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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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27 April 2014

The challenge of the car interface

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Three articles – all published on Medium – confront the challenge of designing an effective car user interface:

The State of In-Car UX
by Geoff Teehan, Teehan+Lax
No matter the price or the brand, the interfaces that adorn today’s vehicles are in a bad place. Thankfully, there’s hope.
[Long, insightful article with lots of examples and visuals]

The State of Car UI
by Jonathan Shariat
Why can’t quality brands get it right? (Hint: It’s hard)

Why Your Car’s UI Sucks
by Neil Johnston

25 April 2014

Why VC firms are snapping up designers

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Irene Au, former head of Google’s User Interaction Team, is the latest designer to make her way to a venture capital firm. Here’s why VCs are so hot for designers and how consumers could ultimately benefit from the trend.

“It’s a common misconception that VCs are just check writers who buy a piece of young companies, disappear for a few years, then come to collect when those small companies grow into big companies. In reality, modern VC firms not only carefully invest money, they offer any and all resources at their disposal to ensure their investments pay off. VC firms work closely with their companies to refine business and marketing plans, recruit talented staff, and even work side-by-side to turn products into hits. Designers, of course, can do at least two of these three tasks well. Recruiting new design talent was a responsibility of every design partner we talked to.”

25 April 2014

There’s a backlash against nudging – but it was never meant to solve every problem

Smog over a California freeway

Sceptics fail to grasp that this is a strategy that improves lives while treating citizens with dignity – unlike coercion, argues Cass Sunstein.

It is true that nudges are not a sufficient approach to some of our most serious problems, such as violent crime, poverty, and climate change. Nonetheless, they have five major advantages over coercive approaches.

First, people’s situations are highly diverse. By allowing people to go their own way, nudges reduce the costs of one-size-fits-all solutions.

Second, public officials have limited information. If official nudges are based on mistakes, the damage is far less severe than in the case of bans, because people remain free to ignore them.

Third, public officials do not always have the purest of motivations. They may be affected by the influence of well-organised private groups. If so, it is a major safeguard that people can go their own way.

Fourth, people may feel frustrated and angry if deprived of the ability to choose. When a government provides information or offers a warning, it simultaneously tells citizens that in the end they have the right to make their own decisions.

Fifth, freedom of choice can be, and often is, seen as an intrinsic good that a government should honour if it is to treat people with dignity. This is not a point about the subjective experience of frustration and anger. It is a matter of respect.

Cass Robert Sunstein is an American legal scholar who was the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration. Sunstein co-authored Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness with economist Richard Thaler.

25 April 2014

What if doctors could prescribe behavior change?

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Doctors have known for decades that, in order to prevent disease or its complications, they were going to have to get into people’s living rooms and convince them to change everyday behaviors that would very likely kill them.

The world urgently needs better ways to bring behavior change therapies to the masses, and advancements in digital tech are finally enabling us to orchestrate the necessary ingredients to make that happen in a clinically meaningful way: “digital therapeutics.”

“A handful of medically-minded visionaries have put real clinical rigor into every aspect of their design. For instance, David Van Sickle, a former CDC “epidemiologist intelligence officer,” and now the CEO and Co-Founder of Propeller Health, built a GPS-enabled sensor for asthma inhalers that links to an elegantly designed app — every puff is mapped and time-stamped, allowing patients and doctors to spot patterns in ‘random’ attacks and identify previously unknown triggers.

Another example is Jenna Tregarthen, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology and eating disorder specialist. She rallied a team of engineers, entrepreneurs, and fellow psychologists to develop Recovery Record, a digital therapy that helps patients gain control over their eating disorder by enabling them to self-monitor for destructive thoughts or actions, follow meal plans, achieve behavior goals, and message a therapist instantly when they need support.”

24 April 2014

My digital shadow

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The surveillance program PRISM by the US secret service NSA has reminded us that all of our activities online may be monitored without giving us the chance to understand whether we really are targeted or what the purpose of this monitoring is. Information is being collected about us all but we have little understanding about how it is being used.

We do though have some means of learning what information we are giving away and this can allow us to make conscious decisions about how we want to continue to use the internet. Some traces are difficult to avoid, but there are also many things we can do to reduce our digital shadows.

This website is created by the Tactical Technology Collective (and is in stable-Beta mode) to help you see which digital shadows you cast and how to make them smaller.

24 April 2014

The Qualified Self and Affective Sensing

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The people at frog design have been exploring sensing technologies and their impact on the human experience. Two interesting articles are the result:

The Qualified Self: Going Beyond Quantification
Just as stories yield data, data yield stories. And just as it is difficult to quantify our lives without data, we cannot qualify them without context or narrative. When we bring the two sides together, we achieve deeper self-knowledge.

Design and the (Ir)Rational Mind: The Rise of Affective Sensing
How we experience the world—our perception, behavior, memory, and social judgment—may be driven more by the mind’s subliminal, pre-cognitive processes than by the conscious ones.

24 April 2014

Smart cities need smart citizens

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The idea of the SMARTiP project is to take the experience developed by a wide range of existing user-driven, open innovation initiatives in Europe, particularly those developed through Living Labs, and to apply this experience to the challenge of transforming public services by empowering ‘smart citizens’ who are able to use and co-produce innovative Internet-enabled services within emerging ‘smart’ cities. The aim is to enable to adoption of open platforms for the co-production of citizen-centric Internet-enabled services in five test-bed sites, Manchester, Gent, Cologne, Bologna and Oulu. The objective is to enhance the ability of the cities to grow and sustain a ‘smart city’ ecosystem which can support new opportunities emerging for a dynamic co-production process resulting in more inclusive, higher quality and efficient public services which can then be made replicable and scalable for cross-border deployment on a larger scale.

This will focus on a series of pilot projects, as outlined ‘Technical Pilots’, covering three thematic areas:Smart engagement; Smart environments; and Smart mobility.

The pilots aim to act as a catalyst to stimulate citizen engagement in becoming active generators of content and applications development, as well as being more informed and involved users of the developing Internet-enabled services in ‘smart’ cities. ‘Smart cities’ require ‘smart citizens’ if they are to be truly inclusive, innovative and sustainable. The promise of the information society, to create new ways of empowering people to play a fuller and more equal role in emerging governance systems through their access to dynamic Internet-enabled services, is also proving to be its biggest challenge, as not everyone is getting equal access to the skills and opportunities that are supposed to be there.

> Project brochure

23 April 2014

Johan Blomkvist’s doctoral thesis on prototyping in service design

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Representing Future Situations of Service
Prototyping in Service Design
by Johan Blomkvist
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science

Doctoral Dissertation
Human-Centred Systems Division
Department of Computer and Information Systems
Linköping University

This thesis describes prototyping in service design through the theoretical lens of situated cognition. The research questions are what a service prototype is, what the benefits of service prototyping are, and how prototypes aid in the process of designing services.

Four papers are included. Paper one suggests that service prototyping should be considered from the perspectives of purpose, fidelity, audience, position in the process, technique, representation, validity and author. The second paper compares research about how humans use external representations to think, with reasons for using prototypes in service design and service design techniques. The third paper compares two versions of a service prototyping technique called service walkthrough; showing that walkthroughs with pauses provided both more comments in total and more detailed feedback. The fourth paper also contributes to our understanding of how prototypes aid in designing services, by connecting the surrogate situation with the future situation of service. The paper shows how the formative service evaluation technique (F-SET) uses the theory of planned behaviour to add knowledge to service prototype evaluations about the intention to use a service in the future.

Taken together the research provides a deeper understanding of what prototypes are, and their roles in service prototyping.

This understanding is further deepened by a discussion about service as a design material, suggesting that from a design perspective, a service consists of service concept, process and system. The service prototype acts as a surrogate for the future situation of service. The thesis describes what the benefits of using surrogates are, and shows how prototypes enhance the ability to gain knowledge about future situations. This leads to an understanding of prototyping as a way of thinking in design.

23 April 2014

User experience is the new differentiator. How will that affect the internet?

 

The world of business is changing, as are the locations of the people who are driving that business. How companies reach new users and how they treat them once they do will be the defining business issue of the future. Those who deliver the best user experience to a global audience will win this race will change the internet as we know it.

An improved customer experience rapidly turns negative when it’s unavailable or slow. The internet was architected with reliability in mind. Speed and performance were second-class citizens to availability (rightfully so).

How will all of this impact the internet? We will see less growth in city-to-city “backhaul” traffic and investment, and more growth in diverse investment closer to users. Inter-location investment will be dwarfed by intra-location investment.

23 April 2014

Ethnography, magpies, shiny things, and parallel worlds

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Three posts by Simon Roberts (?) explore the rise, fall and possible futures of ethnography in commercial settings.

Ethnography, magpies and shiny things
The first piece explores how ethnography fell victim of the enduring quest for fashion and the need to differentiate in market research. The market research industry commoditized ethnography and failed to capitalise on its potential. As a result, ethnography has become at best weakened, at worst sidelined in favour of newer, vogue ideas and approaches. It’s not just a lament – but a call for reinvigoration.

Ethnography in a parallel world
The second piece explores contexts in which ethnography has been used to greater potential – and chart the threats it now faces. It is a story of the rise and rise ethnography in contexts outside of market research where its application was more sophisticated and delivered more.

The third will attempt a resolution of the first two posts – charting a course for the future as a vital tool for businesses (and others) in their on-going attempts to understand and engage with a complex world.

23 April 2014

How Facebook uses UX research to personalize the way we see each other

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Facebook recently made profiles more “contextual” on their iOS app, writes John Paul Titlow in Fast Company. That means that like Google searches or other personalized experiences, Facebook profiles will now appear differently based on who’s viewing.

“We wanted to know what people find useful when they look at their friends’ profiles.” says Facebook UX researcher Shivani Mohan. “And what do they not find very useful? When people are going to the profile of a person who is not their friend, we wanted to know the same thing.”

To figure out the look and feel of these dynamic layouts, Mohan and her team did tons of user research, both digital and analog. Here’s what they learned.

12 April 2014

Maybe the Voice of the Customer isn’t

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Criticizing Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs is like speaking out against motherhood and apple pie, writes marketing consultant Ron Shevlin. Yet, he says, there are (at least) two problems with the “voice of the customer” that many marketers don’t take into consideration:

1. It’s not really the customer’s voice.
The prompts included in survey questions may or may not reflect what respondents really think or what they’ve done. They often select a prompt because it most closely matches the answer they want to give. Given the opportunity, they might describe it differently.
If that wasn’t bad enough, market researchers take the linguistic limitations they create, then go and misinterpret the responses.

2. Customers don’t always have a voice to contribute.
Market researchers routinely ask consumers “what influenced you to buy this product?”
Often, consumers don’t really know what influences their decisions. Even when we think we know, we often lie to ourselves–as well as to researchers–about those reasons because we don’t want to appear (even to ourselves) to make decisions for the wrong reasons.

In conclusion, What we really need to focus on is understanding the gap between voice and behavior. That is: Why do consumers say one thing, yet do another?

9 April 2014

Ethnography in action at Wells Fargo

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Only a few years ago, the corporate view of retirement planning at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank tended to focus on dollars and cents — how much an individual needed to invest, by when and for how many years,” write Julien Cayla, Robin Beers and Eric Arnould, authors of the article “Stories That Deliver Business Insights,” in the Winter 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review. This segmentation did not account for context such as whether a person was inclined to think about long-term financial goals.

“As part of an ethnographic project commissioned by the bank, researchers had customers walk through a life timeline and recount activities they engaged in that related to retirement planning in each decade of their lives — their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond,” write the authors. The stories showed that baby boomers faced “a complex phenomenon of continually negotiated personal travails and marketplace dynamics.”

As a result of what they heard, the Wells Fargo team reworked how they think of customers. The bank developed a behavior-based segmentation that divided retirement approaches into three groups — Reactor, Pooler and Maximizer. [...]

As a result, the bank adjusted its marketing strategy and “designed its retirement planning site to include the various life stages used in the ethnographic research to convey the message ‘we meet you where you are’ and provide relevant, unintimidating guidance — as opposed to producing numbers-dense material filled with endless financial projections.”

9 April 2014

Tell me a story: augmented reality technology in museums

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Museums around the world today face the challenge of increasing and maintaining visitor numbers, especially with younger audiences. A fall in visitors is seen by most as a negative outcome, both financially and in terms of wider social and educational impact. It can happen due to a range of factors, but one of the most important is that museums can often find themselves competing with the products of the entertainment industry, which at its heart is in the business of telling a good story.

The EU-funded Chess project (a shorter name for the much longer Cultural Heritage Experiences through Socio-personal interactions and Storytelling) plans to make interactive content such as games and augmented reality available to the entire museum sector.

“The project relies on visitor profiling, matching visitors to pre-determined “personas” – which are designed as a representative description of the various people that constitute a given museum’s visitor base. These are created through data from surveys, visitor studies and ethnographic observations. A given visitor is matched initially through a visitor survey to one of several representative personas, which in turn influences fundamentally the experience delivered by the Chess system.

Doing this makes the visitor experience non-linear. The system constantly adapts to a visitor’s preferences. For example, if a visitor fails in a game or stays longer in front of certain artefacts, the system can adapt the storyline. It makes the experience more dynamic and relevant, so instead of sending the visitor to X exhibit, the system might instead choose to send you to Y exhibit, where you will get more information that’s relevant to what you’ve shown an interest in.”

8 April 2014

[Book] A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences

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A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences
by Sarah Horton & Whitney Quesenbery
Rosenfeld Media, 2013
288 pages

In their new book, A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences, Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery make a case for accessibility that begins and ends with people. “We believe that great design starts by thinking about how to make products work for everyone.”

The book is a great resource for those trying to implement accessibility measures without making sacrifices that compromise design or innovation. In this excerpt, you’ll meet the personas (illustrated by Tom Biby) that are referenced throughout the book.

Sarah Horton is a consultant for strategic planning for websites and web applications. She also does accessibility and usability reviews. Sarah started her career in interaction design in 1991 at the Yale Center for Advanced Instructional Media, creating award-winning interactive instructional software. She was an instructional technologist at Dartmouth College for 11 years before becoming director of web strategy and design. As director, she was responsible for planning and developing Dartmouth’s digital environment, and she led a team of user-experience professionals responsible for web and media design, development, and production. More recently, Sarah was Web Strategy Project Lead at Harvard University, responsible for strategy and user experience design for the Harvard Web Publishing Initiative. Sarah is currently Director of Accessible User Experience and Design with The Paciello Group. Sarah is co-author with Patrick Lynch of Web Style Guide, now in its third edition and translated into at least eight languages. She also wrote Web Teaching Guide, which in 2000 won the American Association of Publishers award for best book in computer science. Her third book, Access by Design, combines the disciplines of universal design, accessibility, and usability into guidelines for designing websites that are universally usable.

Whitney Quesenbery is a user researcher, user experience practitioner, and usability expert with a passion for clear communication. She has been in the field for too many years, working with organizations from The Open University to the National Cancer Institute. She enjoys learning about people around the world and using those insights to design products where people matter. Before a little beige computer seduced her into software, usability, and interface design, she was a lighting designer in the theater. Like every other element of the production, lighting has to help tell the story. The scenery, lighting, costumes, direction and acting all have to work together tell the same story. She learned a lot about the craft of storytelling from watching hours of rehearsals. Whitney has served as president of the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA), on the boards of the Center for Plain Language and UXnet, and as a manager of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) Usability and User Experience Community. As a member of two U.S. government advisory committees, she is working to update accessibility requirements and to improve the usability and accessibility of voting systems for U.S. elections. Whitney is a frequent author and presenter in industry events and is a contributor to UXmatters.com. Her first publication on storytelling was a book chapter on “Storytelling and Narrative” in The Personas Lifecycle, by John Pruitt and Tamara Adlin. She’s also proud that her chapter “Dimensions of Usability” in Content and Complexity turns up on so many course reading lists.

30 March 2014

Behavioral approaches to product innovation at the Base of the Pyramid

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Alexandra Fiorillo, Principal of GRID Impact, writes that if we want to achieve full financial inclusion, we cannot simply offer more financial products and services to more people and hope they need, want, like, and use them. Instead, she writes, we should spend the necessary resources to ensure our products and services work for clients by doing two things:

1. Design products that meet the needs, desires, and preferences of our clients by collaborating with them on the design and delivery of these products.

2. Help our clients follow-through with the intentions and goals they have for their financial lives by focusing on taking action rather than just providing more information.

She continues:

“A new approach to product and service innovation, behavioral research and design, attempts to do just this. Drawing on insights from behavioral economics and principles from human-centered design, behavioral research and design attempts to uncover deep personal and contextual motivators and influencers to human behavior so we can better design products and services in a client-centered way. The goal of this method is not to focus on stated preferences and opinion or market research, but rather to develop deep empathy for human needs and desires while also making sense of observable behaviors – which may be contrary to people’s stated preferences.”

GRID Impact is a global research, innovation and design firm that specializes in human-centered approaches to policy, program, and product challenges. They use data and evidence to improve social impact in areas such as financial inclusion, global health, agriculture and education.

29 March 2014

IBM invests $100M in interactive experience labs globally

 

IBM this week announced plans to commit more than $100 million to globally expand its consulting services capability to help clients with experience design and engagement. As part of the investment, the company will open 10 new IBM Interactive Experience labs around the world and plans to add 1,000 employees to create new, personalized models of engagement through data and design.

Located in Bangalore, Beijing, Groningen, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, New York, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, and Tokyo, the new labs provide clients with the opportunity to work side-by-side with researchers and consultants as well as experts in experience design, mobile and digital marketing. These multi-discipline teams analyze business challenges and jointly create solutions that integrate next-generation mobile, social, analytics and cloud technologies. IBM plans to open additional labs in the future to support the global demand for data-driven experiences.

“There’s no longer any real distinction between business strategy and the design of the user experience. The last best experience that anyone has anywhere, becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere, and the quality of that experience is entirely dependent on the use of individualized information,” said Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President of IBM Global Business Services. “As our clients recalibrate what it means to engage with their customers or employees, we’re bringing them the full spectrum of world-class design and IBM Research, book-ended by strategy consulting and our strength in Big Data.”

As hallmarks of the IBM Interactive Experience consulting practice, the new labs will enable companies to engage with their customers in entirely new ways. Researchers within IBM Interactive Experience are developing capabilities to harness the value of data to help clients create personalized experiences, while designers within IBM Interactive Experience are working directly with clients to develop experiences that are increasingly mobile-driven. These experiences leverage IBM’s MobileFirst portfolio to take advantage of the transformational nature of mobile solutions. The combination of these capabilities and design elements hinge on insights IBM converts from data — including information on individual decisions, choices, preferences and attitudes.

In addition to the 10 new labs and four existing locations in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Toronto clients can partner with IBM Interactive Experience teams in IBM Research Labs in 12 locations around the world to personalize their every interaction with consumers.

Along with the new facilities, IBM also unveiled new data-driven innovations from IBM Interactive Experience that help business leaders gain deeper insights into individuals and transform the way customers experience their products, services and brands. IBM researchers within IBM Interactive Experience invented unique algorithms that conduct the analysis for these new capabilities.

Press release ! Core77 interview with Shannon Miller of IBM Interactive Experience

24 March 2014

Crowdfunding for design: ITC-ILO campaign for training and facilitation card set

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Are you a trainer? Do you facilitate meetings?

The International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITC-ILO, a specialised, not-for-profit UN agency and an Experientia client) is currently experimenting with crowdfunding to finance a set of 60 cards featuring participatory knowledge sharing methods. The cards are a handy tool to help workshop facilitators and trainers make informed decisions about the appropriate methods, tools and resources to conduct learning activities.

The cards will feature training and facilitation methods that are frequently used by the ITC-ILO. They have been carefully selected and validated in workshops by the ITC-ILO over many years, and the full-length descriptions are currently available on their Compass website.

Since creating the Compass website, ITC-ILO has had many requests from their own trainers to create a portable tool that is easy to travel with, can be used in offline situations, and offers a brief synthesis of the selected methods.

The card set is highly useful for anyone who conducts training activities, prompting the ITC-ILO to use crowdfunding to develop the project. It not only lets demand drive the project, but offers the available knowledge to a much broader audience. Donors to the campaign receive rewards ranging from digital versions of the eventual card set to varying numbers of full printed sets. The donations will help to fund the design and printing of the cards.

The Compass card set is ideal for people who:

  • need a quick-reference tool to select the right learning methods for a workshop or training session;
  • need a quick refresher on a specific training technique, while actually running workshops and sessions;
  • want to explain to stakeholders how workshops can be participatory and what the variety of training methods can achieve;
  • want a short and visual explanation of participatory knowledge sharing methods, instead of large manuals or tools that are only available online.

Watch the video | Go to the crowdfunding campaign

24 March 2014

What is it that you do exactly?

 

When you work in user experience or one of its many subsets, you tend to hear questions about what you do a lot. UX professionals often get this inquiry from parents, prospects, neighbors, friends, or casual acquaintances.

Too often, Baruch Sachs gets the same level of confusion from clients, people who are actually paying me to provide user experience services.

“Clients who don’t exactly get what user experience is tend to fall into two camps: those who believe that I swoop in and tell them what colors to choose and those who believe that I do everything from end to end without needing to talk to anyone, ever. Their impression in that I am basically a magician who, with a wave of my wand, can either brighten up a color palette or create the next App Store—no matter what data or process I need to have.”

18 March 2014

People first, technology second. It’s time for businesses to get personal

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Todd McKinnon, CEO of Okta, explains in Re/Code how also in a business context a people-centric focus is increasingly essential.

“In order to unlock the opportunity for “people-centric” experiences and to realize the new kinds of business value those experiences can generate, IT leaders need to re-prioritize, understanding their people — employees, customers and partners — and their needs first. The technology that should serve those needs comes second. The ease at which end users are able to interact with your business and get the information they need on their terms becomes the differentiator.[...]

Experiences can now be defined by an individual’s preferences, what information people have access to at various points of time, what devices they’re able to access that information from, and the extent to which they’re allowed to interact with that information. There are a lot more rules to follow — and businesses are under much more scrutiny by which rules are enforced. The only relics of the old world are the users involved in each instance, but even that variable has gotten more diverse and outspread.”