseller Wikinomics, How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, in his keynote presentation. Social media has lowered transaction and collaboration costs and enhanced people’s capability to collaborate. Hierarchical leadership models are becoming more and more outdated, stalled and failing. The Industrial Age and its institutions have run out of gas. In short, Tapscott says, we are facing nothing less than a turning point in human history, and this creates friction, of course. The huge challenge for us now is to shape this emerging open network paradigm which, to many in charge, seems to lack structure and organization. There is no easy answer in how our societies and businesses can deal with the challenge of rebuilding themselves along this new model of networked intelligence. We do know the principles though — collaboration, openness, sharing, interdependence and integrity, and you may want to see the presentation or read Tapscott’s new book Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World to understand how these principles are currently starting to be applied in business and government.

lift_05.jpgBen Hammersley

Confronting the same theme was Ben Hammersley, Editor at Large for Wired UK. Thirty years younger than Tapscott, his different take on networks is quite refreshing. In essence both speakers addressed their own generations: Tapscott the digital immigrants who come from a hierarchical world and Hammersley the in-between “buffer” generation who constantly have to deal with the older, somewhat “bewildered” generations, the political, industrial and intellectual elites, that currently hold the levers of power.

Hammersley focused on the psychology behind it all — the dominant intellectual framework of the 20th century now gets inverted into a new model, the network model, which has to deal and co-live with the older hierarchical model. People from these other generations might have, what he calls, the “wrong cognitive toolkits” to function well in a drastically changing world. Hammersley explained what it means for the older generations to be “weirded out by modern times” and why there has been so much focus recently in the world of major corporations and institutions on “innovation” and “thinking outside the box”. It is, he says, a sort of therapy in a world where many hierarchies no longer make any sense. Our primary problem (and he is referring to his own generation) is not to encourage innovation, but to translate it. Our job is to clear the path to allow the young people to come through with their new ideas.


lift_azeem.jpgAzeem Azhar

IDENTITY
The topic of identity and reputation got introduced through Azeem Azhar (personal site), a UK entrepreneur with a background in journalism. Azhar started off with a clear problem we all face: connection inflation. It is so cheap and effortless to make connections that we now have too many of them and the trust element starts to diminish. Yet trust and reputation are crucial tools in our economies and lives. The financial markets are fundamentally based on reputation systems but many other of the worlds ratings and rankings play a very strong role e.g. sports, academia, professions, corporate branding and web search. What we need now, he says, is a people rank that makes sense of the connections between people. Quora, CubeDuel, Mixtent and PeerIndex are examples of companies that help us address the professional reputation rank. Foursquare has the hoop-jumping model of reputation ranking (you have to jump through some hoops, i.e. enter places, to increase your rank) and eBay has a reputation system that is very context dependent and not portable at all. The search for the magic reputation breakthrough is on. After all, we all now live in public. Everything we do is now generally available and indexed. Or as Dan Tapscott said in his keynote, we are all naked now: as companies, as governments and as individuals. Eventually we will go to a single currency, a lingua franca for reputation, that is portable and applies to different contexts. But, asks Azhar, are we aware of all the implications? Who owns your reputation? Who owns your data? And how will your data be used?

lift_brian.jpgBrian Solis

These questions were exactly the kind of stimulation that got the highly active mind of Brian Solis (personal site) going. Soiis, a US futurist, simply loves to put his teeth into anything related to reputation, trust, social capital and influence. We each lead three lives in the real world, he says: a public life, a private life and a secret life. Online however, we are all guilty of blurring the line between the three. We are all over-sharing. We are all indexed, ranked and scored by a great variety of online services. Yet, none of the services currently out there, is actually measuring your reputation, your influence. What they are doing is measuring the semblance of your social capital: what you are worth within these social networks, essentially becoming a credit score for the social web. We are measured by what we say and the company we keep. This social graph is already being used by (US) credit card companies to determine their potential risk. Knowing that, how do we become more mindful in how we use social networks?

Solis cited political scientist Robert Putnam who defined social capital as “the collective value of all ‘social networks’ and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other.” Social capital, Putnam said, can be measured by the amount of trust and “reciprocity” in a community or between individuals. Nothing of that, however, is measured by today’s tools. The problem is that these imperfect “social capital” scores are currently used against us.

Now, asks Solis, let’s look at the issue from a people’s perspective: What do we, as people, expect to get in return for our investment in social networks? It breaks down to trust, relationships, reciprocity, authority, popularity and recognition.

At the moment, the currency of social capital is the social object: the thing that you create, do or say online. When you publish it, it has an effect and that effect is measured. The problem is that we are being measured differently in every network. Moreover, context is missing most of the time, and the difference between social currency/capital and influence is not addressed. Influence is the capacity to trigger an effect. It is an ability. We do know that the elements of digital influence centre around a great many terms such as trust, authority, reputation, reach and social capital, but we don’t know how they connect. Today there is just a great deal of confusion (and Solis promised a paper to clarify it all). Knowing how things currently work, Solis has definitely become more mindful in sharing online and in fact he shares less now.

But Solis ends on a positive note: giving back is the new black. Businesses that give something to their customers (advice, ideas, suggestions, tools) earn reputation and influence.

lift_hasan.jpgHasan Elahi

On the very last day of the conference, the most powerful statement about identity came from an artist.

In 2002, Hasan Elahi, a US citizen, somehow ended up, wrongly of course, on a US terrorist watch list and was extensively questioned at Detroit Airport. He was released but had to endure many months of “interviews” with FBI officials and he had to defend himself through no less than nine successive lie detector test. Unfortunately he couldn’t be formally cleared because he was never formally charged. Not surprisingly, Elahi was concerned (and somewhat scared) that similar things, or worse, would continue to happen to him after any successive trip abroad. So initially he called the FBI to share his travel plans with them. This soon changed to emails and then eventually became a very extensive and highly automized website he created in 2002 that basically tracked his life. At first the site was private but in 2003 he decided to make it public — assuming that safety is also in the numbers.

Elahi was initially considered somewhat of a creep by his friends to go to the extremity of making his life public. The real irony and the very heart of his speech is that now, seven years later, there are half a billion people doing essentially the same thing every time they update their Facebook status.

Interestingly, Elahi said that by giving out so much information about himself, he actually leads a rather private and anonymous life. He generates so much data but to understand them you would still have to do the analysis, and when you do that, you get very little in return. All of us are generating data now.

So his FBI encounter resulted in a very extensive real-life project about identity management. Having a little bit of information about you is very dangerous, Elahi says, but by having a large amount of information you get a better picture. By generating a lot of information, you become in control of your own identity, rather than someone else defining your identity.



lift_galbraith.jpgDavid Galbraith

PEOPLE AND OPENESS
Introducing the people theme was David Galbraith (personal site) of Samba, who spoke — in addition to other things — about how people are shaping the future of the Internet. Galbraith thinks the Long Tail is over. People need celebrities — look at the asymmetries that are clearly showing up in Twitter. The Internet is a giant game of follow the leader and the Long Tail is starting to reverse as marketing takes over.

lift_portigal.jpgSteve Portigal

Steve Portigal of Portigal Consulting focused on the importance of understanding people in order to create innovation.

In a condensed and highly practical session, Portigal explained the power of the participatory or user-centered design process. What is the meaning behind what people do, asks Portigal. By focusing on gathering meaning, we can synthesize and find connections that no one connected before. These connections can then be used to create stories that can be applied in the design process to make change happen.

What makes Portigal’s talk relevant is that he explains how concentrating on understanding people’s behavior is so much broader than asking people what needs they have and what they would like as some still seem to think. This approach can lead to misjudging the power of user-centered design in innovation. People, says Portigal, are not good at talking about solutions, but we can understand a great deal about needs by observing people. By leaping away from the specific, we can get at the principles that drive the specific. So the question that drives the research is not the solution but the problem we are trying to solve. Contemporary user-centred design, says Portigal, implies a willingness to shift what we think the problem is, a willingness to shift what we think the solution is, and a willingness to be comfortable with ambiguity.

lift_coates.jpgNick Coates

Nick Coates elaborated this people strategy into the methodology of co-creation, first describing the methodology and then giving a great case study on how he used co-creation to design the cabin space for Etihad Airways.

lift_sutton.jpgThomas Sutton

People was also the topic of Thomas Sutton of frog design Milan, approached from his vision on open innovation.

Sutton’s focus is on contextual networks and the way changing meaning within those contexts create changing behaviors. Sutton gave an interesting perspective on how content and service providers would start on platforms (like Microsoft, Apple and Sun), whereas more recently they actually start from digital and physical touchpoints (like Amazon, Twitter). Through a strategy of openness providers then moved from these outer touchpoints to the layer of platform. Twitter has nearly become a platform.

This has big implications for design. End-users are starting to move very opportunistically from touchpoint to touchpoint, and this undermines some of the basic tenants of classical interaction design: the idea of understanding and designing an ideal path for your user. People are now creating their own opportunistic ideal paths based on the forms of access that they have available to them at any one time. So designing an ideal path has become pointless. The most rewarding strategy is to allow an open flow between channels and platforms by designing an experiential thread to them all. This means that designers have to design for connectivity (giving people the space to innovate for themselves), and Sutton presented some of the participatory tools frog design uses to achieve exactly that.


lift_Slavin.jpgKevin Slavin

ALGORITHMS
The importance of algorithms was alluded to by many speakers (including Galbraith), but only one, Kevin Slavin, dedicated his entire presentation to algorithms. And he did it in a sublime way, not in the least because of his beautiful deep, dark and relaxed storytelling voice (check the video!)

In today’s financial markets, everything is electronic and it is important to hide transactions wherever possible (since you don’t want to show your intentions or strategies). If you need to move one million shares, it is better to move 10,000 individual lots of 100 shares, much like how Stealth bombers make the enemy believe that what flys in the sky isn’t a plane but simply a lot of little things, like birds. That’s why banks use algorithms and have become very equipped at making these appear as random as possible. 70% of all trades in Wall Street are either driven by an algorithm trying to appear invisible or another algorithm trying to find that invisible algorithm.

Today, algorithms do not just impact our pension funds but also affect a much broader part of society. Algorithmic effects are applied to determine what we hear and how those songs are made, what they sound like, what we watch, what we are going to see in the movies, what we read (the titles of what we read are algorithmically evaluated and determined), who we are matched with if we go online to get matched with somebody, what we call news, who gets arrested, what we drive, how we get there, what we eat and even what we drink.

There are, says Slavin, three problems with this: opacity, inscrutability and “something darker and harder to describe” — the idea that taste could algorithmically be determined. Millions of dollars could be moved by that. What if an algorithm would focus not on what movies you might like (as is already the case), but what movies should be made that you might like (as is also starting to become the case)? In a way, it is regression in the sense that it regresses towards the mean. In doing so, we are producing a kind of monoculture and we lose the tools to understand how it actually works (even though we wrote the algorithms).

Now and then algorithms cause crashes. Serious crashes. And since algorithms are now everywhere, we need to ask ourselves, what does a flash cash look like in the wine industry? In the criminal justice system?

CONCLUSION
There is none, besides that LIFT has again proven its relevance to me and to the many others present — although definitely in a myriad of different ways. My perspective on the topics of interest have been personal, and this has resulted — I now notice — in a review of nothing but male speakers. And this despite there being so many excellent female speakers on a host of other themes. I encourage you to peruse video content from other presentations on the newly launched LIFT Video site. I look forward to being challenged by another reviewer, and I can’t wait to go back next year.


About Mark Vanderbeeken
Mark Vanderbeeken is a senior partner of Experientia, the international experience design consultancy based in Turin, Italy, and author/editor of the acclaimed UX blog Putting People First.

21 November 2010

Interactions Magazine – last issue of Jon Kolko and Richard Anderson

Interactions
The current issue of Interactions Magazine is the last issue of editors Jon Kolko and Richard Anderson, who reflect on the results achieved.

Also Don Norman reflects in his column, and raises some pointed criticism of Interactions Magazine publisher ACM, that I endorse completely:

“I recently became a columnist for Core77, an open, free Internet magazine for industrial designers, and my first post received more responses, blogging comments, and consideration than the total of the responses during my five years of columns in interactions.

It is time for ACM, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the free dissemination of knowledge, to stop hiding behind paid subscription walls and get its stuff out in the open for everyone to share. ACM – and many scientific societies – have lost track of the knowledge-sharing role of science and instead have been governed more by old-fashioned media rules than the modern world of freely accessible media.

interactions fails to impact the larger world of research outside of ACM’s CHI because of its failure to be open and accessible. At the same time, it fails to impact the academic research world because it is neither peer-reviewed nor the repository of the weighty, carefully experimental, rigorous knowledge required by promotion committees in universities. So what is interactions? Neither a serious scientific publication nor an influential popular one.”

Here are the articles that are currently available for free:

MCC’s Human Interface Laboratory – The promise and perils of long-term research
by Bill Curtis
In this column, Bill discusses his involvement with the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation. This research enterprise, largely forgotten today, was highly influential in the 1980s, hiring and providing visibility to HCI researchers, many of whom remain active.

Looking back, looking forward
by Don Norman
Over the past five years, Don Norman has written approximately three dozen columns. What has been learned? What will come? Obviously, it is time for reflection.

Angst, and how to overcome it
by Gary Marsden
Does it make sense to separate developing world research from that conducted in more developed economies? At the end of the day, people are people and technology is technology, the world over. Are we doing the developing world a disservice by somehow treating it differently from the developed?

The hard work lies ahead (if you want it)
by Steve Portigal
Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” from 1943 is a well-known psychological framework that has been applied (directly, or through derivative versions) to thousands of diverse problems. It’s high time to leverage this style of hierarchy to challenge the types of user experiences we’re enabling with the stuff we’re making.

Learning from John Rheinfrank: reflections on acquiring a design language
by Jon Freach
For three years in the mid-1990s, I had the fortune of learning a new language of design from John Rheinfrank, the co-founder and first co-editor of this magazine, through a user-centered baptism of sorts.

From static to adaptive
by Hugh Dubberly, Justin Rheinfrank and Shelley Evenson
When John Rheinfrank [who passed away in 2004] learned he was sick, he began working on a book on the relationship between design and systems. Sadly, he never finished, but some of his core ideas were preserved in a presentation on moving from static to adaptive worlds. John saw adaptive worlds as a new way to frame interaction design. Working from John’s presentation slides and a tape of his talk, we have summarized his ideas.

On experiences, people and technology
by Jon Kolko
In reflecting on the 200,000 words we’ve published in the past three years, I see a common theme that describes interaction design as a discipline focused on culture and behavior.

14 July 2010

Ethnography in industry

PARC
PARC, the legendary California-based research centre owned by the Xerox Corporation, is hosting a series of talks on ethnography in industry. The three talks that took place are already available online in video. More talks are scheduled tomorrow and next week.

Feral Technologies: An ethnographic account of the future [ video | alternate link ]
Genevieve Bell, Intel
3 June 2010

What do rabbits, camels and cane toads all have in common? And why might this be relevant to the future of new technologies. In this talk, I want to explore the ways in which new technologies are following the path of feral Australian pests – in particular, I am interested in the unexpected and unscheduled transformations that have occurred in the last decade. In 1998, an estimated 68% of the world’s internet users were Americans. A decade later that number had shrunk to less than 20%. The complexion of the web – its users, their desires, their languages, points of entry and experiences – has subtly and not so subtly changed over that period. All these new online participants bring with them potentially different conceptual models of information, knowledge and knowledge systems with profound consequences for the ideological basis of the net. These new participants also operate within different regulatory and legislative regimes which will bring markedly different ideas about how to shape what happens online. And in this same time period, the number and kind of digital devices in peoples’ lives has grown and changed. Devices have proliferated with ensembles and debris collecting in the bottom of backpacks, on the dashboards of dusty trucks and in drawers, cabinets, and baskets. Bell explores these feral technology proliferations, in the ways in which they have defied conventional wisdom and acceptable boundaries, and, most importantly, the ways in which they have transformed themselves into new objects and experiences.

Postcolonial Computing: Technology and Cultural Encounter [ video | alternate link ]
Paul Dourish, University of California, Irvine
17 June 2010

“Culture” has become a hot topic in computing research as information technologies become enmeshed in global flows of people, products, capital, ideas, and information. However, while much attention has been focused on the problems of “cross-cultural collaboration” and “cultural difference,” a useful alternative is opened up by thinking about culture from a generative, rather than a taxonomic, perspective — that is, as a framework for understanding and interpreting the world around us, rather than a framework for classifying people. In this talk, Dourish outlines and illustrates an approach that he and his colleagues have been developing, which draws on anthropology, cultural studies, and postcolonial studies to help them examine the contexts of encounter between people, information technology, and culture.

Beyond Ethnography: How the design of social software obscures observation and intervention [ video ]
Gentry Underwood, IDEO
8 July 2010

Human-centered design, i.e., the design of products and services with the needs of the end-user or recipient in mind, has long been lauded as an essential skill in developing relevant and usable software. As software tools move from being about human-computer interaction to human-human interaction (as mediated through some sort of networked device), the focus must shift from extreme-user profiling to something more akin to ethnography, only with an intervention-heavy twist.
Gentry shares learnings from his work in the social software field, offering examples of how his training in ethnography helps him do his job, as well as insight as to where the work must move beyond traditional ethnographic methods in order to be successful.

Ethnography: Discovering the obvious that everyone else overlooks
Stephen R. Barley, Center for Work, Technology and Organization, Stanford School of Engineering
15 July 2010

In this talk, Barley focuses on what he has learned over 30 years about doing ethnography, and illustrate what he sees as ethnography’s central payoff for designers of technology and organizations by drawing on a recent comparative study of automobile dealers.

Ethnography as a cultural practice
Steve Portigal, Portigal Consulting
22 July 2010

Culture is everywhere we look, and (perhaps more importantly) everywhere we don’t look. It informs our work, our purchases, our usage, our expectations, our comfort, and our communications. In this presentation, Steve discusses the use of ethnographic research in the product development process and suggest how an understanding of culture is a crucial component in innovation.

Together with these talks, the PARC blog hosts a number of features on the use of ethnography in industry, highlighting the objectives and the methods.

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?

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?”

Read full story

10 December 2009

Latest Donald Norman essay started a big debate

Donald Norman
Donald Norman ‘s recent essay Technology First, Needs Last, in which he argues that “design research is great when it comes to improving existing product categories but essentially useless when it comes to new, innovative breakthroughs,” has started a big discussion.

Steve Portigal started the debate with a piece which intends to “to reframe rather than refute” Norman’s argument.
Read article

Nicolas Nova thinks that Norman’s piece reflects “a narrow understanding of what field research about people can convey”. Nova also takes issue with the “distinction between improvement and breakthrough (or what [Norman] calls “revolutionary innovation”).” Perhaps, Nova says,” it’s a framing issue but the notion of a “breakthrough” seems a bit weird when one think about the whole history of technologies. This terms seems more appealing to the marketing/business people than observer of how objects evolved over time.’
Read article

Todd Zaki Warfel writes he “couldn’t disagree more with the content of the [Norman] essay. He singles out both “how Don defines design research” and Norman’s claim that innovations “are invariably driven by the development of new technologies.”
Read article

Nikos Karaoulanis argues that that Norman’s essay “really lends to the argument that design research and especially design thinking is absolutely crucial, if not critical to designing in our time.”
Read article

Adam Richardson says: “I actually agree[s] with much of what he says, though I see the definition of design research he’s using as overly narrow.”
Read article

Check also the comments on each of these pieces.

30 October 2009

Nov-Dec 2009 edition of Interactions magazine online

Interactions
The November-December edition of Interactions Magazine is online and some articles are available without subscription.

Unfortunately, the main menu page doesn’t say which articles are publicly available (although without images) and which aren’t (what about ‘affordances’ in web design?), so I have selected the six that are:

interactions: social, authentic, and interdisciplinary
Jon Kolko

Catalyzing a perfect storm: mobile phone-based HIV-prevention behavioral interventions
Woodrow W. Winchester, III

Implications of user choice: the cultural logic of “MySpace or Facebook?”
danah boyd

On authenticity
Steve Portigal, Stokes Jones

When security gets in the way
Don Norman

The authenticity problem
John Kolko

A seventh one, by my business partner Michele Visciola, can be downloaded in a pre-publication version from this blog.

2 July 2009

July-August issue of Interactions magazine is out

Interactions
The July-August issue of Interactions magazine is out and more and more content is publicly available online (thank goodness):

Editorial: Interactions: Time, Culture, and Behavior
Jon Kolko
Over the past 10 issues, interactions has, with a great deal of conscious repetition, investigated themes of global influence, sustainability, temporal aesthetics, behavior change, and the design for culture. These issues are at the heart of the human condition – whether exploring, solving, or celebrating the relationships between people and society. These themes continually combine to offer a glimpse into designing for interaction – the ability to forge connections and bridge gaps between experiences, people, and technology.
This issue of interactions is no different, but it exemplifies a new and subtle duality: impending doom and slight optimism.

Cover story: The Waste Manifesto
Victor Margolin is professor emeritus of design history at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is a founding editor and now co-editor of the academic design journal Design Issues. From this position, Margolin offers us an informed and historically grounded manifesto on the nature of garbage. Deemed The Waste Manifesto, Margolin describes the economics of waste, and offers a call to arms. As he writes, “At stake in attempting to create a sustainable waste economy is the issue of whether or not we can avoid social obesity, something that can paralyze us logistically, physically, and economically.”

“At The End of the World, Plant a Tree”: Six questions for Adam Greenfield
Adam Greenfield is Nokia’s head of design direction for service and user-interface design, as well as the author of Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing and the upcoming The City Is Here for You to Use. He is also a compelling speaker and articulate blogger, and has become an authority in thinking about the impact of future ubiquitous technologies on people and society. In a lengthy interview with Tish Shute recently published on UgoTrade.com, Greenfield covered numerous topics including augmented reality, Usman Haque’s Pachube project, the networked book, the networked city, and what to do at the end of the world. The interview is dense and rich, with many of the questions raised relevant to our audience. We asked Greenfield to expand on some of his answers for interactions.

–> Although not publicly available on the Interactions site, this article (which I facilitated and has clearly inspired Jon Kolko’s thinking, as becomes clear in the above editorial), can be found on Adam Greenfield’s personal site. Make of his introduction what you want.

Column: Designing the Infrastructure
Don Norman
“It is time to work on our infrastructure, which threatens to dominate our lives with ugliness, frustration, and work. We need to spend more time on infrastructure design. We need to make it more attractive, more accessible, and easier to maintain. Infrastructure is intended to be hidden, to provide the foundation for everyday life. If we do not respond, it will dominate our lives, preventing us from attending to our priority concerns and interests. Instead, we’ll just be keeping ahead of maintenance demands.”

–> Unfortunately the online version of the article comes without the figures that Norman refers to in his text.

Column: The Golden Age of Newsprint Collides With the Gilt Age of Digital Information Distribution
Elizabeth Churchill
Churchill is “screaming for a better news-reading experience on my desktop and mobile devices.”
“Certainly I love having access to so much information, but the reading experience is just not the same as the structured, well-designed experience of newspapers. News websites are like buckets of Internet storm-drain runoff, all laid out in some distorted version of their print counterparts.”

Column: Ships in the Night (Part II): Research Without Design?
Steve Portigal
In Part I Portigal looked at some different approaches to design that do or do not succeed by omitting research. Here, he examines some of the limitations of doing research without design. His conclusion: “Rather than treat research and design as separate activities (sometimes performed by siloed departments or vendors), I would encourage all the stakeholders in the product development process to advocate for an integrated approach in which design activities and research activities are tightly coordinated and aligned.”

Column: On Hopelessness and Hope
Jon Kolko
“A number of individuals -a group that is small in number but significant in its contributions- have managed to deliver on projects broad and deep. They do act as renaissance individuals, and they do manage to tackle problems that are complex and whose solutions result in important contributions.” In working with and observing these types of people, Kolko sees several commonalities.

3 March 2009

March-April issue of Interactions Magazine devoted to trust

Interactions March-April 2009
More and more content of Interactions Magazine is becoming available online. The latest March-April issue is devoted to trust and “explores the idea of assurance and the feelings of ease or unease related to relationships of confidence or skepticism”.

Here are some of the treasures:

The Counterfeit You
Hunter Whitney
If safeguarding our strings of numerical identifiers is important, what is the value of managing our online identities-the information, stories, and images that portray us, on the Web?

On trusting your socks to find each other
Elizabeth Churchill
As I think about whether I would or would not trust my semi-sentient socks, I realize that, for me, the cloud on the horizon of this dream world of sentient (or at least semi-sentient) objects is trust in all its forms.

Identity theft and the challenges of caring for your virtual self
Jennifer Whitson
The full text of this article isn’t yet available online, but will be soon.

Interacting with advertising
Steve Portigal
As we are supposedly increasingly enlightened and empowered as consumers, where do we draw the line with what advertisers are allowed to do?

The magazine also contains a number of feature stories – by such writers as Ben Fullerton; Kraig Finstad, Wei Xu, Shibani Kapoor, Sri Canakapalli and John Gladding; Molly Steenson; Colleen Murphy; Brad S. Minnery, Michael S. Fine; and Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken — but they are not yet available online.

Luckily there is the Donald Norman column “Memory Is more important than actuality“, which is fully online and deals with the psychological reasons that makes us want to repeat and recommend experiences, even though they were not all good, and what that implies for design.

3 January 2009

Focus on what we should be doing, not just what we can

John Maeda
John Maeda, the new president of RISD, wrote some smart words in Esquire (where he was profiled as one of 75 most influential people):

“Technological advances have always been driven more by a mind-set of “I can” than “I should,” and never more so than today. Technologists love to cram maximum functionality into their products. That’s “I can” thinking, which is driven by peer competition and market forces. (It’s easier to sell a device with ten features than one.) But this approach ignores the far more important question of how the consumer will actually use the device. [...]

When I welcome my first incoming class this fall, I plan to focus on how RISD’s core ideals of art and design can humanize our advancing technologies. Or, put another way, to focus on what we should be doing, not just what we can.”

Read full story

(via Steve Portigal)

11 November 2008

Two UX magazines for subscribers only

UX Mags
Two user experience magazines landed on my desk this week. They are available only to subscribers, both in print and online. But subscriptions are relatively cheap.

User Experience is the quarterly magazine of the Usability Professionals’ Association (membership is a modest 100 USD) and its latest issue is devoted to usability in transportation. Here are the titles of the feature articles and you can find the abstracts online:

Taxi: Service Design for New York’s yellow cabs
By Rachel Abrams

Safer Skies: Usability at the Federal Aviation Administration
By Ferne Friedman-Berg, Ph.D, Kenneth Allendoerfer, Carolina Zingale, Ph.D, Todd Truitt, Ph.D.

Listen Up: Do voice recognition systems help drivers focus on the road?
By David G. Kidd, M. A., David M. Cades, M. A., Don J. Horvath, M. A., Stephen M. Jones, M. A., Matthew J. Pitone, M. A., Christopher A. Monk, Ph. D.

Get Your Bearings: User perspective in map design
By Thomase Porathe

Lost in Space: Holistic wayfinding design in public spaces
By Dr. Christopher Kueh

A Really Smart Card: How Hong Kong’s Octopus Card moves people
By Daniel Szuc

Recommendations on Recommendations: Making usability usable
By Rolf Molich, Kasper Hornbæk, Steve Krug, Josephine Scott and Jeff Johnson

Disclosure: my business partner Michele Visciola is on the editorial board of this magazine.

Interactions is the bimonthly publication of ACM. Better designed than User Experience, it has become, under the thoughtful leadership of Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko, both profound in its analysis and broad in its interests. At 55 USD for six issues, it is also a bargain.

Here is the latest harvest of articles, some of which you can actually find online:

Designing Games: Why and How
Sus Lundgren

An Evolving Map of Design Practice and Design Research
Liz Sanders

Signifiers, Not Affordances
Don Norman

User Experience Design for Ubiquitous Computing
Mike Kuniavsky

Cultural Theory and Design: Identifying Trends by Looking at the Action in the Periphery
Christine Satchell

Understanding Children’s Interactions: Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products
Janet C. Read, Panos Markopoulos

An Exciting Interface Foray into Early Digital Music: The Kurzweil 250
Richard W. Pew

Some Different Approaches to Making Stuff
Steve Portigal

Design: A Better Path to Innovation
Nathan Shedroff

A Call for Pro-Environmental Conspicuous Consumption in the Online World
Bill Tomlinson

Of Candied Herbs and Happy Babies: Seeking and Searching on Your Own Terms
Elizabeth Churchill

Experiencing the International Children’s Digital Library
Benjamin B. Bederson

Taken For Granted: The Infusion of the Mobile Phone in Society
Rich Ling

How Society was Forever Changed: A Review of The Mobile Connection
Brian Romanko

Audiophoto Narratives for Semi-literate Communities
David Frohlich, Matt Jones

Think Before You Link: Controlling Ubiquitous Availability
Karen Renaud, Judith Ramsay, Mario Hair

Disclosure: As of next year, I will be a contributing editor to the magazine (and I feel honoured to be in such esteemed company).

12 May 2008

May/June edition of Interactions Magazine

Interactions
The May/June issue of Interactions Magazine just came out and some of the content is available online (and more will follow soon).

The issue is all about “colliding worlds” with “interactions disciplines” becoming “more appropriately integrated into other creative disciplines (e.g. architecture and music), into business, and into the new business models that will shape the 21st and 22nd centuries,” as described by the editors Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko in their editorial.

It also features contributions by Allison Arieff (Sunset), Eli Blevis (Indiana University at Bloomington), Shunying Blevis (Indiana University at Bloomington), Benjamin H. Bratton, Valerie Casey (IDEO), Elizabeth Churchill (Yahoo! Research), Dave Cronin (Cooper), Allison Druin (Human-Computer Interaction Lab), Hugh Dubberly, Shelley Evenson (Carnegie Mellon University), Jonathan Grudin (Microsoft Adaptive Systems and Interaction group), Zhiwei Guo (Adobe Systems Inc.), John Hopson (Microsoft’s Games User Research group), Steve Howard (University of Melbourne), Tuck Leong (University of Melbourne), Zhengjie Liu Dalian Marine University), Bob Moore, Donald Norman, Steve Portigal, Scott Palmer (University of Leeds), Sita Popat (University of Leeds), Kai Qian, Laura Seargeant Richardson (M3 Design Inc.), Richard Seymour (Seymourpowell), Frank Vetere (University of Melbourne), Huiling Wei, and Ning Zhang (Dalian Marine University)

Interactions Magazine is the bimonthly publication of the ACM [Association of Computing Machinery] and is distributed to all members of SIGCHI [Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction].

It recently underwent a complete makeover the inspiring and volunteer (!) leadership of Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko who turned it into a publication full of timely articles, stories and content related to the interactions between experiences, people, and technology — the must have magazine for the user experience community!

14 January 2008

Persona non grata

Personas
Steve Portigal is going after the hypocritical use of personas (“the Big Lie”) in the article he wrote for Interactions Magazine:
“Personas are misused to maintain a “safe” distance from the people we design for, manifesting contempt over understanding, and creating the facade of user-centeredness while merely reinforcing who we want to be designing for and selling to.”

You can request a copy of the article by contacting Steve at steve at portigal dot com and telling him your name, title and organisation.

6 January 2008

Interactions Magazine relaunched

Interactions
A few weeks ago, I announced the new direction taken by Interactions Magazine under its new editors-in-chief Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko, and now the first issue is out.

The content looks very exciting indeed and the editors-in-chief have done a great job at getting some of the best people in the field to contribute.

Columns

Features

In addition, there are several “Forum” pieces and a few book reviews.

Unfortunately, the publishers (ACM) have taken a weird approach to the online version: while the site has all the trappings of an online publication (with a nice design, a good table of contents, commenting, and article blogposts), it contains hardly any content! They only have excerpts available online – you have to be an ACM member to read the full text – in the printed issue that is (at $50 for 6 issues). Also there is no information about the authors online. Not surprisingly, the site has very few comments and I doubt it has much traffic.

I hope the hard copy will arrive quickly here in Europe, but even more that Richard and Jon will be able to convince ACM that this is not a very good online policy.