Posts tagged “interface”

Take a moment to consider the 1%

BeXITOiCUAAatYC.jpg-large

The image above, accompanying an article about private jets, reveals a privation so unimaginable it may shake you to your very core. Yes, that’s the personal UI that the elite are forced to use during their painful time aboard. The ultra-elite no doubt have other people who are paid to look at (ugh!) and touch (aieee!) those buttons while puzzling through gnomic instructions. But the regular rich are just like us, I suppose.

Update: Nathan Shedroff says that’s just for the “wannabe” 1% and the state of the art is here. IMHO still “ugh” but at least current-generation-of-technology ugh.

Out and About: Steve in Portland/San Diego/Denver

Last week I hit three cities, doing workshops and fieldwork; in hotel rooms, airports, homes, restaurants and the like. Here are some of my photos from a very busy trip.

help
Hotel restaurant point-of-sale user interface. So many amazingly awful things here. The help button is labeled “HELP!!!!!”; Cobb Salad (I’m sorry, Fiesta Cobb) is $12.00?

raisins
Without raisins? Now with extra raisins!

kiosk
There used to be a baggage kiosk. Now there’s just a sign.

dancing
I found Jonathan Borofsky’s “The Dancers” in downtown Denver to be vaguely unsettling.

wall
Controls removed for your convenience.

Out and About: Steve in Lisbon (2 of 2)

More observations from last week’s trip to Lisbon. See part 1 here





Street art.


Body-enhancing undergarments.


Clooney.


Eat box? Yum!


Y’arr! Pirate Bar! That’s some great neon. Perfect place for Drink Like A Pirate Day.


Scented dolls? They look pretty intense. Perhaps they inch forward menacingly as you pass by their window.


The design museum was redoing its facade with sticky notes. We watched their progress over several days.


This is the take-a-number device for a retail queue. Far more advanced than the familiar North American paper ticket dispenser. And also unrecognizable if you don’t read Portuguese and don’t know to look for this.


Detail of a building exterior. Tiled buildings are ubiquitous, with many different beautiful tile designs of various vintages.

This Week @ Portigal

Together again…

We are all back in the office this week (starting tomorrow).

  • Steve returns today from an enlightening and exhausting experience at Interaction 12 in Dublin. I can’t wait to hear about the Student Design challenge results and every other amazing detail. In the meantime, I am happily consuming the pictures he took in Dublin.
  • Julie and Tamara are back from an inspiring week of fieldwork in LA. We will be busy downloading, uploading, unpacking, repacking, refreshing, etc. as we prepare for round two of fieldwork in NYC next week.
  • Steve is meeting with another studio this week to explore combining forces for a new client opportunity.
  • Tamara continues to search for visual thinking tools and inspiration- focusing this week on reviewing a presentation from Interaction 12 by Jason Mesut and Sam ‘Pub’ Smith about sketching interfaces.
  • Julie is rocking her project management super heroine powers on another project we have kicked off and will be working on this month.
  • Tamara was lamenting the lack of actual dance moves by Madonna during yesterday’s Super Bowl half time show until I revisited her first music video for the song Everybody. Now I’m just thinking the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Here’s to the future. And the past.

Have a great week!

 

 

ChittahChattah Quickies

Volkswagen turns off Blackberry email after work hours [BBC News] – Technology changes work boundaries and work patterns. Will a technological solution work? The article suggests that they will stop people from receiving email after hours, but will they stop people from sending email after hours? Is the demand for after hours work coming through the email messages or are there other pressures? So many questions about this one!

Volkswagen has agreed to stop its Blackberry servers sending emails to some of its employees when they are off-shift. The carmaker confirmed it made the move earlier this year following complaints that staff’s work and home lives were becoming blurred. Under the arrangement servers stop routing emails 30 minutes after the end of employees’ shifts, and then start again 30 minutes before they return to work. “It’s bad for the individual worker’s performance being online and available 24-7. You do need downtime, you do need periods in which you can actually reflect on something without needing instantaneously to give a reaction,” said Will Hutton, chair of the Big Innovation Centre at The Work Foundation.

Manischewitz Creates Kosher Food for Gentiles [NYT] – Having grown up with the traditional meaning of the brand, I find this a bit challenging but am intrigued by the potential to reframe and expand their story.

“Instead of taking the older products we have out of the kosher aisle and forcing them into the main aisle, we’re creating new products that have a place in the main aisle,” said Alain Bankier. A new line of broths, for example, is being shelved in many supermarkets not with most Manischewitz items but rather in the soup aisle. A new line of Manischewitz gravies also will be stocked with other mainstream brands. Manischewitz ads traditionally have emphasized Judaism, showing yarmulke-wearing celebrants at, say, a Seder. But new ads, by Joseph Jacobs Advertising in New York, the Manischewitz agency for more than three decades, take a decidedly more secular approach. “Don’t miss the boat,” says a print ad for beef gravy, which shows it being poured from a sauce boat onto mashed potatoes – no shofar or Star of David in sight. New ads “make little if any reference to any Jewish holiday,” said Elie Rosenfeld, chief executive of Joseph Jacobs. “There’s a tagline we use, ‘Bringing families to the table since 1888,’ and we want to be part of that family with you whether it’s Rosh Hashana, Hanukkah or Easter.”

Samoa Sacrifices a Day for Its Future [NYT] – A massive change in infrastructure and function, revealing time (or at least our documentation of it) to be more arbitrary than fixed.

The Pacific island nation of Samoa and its even tinier neighbor Tokelau are skipping Friday this week, jumping westward in time across the international date line and into the shifting economic balance of the 21st century. The time change is meant to align Samoa with its Asian trading partners; it moves the islands’ work days further from the United States, which dominated its economy in the past. In this giant-step version of daylight saving time, the island’s 186,000 citizens, and the 1,500 who live in Tokelau, will go to sleep on Thursday and wake up on Saturday. The government has decreed that those who miss a day of work on Friday will be paid all the same.

Portable Cathedrals [Domus] – Dan Hill’s epic articulate review of the Nokia N9 isn’t a gadget review, it’s a (tl;dr) cultural critique of design, where culture is within the producer organizations as much as – if not more than – the consumer society.

Yet the skeuomorphic nonsense that incomprehensibly pervades apps like Apple’s own Contacts, Calendar, iBooks, GameCenter, Find My Friends et al-all awkward faux-leather, wood and paper stylings-is is of such questionable “taste” it threatens to damage the overall harmony of iOS with its discordant notes. You cannot derive value from the idle suggestion of such textures on screen; they are physical properties and should be experienced as such, or not at all. Yet Apple’s design team will not explore those physical properties, merely sublimating their desire for such qualities into a picture of leather, a picture of wood. It recalls Marcel Duchamp’s critique of ‘retinal art’ i.e. intended only to please the eye.

For a Corn Chip Maker, the New Spokesman Is the Product Itself [NYT] – The argot of advertising is hilarious and depressing all at once. Zany and authentic spokesbag?

At the Fiesta Bowl on Monday, the game’s sponsor, Tostitos, will have a new endorser – a “spokesbag” puppet in the form of a chip bag with arms, a mouth and a generous dollop of swagger – to humorously convey the message that it is the tortilla chip brand that enlivens social gatherings. The new life-of-the-party campaign resurrects the top-selling snack’s 1990s theme. ” ‘Tostitos Knows How to Party’ means we are returning to our roots,” said Janelle Anderson, the brand’s senior director for marketing. Tostitos returned to the ’90s theme after marketing research over the last year found that its customers wanted reasons to celebrate and have fun in economically lean times. Tostitos chose a zany character “to get the message across and make it authentic,” said Ms. Anderson. “We wanted something that was magnetic, fun and approachable.” The brand’s new advertising agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, decided to “bring personality to the brand, and, in one of those rare cases, have the actual product be the actual spokesperson,” said Brett Craig, the group’s creative director for Tostitos. Working with Legacy Effects, a Los Angeles special effects company, the agency developed the hand-manipulated puppet with movable parts and special effects to convey energy, said Mr. Craig.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Seer of the mirror world [The Economist] – Embedded in this article, along with Gelernter’s thoughts about designing technology and some future-casting (expect more software agent-bots!), is some good drama about patent wars among the tech-cognoscenti.

“Google is commercially successful and dazzlingly imaginative but I don’t see what I would like to see from them, or Facebook or Twitter,” says Dr Gelernter. “They’re not turning on their imaginations”… As ever, Dr Gelernter’s excitement about the potential of new technology is tempered by frustration that too little attention is paid to aesthetic and social factors. “A lot of convenience and power could be gained, and a lot of unhappiness, irritation and missed opportunities avoided, if the industry thought about design, instead of always making it the last thing on the list,” he says. “We need more people who are at home in the worlds of art and the humanities and who are less diffident in the presence of technology. There are not enough articulate Luddite, anti-technology voices.” It is not the sort of thing you expect to hear from a professor of computer science, let alone the victim of an anti-technology extremist. But as well as having foreseen the future of computing, over his career Dr Gelernter has developed a clear understanding of humans’ conflicted relationship with the technology on which they increasingly rely.

Making Noise About People Who Talk to Their Cellphones [NYT Bits Blog] – Behaviors and sensitivities are explored and exposed as voice-activated software adds to the out-loud interactions people can have with their mobile devices now. The reaction as people feel subjected to these interactions is much more negative than we’d have (culturally) to the old-fashioned practice of overhearing two people talking, or the more desirable and salacious hobby of eavesdropping!

“As I was waiting in a Southwest Airlines cattle queue to fly back east for Thanksgiving, I was subjected to 15 minutes of listening to the man behind me as he dictated all the details of a prostate surgery into his ‘personal’ assistant,” wrote Exiled In MO from St. Louis. “People have simply lost all knowledge of what constitutes personal space and appropriate public behavior. What a noisy, sad world we’ve made.”

Siri’s rising star

Siri, the scene-stealing voice-activated command center of the new iPhone 4S, has created quite a stir, inspiring at least one love song and a Tumblr documenting her pointed witticisms. She is certainly gaining on Autocorrect in popularity and possibly in perceived utility, if not hilarity.

Conceptually, voice interface holds great appeal. In our research, when we talk to people about their gadgets, voice is frequently suggested as the imagined ideal interface. People picture immediate interactions that eliminate pesky thumb typing and don’t distract from critical tasks, such as driving. But when we think a little more deeply about the concept of voice-command with people, it’s clear that this kind of out-loud interface is not the interface for all times and places. Even the voice interactions that have been around for awhile are out of favor. People prefer texting over voice-calls for privacy and expediency, and despise talking to automated systems.

While attending a conference over this past weekend, I personally overheard a man tersely exclaim, “Not NOW, Siri!” in the middle of a presentation. This suggests that relationships being formed with Siri are progressing beyond infatuation at an accelerated pace. We’ll be keeping an eye on how Siri’s use plays out in real-life situations over time and where the real value lies, as her undeniable charms wear off.

A couple of recent articles with interesting perspectives on Siri’s limits and potential impact:

Is Siri artificially intelligent or just a robot? [macleans.ca] – How does Siri come by her pithy attitude? This article suggests that it’s much the same way that Crispin Porter + Bogusky set up the hilarious Burger King marketing campaign 10 years ago, Subservient Chicken, in which a man dressed in a chicken suit seemed to respond to even the most ludicrous typed commands via a “live” interactive webcam set up in a shady-looking apartment. This was accomplished by staging clips with pre-programmed responses to a large enough number of imagined inquiries that verisimilitude was achieved.

The key to AI is the ability to creatively solve a problem. There’s no denying that Siri’s ability to recognize and translate voice plus grammar into usable data or actions qualifies. In that sense, Siri possesses what seems to be a good level of artificial intelligence. However, with the sort of stuff showing up on the websites…a good portion of Siri’s capabilities are likely simple programmed responses. It’s doubtful that even IBM’s Watson supercomputer, which not too long ago whupped human butt on Jeopardy, could construct such creative and funny responses as, “No comment, douche bag” to questions such as “Are you menstruating?” In such regards, Siri is more of a programmed robot than a thinking entity. Somebody somewhere-or more likely, many people somewhere-have spent a good deal of time anticipating and then programming Siri with potential questions and their respective answers, humourous or otherwise.

How Siri, the Apple iPhone 4S’s ‘Virtual Personal Assistant,’ Could Transform Music [billboard.biz] – Apps are just solutions to problems; this article suggests that, if uptake is significant, Siri might potentially eliminate the need to access specifically branded apps to get stuff done. Implications go well beyond music, obviously.

If an iPhone user asks Siri what the lyrics to “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey are, many people won’t care much whether TuneWiki or any other app fulfills the request. All that matters to them is that their request gets fulfilled in a timely manner, and that they’re soon happily singing, “Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world.” Similarly, if a user is seeking concert listings for the night, which match up to the songs on their iPhone, they’re unconcerned whether Songkick, Bandsintown, or Ticketmaster produces the results as long as they get them fast and accurately. Siri fundamentally changes how iPhone users think of apps, which is the point…Shazam and Pandora aren’t just apps; they’re features. To use them, a person should only need to know that they want to identify a song or listen to a custom radio station and-like magic-the desired process should occur. Siri can be the genie who makes it happen.

Our latest article: Elevator Pitch


Our latest interactions column (written by Steve Portigal and Julie Norvaisas) Elevator Pitch has just been published.

It seems only yesterday that the VCR and its flashing 12:00 was the go-to whipping boy for the interaction field. “Gosh almighty,” the lament would rise. “What does it say about us if we can’t even make a usable digital clock, one that won’t blinkingly admonish us for our failures?” Note to younger readers: The VCR, now obsolete, was an entertainment device that “streamed” video information directly from physical media, not unlike its successor, the nearly obsolete DVD player. We’re stoked to propose an alternative that isn’t likely to be obsolete for a while: the elevator.

Get the PDF here.

Previous articles also available:

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Lifelike Craig HD [Cool Hunting] – [An app that makes Craig's List look like an olde-fashioned classified section, complete with circling capabilities, on an iPad is "fantastic" indeed! What goes around comes around.] Lifelike Craig HD is a fully functional Craigslist browser that offers a fantastic visual interface. The app transforms your local Craigslist from the mundane list of links into an iPad browsable paper, complete with newspaper fonts and a classic layout. If something catches the eye you can add it to your favorites, circling it for later reference.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] LCARS Standards Development Board – [Library Computer Access/Retrieval System is the name of the operating system used by ship systems on Star Trek. As fan sites and other bits of consumer-developed tech emulate the look and feel of interfaces from Star Trek, this site is an effort to create a set of UI standards around colors, fonts, animation, sounds, and other interactive elements.]
  • [from steve_portigal] How Kanye makes his musical sausage [Kottke] – [If you've been enjoying our recent examples of inspiring or provocative thoughts on creativity from performing artists, here's another one] Interesting piece on how Kanye West's latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, got made. Lots of good creative process bits

Recap of Steve and Julie’s URF10 synthesis workshop

Our friends at Bolt | Peters hosted their (mostly) annual User Research Friday event last week, bringing together practitioners from the client-side as well as consultants to share stories and discuss best practices. Some of our takeaways from the day are here.

The day before the conference, Steve and Julie co-led a sold-out workshop titled “We’ve Done All This Research- Now What?” for a group of 20 enthusiastic researchers and designers.


Julie and Steve in action

The purpose of the workshop was to practice the process of moving from the data and observations we gather in fieldwork toward opportunities and ultimately to ideas.

We framed this as a research project to inform a neighborhood redevelopment/gentrification effort. Before the workshop, participants first wandered their own neighborhoods…


Thanks to Nick Leggett from Zazz for this aerial shot from their Seattle offices


Noe Valley scene (a San Francisco neighborhood) captured by Julie

…and then when we got together, they the explored neighborhood surrounding Bolt | Peters for more data.


This machine shop just down the street from Bolt | Peters has been there for decades


6th street buzzes, about two blocks from the conference

Break-out groups took the synthesis tasks to heart and, in a very short period of time, collaboratively surfaced promising opportunities and strategies and solutions to address them.

We were humbled by the gentle empathy and creativity of the folks in the room. The morning served as an inspiring reminder of just how much progress a handful of smart, dedicated people can make on seemingly-intractable problems in a very short period of time.

More amazing photos, observations, output, and thoughtful commentary can be seen on the blog we created for the workshop.

The workshop slides are below.

See previously: Steve Portigal’s presentation from User Research Friday 2008

Ups and downs

After writing recently about managing the adoption of a new type of elevator UI, I found a particularly bad implementation of the norm at my hotel in Austin last weekend.

Unusually, there are two elevators on either side of two rooms.

Beside each elevator is this cautionary/alarmist admonishment:

“This button” refers to “these buttons – those ones down there” despite the horizontal arrow. But we can probably figure that out. The reason for this sign – an obvious afterthought is that there’s no place where you can stand and easily see both elevators at once. You must approach one elevator to press the button, and if you stand there and wait, you are likely to miss the arrival of the elevator if it doesn’t come to that door. There is a standard solution: a light near each elevator door that lights up just before the elevator arrives and the door opens. But (other than in the hotel lobby) they’ve neglected that and instead the hotel guest must be “alert” when doing a basic task like trying to get down for breakfast.

This is a well-known and long-solved situation; why the builders would choose to put the elevators around two rooms and then create such a poor experience would be interesting to explore. What were the design and other decision processes that led to this sub-optimal solution?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] DVRs Can’t Handle New Show’s Title [NYTimes.com] – [A UI edge case that wasn't designed for ends up becoming a mainstream concern. "What are the chances that'll happen?" comes true, and now workarounds must be created] It turns out that the search tools on some DVRs cannot find the new show, “$#*! My Dad Says,” because the symbols cannot be read. (Maybe some DVR developers could not foresee a world where TV shows would have a dollar sign in the titles.) Before the show’s premiere on Thursday, CBS released a viewers’ guide of sorts on Wednesday to help people program their DVRs accordingly.

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