counter

Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
Audience Business Culture Design Locations Media Methods Services Social Issues

Children


Disabled


Elderly


Gender


Teens


Advertising


Branding


Business


Innovation


Marketing


Mechatronics


Technology


Architecture


Art


Creativity


Culture


Identity


Mobility


Museum


Co-creation


Design


Experience design


Interaction design


Presence


Service design


Ubiquitous computing


Africa


Americas


Asia


Australia


Europe


Italy


Turin


Blogging


Book


Conference


Media


Mobile phone


Play


Virtual world


Ethnography


Foresight


Prototype


Scenarios


Usability


User experience


User research


Education


Financial services


Healthcare


Public services


Research


Tourism


Urban development


Communications


Digital divide


Emerging markets


Participation


Social change


Sustainability


12 February 2014

Data and design in innovative citizen experiences

 

The past decade has brought enormous and growing benefits to ordinary citizens through applications built on public data.

Any release of data offers advantages to experts, such as developers and journalists, but there is a crucial common factor in the most successful open data applications for non-experts: excellent design, writes Cyd Harrell, UX Evangelist at Code for America.

In fact, open data and citizen-centered design are natural partners, especially as the government 2.0 movement turns to improving service delivery and government interaction in tandem with transparency.

It’s nearly impossible to design innovative citizen experiences without data, but that data will not reach its full potential without careful choices about how to aggregate, present, and enable interaction with it.

“Design is a critical practice for enabling open data to reach its full transformative potential. Without citizens being able to interact with government data directly, we are unlikely to trigger a revolution in how services are provided. We all know how much we need that revolution, for reasons of cost, fairness, and human dignity.

Methods drawn from the user experience field are the easiest way to translate open data into a format that’s usable and accessible for the average (or non-average) citizen. The most successful and broadly used open data projects have always relied on design, whether or not people formally trained in design were part of the teams. Our task now is to bring our best design ideas into our shared movement and take advantage of everything the discipline has to offer. With design, we can give the public back its data in real use, as well as in name.”

11 February 2014

How to involve children in the design process?

mindmapping

What are the advantages and challenges inherent in working with children in the design process for creating games or apps? How do you stop them getting bored, and get useful information?

This case study by Monica Ferraro (a UX Researcher at City University London) looks in detail at a project that tried to do just that, and provides some handy tips at the end.

The case study builds on Ferraro’s dissertation, Designing applications for children, that she submitted as part of the Masters course in Human-Centred Systems at City University London in September 2012. For her dissertation, she worked with children aged 4-5 years old to design an iPad application to learn the names and sounds of the letters, and to read and spell simple words.

11 February 2014

Tricia Wang’s PhD dissertation — Talking to Strangers: Chinese Youth and Social Media

twang_photo_BW

Talking to Strangers: Chinese Youth and Social Media
by Tricia Wang
Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology, University of California, San Diego, 2013
Professor Richard Madsen, Chair

Abstract

The sudden availability of social media and open-market capitalism is creating new spaces in China that are shifting norms and behaviors in unexpected ways. This research investigates and explains the phenomena of semi-anonymous interactions among Chinese youth in online communities by introducing a sociological framework called the Elastic Self, which is characterized by the feeling that one’s identity is malleable and involves the trying on of different identities that are beyond the realm of what would be considered normal displays of one’s prescribed self. In informal online spaces, Chinese youth have achieved greater freedom to express heterodox identities without shame or anxiety by forging social bonds with strangers and maintaining distance from people they know, who might seek to enforce conformity to a single identity prescribed by traditional social and political norms.

Through these informal interactions online, Chinese youth are laying the groundwork for a public sphere with social ties based more on friendship than on blood ties or guanxi; on trust, rather than fear; and on self-expression, rather than self-restraint. These changes have potentially transformative power for Chinese society as a whole by altering the way that people perceive and engage with each other on personal and social levels. Under semi-anonymous conditions, Chinese youth are able to overcome the low levels of trust that characterize authoritarian societies and adopt broader forms of social trust that characterize more participatory societies. This increased trust enables youth to enter what I call the Participatory Phase, which is defined by engagement in citizenship practices that expand the public sphere through online debate that can precipitate offline civic participation. To get to that stage, youth must first pass through two critical phases—Exploratory and Trusting—during which they learn how to share information with and socialize with strangers in a low-risk context.

My research reveals that by creating an Elastic Self, Chinese youth find ways to connect to each other and to establish a web of casual trust that extends beyond particularistic guanxi ties and authoritarian institutions. To be clear, this new form of sociality gives youth a way to navigate Chinese society, not to disconnect from or to rebel against it. In doing so, youth are building the infrastructure of a civil society by establishing relationships in which they start out as strangers, thereby bypassing potentially restrictive social labels and structures that could otherwise prevent connection. Through semi-anonymous informal interactions, Chinese youth are primarily seeking to discover their own social world and to create emotional connections—not grand political change. Rather than attempting to revolutionize politics, Chinese youth are using these new forms of social engagement to revolutionize their relationships with themselves and each other.

Even though Chinese youth do not feel that internet censorship is a hindrance in their everyday lives, real name identification policies that limit communication to formal interactions threatens the viability of crucial informal online spaces where Chinese youth have been able to freely explore their identities. The future of the Chinese internet and Chinese society at large rests in this very tension that Chinese youth are negotiating between finding informal spaces where they can present an Elastic Self and formal spaces where they feel compelled to present a prescribed identity. The social and emotional changes catalyzed by the Elastic Self can only persist if the circumstances that allow them to flourish remain unencumbered.

> Download full dissertation
> Tricia’s thank you

Tricia Wang describes herself as a “tech ethnographer“.

Note that Tricia will be giving a talk at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University on Tuesday, February 18 12:30pm EST. It will be live-streamed for those who can’t come and forever archived.

9 February 2014

Adam Gopnik: “Why I don’t tweet”

_60621724_adamgopnik

Adam Gopnik, who writes for the New Yorker, has only ever sent nine tweets. In this long BBC article he explains why:

” Everyone insists that the technological transformation of the daily shape of our lives by new gadgets is enormous, while allowing that their emotional effect is more dubious, leaving us with emptier, or at best, unaltered souls. I think the truth is closer to the direct reverse. The emotional effect of new devices is overwhelming – they are like having new pets, new children, trailing with them an overwhelming attachment. But the transformational effect they have on our lives is actually, looked at squarely and without sentiment, quite minimal. After the introduction of a new device, or social media, our lives are exactly where they were before, save for the new thing or service, which we now cannot live without.”

And note this sentence:

“Like so much modern media technology, [the smartphone] creates a dependency without ever actually addressing a need.”

9 February 2014

Move over product design, UX is the future

3025274-poster-p-ux-girls

Rick Wise, CEO of Lippincott, says experience innovation is the next design imperative. Here are five things you can do this year to make that happen.

“Today’s enlightened leaders are achieving success by crafting the entire customer experience–shaping, innovating, branding, and measuring it. They are mastering a new discipline we refer to as “experience innovation” by going beyond the discrete product or service to reimagine the customer journey. The result yields new, unexpected, signature moments that delight customers and create significant opportunities for new growth.

We believe that experience innovation will be a crucial component for companies seeking to remain relevant and retain customer loyalty in 2014. But the process of designing a truly innovative experience cannot simply rest on the process excellence of classic customer experience-improvement efforts or the creative brilliance of the marketing team. Drawing on our recent work, here are a few key principles for success.”

9 February 2014

There is no UX, there is only UX

 

Leisa Reichelt, Head of User Research at the Government Digital Service [GDS] in the UK Cabinet Office, argues that UX belongs everywhere and nowhere. That there is no UX team, but that everyone is the UX team.

“At GDS we don’t have a ‘UX team’ and no one person has a job title that includes the term ‘UX’. We have designers and researchers who work as part of multidisciplinary, agile teams and who practice user centred design (UCD).

On the surface that may all sound pretty trite. The truth is that, for many of our projects, the truly challenging user experience issues come not from designing the interface*, but from the constraints of the product that must be designed. Those constraints and challenges tend to come from our friends in policy or standards, or procurement or other parts of the organisation. Try as you might, you can’t interface away inappropriate policy.

It is really important that no one in the team can point to someone over in the corner and put all the burden of user experience on that guy. No one person, no small group of people can be made responsible for the user experience of a service. It is down to the entire team to achieve this, and we need to drag people into the team who make decisions way before we get on the scene.”

9 February 2014

A review of Adam Greenfield’s Against the Smart City

Masdar City

Chris Carlsson started reading Adam Greenfield’s new book, Against the Smart City, “with the expectation that it would be a critical view of the ways our urban lives have changed during the past half decade with the massive adoption of so-called “smart phones” and the rest of the ubiquitous technosphere.” But it turns out, writes Carlsson, he has “a rather different target in mind. His polemic, delivered by EPUB and kindle only (so far), is directed at a techno-utopian fantasy promulgated by large multinational corporations and their government client-sponsors.”

“The information platforms projected to undergird Smart Cities are to be privately owned. No open source or free software here! “The smart city is a place where the technical platforms on which everyday life is built are privately owned and monetized, and information is reserved exclusively for the use of those willing and able to pay for it.” As Greenfield notes in one chapter, the whole model is based on a neoliberal sensibility in which government is stripped down to its most minimal functionality (primarily policing and systems administration), while as much as possible of the surrounding society is privately owned. Most of what people might do with and for each other is to the greatest extent possible monetized and commodified, to be packaged and sold to the residents (clients) of the new towns. Greenfield has looked carefully at the promises and projections of the various corporate plans and nowhere has he found anything to indicate open access to “disaggregated raw [data] feeds.”

9 February 2014

How Big Brother’s going to peek into your connected home

nest_smoke_detecto

The tech industry easily convinced the public to accept a myriad of free services for the price of some loss of privacy. But getting them to embrace the smart home is going to be a far harder sell, writes Nick Statt.

“A Google spin on the smart home could become overwhelmingly influential enough to careen the industry towards a model of free or cheap products with subtle data collection caveats we simply ignore out of apathy or because the alternatives aren’t as good. In the age of NSA surveillance and mass adoption of data-sharing services and social networks, the threat of letting that strategy transition to the home is increasingly worrisome to those who think the option of keeping sacred certain aspects of our person lives should remain intact. [...]

That means going forward, the privacy discussion won’t just revolve around what data is being shared, with whom and for what purposes as if the debate were the same conversation that privacy advocates have regarding Facebook. Instead, the connected home market — with its many different products and platforms and no universal privacy protection — is offering consumers a thousand different ways to “make the home smarter,” with each coming with its own set of security risks and protection responsibilities that, if ignored or not followed carefully, can turn a system or product against its owner.”

31 January 2014

The Facebook ethnography kerfuffle

1*nhrwXkJHiZ-Sh7sYBBQXmw

At the center of this kerfuffle is an anthropologist, Daniel Miller, his ethnographic research with teenagers in a small town in the UK, and a press report on a blog post about his research that went viral.

What’s exciting about this story — leaving aside the business implications for Facebook for a moment — is that we get to observe the treatment of qualitative research in its moment in the spotlight. It’s not pretty.

Much of the drama came from the manner in which it was reported, which certainly is worthy of some discussion. Most came to the story with hyped expectations. But there is more to the story. Namely, how qualitative aids decision-making by giving access to insights unavailable to quantitative.

Peter Spear revisits the story, and particularly the bias towards quantitative and against qualitative understanding in the modern business world.

21 January 2014

How should we analyse our lives?

callcentre

Alex “Sandy” Pentland, a professor of computational social sciences at MIT Media Lab and others like him are now convinced that the great academic divide between “hard” and “soft” sciences is set to disappear, since researchers these days can gather massive volumes of data about human behaviour with precision, writes Gillian Tett in the FT Magazine.

“Sometimes this information is volunteered by individuals, on sites such as Facebook; sometimes it can be gathered from the electronic traces – the “digital breadcrumbs” – that we all deposit (when we use a mobile phone, say) or deliberately collected with biometric devices like the ones used at Bank of America. Either way, it can enable academics to monitor and forecast social interaction in a manner we could never have dreamed of before.”

Tett sees two problems with this approach: privacy concerns and the important (but often ignored) fact that digital breadcrumbs are not neutral, but reflect cultural and power relations.

19 January 2014

New XD Magazine to be launched

560_366

XD is a quarterly print magazine, to be launched from Australia in April 2014, which showcases the work of experience design practitioners and researchers from a wide range of human service industries and fields.

Each issue of XD will feature a series of projects, interviews, visuals, reviews and creative inspiration – all of which help everyone understand why experience design is important, who does it and where, how experience design is done in practice and how experience design research can enhance practice.

XD aims to attract a wide readership across many fields and industries internationally. Its style is informal, conversational and designed to stimulate creative discussion around the concept and practice of experience design.

If you are interested in submitting material, please email the Editor Faye Miller, faye@xdmagazine.net with a short draft article (approx 800-1000 words) or drop her a line to chat about your ideas.

More info:
- Magazine website
- Editorial site (on WordPress)
- Twitter / Facebook / Pozible

19 January 2014

[Book] Junkyard Planet

junkyardplanet

Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade
by Adam Minter
Bloomsbury Publishing
2013, 304 pages
[Amazon link - video]

Abstract

When you drop your Diet Coke can or yesterday’s newspaper in the recycling bin, where does it go? Probably halfway around the world, to people and places that clean up what you don’t want and turn it into something you can’t wait to buy. In Junkyard Planet, Adam Minter — veteran journalist and son of an American junkyard owner — travels deeply into a vast, often hidden, multibillion-dollar industry that’s transforming our economy and environment.

Minter takes us from back-alley Chinese computer recycling operations to high-tech facilities capable of processing a jumbo jet’s worth of recyclable trash every day. Along the way, we meet an unforgettable cast of characters who’ve figured out how to build fortunes from what we throw away: Leonard Fritz, a young boy “grubbing” in Detroit’s city dumps in the 1930s; Johnson Zeng, a former plastics engineer roaming America in search of scrap; and Homer Lai, an unassuming barber turned scrap titan in Qingyuan, China. Junkyard Planet reveals how “going green” usually means making money—and why that’s often the most sustainable choice, even when the recycling methods aren’t pretty.

With unmatched access to and insight on the junk trade, and the explanatory gifts and an eye for detail worthy of a John McPhee or William Langewiesche, Minter traces the export of America’s recyclables and the massive profits that China and other rising nations earn from it. What emerges is an engaging, colorful, and sometimes troubling tale of consumption, innovation, and the ascent of a developing world that recognizes value where Americans don’t. Junkyard Planet reveals that we might need to learn a smarter way to take out the trash.

Reviews

“Having made the reasonable observation that consumption causes waste even more surely than it causes recycling, Mr. Minter’s pragmatism reasserts itself. “If the goal is a realistic sustainable future,” he writes, “then it’s necessary to take a look at what we can do to lengthen the lives of the products we’re going to buy anyway.” He cites several products that could be made more easily reusable or recyclable. Apple’s MacBook Air, for example, is so meticulously compressed that taking it apart and sorting out its component raw materials is bound to be dauntingly inefficient. Consumers should, Mr. Minter says, object to this kind of planned obsolescence.”
Erica Grieder, Wall Street Journal – Dec 20, 2013

“By 2017, according to the Solving the E-Waste Problem (Step) initiative, a UN-supported project, each person on the planet will discard a third more electronic waste than in 2012, a grand total by then of 64.4m tonnes. Much of it will be shipped from the affluent world to developing countries for cheap reprocessing, a pattern of trade that Step defines as a problem. Adam Minter, a journalist and son of a US scrapyard entrepreneur, would disagree. Minter does not see the global scrap trade as a morality tale of villain and victim, but a vibrant and eco-friendly business, a core component of the world economy.”
Isabel Hilton, The Guardian – 18 January 2014

“As Junkyard Planet shows, the commercial recycling industry does put others’ trash to the most productive use possible. But recycling is no “get out of jail free card” for those who, as Minter puts it, find consuming “more fun than conserving”.”
Sarah Mishkin, Financial Times – January 3, 2014

19 January 2014

Why the resurgence of user-centred design matters for marketers

Facebook mobile

Marc Landsberg, CEO of socialdeviant, believes that marketing departments will increasingly invest in social platforms that are committed to users’ needs and interests

In his article, Landsberg considers three immutable human truths, and how they connect to what’s happening in the marketplace:

1) People want to be heard
The explosion of Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr reflects this. Everyone has a story to tell, in both words and pictures.

2) They want you to know what they want
The social web is a tremendous environment for personalisation, delivering content and experiences tailored to an individual’s interests.

3) Everyone is on the go
Native searches and content origination are now predominantly mobile-based. People are on the go, fluidly moving in and out of their social spaces via their mobile devices. Platforms are therefore investing heavily in mobile enablement.

18 January 2014

[Book] Practical Ethnography

 

Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector
By Sam Ladner
Left Coast Press
April 2014, 200 pages
[Publisher link - Amazon link]

> Download free sample: pdfkindle

Abstract – Ethnography is an increasingly important research method in the private sector, yet ethnographic literature continues to focus on an academic audience. Sam Ladner fills the gap by advancing rigorous ethnographic practice that is tailored to corporate settings where colleagues are not steeped in social theory, research time lines may be days rather than months or years, and research sponsors expect actionable outcomes and recommendations. Ladner provides step-by-step guidance at every turn–covering core methods, research design, using the latest mobile and digital technologies, project and client management, ethics, reporting, and translating your findings into business strategies. This book is the perfect resource for private-sector researchers, designers, and managers seeking robust ethnographic tools or academic researchers hoping to conduct research in corporate settings.

Sam Ladner, PhD, works as both an academic and a practitioner. A sociologist specializing in the social aspects of technological change, she has published articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Time & Society and The Canadian Journal of Communication. Ladner successfully operated her own research firm, Copernicus Consulting, until recently joining Microsoft as a Senior User Researcher in the Microsoft Office division. She served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ted Rogers School of Information Technology Management at Ryerson University in Toronto, where she also taught qualitative research methods as an adjunct professor. She holds a PhD in sociology from York University, an M.A. in communication from Simon Fraser University, and a Bachelor’s of Journalism from University of King’s College.

18 January 2014

Interview with Leisa Reichelt, Head of User Research at UK Government Digital Services

leisa_square-1

Tricia Wang (see also previous post) just published her interview with Leisa Reichelt, Head of User Research at UK Government Digital Services.

Tricia introduced it with a kind reference to me (thank you!):

“>We are excited to interview Leisa Reichelt (@leisa) for our January EPIC theme at Ethnography Matters.  I met Leisa at EPIC 2103 in London at Mark Vanderbeeken’s townhall meeting on Big Data. When Mark told me about Leisa’s work, I became sooo excited because I just love talking to UX brains who are obsessed with strategy. While UX designers and ethnographic researchers engage in very different processes, both are creating products and processes for organizations–organizations that are often resistant to change. We are lucky to have Leisa share her thoughts on this topic in our interview. Leisa is also looking for passionate people to join her team at Government Digital Service!”

An appetiser:

Tricia: What are some of the biggest obstacles for researchers and designers to successfully working together?

Leisa: I think it’s often just lack of experience working together and not knowing what the other can contribute to each other’s work. Often this is due to each being involved at different phases of the project. You really need to be sitting right next to each other almost all the time in order to be properly helpful. We like to think of designers and researchers working as a pair just like programmers work in pairs. The most important thing is for each person to not feel like they have to know it all and be perfect – creating a project environment where everyone is encouraged to experiment, to be allowed to make mistakes and be wrong sometimes and where learning is valued.

18 January 2014

Tricia Wang: The Conceit of Oracles (talk notes)

FaradayWang

Sociologist and ethnographer Tricia Wang has posted the notes of “The Conceit of Oracles: How we ended up in a world in which quantitative data is more valued than qualitative data,” her inspiring and much appreciated opening keynote at the EPIC Conference in London, which she describes as “a conference for people who care deeply about making organizations more human-centered.”

Here is the summary:

Technology is playing an increasingly large role in decision-making processes. But are we really making more informed decisions? How do we even know we are asking the right questions? And what are we missing in our measurement-driven world?

This talk seeks to answer these questions by looking at methods of prediction from the Oracle of Delphi in Ancient Greece to the use of electricity during the Scientific Revolution and the invention of computers in the Age of Information. These historical events provide a lens for understanding how we ended up in a “data-driven” society: a world where computers are mostly valued as predictive machines; quantitative output is seen as “truth”; and the qualitative cultural context is seen as inferior to quantitative data. The danger in predictions, forecasting, and measurements that over-rely on quantitative data is that a misleading representation of actual human experiences can result. This is a terrible mistake and one that is committed frequently within organizations.

We are facing one of the biggest struggles of our times: the challenge for institutions is to treat their stakeholders (e.g users, employees, consumers, audience) as humans, not as data points. Connected to this challenge is the dominant belief that numerical measurements such as Big Data, will lead to more knowledge, justifying investment in quantitative research at the expense of qualitative research.

This struggle speaks to the important role of ethnography in ensuring that businesses, governments, and organizations are people-centered in the face of bureaucracy and numbers-driven thinking. But before ethnography can play a more strategic role inside institutions, the field needs to evolve. Ethnographers need to focus on making their work more visible, more integrated with Big Data, and more accessible. Our job is to teach organizations to design for experience, not usability; to create for people, not users.

When companies prioritize experience, they will see a greater business value in bringing in experts to provide explanatory knowledge that is connected to real social experiences.

17 January 2014

[Book] Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers and the Quest for a New Utopia

Smart-Cities-cover-197x300

Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers and the Quest for a New Utopia
by Anthony M. Townsend
W. W. Norton & Company
October 2013. 400 pages
[Amazon link]

Abstract

An unflinching look at the aspiring city-builders of our smart, mobile, connected future.

We live in a world defined by urbanization and digital ubiquity, where mobile broadband connections outnumber fixed ones, machines dominate a new “internet of things,” and more people live in cities than in the countryside.

In Smart Cities, urbanist and technology expert Anthony Townsend takes a broad historical look at the forces that have shaped the planning and design of cities and information technologies from the rise of the great industrial cities of the nineteenth century to the present. A century ago, the telegraph and the mechanical tabulator were used to tame cities of millions. Today, cellular networks and cloud computing tie together the complex choreography of mega-regions of tens of millions of people.

In response, cities worldwide are deploying technology to address both the timeless challenges of government and the mounting problems posed by human settlements of previously unimaginable size and complexity. In Chicago, GPS sensors on snow plows feed a real-time “plow tracker” map that everyone can access. In Zaragoza, Spain, a “citizen card” can get you on the free city-wide Wi-Fi network, unlock a bike share, check a book out of the library, and pay for your bus ride home. In New York, a guerrilla group of citizen-scientists installed sensors in local sewers to alert you when stormwater runoff overwhelms the system, dumping waste into local waterways.

As technology barons, entrepreneurs, mayors, and an emerging vanguard of civic hackers are trying to shape this new frontier, Smart Cities considers the motivations, aspirations, and shortcomings of them all while offering a new civics to guide our efforts as we build the future together, one click at a time.

Interview

Q. Professor Townsend, a recent favorable review of your new book in The New York Times described you as “the rare technologist who is in the know without being in the tank.” Are you indeed worried that “smart cities” could backfire in some way, compromising privacy, say, rather than helping us address environmental, social, and economic challenges?

A: Absolutely – there are considerable risks going forward. The penultimate chapter of Smart Cities bears the title “Buggy, Brittle and Bugged.” The technological underpinnings of smart cities are extremely complex, yet we are throwing them together at a blistering pace. This is how bugs like Y2K creep in. Design decisions are being made for expedience and cost, not quality and robustness.

Smart cities are also the perfect tool for mass surveillance. As we are finding out in the post-Snowden era, it is actually far worse than even the most paranoid critics feared. All of these risks can be managed, but no one in the smart cities community was really confronting them head on.

17 January 2014

Why wearable tech is unwearable

neptunepine

Belindar Parmar, CEO of Lady Geek and founder of Little Miss Geek thinks that current wearable devices are “emblematic of a lack of empathy that pervades the technology industries.

“Empathy is the ability to see the world from somebody else’s perspective. In order to develop products that customers want to buy the vendors must first attempt to relate to their audience and understand the desires and motivations of their customers.

Unfortunately most technology companies see empathy as a ‘soft’ and overtly feminine skill that’s downgraded compared to the ‘hard’ skills of engineers. The tech industry traditionally favours individuals who are systemisers — these are people who are able to work with hierarchies, processes and complex inanimate systems.

These are great skills to have and many of the world’s best companies have discovered how to extract the best from this kind of person.

Unfortunately companies dominated by systemisers tend to ignore the human aspect. The end-user does not figure within its circuit schematics and design goals. I’ve met people for whom the user is an unfortunate and pesky interface problem — best avoided or left to the marketing types.”

15 January 2014

[Paper] Designing customer-centric branchless banking offerings

cgap

Designing Customer-Centric Branchless Banking Offerings
Claudia McKay, Yanina Seltzer
The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)
20 December 2013
pdf, iBook, Kindle

Branchless banking services have taken on a significant challenge: developing new channels through which to provide financial services to customers who have mostly used only cash before. Understanding the customer experience is critical, but focus groups and surveys may not be well-suited to understand customer needs in an environment with so many new and unknown dimensions. Intrigued by the success of design research in other industries, CGAP set out to explore how human-centered design (HCD) could be applied to branchless banking and its unique challenges.

Most financial service providers do not launch branchless banking services based on well-defined insights about low-income clients. Instead, they go to market with a one-size-fits-all mobile wallet that customers sometimes struggle to understand and use. Several customer-centric research and product development methodologies have been used in financial inclusion work for some time with mixed success. Because of its track record in other industries, CGAP has been exploring how HCD may help branchless banking providers understand their customers more deeply and develop offerings better suited to their customers’ needs. The HCD process is centered on learning directly from customers and delivering solutions that work in specific contexts. Through careful listening and observation of customers in their own environment, designers understand the needs of the people they are designing for. Rapid prototyping and real-world tests with customers are then used to quickly validate (or invalidate) early designs and iteratively improve the final solution.

This Brief describes initial experiences using HCD to help five branchless banking providers understand their customers better and design offerings to meet their needs. Partners include large banks in Brazil, Mexico, and Pakistan; mobile network operators (MNOs) in Ghana and Uganda; and several leading design firms. Three lessons from early experiences include the following:

  1. In each project, the process uncovered critical aspects of the customer experience beyond the product that needed to function correctly for customers to trust and use the product. HCD was a useful tool to understand and improve the entire customer experience.
  2. Although the HCD process helped develop innovative product concepts arising directly from customer needs, it did not solve implementation challenges, which can be just as difficult if not more so than concept generation.
  3. The HCD process helped bridge the gap between senior managers and customers. Many senior managers engaged deeply and directly with customers for the first time and are adjusting organizational processes to ensure customers continue to have a greater voice in the organization.
12 January 2014

[Book] Design Transitions

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Design Transitions – Inspiring Stories. Global Viewpoints. How design is changing.
By Joyce Yee, Emma Jefferies and Lauren Tan
BIS Publishers
[Book site - Amazon link - selected pages]

Abstract

Design Transitions presents 42 unique and insightful stories of how design is changing around the world. Twelve countries are represented from the perspectives of three different communities: design agencies, organizations embedding design; and design academics.

Design Transitions takes you across the globe in search of the most innovative design practitioners, and their answers to the question ‘How are design practices changing?’ From small practices to vast corporations, the renowned to the lesser known: these are the stories of people working at the fringes of the traditional disciplines of design. They have opened up their design worlds to reveal the methods, tools and thinking behind their inspirational work. Some of the organizations and individuals featured includes: Droog, BERG, Fjord, thinkpublic, FutureGov, Hakuhodo Innovation Lab, DesignThinkers Group, INSITUM, Optimal Usability, frog Asia, Ziba, Banny Banerjee, Ezio Manzini, Carlos Teixeira and Adam Greenfield.

Design Transitions is divided into three sections:

  • Section I: Changing Practices features 25 stories from design practices in a range of disciplines.
  • Section II: New Territories features five organizations introducing and embedding design approaches into their core practice and operations.
  • Section III: Viewpoints features 12 interviews with leading design academics, offering additional insights and a critical perspective on the key themes that have emerged from our case studies and interviews.

Authors

Joyce Yee, PhD is a senior lecturer at UK’s Northumbria University’s Design School, teaching interaction, service and design methodologies across undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Emma Jefferies, PhD is an independent design consultant and founder of Design Doctors.

Lauren Tan, PhD has worked as a designer in various capacities in graphic design, management consulting, service design and social design.