Posts tagged “fail”

Epic FAIL: Takeaways from the War Stories project

Since 2012, I’ve been collecting War Stories, where researchers share the stuff that happens during fieldwork. There are more than 70 stories (start your reading here) and they’ve proven to be a valuable resource for the practice. I’ve been giving a talk over the past few months about the stories and what I’ve learned from the process of curating the stories as well as from the stories themselves. From UX Australia, here’s the audio, the (minimal) slides, and a few sketchnotes.

If you have a story about an experience you had doing contextual research, please get in touch! We want more stories!


To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac)

sketch1
Matthew Magain, UX Mastery

sketch2
Guillaume Hammadi

sketch3
Suj

Computers are stupid

Two recent but fairly typical interactions lately serve to remind me just how stupid computers really still are.


Every time I upload pictures to Facebook, it can’t tell the difference between a photograph of a person that I know and an image from advertising, artwork, street art, or otherwise, and asks me to indicate which of my friends are in these pictures. Face recognition is gee-whiz and has some utility in this context, but if they can’t make it work properly (e.g,. no false positives) why is it being used? Why is it okay that I have to work around the computer’s mistakes?


LinkedIn runs over with suggestions for other people I might to connect to. Yesterday it encouraged me to connect with someone who recently passed away (and whose passing was widely noted). As with the previous example, our immediate reaction is “Well, how should the computer know that?” And that’s my point: we’ve become so used to working within the constraints of technology that we just shrug off this annoying, potentially offensive interactions.

I’m interested both in the limits of the technologies we use and in our enabling of those limits.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Removing "Add to DVD Queue" from Streaming Devices [Netflix] – [This is quite the PR challenge – reframe the removal of features as something that's of benefit to the customers. There are hundreds of comments from unhappy users indicating how this change will impact their particular use cases.] An update for members who add DVDs to their Queue from the device they use to watch instantly. We’re removing the “Add to DVD Queue” option from streaming devices. We’re doing this so we can concentrate on offering you the titles that are available to watch instantly. Further, providing the option to add a DVD to your Queue from a streaming device complicates the instant watching experience and ties up resources that are better used to improve the overall streaming functionality. This change does not impact the Netflix Web site, where most members manage their DVD Queues.
  • [from wstarosta] How children perceive vintage technology [Core77] – [A humorous example of the role that semantics plays in our perception of what something is and how it works.] Design is all about context. When that contextual information is removed, products can be very confusing. As designers we often see this when people are introduced to a new technology that is manifested in a design that breaks so strongly with tradition that they don't know how to use it. We often try to build in affordances that allow them to relate their current technology to their new technology. Think of how the play button from your Walkman went straight to you Discman, then to your iPod, and as a digital button on interfaces.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] 19 Lessons from United Airlines on How To Build A Crappy Survey [UIE Brain Sparks] – [Jared's detailed deconstruction of a badly written and entirely inappropriate survey – on board a United flight before he can get to the WiFi login screen – let alone find out if there's even a charge for the onboard WiFi – reveals the tragic limitations of badly written surveys and puts the lie to people who shrug off bad questions with "Well, at least you learn *something*". Even more this blog post reveals the emotional and intellectual state of someone who is taking a survey; the external orientation most surveys lack or deny. Required reading.] My biggest worry is the next flight I’ll get on with wifi service will have the exact same survey. If that’s the case, I’ll probably answer all the questions differently, just to mess with their heads. After all, if they’re going to waste my time…

The Dog Days Are Over


Warning, Portland, OR, December 2010

Last week I stopped at a Safeway store in Portland, OR. On my way to the bathroom, I passed through a backstage area with the various HR notices, schedules, and so on. And then, I see this sign, depicting a crazy-eyed dog, and the exhortation: Warning – A customer who wants a sample looks like this. Don’t Forget The Selling Suggestion.

I’m astounded that Safeway would put this sign where customers can see it. I would hope that companies wouldn’t be using anti-customer imagery as motivational posters, but if they are, I would expect that they wouldn’t put it where customers can see it.

Really, Safeway? You think so little of us that you don’t even care if we know how little you think of us?

Page Not Found

I was fixing broken links on our blog today and had the opportunity to look at many different versions of the “Page Not Found” page in fairly rapid succession.

Here of course is the basic version; with its classic minimalism, one imagines how it would look in Helvetica.

Many sites provide some form of what the Montreal Gazette offers – “we didn’t find what you wanted, here’s a way to search our site.”

But one stood out…

Penguin Books, Australia, takes this little corner of their site – a place where mere arrival already means something has failed – and offers users an unexpected dose of humor, acknowledgment of the situation of being there, and a full set of choices about where they’d like to go next on the site. It was a little spark of delight, and it made me want to buy a book from them.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Rest in Peas: The Unrecognized Death of Speech Recognition [robertfortner] – Progress in conversational speech recognition accuracy has clearly halted and we have abandoned further frontal assaults. The research arm of the Pentagon, DARPA, declared victory and withdrew. Many decades ago, DARPA funded the basic research behind both the Internet and today’s mouse-and-menus computer interface. More recently, the agency financed investigations into conversational speech recognition but shifted priorities and money after accuracy plateaued. Microsoft Research persisted longer in its pursuit of a seeing, talking computer. But that vision became increasingly spectral, and today none of the Speech Technology group’s projects aspire to push speech recognition to human levels.
    [Speech recognition comes up all the time in user research. It represents some idealized version of "easy-to-use" though people typically recognize the demanding social norms that talking-to-tech evokes and reject the ideal they moments ago requested /SP]
    (via kicker)
  • As Seen on TV – a tribute to doing it wrong [YouTube] – A collection of supposed Epic Fail moments from our daily lives recreated by TV commercials as a precursor to the solution being offered /SP

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Zach Gage’s Antagonistic Books – A set of two books and instructions for how to build them. ANTAGONISTIC BOOKS turns the emotions and actions surrounding the banning of books into physical objects that undermine the user.

    Danger reenacts what has historically been done to dangerous literature, self-immolating when opened.

    Curiosity represents the notion that many book-banners feel, that the true danger of literature is that once you've opened a book you have been forever changed and can never go back. Emulating this notion, Curiosity can never be closed. Once opened, it is locked in an open position forever.

    (via Waxy)

  • Netflix agrees to delay in renting out Warner movies [latimes.com] – "This deal uniquely works for Netflix because our subscribers are desensitized to street dates and more interested in being matched to the perfect movie," said Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, who handles studio relationships. "Some subscribers will so passionately want to see it in the first 28 days they may go out and buy it, just as some people want to see 'Avatar' so badly they pay to watch it in 3-D." [Snort! Guffaw!]
  • Book Industry Study Group – BISG is the leading U.S. book trade association for supply chain standards, research, and best practices. For over 30 years, BISG has been working on behalf of its diverse membership of publishers, retailers, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, librarians and others involved in both print and digital publishing to create a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry supply chain for both physical and digital products.

    In seeking support from and representing every sector of the book industry, BISG affirms its belief in the interdependence of all industry segments. BISG understands that success in business is often easier to achieve through joint effort and that common problems are best solved together.

  • How to create new reading experiences profitably [booksahead.com] – Books have served well as containers for moving textual and visual information between places and across generations. [digita] books need to be conceived with an eye on the interactions that text/content will inspire. Those interactions happen between the author and work, the reader and the work, the author and reader, among readers and between the work and various services, none of which exist today in e-books, that connect works to one another and readers in the community of one book with those in other book-worlds….Publishing is only one of many industries battling the complex strategic challenge of just-in-time composition of information or products for delivery to an empowered individual customer. This isn’t to say that it is any harder, nor any easier, to be a publisher today compared to say, a consumer electronics manufacturer or auto maker, only that the discipline to recognize what creates wonderful engaging experience is growing more important by the day.
  • New York, 2009 [Flickr] – My photos from my recent trip to New York City. Art, street art, strange signs, people watching, and other observations. Check it out!

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The Product Is You, No. 12 – Rob Walker does a series of advertisements that reveal a customer segmentation and the associated characteristics. Similar vein to my postings about personas leaking outside the enterprise
  • Please vote for our SXSW panel "Culture Kicks Our Ass: How To Kick Back" – The conference lineup is chosen partially based on input (i.e., voting) from the community. Even if you don't attend, you still have a voice about what the discourse should be in our various fields, so please vote for this panel from Steve Portigal and D. P. Haine, of Obvious Design.

    We’ll explore the different cultural challenges that breakthrough products must overcome: emergent usage behaviors that are impossible to predict, a global customer base and cultural barriers inside the corporation that suffocate innovation. We’ll also share best practices for addressing each challenge.

  • Please vote for our SXSW panel "FAIL: When User Research Goes Horribly, Horribly Wrong" – The conference lineup is chosen partially based on input (i.e., voting) from the community. Even if you don't attend, you still have a voice about what the discourse should be in our various fields, so please vote for this panel from
    Steve Portigal, Portigal Consulting
    Nate Bolt, Bolt|Peters
    Dan Saffer, Kicker Studio
    Aviva Rosenstein, Ask.com
    Mark Trammell, Digg

    Best practices for user research are not hard to come by, but experience is the ideal way to develop mastery. And with experience inevitably comes failure. Embarrassing, awkward, hilarious failure that gives the gift of self-improvement. We’ll share our own unvarnished examples and what they taught us.

  • Do programmers still buy printed books? | Zen and the Art of Programming – Likewise, when I’m holding a book or have it open on my desk, I’m in “book reading mode”, which makes it far easier to immerse myself in it. This means that I’m focused on the task and can proceed quickly. The only context switch that happens is between the book and the editor/shell, if it’s the kind of book that warrants typing along. If you are reading a book in a browser tab, it’s very easy to think, “I’ll just check my email for a second”, or introduce similar distractions. I’m sure I’m not alone in this respect.

    When I buy a physical copy of a book, I feel psychologically more obliged to at least try to get through it. Online I experience a paradox of choice of sort. With hundreds of interesting books available there in front of me, I’m more inclined to excessively multitask, and end up checking out different books while I should still be reading the current one.

    (Thanks @onwardparam and @chirag_mehta)

  • New study suggests people from different cultures read facial expressions differently – East Asian participants in the study focused mostly on the eyes, but those from the West scanned the whole face.
    They were more likely than Westerners to read the expression for "fear" as "surprise", and "disgust" as "anger".

    The researchers say the confusion arises because people from different cultural groups observe different parts of the face when interpreting expression.

    (via Design-Emotion.com)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Shoddy Pear Analytics study of Twitter content – This is really bad research, but it's topical so it'll get press.

    Bad research #1: When creating content categories for your analysis, don't be so dismissive. They established a category for this analysis called "pointless babble" so obviously they have a strong point of view of the value of that content and it's hardly unbiased research.

    Bad research #2: Understand that Twitter (or any social, conversational medium) is a system. It's not an independent set of messages, it's a multifaceted conversation. Where's the analysis to look at the interrelationships and dependencies between "I am eating a sandwich" and "here's a great news story to check out"? That's much more difficult, mathematically, and to even consider that would require deeper insight than Pear showed here.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The Ruins of Fordlândia – Henry Ford's miniature America in the jungle attracted a slew of workers. Local laborers were offered a wage of thirty-seven cents a day to work on the fields of Fordlândia, which was about double the normal rate for that line of work. But Ford's effort to transplant America– what he called "the healthy lifestyle"– was not limited to American buildings, but also included mandatory "American" lifestyle and values. The plantation's cafeterias were self-serve, which was not the local custom, and they provided only American fare such as hamburgers. Workers had to live in American-style houses, and they were each assigned a number which they had to wear on a badge– the cost of which was deducted from their first paycheck. Brazilian laborers were also required to attend squeaky-clean American festivities on weekends, such as poetry readings, square-dancing, and English-language sing-alongs.
  • Fordlandia: The Failure Of Ford's Jungle Utopia – Henry Ford tries to build a Midwestern American company town in Amazonian Brazil – for the rubber, even though you can't grow plantation rubber in the Amazon. Absolute epic failure results: they were unprepared both industrially and culturally. "But the more it failed, the more Ford justified the project in idealistic terms. "It increasingly was justified as a work of civilization, or as a sociological experiment," Grandin says. One newspaper article even reported that Ford's intent wasn't just to cultivate rubber, but to cultivate workers and human beings."
  • Report Non-Humans – Marketing for upcoming sci-fi flick District 9. See my interactions column "Interacting with Advertising" for more discussion on the "tricks" of hiding advertising in the aesthetics of real informational signage. Is it okay here because we're in on the joke?

ChittahChattah Quickies

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