“On behalf of UXnet’s board of directors, I have a bit of difficult news to share: we are disbanding UXnet.
UXnet simply is not structured to achieve its goal of building a sustainable network of UX people. We don’t have the ability to tackle or pay for the kind of development work that such a goal requires. We’ve tried hard for eight years, but it’s time to recognize that our approach isn’t the right one and move on.”
“Stories can help you collect, analyze and share qualitative information from user research and usability, spark design imagination and keep in touch with your audience. Storytelling and story listening are not a new methodology, but something you can add to your current practice to deepen and richen your understanding of users and their experience.
Three places where stories are a good fit are:
- Collecting stories from your audience to create a richer picture of how, when and why they use your products and documentation.
- Adding stories to personas to share your audience analysis, blending facts and information to make an emotional connection.
- Using stories for more naturalistic usability testing (planning those stories, or gathering them on the spot).”
By Whitney Quesenbery & Kevin Brooks
Availability: Paperback + PDF
We all tell stories. It’s one of the most natural ways to share information, as old as the human race. This book is not about a new technique, but how to use something we already know in a new way. Stories help us gather and communicate user research, put a human face on analytic data, communicate design ideas, encourage collaboration and innovation, and create a sense of shared history and purpose. This book looks across the full spectrum of user experience design to discover when and how to use stories to improve our products. Whether you are a researcher, designer, analyst or manager, you will find ideas and techniques you can put to use in your practice.
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.
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.
A Practitioner’s Guide to Prototyping
By Todd Zaki Warfel
Rosenfeld Media, November 2009
Available in paperback and digital package (1-933820-21-7), digital (PDF) editions (ISBN 1-933820-22-5)
Prototyping is a great way to communicate the intent of a design both clearly and effectively. Prototypes help you to flesh out design ideas, test assumptions, and gather real-time feedback from users.
With this book, Todd Zaki Warfel shows how prototypes are more than just a design tool by demonstrating how they can help you market a product, gain internal buy-in, and test feasibility with your development team.
Prototyping is available in two packages: a full color paperback plus a screen-optimized DRM-free PDF, and a digital package (two DRM-free PDFs: one screen-optimized, and one for printing yourself). An EPUB version is on the way as well.
Design for Care compiles methods, results, case studies, and research from many healthcare contexts to help designers understand and improve healthcare products and services. If you’re interested in the intersection of healthcare and user experience, please participate in this 100+ member community. Peter Jones, the community’s facilitator, is also the author of the forthcoming book Designing for Care.
“Design for Care brings methods and results found effective across healthcare contexts to designers in all situations, illustrated by very current case studies and research. We include & transcend User Experience – as care scenarios are not merely “use” but are complex and multifaceted. We aim to inform information, service, and system designers to make a positive difference in healthcare.”
Agile Experience Design is enabling over 200 participants to work through the challenges of squaring contemporary design practices with agile and other iterative approaches to design and development. Anders Ramsay, who has just begun work on his book Agile Experience Design, is the community’s facilitator.
“Our goal is to explore, evolve, and empower the emergent discipline that fuses Agile Software Development with User Experience Design.”
Filled with insanely pragmatic advice, persuasive argument, and impassioned calls for action, Nathan’s book is essential reading for all designers, design students, business people, business students, innovation specialists, and advocates of all stripes.
In celebration of its launch (and in conjunction with our exclusive excerpt, Core77′s Editor-in-chief Allan Chochinov sat down with Nathan (well, email was more sustainable, being on opposite coasts) to chat about the book, the challenges ahead, the culture of business, and the amazing opportunities for designers right now.
User experience design is NOT…
1. …user interface design
2. …a step in the process
3. …about technology
4. …just about usability
5. …just about the user
8. …the role of one person or department
9. …a single discipline
10. …a choice
Eric Reiss wrote a nice follow-up post.
There is no single methodology for creating the perfect product—but you can increase your odds. One of the best ways is to understand users’ reasons for doing things. Mental Models gives you the tools to help you grasp, and design for, those reasons. Adaptive Path co-founder Indi Young has written a roll-up-your-sleeves book for designers, managers, and anyone else interested in making design strategic, and successful. Mental Models is available in full-color paperback and digital (PDF) versions.
An interview with the author just got published on Boxes and Arrows. It covers the origins and evolution of the mental model, how the mental model is a way of visualizing nearly any research data, what shortcuts you can use to get started on a mental model with minimal time investment, why “combing” an interview is like riding a bicycle, and how Webvan failed because it ignore the mental model of its customers.
UXnet is a platform organisation that provides tools and resources for the user experience community. It works with a worldwide network of local ambassadors.
The new site, which has been more than a year in the making and now runs on WordPress, makes it far easier for the local ambassadors to profile the UX activities and landscape in their local areas.
Major attention has been put into the events calendar, which is now key the feature of the site: it has become a fledgling application that brings in events from all user experience disciplines and locales around the world.
Even though as a board member of UXnet, I have been somewhat involved in this redesign, the site is really based on the hard work of Keith Instone, who squeezed much of the relaunch into his tight schedule. As Lou Rosenfeld wrote (and I totally agree with): “Keith is an incredible team player and hard worker who, in his positive and low-key way, successfully collaborates with a diverse collection of backgrounds and egos. Keith really is the model of what a user experience professional should be. So it’s not surprising that UXnet has named its volunteer award after him. Thank you, Keith!”
UXnet is currently in the process of expanding its vision and charter, and the website is designed to scale and enhance the organisation’s future activities.
So — and I am once again quoting Lou Rosenfeld here — if you’ve had a “wait-and-see” attitude about UXnet, this is a good time to take another look. And if you’re interested in participating as an “ambassador” for your area, we want you.
Now they have repeated their method to assess the UX consciousness of mainstream business publications.
So, what was the degree of “UX consciousness” among business publications?
- The Harvard Business Review is most interested in knowledge management and information management
- The Economist is quite focused—at the expense of all other UX topics—on branding
- Business Week seems to have the most balanced coverage, with six terms accounting for at least 5% of the results each (branding, content management, industrial design, information management, knowledge management, and user experience)
- Fast Company is the leader in industrial design focus and in branding, trailing only The Economist in that category
- Business 2.0 seems to lead in many areas that have started to gather attention relatively recently: experience design, information design, interaction design, interface design, search analytics, technical communication, usability engineering, and user experience (9.9%). It’s also the most balanced in its coverage, after Business Week.
- Inc. has a strong information focus: content management and knowledge management are by far its largest categories.
- Entrepreneur focuses exceptionally on graphic design and ergonomics
- Strategy + Business hewed most closely to the overall averages, showing stronger focus on branding and weaker on content management.
In alphabetical order:
They were hoping to determine if the analysts were paying much attention to user experience, so they searched a variety of UX-related terms (21, to be precise) on their respective web sites. They then looked at which firms paid attention to which UX topics and how they compared to the web’s overall UX consciousness.
Which firms paid attention to which UX terms?
- Aberdeen is focusing on web analytics;
- AMR pays a great deal of attention to the related areas of content management and knowledge management;
- Forrester appears relatively strong in areas that are relatively new, such as experience design, interaction design, interface design, SEO, UCD and web analytics;
- Gartner‘s bread and butter is information management;
- IDC‘s numbers are, overall, closest to average; if they have a specific focus, it’s content management;
- Branding seems to dominate Yankee‘s mindspace.
Overall, the top five topics are content management, information management, branding, knowledge management and user experience.
How do these firms compare to the web’s UX consciousness as a whole?
Rosenfeld admits that it’s hard to tell whether the analysts firm really lead the web on certain topics because the numbers are quite small, but there is a clear trend in the topics where analysts trail the web: ergonomics, graphic design, human-computer interaction, search engine optimisation, technical communication, usability engineering and web analytics. Rosenfeld concludes:
“Interestingly these topics, with the exception of SEO and web analytics, all represent fairly established fields. Do analysts forgo these areas as insufficiently innovative? If so, many of these field’s practitioners would surely take issue. Conversely, SEO and web analytics are new fields which are not only considered quite innovative, but have accrued legions of software vendors. Given that the mission of many analysts is to help managers understand new technologies, it’s especially strange that the analysts have not paid more attention to these two newer areas.”
A spreadsheet with the raw data is available upon requests
The IA Voice site, which is managed by Wolf H. Nöding, german language representative of the IAI, contains a wide range of interviews, including with Peter Morville, Jesse James Garrett, Peter Boersma, and Louis Rosenfeld. The site also features a four part series on faceted classification.
Listen to interview (mp3, 10.3 mb, 30 min.)
In his new function, which is on a volunteer basis and additional to his other commitments, Mark will be a key participant in architecting UXnet’s digital communication channels, while setting strategic communications objectives and overseeing the execution of tactical communications across media, and to both internal and external stakeholders.
“We are really excited to have Mark joining UXnet in this critical role,” said Dirk Knemeyer, president of the UXnet Board of Directors, in a statement on the UXnet website. “His experience and success in the user experience community will be a key contributor to moving UXnet forward, particularly in helping to accelerate our international agenda.”
UXnet, the global user experience network, exists to make connections among people, resources, and organizations involved in User eXperience (UX) anywhere in the world. A network of 95 local ambassadors represent 72 locales in 28 countries on six continents. The organisation also facilitates and promotes collaboration with all key UX-related professional organisations.
Multiple online tools (e.g., an evolving conference calendar) are currently being designed and implemented.
The UXnet Board of Directors consists of Dirk Knemeyer (Involution Studios), Louis Rosenfeld (Rosenfeld Media), Whitney Quesenbery (Whitney Interactive Design) and Keith Instone (IBM). Mark Vanderbeeken will join biweekly board meetings and eventually become a full voting member of the board.
Paul and Rebecca both characterized themselves as “heavy online news readers.” And although it’s true that they’re heavy consumers of news, their behavior reveals that they are not getting the majority of their news from newspaper websites, as this description might suggest. While Paul is using the Internet to set up his newsletters and alerts, he’s not really reading news online. Instead, he’s reading e-mail newsletters, which is typical of about 50% of Americans who have broadband at home. Rebecca, for all her diligence, is really gathering all her news and commentary offline, then supplementing it by scanning the headlines online, typical of about 24% of all online news readers. Neither one, then, really lived up to their characterization of how they use the news.
It’s no surprise that Paul and Rebecca can’t articulate what they actually do. People often say one thing, then demonstrate another. Rebecca and Paul are just two of twelve people that we’ve been spending time with for a design research project for a news and media company called Daylife. While the results will be used to inform the user experience of a website in the short-term, our larger goal is to understand how people are consuming news and information today. And the fact that people are unaware of the way they consume news is precisely the reason we wanted to conduct the study in the first place.
Liz Danzico is director of user experience at Daylife, a website that gathers, organizes, and analyzes news from around the world. She is also the senior development editor for Rosenfeld Media, a publishing house dedicated to user experience. Liz has served as director of experience strategy for AIGA, formed the information architecture team at Barnes & Noble.com, and managed the information architecture group at Razorfish, New York.
“We haven’t yet encountered an enterprise website that didn’t suffer from problems associated with decentralization. Put another way, it’s the rare site that is too centralized. Now that websites are recognized as a foundational component of doing business in the 21st century, many early sources of resistance to centralization are wearing down. Business units are beginning to understand the benefits of shared resources and coherent user experience, for their sites’ users as much as for their own bottom lines.
So it’s tempting to consider centralization as the ultimate goal of enterprise IA. It does sound like a nice way to deal with the problem: Just design an information architecture that knits together all units’ content silos in a rational, usable way, and then implement across the organization.
The goal of enterprise IA is not to centralize everything you see. In fact, the goal of EIA is no different than any other flavor of IA: identify the few most efficient means of connecting users with the information they need most. That often might involve adopting some centralizing measures, but it could also mean a highly decentralized approach, such as enabling employees to use a social bookmarking tool to tag intranet content. The point, as always, is to apply whatever approach makes the most sense given your organization, its users, content, and context.”