Posts tagged “insights”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Oh, Etsy. How could you? [Authentical] – [Smart take on process failures in Etsy's recent misstep. User research can make a big difference] It's hard for me to believe that if Etsy had conducted user research and even informal but realistic usability testing on the idea that they would not have quickly seen the privacy violation. They could have avoided the damage control they now have to deal with because of the breach of trust they've had with buyers who already love the experience of shopping there.Etsy could have avoided the problem and discovered a possibly great idea for engaging buyers even more. Where was the business plan for allowing search of users? How does having social "circles" support the business model, exactly? How would the social media strategy be supported on the back end? More than all that, let's look at others who have gone before us: Beacon on Facebook and Boden USA come to mind. What happened there? What could the Etsy team learn from those mistakes? Oh, and, why duplicate Facebook in any way?
  • [from julienorvaisas] The Art of the Police Report [Utne Reader] – [Collett provides a fascinating exploration of one cop's ability to achieve expression while governed by the formidable constraints of police report writing.] Writing is the one constant in a cop’s daily life. As with everything in the department, strict rules govern report writing, and as with any dangerous undertaking, the department will train you to do it properly. The most despised class at the police academy is the one that teaches writing. The incident report he’ll learn to write is the factual narrative account of a crime. Every event a cop responds to generates a report. Crime reports are written in the dispassionate uni-voice that’s testament to the academy’s ability to standardize writing. They feel generated rather than authored, the work of a single law enforcement consciousness rather than a specific human being. So how can I identify Martinez from a single sentence? Why do his reports make me feel pity, terror, or despair?

Unfinished Business lecture: Culture, User Research & Design

I was recently in Toronto to speak at OCAD (Yes, we were in this awesome building) as part of the Unfinished Business lecture series. My talk looked at the notion of culture and it’s importance for user research, and design.

Culture is everywhere we look, and (perhaps more importantly) everywhere we don’t look. It informs our work, our purchases, our usage, our expectations, our comfort, and our communications. In this presentation, Steve will explore the ways we can experience, observe, and understand diverse cultures to foster successful collaborations, usable products, and desirable experiences.

Slides



Audio

I’ve split out the presentation itself from the Q&A, which was fun, challenging, and filled with big-picture type questions.

Presentation (1 hour, including a quick intro by host Michael Dila):

Q&A (40 minutes):

To download the presentation audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac). For the Q&A audio, Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac)

Note: In the talk (and the Q&A) I refer to my interactions article, Persona Non Grata. You can find that article here.

ChittahChattah Quickies

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software [HeraldTribune.com] – [Spin in this article is that using computers to manage super-human levels of complex data will have employment consequences.] When five television studios became entangled in a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against CBS, the cost was immense. As part of the obscure task of “discovery” ­ providing documents relevant to a lawsuit ­ the studios examined six million documents at a cost of more than $2.2 million, much of it to pay for lawyers and paralegals who worked for months. But that was in 1978. Now, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, “e-discovery” software can analyze documents in a fraction of the time and cost. In January, Blackstone Discovery of Palo Alto, CA., helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000. Some programs can extract relevant concepts ­ like documents relevant to social protest in the Middle East ­ even in the absence of specific terms, and deduce patterns of behavior that would have eluded lawyers examining millions of documents.
  • [from steve_portigal] PG&E launches huge paper chase for pipeline data [SF Chronicle] – [You think you have a lot of data to process? Obviously their record-keeping incompetence is just now being surfaced and they have taken on a data task that is beyond human scale. We can create systems that we can't manage!] For the past couple of days, forklifts have been carting pallets loaded with 30 boxes each into 3 warehouses outside the 70-year-old Cow Palace arena in Daly City. Friday afternoon, there were still more than 100 pallets stacked outside the warehouses waiting to go in. "There are 100,000 boxes in there, and you can't believe the papers spread everywhere," one PG&E employee said …"There are records in there going back to the 1920s. "We're looking at all kinds of parameters, and our data validation efforts are going on throughout the service area,…We're doing a 24-7 records search involving at least 300 employees and contractors, and we're working to confirm the quality of our data through collecting and validating our gas transmission pipeline records."
  • [from steve_portigal] Hong Kong, 2011 [Flickr] – [My pictures from our recent trip to Hong Kong for the UXHK Conference]
  • [from steve_portigal] Understanding Culture, User Research and Design with Steve Portigal – [Reserve your tickets now for either Toronto event: a lecture on March 8 and a workshop on March 9. The lecture will focus on culture, insights, and design while the workshop will be a hands-on opportunity to practice synthesizing user research data into opportunities and concepts. Hope to see you there!]

Our latest article: What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting It


Our latest interactions column (written in collaboration with Julie Norvaisas) What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting It has just been published.

We are inevitably astounded and affected by what exists outside of explicit research project constraints.We indulged in a little reflection on some of the people we’ve met and how meeting them took us outside of the business questions at hand but had a real impact on the team and reframed the way we thought about the business questions. This opportunity to dwell on the exception provides a reminder of how these experiences deliver a potent dose of humanity to the business of providing products for people.

Get the PDF here.

Previous articles also available:

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Hong Kong’s Couples Invited to Wed at McDonald’s [NYTimes.com] – [We did visit a McDonald's in Hong Kong the other week but we didn't see anything like this!] McWedding starts at $1,280, which includes food and drinks for 50 people. The package includes a budget version of the usual trappings: a “cake” made of stacked apple pies, gifts for the guests and invitation cards, each with a wedding photo of the couple. (Hong Kong wedding photos are taken in advance, with the couple in rented finery.) McDonald’s employees dressed in black suits mimic the actions of hostesses at upscale hotels. They greet guests at the entrance, usher them to the signature book and deliver food, even if it is just a Big Mac and fries. McWeddings were devised in line with local customs, particularly Chinese numerology beliefs that determine the best dates for weddings or other important events. The engaged couple was given a photo frame shaped like Ronald McDonald, marked with the “limited edition number” 138, an auspicious figure.
  • [from steve_portigal] Stalking insights with Steve Portigal [Foolproof] – [Lovely concise report from our UX Hong Kong workshop. Thanks, Tom!] Even a novice UX researcher knows the dangers of moving too swiftly to draw conclusions from fieldwork. It’s important to maintain a state of openness and observation. Leaping to solutions and recommendations can bias your view. This could cause you to miss something really revealing or valuable simply because it doesn’t fit with the way your view is developing. It shouldn’t be true, but in fact the older and more experienced you get the more danger there is that you’ll fall into this trap. Firstly you’re instinctively calling on experiences and patterns in user behaviour that you may have seen before. Secondly, the more senior you are, the more impact your (wrong-headed) views may have on the situation. The antidote? Spend some time with Steve.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] User-Led Innovation Can’t Create Breakthroughs; Just Ask Apple and Ikea [Co.Design] – [This old saw again! As if user insights and strong vision are incompatible? Shame on FastCo for this hyperbolic crap.] We asked friends on the Apple design team about user-centric design. “It’s all bullshit and hot air created to sell consulting projects and give insecure managers a false sense of security. We don't waste our time asking users, we build our brand through creating great products we believe people will love." IKEA designers don’t use user studies or user insights to create their products. “We tried and it didn’t work..”Of course, neither will say this publicly since both are extremely closed companies and would risk offending users (and the design community) by speaking out against user-centeredness. Since no one will speak up, the false value of the user-as-leader has spread. The best brands are guided by a clear vision for the world, a unique set of values, and a culture that makes them truly unique and that no user insights could ever change.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Non-Jews Begin to Embrace Ketubah Wedding Tradition [NYTimes.com] – [Cultural appropriation of religious traditions as we continue to seek meaning through symbols] The decade of non-Jews discovering the ketubah coincides with three relevant social trends: the rise of Christian Zionism, the growth of interfaith marriage, and the mainstreaming of the New Age movement with its search for spirituality in multiple faith traditions. As a result, an increasing number of gentiles have taken up Judaic practices: holding a Passover Seder, eating kosher food and studying kabbalah, the Jewish mystical movement. “A lot of these things are grass-rootsy,” said Prof. Jenna Weissman Joselit, a historian at George Washington University, who has written extensively on Jewish popular culture. “They have to do with the growing popularity of intermarriage — openness, pluralism, cultural improvisation. And for those who are more religiously literate, they add another level of authenticity or legitimacy.”
  • [from steve_portigal] More Focus Groups for ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ [NYTimes.com] – [What is the meaning of using consumer research? Do we admire producers for being user-centered or do we decry them for being desperate?] The producers of the Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” are offering $60 goodie bags to people who serve in focus groups that will respond to several performances. Two focus groups attended Thursday night’s performance, and four more are scheduled to be at Friday night’s show and the Saturday matinee. It’s not unheard of for Broadway producers to use focus groups, and the musical has used them before since preview performances began on Nov. 28. But these are the first since largely negative reviews of the show by theater critics across the country were published on Tuesday. OnTrack Research, a marketing and consulting firm, is coordinating the focus groups, and here’s the rub: participants only get to see Act I or Act II, not both. They are then asked to fill out surveys and join in discussions in a “V.I.P. room.”

Join me at Lift11 in Geneva

I’m very excited to have been invited to speak at Lift11 (with the tagline “What can the future do for you?). My talk is titled Discover and act on insights about people. I was interviewed by Nicolas Nova about our approach to understanding people in order to drive innovation.

I’ve got one free registration to share with a reader here.
If you think you might be in Geneva in early February (the conference runs Feb 2-4), let me know you’re interested via the comments.

Hope to see you there!

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] End Of An Era: Sony Stops Manufacturing Cassette Walkmans [Crunchgear] – [I share the author's surprise that this product was still being manufactured! The CD Walkman – its successor – has long been quaintly outdated, so cassettes? Perhaps there was a retro market, or perhaps other countries discarded formats differently than we have here] Sony announced it will stop manufacturing and selling these devices in Japan – after 30 years. Sony says the final lot was shipped to retailers in April this year, and once the last units are sold, there will be no cassette Walkmans from big S anymore. The first Walkman was produced in 1979. The TPS-L2, the world’s first portable (mass-produced) stereo, went on sale in Japan on July 1 that year and was later exported to the US, Europe and other places. Sony says that they managed to sell over 400 million Walkmans worldwide until March 2010, and exactly 200,020,000 of those were cassette-based models.
  • [from steve_portigal] PlumWillow Is Making the Customer Part of Its Culture [NYTimes.com] – [Employment criteria: do you represent our target customer? Hiring for insight as an internship strategy] They’re part of a team of 15- and 16-year-old interns who are being tapped for their own special brand of expertise and insight: a bird’s-eye view into the life and mind of high school teenagers, exactly the audience that PlumWillow is seeking. “They definitely aren’t shy about telling us what they like and don’t like,” says Lindsay Anvik, director of marketing at PlumWillow, who helps oversee the internship program at its offices in Manhattan. The interns are also emblematic of how Web-based businesses are doing more than merely shaping their products and services around customer preferences. The companies are corralling those customers in the workplace and making them part of the design and marketing process, according to Susan Etlinger, a consultant at the Altimeter Group, which researches Web technologies and advises companies on how to use them.

We need your votes for our SXSW proposals!

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. Not to mention, it’s a great way to support us! Visit each of the two talks below and click on the “thumbs up” icon. Add your thoughts, or comments as well!

Diving Deep: Best Practices For Interviewing Users

While we know, from a very young age, how to ask questions, the skill of getting the right information from users is surprisingly complex and nuanced. This session will focus on getting past the obvious shallow information into the deeper, more subtle, yet crucial, insights. If you are going to the effort to meet with users in order to improve your designs, it’s essential that you know how to get the best information and not leave insights behind. Being great in “field work” involves understanding and accepting your interviewee’s world view, and being open to what they need to tell you (in addition to what you already know you want to learn). We’ll focus on the importance of rapport-building and listening and look at techniques for both. We will review different types of questions, and why you need to have a range of question types. This session will explore other contextual research methods that can be built on top of interviewing in a seamless way. We’ll also suggest practice exercises for improving your own interviewing skills and how to engage others in your organization successfully in the interviewing experience.

For more on interviewing, you can check out our UIE Virtual Seminar and the follow-up podcast we did with Jared Spool.


Mommy, Where Do Good Products Come From?
(with Gretchen Anderson)

Business case studies are the ultimate in reductionism: A complex business activity rooted in a specific context of people, company culture, time, and place is boiled down to a few key ideas. Consultants, designers, students, and people who read Malcolm Gladwell are especially prone to this form of simplification. While these simplified stories can be helpful as touchstones, we just need to remember that they are often apocryphal archetypes more than investigative summaries. Or people confuse the terms innovation and invention; looking for breakthrough ideas sends companies into a frenzied search for “new” things not great or disruptive things. In this session, we will explore some different pathways to creating great product ideas. As designers and researchers, we’re experienced enough to know that design research isn’t the only approach or even always the best approach (a point of view that Don Norman vehemently argued in recent writings). For instance, design research wouldn’t be sufficient to create a disruptive innovation like Gowalla. We’ll outline a framework that looks at different approaches to idea generation, including corporate competencies and culture, customer needs and cultural context, and technological innovation.

For more on this topic, you can check out our interactions column Some Different Approaches to Making Stuff (PDF). Also, listen to Steve and Gretchen in conversation about the speed of innovation.

Thanks for your votes!

Also see:

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] The opposite of user experience design [Jorge Arango] – [I've experienced the bewildering confusion of bureaucracy in another country but have always assumed implicitly that for "those people" it was tenable. Jorge's tangible frustration and brilliant insight puts the lie to my ridiculous parochialism] One of the advantages of living in the developing world is that I am exposed to a wide variety of UX disasters. If you find it hard to define UX, try dealing with a Panamanian government office. You will quickly see what a lack of UX thinking looks like, and this will in turn aid your appreciation and understanding of good UX. A few weeks ago I had to go to the Panamanian immigration office to take care of some paperwork. When I got there, I found chaos…I’ve come to understand that the opposite of UX design is not shitty design, thoughtless design, or piecemeal design. It is anarchy. Only strong leadership with a clear user-centric vision can transform the organization’s culture and improve the experience of its constituents.
  • [from steve_portigal] Please vote for our SXSW 2011 Panel – Mommy, Where Do Good Products Come From? (with Gretchen Anderson) – [Thanks for your vote!] Business case studies are the ultimate in reductionism: A complex business activity rooted in a specific context of people, company culture, time, and place is boiled down to a few key ideas. People confuse the terms innovation and invention; looking for breakthrough ideas sends companies into a frenzied search for "new" things not great or disruptive things. In this session, we will explore some different pathways to creating great product ideas. As designers and researchers, we're experienced enough to know that design research isn't the only approach or even always the best approach (a point of view that Don Norman vehemently argued in recent writings). For instance, design research wouldn't be sufficient to create a disruptive innovation like Gowalla. We'll outline a framework that looks at different approaches to idea generation, including corporate competencies and culture, customer needs and cultural context, and technological innovation.
  • [from steve_portigal] Please vote for my SXSW 2011 Panel – Diving Deep: Best Practices For Interviewing Users – [Thanks for your vote!] The skill of getting the right information from users is surprisingly complex and nuanced. This session will focus on getting past the obvious shallow information into the deeper, more subtle, yet crucial, insights. If you are going to the effort to meet with users in order to improve your designs, it's essential that you know how to get the best information and not leave insights behind. Being great in "field work" involves understanding and accepting your interviewee's world view, and being open to what they need to tell you (in addition to what you already know you want to learn). We'll focus on the importance of rapport-building and listening and look at techniques for both. We will review different types of questions, and why you need to have a range of question types. We'll also suggest practice exercises for improving your own interviewing skills and how to engage others in your organization successfully in the interviewing experience.
  • [from steve_portigal] The Minds Behind the Mind-Set List [The Chronicle of Higher Education] – [Freshmen in 2010 have never known a world in which a website can't get a book deal. Yes, the Mind-Set List book is coming] Mr. McBride, a professor of English and the humanities, says the list started on a lark back in 1997—some old college hands unwinding on a Friday afternoon, musing on how much freshmen don't know about recent history and culture. But such blind spots are to be expected, they had agreed, given the relative youth of the incoming class. They had concluded that professors should be mindful of how very different their students' life experiences are from their own. With colleagues, they had brainstormed about the cultural touchstones for that year's entering freshman class, whose members would have been born in 1979. That was the year of the Iran hostage crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Three Mile Island. The resulting list was passed around and eventually found its way into the hands of a Wall Street Journal reporter, who subsequently wrote about it.
  • [from steve_portigal] Beloit College Mindset List 2010 – [The annual list, in time for this year's freshmen, telling us older folks how our view of the world differs in key and/or bemusing ways]. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] The $5 Guerrilla User Test [Bumblebee Labs Blog] – [While we're obviously big advocates of getting input about designs from people as frequently as possible and at various levels of fidelity, it's a bit dissonant when informal methods get distilled (so to speak) into formal-seeming methods without any of the purposefulness and planfulness of established methods. Challenging to my assumptions and thus helpfully provocative] Drunk people are a pretty accurate mimic of distracted, indifferent people. This insight has lead to a wonderful technique I’ve been refining over the years that I call “The $5 Guerrilla User Test”. Here’s the 5 second version: 1. Bring a laptop to a bar, 2. Offer to buy someone a beer in exchange for participating in a user study, 3. Watch your application crash & burn as people do all sorts of ridiculous ass shit they would never do in a lab but constantly do in real life, 4. Go back, apply the lessons you have learnt, repeat until you have an app that is 100% drunk person proof

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre: WORST. NAME. EVER. [TampaBay.com] – Live Nation's announcement that they were renaming the Ford Amphitheatre the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre is the ugliest naming rights agreement of the past 20 years. It's worse than the PapaJohns.com Bowl. It's worse than the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. It's worse than University of Phoenix Stadium. It's worse than the Comfort Dental Amphitheatre. By now, everyone has to understand that naming rights and sponsorship deals are an immutable aspect of society. Corporate sponsorships make possible many things that consumers take for granted.Ford's naming rights deal is over, and the Amphitheatre needed a new title sponsor. The Florida-based lawyer referral service 1-800-ASK-GARY was willing to pony up the cash, and for good reason — the next time Toby Keith or Kings of Leon or Aerosmith launches a summer tour that inclues Tampa, the announcement will include the phone number "1-800-ASK-GARY." But … but … Aesthetically. Thematically. Visually. It's awful.
  • [from steve_portigal] frogMob – frogdesign using social networking to gather data (or insights, they don’t seem sure which is which) – [If I get past the horrifyingly shortsighted copy "All photos and insights due back within one week"; "trend scrape"; "anyone can be an ethnographer for an hour" I think this is pretty fun and interesting and of course framed as an "experiment"] frogMob is based on the idea that anyone can be an ethnographer for an hour, just by paying a little more attention to the world around them. A frogMob is a trend scrape that gathers a quick visual pulse on behaviors, trends and artifacts globally. We publish the call to action on a select topic and gather original photography and stories that describe how products are used globally. The methodology and spirit of frogMob lend themselves to open collaboration. frogMob builds on the trend of using social media to run research studies, and the ability of these tools to conduct research remotely. This is where the experiment really begins.

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