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Putting People First

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5 October 2014

The drive towards user-centred engineering in automotive design

 

Bryant, Scott & Wrigley, Cara (2014)
The drive towards user-centred engineering in automotive design.
In Bohemia, Erik, Rieple, Alison, Liedtka, Jeanne, & Cooper, Rachael (Eds.) Proceedings of 19th DMI : Academic Design Management Conference, London, UK, pp. 741-758.

Abstract:

Falling sales in Europe and increasing global competition is forcing automotive manufacturers to develop a customer-based approach to differentiate themselves from the similarly technologically-optimised crowd. In spite of this new approach, automotive firms are still firmly entrenched in their reliance upon technology-driven innovation, to design, develop and manufacture their products, placing customer focus on a downstream sales role. However the time-honoured technology-driven approach to vehicle design and manufacture is coming into question, with the increasing importance of accounting for consumer needs pushing automotive engineers to include the user in their designs. The following paper examines the challenges and opportunities for a single global automotive manufacturer that arise in seeking to adopt a user-centred approach to vehicle design amongst technical employees. As part of an embedded case study, engineers from this manufacturer were interviewed in order to gauge the challenges, barriers and opportunities for the adoption of user-centred design tools within the engineering design process. The analysis of these interviews led to the proposal of the need for a new role within automotive manufacturers, the “designeer”, to bridge the divide between designers and engineers and allow the engineering process to transition from a technology-driven to a user-centred approach.

The research, conducted as an embedded case study with a global automotive manufacturer in Germany, sought to test the following hypothesis developed upon reflection of the current state of the industry:

“The acceptance and implementation of design tools such as personas within the context of automotive engineering departments is dependent upon the benefits of the tools perceived by engineering staff in terms of effort vs. reward, in addition to its ability to be adapted to the inertia-bound, heavily regimented and hierarchical structure of large, global firms such as that assessed in the research.”

5 October 2014

Why government websites are terrible and how to fix them

26GOVWEB-tmagArticle

By exposing how confusing food stamp applications and other government online services can be, Citizen Onboard hopes to make them better. Anna North reports in the New York Times Op-Talk blog.

“One simple way to make government websites better, [Alan] Williams [of the nonprofit Code for America that started Citizen Onboard] told Op-Talk, is clearer copywriting: “People are used to being spoken to in plain language, and if we can speak that language, then we can make pretty complex tasks like applying for food stamps a lot simpler.”

The Op-Ed piece cites a 2013 New York Times Op-Ed, in which Clay Johnson and Harper Reed argue that shoddy websites are a result of “the way the government buys things.”

“The government has to follow a code called the Federal Acquisition Regulation, which is more than 1,800 pages of legalese that all but ensure that the companies that win government contracts, like the ones put out to build HealthCare.gov, are those that can navigate the regulations best, but not necessarily do the best job.”

Mr. Williams agrees, writes North:

“The way the government has been legally able to buy technology in this country has forced them to scope out the entire technical and feature requirements of a service at the outset and then buy those services for a very large sum of money. A better approach is one that eschews declaring that you know everything that’s needed out front, and instead focuses on user-centered design and user research and iterative development, and building something that works over time by observing how people interact with the software.[My emphasis]

2 October 2014

Five tips for experience designers working on healthcare innovation

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Earlier this year Tracy Brown, a London-based UX designer, had the opportunity to work within an innovation lab called The Digital Innovation group (DIG), created as a collaboration between DigitasLBi and Astrazeneca to allow small, multi-disciplined teams the freedom to rapidly prototype and test new ideas for solving a variety of healthcare issues.

She got to focus on two big problems: how to help doctors around the world cope with their continual medical education (CME) needs and also how to solve the unique problems doctors and patients faced in the Chinese healthcare system.

Here are five things she learned that will help us rise to the challenge of designing effective solutions in the healthcare sector:
1. Start by understanding the difference between a problem and a symptom
2. Sometimes there isn’t an app for that
3. Don’t resign yourself to what you have permission to solve
4. Sometimes not being a medical professional is useful
5. Challenges will come in every size and shape

30 September 2014

Domestic abuse and the law

 

OCAD‘s Super Ordinary Lab in Toronto, Canada also just started an unusual social design project that is worth sharing.

Domestic Abuse and the Law: Confronting Systemic Impacts is a an ongoing participatory action research project to create positive change, and end tolerance of domestic abuse in all its forms.

Although much focus within this domain has been on physical abuse, non-violent forms are not well addressed. The criminal code within Canada does little to cover emotional or psychological harassment – which may persist for years.

There is growing awareness about the seriousness of harassment and bullying in society. Our workplaces and schools are increasingly instituting anti-harassment / bullying policies. We need to extend this to afford protection to those who are harassed and threatened in their personal lives, generally.

Domestic abuse includes physical and sexual violence. It also includes other forms of abuses of power and control emotional, psychological and financial.

The multi-year project includes systems mapping, experience modelling and stakeholder workshops.

Through examination of a process timeline of involved stakeholders, an investigation into the legal precedents that have been set for trying domestic abuse cases, and the laws governing domestic abuse and harassment both provincially and federally, this project will highlight the leverage points whereby change may be facilitated to produce outcomes that will protect and support survivors of domestic abuse as they navigate the legal system. A thorough literature review with expert interviews, combined with ethnographic field research, will explore four thematic domains central to the research:

  • Legislation – History of Federal Legislation Addressing Family Violence in Canada
  • The impact on “survivors”
  • Personality disorders that are related to abuse incidents
  • The impact of culture – Cultural lens through which abuse is understood, propagated or dismissed.
30 September 2014

Great resource on design research methods

drt

Last week I was at Toronto’s OCADU (Ontario College of Art and Design – University), where Suzanne Stein showed me around in her Super Ordinary lab. One hidden gem was hanging on the wall, but it is luckily also available online: an online tool for design research techniques for every stage of the process.

The framework is divided into six key phases of research process. Clicking each phase shows all the techniques that are used within that phase and clicking each technique shows its synopsis, full description, case study and useful references.

It should be beneficial to researchers who is particularly planning a study, designing a methodology or writing up a thesis.

It was produced by CFC Medialab as part of the IdeaBoost Accelerator in conjunction with Professor Suzanne Stein of OCAD University.

30 September 2014

High tech psyche

FRANCE. PACA region. Marseille. Cours Julien. 2006.

If you want to be free in a digital age, must you switch off your computer, ask two new books, The End of Absence and The Glass Cage.

The End of Absence: Reclaiming what we’ve lost in a world of constant connection
by Michael Harris
Published by: HarperCollins

The Glass Cage: Automation and us
by Nicholas Carr
Published by: W. W. Norton

Joanna Kavenna of the New Scientist reviews two books that explore how to be genuinely yourself when always online.

“What is it like to be alive at the moment? How is our sense of self changed by what we experience? Can we even say there is such a thing as an indelible self of the kind envisioned by psychoanalyst Carl Jung? And, if so, what impact does technology have on it?

The End of Absence by Michael Harris and The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr grapple with these fundamental, intriguing questions. Harris discusses “what we’ve lost in a world of constant connection”, while Carr muses on how automation influences us. Both authors are concerned with the cyber revolution and how it has affected society and the self.”

30 September 2014

Using HCD to make mobile money relevant

 

Earlier in 2014, two consecutive Mondato Insights examined the role of Human Centered Design (HCD) in enhancing the user experience and closing the gap between registered and active users of Mobile Money.

In the six months since then, reports Mondato, the value of the HCD approach in creating MFS (Mobile Financial Services) products that meet the needs of, and are attractive to, low-income customers has further been highlighted by a number of research projects in Southeast Asia. Once again, many of the assumptions made by MFS providers about the market segments they hope to target have been challenged, showing that significant knowledge gaps persist between providers and potential customers, and these must be addressed by anyone hoping to create attractive value propositions for Base of the Pyramid (BoP) consumers.

“Central to the HCD approach are deep dive interviews that seek to understand BoP customers not merely as individuals, but as the totality of their relationships as members of families, communities and business networks. Interviews take place in a very unstructured fashion, allowing free-flowing discussion that gives subjects the confidence and space to express themselves in their own terms, without the potential for design bias that formal questionnaires carry with them. The goal of the research is to form a number of “personas”, which are representative of market segments, and to identify what are their needs.”

29 September 2014

Reflecting on EPIC 2014

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Simon Roberts – now of Stripe Partners – was the organizer of last year’s EPIC (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference) in London. He did a truly excellent job. This year he was at EPIC in New York, not as an organiser any longer, but as an engaged participant. Here are his thoughts on how it went, grouped into seven headings:
1. Intangible and tangible value
2. The temporality of ethnographic practice
3. Short and very sweet
4. Speaking the language of business
5. The value of the humanities
6. Envisaging and materialising the future
7. We should not divorce design

29 September 2014

An interview with Dirk Knemeyer on UX and reinventing democracy

dirk_headshot_reduced

Dirk Knemeyer is a UX thought leader, an entrepreneur, a game designer, and a former UXmatters columnist. Recently, Pabini Gabriel-Petit had the opportunity to interview Dirk about his experiences as a UX professional and entrepreneur, as well as his reflections on the state of democracy in the United States and how we can use design thinking to imagine a more participatory form of democratic government.

Recently, Dirk published “Redesign Democracy: A Better Solution for the Digital Era,” on the Involution Studios Web site. This thought piece, which considers how we might reconceptualize the democratic process in the United States, provided the focus for the remainder of our discussion. – See more at: http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2014/09/user-experience-entrepreneurship-and-redesigning-democracy-an-interview-with-dirk-knemeyer.php#sthash.UZVyhVRo.dpuf

29 September 2014

The anthropology of self-tracking devices (video)

natasha-schull

Cultural anthropologist Natasha Schüll bridged the gap between human interaction and machine workings in her research on gambling. Her current research focuses on the design and use of self-tracking devices — such as when individuals use digital software to record and graphically visualize personal data — and examines what these behaviors say about society’s changing cultural and political values.

Watch video interview

Also check out her unusual take on the Apple Watch.

29 September 2014

Focus groups are worthless

 

If Erika Hall, co-founder of Mule Design, could achieve one thing with her time here on earth, Ishemight be content if that one thing could be burning to the ground the practice of running focus groups in place of actual user research.

“A focus group is an artificial construct that is so much about the group dynamic. No one buys shoes, cooks dinner, votes, banks, or even buys movie tickets sitting at a table under florescent lights while engaged in a moderated group discussion. I am certain a lot of productive work takes place sitting around tables at Starbucks with homogenous groups of random strangers, but none of them are interacting with each other. Unless you are designing something for use in a focus group, focus groups are absolutely meaningless as an ethnographic research tool.”

20 September 2014

An ethnographic introduction

 

A Simple Introduction to the Practice of Ethnography and Guide to Ethnographic Fieldnotes
By Brian A. Hoey, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anthropology, Marshall University
Marshall University Digital Scholar (June 2014): 1-10

Abstract
In this article, I will provide a simple introduction to the practice of ethnographic fieldwork and practical advice for writing fieldnotes. Ethnographic approaches, while born of the work conducted by anthropologists over one hundred years ago, are increasingly employed by researchers and others from a variety of backgrounds and for a multitude of purposes from the academic to the applied and even commercial. I will provide an introduction intended for those persons new to the approach but who have already had some basic experience or training. I also provide a discussion of the centrality of fieldnotes to the conduct of this very personally engaging form of research. Finally, those in training are given lists of questions to ask and points to consider in the conduct of their ethnographic fieldwork projects.

20 September 2014

Human-centered design toolkit by IDEO.org

HCDToolkit

The team at IDEO.org launched Design Kit — a “refresh” of its HCD Connect platform launched in 2011.

It is a step-by-step guide to the elements of human-centered design, specifically adapted for NGOs and social enterprises working with low-income communities around the globe. The kit aims to empower individuals and organizations to become designers themselves and enable change in their own communities.

Design Kit offers 50 methods and case-studies to explain the various aspects of human-centered design. There is also a toolkit for those interested in learning more and applying it to their own projects. The Design Kit also includes seven videos on various aspects of human-centered design.

[via Stanford dschool]

19 September 2014

Digital tools for design research

 

Dan Perkel of IDEO Labs shares how he and his colleagues use digital methods and tools to enhance the research process in five distinct activities:
– Exploring the terrain and seeking quick inspiration
– Recruiting research participants
– Obtaining deep insights into people’s lives and everyday contexts
– Eliciting feedback on concepts, insights, or value propositions
– Analyzing and synthesizing research

Perkel describes 16 tools in total.

18 September 2014

Why banks need to revamp their user experience

banks-need-to-revamp

The most interesting things happening in financial services are not happening in financial services, writes Rich Berkman, Associate Partner of IBM Interactive Experience, in UX Magazine. The most useful and powerful cross-channel, digital tools rolled out in recent years were not introduced by banks, he says, but by tech companies that understood how to use the Internet, data analytics, and mobile technologies to solve consumers’ day-to-day problems.

“Optimizing customer experience requires a holistic understanding of the user and a willingness to change. In some ways, this is where banks fall short. They already have more than enough information about their customers, they just need to figure out where the data is and how to use it effectively, which is easier said than done but also a necessity. The roll out of new mobile apps and other cross-channel experiences will exponentially increase data generation as more people use their phones, watches and more to interact with insurers, retailers, airlines, mortgage brokers, and so on. The better banks understand their customers—and can build models based on rich user research, analytics and evolved “personas”—the better they’ll be able to improve services to meet today and future customer demands.”

12 September 2014

[Video] Digital Amnesia (VPRO, 2014)

 

Our memory is dissipating. Hard drives only last five years, a webpage is forever changing and there’s no machine left that can read 15-year old floppy disks. Digital data is vulnerable. Yet entire libraries are shredded and lost to budget cuts, because we assume everything can be found online. But is that really true?

For the first time in history, we have the technological means to save our entire past, yet it seems to be going up in smoke. Will we suffer from collective amnesia?

This VPRO Backlight documentary tracks down the amnesiac zeitgeist starting at the Royal Tropical Institute, whose world-famous 250-year old library was lost to budget cuts. 400,000 books and 20,000 magazines were saved from the shredder by Dr. Ismail Serageldin, director of the world-famous Library of Alexandria, who is turning the legendary library of classical antiquity into a new knowledge hub for the digital world.

Directed by Bregtje van der Haak / produced by VPRO Backlight, The Netherlands

8 September 2014

Experientia @ Epic 2014: focusing on relationships and values

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.31.12

It’s that time of year again, when ethnography professionals come together to exchange knowledge, discuss ideas, and share experiences about the practice of ethnography in the business world. EPIC 2014 kicked off yesterday (Sept 7th) in New York, with a focus on relationships, and particular on how positive relations create new values in the things, places, and people ethnographers engage with.

On that theme, senior Experientia ethnographer Gina Taha is presenting a case study of transformation in the finance industry, and the different roles and relationships user experience consultancies need to play when dealing with large, traditional business structures. Experientia’s presentation will be on Wednesday September 10th, in Session 5, which runs from 11:15 to 12:30. The theme of the session is Evolving and Expanding the Value of Ethnography in Industry.

If you’re interested in checking out the great papers being presented, the draft proceedings are already online. Experientia’s paper starts on page 249.

Co-author, and Experientia President, Michele Visciola, is also at the conference, which will continue until September 10th. Remember to say hi if you spot either Gina or Michele!

8 September 2014

How to see into the future

howtoseeintothefuture

Billions of dollars are spent on experts who claim they can forecast what’s around the corner, in business, finance and economics. Most of them get it wrong. Now a groundbreaking study has unlocked the secret: it IS possible to predict the future – and a new breed of ‘superforecasters’ knows how to do it. Tim Harford reports in the FT Magazine.

So what is the secret of looking into the future? Initial results from the Good Judgment Project suggest the following approaches. First, some basic training in probabilistic reasoning helps to produce better forecasts. Second, teams of good forecasters produce better results than good forecasters working alone. Third, actively open-minded people prosper as forecasters.

See also this article in The Economist and the blog of The Good Judgment Project.

8 September 2014

11 reasons computers can’t understand or solve our problems without human judgement

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It is true that our ability to collect, analyse and interpret data about the world has advanced to an astonishing degree in recent years, writes Rick Robinson, Executive Architect at IBM specialising in emerging technologies and Smarter Cities, in his blog “Urban Technologist”. However, he says, that ability is far from perfect, and strongly established scientific and philosophical principles tell us that it is impossible to definitively measure human outcomes from underlying data in physical or computing systems; and that it is impossible to create algorithmic rules that exactly predict them.

After a lengthy introduction, he provides a description of some of the scientific, philosophical and practical issues that lead inevitability to uncertainty in data, and to limitations in our ability to draw conclusions from it:

Robinson then finishes with an explanation of why we can still draw great value from data and analytics if we are aware of those issues and take them properly into account.

7 September 2014

Nudging and behavioral regulation gaining interest across Europe

ten

Behavioral regulation is afoot in Europe and is drawing the interest of a growing number of OECD countries. Professor Alberto Alemanno has just posted a brief overview of what happened over the last few months:

In late June, TEN – The European Nudge Network was launched with the aim to gather and exchange good practices among researchers, practitioners, stakeholders and policy-makers interested in Nudge throughout the European Union and beyond.

The European Union is in the process to set up its ‘foresight team’, a unit to be located within the EU Commission Joint Research Center under the lead of the best policy thinkers inside the administration. The unit’s reason d’être is to centralize the efforts currently undertaken by some Directorates General of the EU Commission, such as DG Consumer Protection and Health (SANCO), to integrate behavioral insights into EU policymaking.

Also the OECD is set to include ‘behavioral economics’ in its 2015 Regulatory Policy Outlook.

Alemanno goes on to cite examples from individual countries such as Germany, France, Italy and Canada.