training posts

ChittahChattah Quickies October 16th, 2010
  • [from steve_portigal] Dog Scouts of America honors Milpitas dog Jasper [SFGate] – [For all the talk of game-like motivations online, here's a great offline example] Merit badges for dogs are the latest thing Jasper is the first dog in the Bay Area to earn five merit badges from the Dog Scouts of America, a real organization that has quietly been issuing merit badges to deserving dogs for 11 years. Five merit badges, it turns out, are not very many badges in the Dog Scout world. There are no fewer than 76 badges – Frisbee catching, herding, canoeing and bicycling are all badges (the dog doesn't actually bicycle, he must run alongside the human cyclist, sensibly and without making the typical dog-versus-bicycle fuss). Disaster preparation is another dog merit badge, although some might say that preparing for disaster is what you do before you get a dog. Verdahl, who is going after merit badges the way some kids go after baseball cards, said he is just getting started. The next badge he and Jasper are shooting for, he said, is the badge for fundraising.
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Steve speaking at User Experience Hong Kong June 21st, 2010

I’m thrilled to be invited to speak at the first User Experience Hong Kong, taking place next February. Organized by my good friends at Apogee, the event also features a number of super smart (and super nice!) folks: Steve Baty, Janna DeVylder, Rachel Hinman, and Gerry Gaffney.

I’ll be leading a workshop entitled “Well, we’ve done all this research, now what?”

One of the most persistent factors limiting the impact of user research in business is that projects often stop with a cataloging findings and implications rather than generating opportunities that directly enable the findings. As designers increasingly become involved in using contextual research to inform their design work, they may find themselves holding onto a trove of raw data but with little awareness of how to turn it into design. How can designers and researchers work with user research data to create new things for business to do?

Almost related: Pictures from my last Hong Kong trip (2006)

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Sign up for this week’s webinar on Deep Dive Interviewing Secrets January 25th, 2010

On January 28th, I’ll be presenting a UIE Virtual Seminar on Deep Dive Interviewing Secrets. Sign up here!

You”ll learn how to ask great interview questions and take your user research to the next level. You’ll see that the best information comes from what Steve calls “breathing their air”-getting out of YOUR environment and into THEIR environment. Empathy brings about the best understanding. In this not-to-miss-seminar, you’ll get:

  • How to prepare your Field Guide: the complete overview of interviewing questions and other techniques that go beyond the spoken interrogative.
  • An understanding of how to build rapport with your users through listening, and the many ways to do that effectively.
  • How to work with varying levels of experience and expertise, in your user community, and even within your own team.
  • Techniques to use when any opportunity presents itself, even those chance encounters with users.
  • Lots of great examples. The good, the bad, and yes, the ugly.

This seminar will provide techniques for your design team getting them to a solid understanding of your customers’ and users’ needs. You’ll come away with techniques and tools you’ll want to put to use right away. Once you do, you’ll see immediate benefits and better designs as a result.

Check out a quick preview of the session, and register here. Use promotion code CHITTAHCHATTAH to get lifetime free access to the recording after the fact (normally a separate cost).

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ChittahChattah Quickies June 29th, 2009
  • Robert Fabricant of frogdesign considers whether understanding users means that design is or isn't persuasive/manipulative – How do we decide what the user really 'wants to achieve'? The fact is that there are a host of different influences that come to bear in any experience. And a host of different needs that drive user behavior. Designers are constantly making judgment calls about which 'needs' we choose to privilege in our designs. In fact, you could argue that this is the central function of design: to sort through the mess of user needs and prioritize the 'right' ones, the most valuable, meaningful…and profitable.

    But according to what criteria? These decisions, necessarily, value judgments, no matter how much design research you do. And few designers want to be accountable for these decisions. From that perspective, UCD, starts to seem a bit naive, possibly even a way to avoid accountability for these value judgments.

    [Obviously no easy answers here; even defining the terms for the discussion is challenging, but the dialog between Robert and others is provocative]

  • Dave Blum, treasure hunt designer, offers 100 treasure hunts around the world – I was always a puzzle and a game kid. I had a friend when I was growing up in Millbrae, Mike Savasta, and he and I were just board game and card game fanatics. Monopoly, Life, Sorry, Stratego.

    In college, I played thousands of games of cribbage. I like the intellectual challenge, the analytical challenge. I'm very much a "play-it-by-ear" kind of guy, so I like a game where you have to think on your feet.

    After college, I lived in Japan for 3 1/2 years and taught English. Then I spent 11 months traveling through Asia and Europe, and when I came back to San Francisco, I worked in tourism for a while. I said, "I need to find a career that I really love." I thought if I could combine group work, travel, games and puzzles – that would be the ultimate job. I started Dr. Clue in 1995.

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From Here to There: Design Research Symposium April 22nd, 2008

Recently I was invited to ASU in Tempe, AZ, to participate in a Design Research Symposium called From Here To There, a reference (I think) to moving from questions to answers (or, perhaps, more questions).

I was pleased to be part of such a great lineup of speakers:

  • Dennis Doordan, Editor, Design Issues
  • Laura DeWitt, Research Director, laga Innovation Group
  • Dan Formosa, Smart Design Worldwide
  • Matthew Jordan, Director of Research and Interaction Design, Insight Product Development
  • David Alan Kopec – “DAK”, Associate Professor of Design, Newschool of Architecture and Design
  • Steve Portigal, Principal, Portigal Consulting
  • Meg Portillo, Chair of the Department of Interior Design, University of Florida
  • Altay Sendil, Design Researcher, IDEO
  • Jason Severs, Principal Designer, frog design
  • Susan Winchip, Professor of Interior and Environmental Design, Illinois State University
  • Matt Zabel, Human Factors and Design Research Manager, Brooks Stevens

We heard from people in academia and people in consulting practices, and we learned about culture, education, methodology, a day-in-the-life of a professional design researcher, quantitative approaches, and a lot more.

I gave a plenary address that built on Practicing Noticing Stuff and Telling Stories. The bulk of the talk was different examples of cultural norms and/or design requirements revealed through observations and photographs. Some of those pictures have appeared on this All This ChittahChattah. In a great bit of small-worldness, one of the students in attendance was the very person who had explained (in a previous blog post here) just what was going on in one of my Hong Kong pictures.

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Steve talks about poo

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About

I also ran an in-depth workshop on interviewing techniques. In our training work, we’re often using this same material in professional settings where our clients have a little or a lot of experience in using interviewing and observation as a method for gathering insights so it made for a point of contrast to have the discussion with people who are in student mode and who have had very few applied experiences with design research. I’m appreciative of these opportunities to teach a range of people with different skills levels and backgrounds as I think it keeps the material sharp and our approach always fresh.

A smattering of other conference images:
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Questions, answers, and dialog

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The Incredible Jason Severs

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DAK

It was a great event, a good group, well organized, and good interactions. There’s a rumor that the talks may be podcast eventually. I’ll update this post if that happens.

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Ins and Outage February 27th, 2008

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Starfucks sticker, Taipei, December 2007

Service outages seem to be common news stories lately. Sure, it’s news when many people in Florida lose power, but also when Pakistan causes a 2-hour YouTube blackout, BlackBerry service goes down, or Hotmail is unavailable.

There’s a sense that we are relying on far too many fragile systems and that as complexity increases, these stories will become even more commonplace (and perhaps even less newsworthy). But being forced to do without something seems to be a tactic companies enjoy using to extract a sense of the value of their service. The Whopper Freakout ad campaign is the most prominent example, but other companies such as Yahoo and Dunkin’ Donuts have conducted (consensual) user research experiments where people go without something and report back on the sense of loss.

But Starbucks pulled off the genius move, closing for a few hours to retrain staff, and making front-page news not for their failure (see: Florida, Blackberry, YouTube, Hotmail above) but for their retraining efforts towards a clarified service promise

Starbucks is welcoming customers back Wednesday with a new promise posted in stores: “Your drink should be perfect, every time. If not, let us know and we’ll make it right.”

This won’t address all of the challenges Starbucks is facing, but it’s a pretty brilliant P.R. success, hitting the denial-of-services hot button and emphasizing the valid, powerful reason behind the outage.

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Registration open: Design Research Methods on March 1 January 14th, 2008

Registration is now open for the full-day Design Research Methods class that I’ll be teaching. It’s a full-day event on Saturday March 1, 2008 in at Involution Studios in Sunnyvale, CA. Not local to the Bay Area? Well, why not hop on a plane for the weekend?

This course will provide first-hand knowledge and training in core design research methods. At its root, design research emphasizes learning about people and using the insights gained to inform and inspire design. We will focus on exemplary models of what research is, what it looks like, its role in concept generation, and what it produces.

From the official announcement:
The Involution Master Academy recently released its Winter 2008 semester for open registration. A post-secondary education program designed for mid-career professionals, Involution Master Academy focuses on direct, one-to-one interaction and training between the instructor and students. To ensure maximum interaction and an intimate educational setting, each course only accepts nine participants.

The Winter 2008 course schedule features five courses taught by well-known user experience thought leaders:

Product Architecture Symposium
Instructor Andrei Herasimchuk
Saturday February 23, 2008
10:00 AM-6:00 PM

Design Research Methods

Instructor Steve Portigal
Saturday March 1, 2008
10:00 AM-6:00 PM

Applied Empathy: An Experience Design Framework
Instructor Dirk Knemeyer
Saturday March 8, 2008
10:00 AM-6:00 PM

Web Form Design Best Practices
Instructor Luke Wroblewski
Saturday March 15, 2008
10:00 AM-6:00 PM

Site Search Analytics for a Better User Experience
Instructor Lou Rosenfeld
Tuesday March 18, 2008
10:00 AM-6:00 PM

Past courses have sold out. Given the small class sizes, you are
encouraged to register well in advance.

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Where the money seems to be March 2nd, 2007

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I received an ad from these folks in the mail this week. I am stunned and amazed at their rates for market research training.

We don’t cover the identical topics but you can see what training we offer (PDF) here. Details, and thus costs, are customized to what your team really needs. And costs can be much more reasonable, too!

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This Week In Globalization October 18th, 2006

We have some time before we can expect to be driving Chinese cars.

Despite growing anxiety that the Chinese would quickly seek to conquer yet another important industry, it now looks as if it will be at least another several years before Chinese automakers start exporting large numbers of cars they both design and make. They had intended to start selling their own brands in the United States as soon as 2007 but have pushed off their plans by a couple of years.

And now, some Chinese auto executives admit, it could be as late as 2020 before they will be ready to take on the world auto market.

That’s not to say that the Chinese will not follow in the footsteps of Japanese automakers, who first sent over chintzy cars that were roundly criticized, only to set new standards for the industry in later years.

Still, despite China’s manufacturing prowess, it is, for now, proving a lot harder than automakers here anticipated to make cars that appeal to Western tastes.

Here’s a story about who these Indian engineers are, or aren’t. Frankly, I was glad to see this article, not for protectionist reasons, but simply to acknowledge that we’ve got dramatically different cultures around work, collaboration, education, success, and everything else, and that’s obviously going to play out in the hiring/working space.

India still produces plenty of engineers, nearly 400,000 a year at last count. But their competence has become the issue.

A study commissioned by a trade group, the National Association of Software and Service Companies, or Nasscom, found only one in four engineering graduates to be employable. The rest were deficient in the required technical skills, fluency in English or ability to work in a team or deliver basic oral presentations.

And finally here’s yet another story about Americans working for Indian firms (I last blogged about it here)

For the job seekers, India represents a new kind of ticket. Katrina Anderson, 22, a math major from Manhattan, Kan., accepted the Infosys offer because, she said, it provided the most extensive training of any company that offered her a job.

An added bonus was the chance to travel halfway around the world. “Some people were scared by the India relocation,” she recalled. “But that pretty much sold it for me.”

When she finishes the training in January, Ms. Anderson, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, will return to the United States, to work in the Infosys office in Phoenix.

For the Americans at Infosys, culture shock combines with surprising discoveries. Mr. Craig and Ms. Anderson admitted to having their stereotypes of India quickly upturned. Mr. Craig expected elephants and crowded sidewalks; Ms. Anderson expected stifling heat and women who covered their heads.

The Infosys training center, with its 300 acres of manicured shrubbery, is a far cry from the poverty of much of this country. There is a bowling alley on campus, a state-of-the-art gym, a swimming pool, tennis courts and an auditorium modeled on the Epcot Center.

Mr. Craig, who still calls home nearly every day, says he has made an effort to teach himself a few things about his new, temporary home. He has learned how to conduct himself properly at a Hindu temple. He makes an extra effort to be more courteous. He has learned to ignore the things that rattle him in India – the habit of cutting in line, for instance, or the ease with which a stranger here can ask what he would consider a deeply personal question.

“I definitely feel like a minority here,” he said, sounding surprised at the very possibility.

Ms. Anderson has tried to ignore what she sees as a penchant for staring, especially by men. She has donned Indian clothes in hopes of deflecting attention, only to realize that it has the opposite effect. She has stopped brooding quietly when someone cuts in line. “I say, ‘Excuse me, there’s a line here.’ “

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Artsy Hotel Raises the Barre June 23rd, 2006

The Washington Post profiles the goofy-ass training at a new the hotel where I’ll be for Adaptive Path’s UX Week

And so the sleek marble lobby bobbed with the compact frame and overflowing personality of Washington Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre, who commandeered a troupe of lavender-shirted bellhops in a lesson of classical ballet.

“Fluid movements, one two three, one two three,” Webre chanted, extending his arm toward the lobby’s textured wallpaper. “Tuck in your [backside]. No booties out in Maryland, please. It’s 202, not 301.”

Greenbelt resident and Palomar bellboy-in-training Alvin Green tucked in. “This is extensive training,” he said. “It’s a . . . uh . . . different experience.” Sighing at Green’s port de bras, Septime said only, “Very, very good” before swanning away to adjust the shoulders of a future concierge.

The Palomar hopes to tell its story to gallery-hopping guests who would get excited about chocolates hand-painted by an “artist chocolatier” and nightly “art of wine” tastings at which local artists mingle with the crowd. The Dupont Circle hotel will have its grand opening in September, but is currently accepting guests on a limited basis. It is Kimpton Hotels’ seventh location in the District; others include Hotel Monaco and the Hotel Madera, just two blocks away.

By a carved column of dark ebony, comedians Amy Saidman and Natasha Rothwell theatrically complained yesterday, throwing up their hands like prima donnas, while bellhops improvised ways to calm them.

As she ran her finger over her chest flirtatiously, Rothwell stage-whispered in a low, breathy drawl, “I could stay longer than three nights.”

Amid the hoots and whistles of the watching employees, bellhop Wendell Williams said, in absolute deadpan, “That won’t be possible, ma’am.”

Or, as Orlando described it: “We’re as minimalistic as possible to allow the guests to experience art. So our lobby is discreet and philosophical.”

Looking around the lobby, ballet master Webre explained what he saw to his students: “The theatrical experience is going to have a beginning . . . when the curtain goes up and the lights go on. This is that beginning.”

Orlando agreed with Webre’s vision: “Art starts at the curb when the bellman opens the door.”

Sigh. I’ve stayed at other Kimpton Hotels before (the Allegro in Chicago, the Monaco in Chicago, the Argonaut in San Francisco) and I just find the experience to be silly and unrelated to what I’m there for. I don’t need art, ballet, music, guys in silly pith helmets, or whatever in the foreground. I’m not asking the hotel to be purely functional, but I don’t think the hotel needs to demand that I participate in its concept, to ram that concept down my throat. If I want a specifically-art experience, I’ll go to a museum. If I want to sleep, eat, check-in/check-out, and hide from the busy world, I’ll go to a hotel. There are ways to differentiate, and enhance the experience with a bit of “isn’t that cool!” but I feel like Kimpton just takes it too far, creating parodic experiences with no authenticity at all.

And this article further takes the wind out of their self-inflated sails; their approach to corporate training just seems ludicrous.

I’ll report back in late August on our experience!

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Cottonelle dumps April 18th, 2006



Spotted on BoingBoing is this special toilet paper just for kids. It’s printed with a puppy paw path that spans five sheets (and then begins again). It’s portion control for toilet paper, presumably there is a need to have kids learn how much to use? I’m a bit confused as to the actual need, and how this solves it. Wouldn’t the amount needed depend on what is being wiped? And who is being wiped?

I’d guess you’d want to teach kids to wipe until they are done – to pay attention to the bodily and other cues (visual?) to ensure that the hygiene need has been handled. Making it such an inflexible system doesn’t teach anyone anything!

And if you use a different amount than five sheets, ever, then the system breaks until you sync up back to sheet zero with the happy puppy. A training system that is intolerant of (highly likely) user error is not a good training system.

You must always use five and only five sheets. Regardless of what’s going on with your po-po! Cottonelle has forgotten that they work for us, not the other way around.

And their site includes this lovely FAQ (which is such as misnomer, since these are not likely to be frequently-asked-questions, but rather info they wish to convey) that suggests some product problems besides the obvious usability failures.


Why is my toilet paper printed on the inside? How do I fix this?

The good news is that this is an easy fix. The toilet paper isn’t actually printed on the inside. What’s happened is that the two plies have become separated, and the inside ply is wrapped around the outside of your roll (you’ll probably also notice that the perforations on the two plies don’t line up). To fix, first make sure your toilet paper is positioned so that it unrolls from the spindle with the sheets coming over the top. Next, steady the roll so it does not move in the spindle. Take the top ply (make sure you are only handling one ply) and unwrap it behind the roll. The print should now appear on the outside, as intended, and the bottom ply should now be longer that the top ply. Tear off the excess bottom plies (approximately 3) and you are ready to go.

and When I tear the toilet paper, the perforations on the two plies do not line up? How do I fix this? which offers the identical answer.

Now we’re taking on toilet paper maintenance tasks? Who the hell wants to fix their toilet paper? This is way too much work and this company hasn’t a clue about addressing real people’s needs.

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Baby and toddler education technology – is it bunk? December 17th, 2005

The New York Times does a great cover story about all the technology products that make strong and unsubstantiated claims about how much smarter they’ll make your baby.

New media products for babies, toddlers and preschoolers began flooding the market in the late 1990’s, starting with video series like “Baby Einstein” and “Brainy Baby.” But now, the young children’s market has exploded into a host of new and more elaborate electronics for pre-schoolers, including video game consoles like the V.Smile and handheld game systems like the Leapster, all marketed as educational.

Despite the commercial success, though, a report released yesterday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, “A Teacher in the Living Room? Educational Media for Babies, Toddlers and Pre-schoolers,” indicates there is little understanding of how the new media affect young children – and almost no research to support the idea that they are educational.

“The market is expanding rapidly, with all kinds of brand-new product lines for little kids,” said Vicky Rideout, vice president of the Kaiser Foundation. “But the research hasn’t advanced much. There really isn’t any outcomes-based research on these kinds of products and their effects on young children, and there doesn’t seem to be any theoretical basis for saying that kids under 2 can learn from media.

In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended no screen time at all for babies under 2, out of concern that the increasing use of media might displace human interaction and impede the crucially important brain growth and development of a baby’s first two years. But it is a recommendation that parents routinely ignore. According to Kaiser, babies 6 months to 3 years old spend, on average, an hour a day watching TV and 47 minutes a day on other screen media, like videos, computers and video games.

Others have less restrained marketing: The “Brainy Baby – Left Brain” package has a cover featuring a cartoon baby with a thought balloon saying, “2 + 2 = 4″ and promises that it will inspire logical thinking and “teach your child about language and logic, patterns and sequencing, analyzing details and more.”

“There’s nothing that shows it helps, but there’s nothing that shows it’s does harm, either,” said Marcia Grimsley, senior producer of “Brainy Baby” videos.

Incredulous italics mine, of course.

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Sinkems: Dissolving Toilet Targets October 1st, 2003

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Sinkems fun shapes are made from a patented, dissolving, non-toxic and biodegradable septic-tank safe material. Simply place one fun shape in the toilet or potty and encourage your toddler to sink’em! It’s a great way for both boys and girls to start TOILET TRAINING! When finished, just flush down the toilet

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