Posts tagged “user research”

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:

Slides and audio from UX Process Improved: Integrating User Insight at SXSW

At SXSW last month, I presented UX Process Improved: Integrating User Insight with Aviva Rosenstein. I’m posting the slides and audio here.

Listen to audio:

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

Wherefore art thou, User?

Lately we’ve been hearing and responding to a lot of chatter in the only-boring-stodgy-Microsoft-types-do-research vein, with language that essentially boils all user research down to testing tools that hinder the creative design process (see Don Norman hates research, Michal Migurski comes out against it).

But user research, at least as we conceive and practice it, is a different animal altogether. Testing relies on existing objects or realities and measures response against them. User research for design and innovation observes, examines, imagines and inspires. Here are just a few things that good user research can do.

  • Broaden the scope. Instead of asking people what they think of these newfangled eBooks, we took a deeper look, to understand how reading is changing and what people value. This led to actionable, inspirational design insights such as, “Books are more than just pages with words and pictures; they are imbued with personal history, future aspirations, and signifiers of identity. And, “There are opportunities to enhance digital reading by replicating, referencing, and replacing social (and other) aspects of traditional book reading.” (Read about Portigal Consulting’s Reading Ahead project here)
  • Discover meaning. Design Continuum explored the car rental experience with a group of Harvard Business Students recently to discover opportunities for improvement and innovation along numerous touch-points throughout the journey, inspiring students to envision altogether new experiences beyond the typical drudgery of current practice. (Description of event on Design Continuum’s blog here)
  • Shift perspective. Wells Fargo engaged with a small number of customers to understand that consumers’ experiences and world views are fundamentally different from the internal company view. This shed a whole lot of light on how to improve communications and experiences across internal organizational silos. (Excerpt from a Forrester white paper on this project here)

Alex Faaborg of Firefox channeled Don Norman’s take on design approaches during a recent ZURBSoapbox event,

There are two distinct approaches to design. One focuses on user-research to find out what people need/want. This approach is exemplified by Microsoft and is used mostly to mitigate risk. The downside of this ‘user testing’ model is that users can lead you astray. For example, if you ask everyone what their favorite color is the average will be gray. The second tries to bring a specific vision to life and an impression of the user they want to have. This approach is exemplified by Apple and can result in huge success or failure.

Now, while Faaborg mostly touts the second more glorious path, he does acknowledge “If designers don’t know what they’re doing it could be a disaster.”

How will designers “know” what they’re doing? Or, in this heroic design model, is there room only for psychic, infallible, savant designers who do just somehow “know?” Where does this leave the consumer, or “user,” or, as they are also known, people?

We believe that including people in the process of designing products for people is a good idea, and serves to drive great design and business concept development rather than preventing it.

I Need You to Need Me

The need statement (“People need… blah blah”) is a cornerstone of user research. Observations, patterns and insights (all our hard work!) distilled into succinct statements neatly pointing to the problem that we are empowered to solve through design. I have long been pondering the use of (and occasional over-reliance on) the need statement (“It’s not an insight if you can’t turn it into a need!”). I have certainly seen the pursuit of the perfect need statement wander into the realm of the absurd at the project level, but they are especially funny when encountered out “in the wild.”

While preparing dinner the other day I noticed this pasta packaging

I’ll bet my pasta can kick your pasta’s ass at meeting needs!

The pasta packaging’s need-shouting put me in mind of this terrific skewering of an exaggerated marketing-department-generated need statement from what is possibly the best review of anything ever, John Phillip’s review of the 2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT for Car and Driver magazine (not found on the Car and Driver site anymore, but full text can be found here):

“Cadillac’s brand manager says, ‘Cadillac research showed that there was a real need for the EXT.’ A real need for a Cadillac pickup? Really? If so, then here are a few things that I really need: An air-conditioned front yard. Iguana-skin patio furniture. Stigmata. Mint-flavored Drano. Gold-plated roof gutters. A 190-hp MerCruiser SaladShooter. A dog with a collapsible tail. An office desk that converts into a Hovercraft. Chrome slacks. A lifetime subscription to Extreme Fidgeting. A third arm. A fourth wife. A smokeless Cuban Robusto. Reusable Kleenex.”

Along those lines but even more ridiculous, here’s another example from a recent post on the blog Sociological Images (CNN Reports on High-Tech Blow-up Doll like it’s an iPad – NSFW!) about a robot sex doll profiled on CNN. The author of the post deconstructs CNN’s interview with the inventor of this product, adding her own interpretation.

“‘There’s a tremendous need for this kind of product,’ said [inventor,] Hines-Translation: Sex dolls are like food stamps and day care; their existence fulfills an important and tremendous need. What? You don’t have one? How do you live!?”

While the pasta claims may be over the top, my noodles did at least meet the need of filling my belly. If we recall Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we know that there is, well, a hierarchy of needs from survival to enlightenment. But the Escalade EXT and the robot doll challenge the fundamental notion of need altogether. Or at least over-dramatize it. Do these products (or 100 calorie Oreo snack packs or scoop-free automatic litter boxes or even iPhones) really exist because we need them? When marketers make such claims do they believe that people really do feel that they need these things? Or that they will if they hear them say it? When we, as researchers, use need statements at the front end of the development process, do we always believe them?

Maybe our introduction of (and insistence on) the need statement at the beginning of the process trickles down, and we’re all convincing each other that people really NEED the things we’re designing. Perhaps we could consider a different word to describe the “need” for objects and experiences such as massive gas-guzzling pick-up trucks and robotic sex dolls. “Want” works for me.

See also: Personas Leaking Outside the Enterprise

URF10: Research, Creativity and Astonishment

Many thanks to our friends at Bolt|Peters for hosting an energizing User Research Friday last week! Dan and I heard a recurring theme of research and creativity, both in method and mindset. Dan noted that several people spoke about research and creativity as though they were separate, and that combining them was somehow novel. But research done well, from framing the problem through storytelling, is creative by nature!

In particular I was struck by how Michal Migurski of Stamen (see his annotated slides here and video here) framed his discussion on their creative visualizations of information streams for Digg Labs and the Twitter Track for the Olympics (to name just a couple) as research-free, when we saw their work as a terrific illustration of a pretty standard method: Using stimulus (in this case the visualizations themselves) to do rapid prototyping based on immediate user feedback, all as a way to guide development. He even talked about Digg Labs as a “wide-open playing ground” for this kind of cycle of experimentation.


One of many visualizations on Digg Labs


NBC Olympics Real Time Twitter Tracker

Even beyond that, Migurski implied that Stamen’s visualizations have become research tools that help people to understand, navigate and make use of vast swathes of data, such as the journalist who keeps the Digg example up on his screen as a snapshot of what’s got buzz. So Stamen’s gorgeous visualizations are really a product of research as well as possibly a nascent research method. If their creation doesn’t feel to Migurski like deliberate research methods are being employed that may be because it’s just so embedded in their process. I’d argue that’s the best kind of research: an integral part of the process.

Now, terms like “User Research” are slippery, but I do object to his definition:

“User research, to me, is an attempt to mitigate and control astonishment by determining what an audience believes or expects, and where possible delivering on that belief and expectation. User research promises stability and predictable outcomes, and I think that we’re at a curve in the road where the idea of stability is just not all that interesting.”

This sounds like the objectives of conventional focus group or usability testing, not the front-end discovery methods that are at the core of our discipline. Our goal is not simply to determine what consumers believe or expect and then use those observations as marching orders, but to creatively synthesize these discoveries into insights about what people need and value, in order to drive the development of experiences and products that delight and (why not!) astonish.

Overall, the content at URF10 left us hungry for more discussion about how creative research methods are used as a set of inputs and methods that complement and inform design and business strategy at many stages of the development process.

Finally, a tip of the hat to presenter Ed Langstroth of Volkswagen for telling us about the “Party Mode” button (which turns up the bass in the back of the vehicle) on the new Toyota 4-Runner:

For more User Research Friday goodness, check out Steve’s 2008 User Research Friday presentation: Research and Design: Ships in the Night? (slides, audio, and video here) and the subsequent articles in interactions: Part I and Part II .

Mike Tyson and the Power of Holding Your Tongue

The 2008 documentary Tyson by James Toback is a compelling and revealing work. From a technical perspective, it’s a fun watch because Toback experiments with visual fragmenting and layered storytelling styles. In terms of subject matter, one would be hard-pressed to find a juicier, more tabloid-soaked figure to focus on, especially for those of us who came of age in the 80s. I walked away from the film with a much more nuanced and complex, though still ambivalent, view of Mike Tyson as a powerhouse boxer, as a convergent cultural figure, and, finally, as a very complicated human being.

But there was one moment that stood out, and it hammered home the incredible power of a simple interviewing technique: silence. At one point about mid-way through the film, Tyson was yammering in a very straightforward way about the fact that his desire to box and dominate stemmed from his being bullied as a young boy (predictable!). Toback must have sensed something simmering just below the surface, because when Tyson finished this train of thought Toback just let it sit. And sit. And sit. As the audience sits. And sits. Until Tyson looks back up with a completely different expression, almost with a different personality, and bares the real, brutal truth. It’s a moment when time kind of stops; I gasped out loud. It’s this kind of thrilling moment that we experience in our best interviews, when the person (“consumer!”) goes beyond just citing facts or recounting stories, to communicating to us, and our clients, something surprising, something of real value and meaning.

If you liked this interview tip, you’ll love this: Steve will be talking about his interviewing secrets at the UIE virtual seminar on the 28th of this month!

Learn the art of asking questions in Steve Portigal’s UIE Virtual Seminar

On January 28, I’ll be presenting a UIE Virtual Seminar entitled Deep Dive Interviewing Secrets.

Steve Portigal will show your team the art of asking the question. You might visit the user in their office or home, have them come to you for a usability test, or even have a chance encounter at a trade show or while waiting for an airplane. Do you know what to ask? Do you know what to listen for, to extract the critical detail of what they can tell you about your design?

Steve will help you prepare your team for any opportunity, be it formal user research or less structured, ad-hoc research. He’ll also give you tips on how to work with your stakeholders and executives, who may also be meeting potential customers and users, so they know what to ask and how to listen-integrating their efforts into the research team. (Wouldn’t it be great if they understood why you’re doing what you’re doing?)

I’ve also put together this quick preview to get you more of a sense of what I’m going to cover.

Sign up here for this informative event!

Update: Use promotion code CHITTAHCHATTAH to get lifetime free access to the recording after the fact (normally a separate cost)

Reading Ahead: Research Findings

Reading ahead logo with space above

(Updated to include slideshow with synchronized audio track)

We’re very excited today to be posting our findings from the Reading Ahead research project.

Lots more in the deck below, but here’s the executive summary

  • Books are more than just pages with words and pictures; they are imbued with personal history, future aspirations, and signifiers of identity
  • The unabridged reading experience includes crucial events that take place before and after the elemental moments of eyes-looking-at-words
  • Digital reading privileges access to content while neglecting other essential aspects of this complete reading experience
  • There are opportunities to enhance digital reading by replicating, referencing, and replacing social (and other) aspects of traditional book reading

We sat down yesterday in the office and recorded ourselves delivering these findings, very much the way we would deliver them to one of our clients.

Usually, we deliver findings like these to a client team in a half day session, and there’s lots of dialogue, but we tried to keep it brief here to help you get through it. (The presentation lasts an hour and twenty minutes.)

It’s been a great project, and we’ve really appreciated hearing from people along the way. We welcome further comments and questions, and look forward to continuing the dialogue around this work.


Audio

Reading Ahead: Building models

Reading ahead logo with space above

We’ve been hard at work synthesizing the Reading Ahead data. There’s a great deal of writing involved in communicating the results, and sometimes it makes sense to develop a visual model that represents a key idea.

Here are several partial models evolving through paper and whiteboard sketches, and finally into digital form.

We’ll be finishing synthesis soon, and publishing our findings on Slideshare, with an audio commentary.

Stay tuned…

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models

Reading Ahead: Managing recruiting

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There’s always something new in every project. Often we encounter a bit of process that we may not know how to best manage it. So we’ll make our best plan and see what happens. We learn as we go and ultimately have a better way for dealing with it next time.

In a regular client project, we write a screener and work with a recruiting company who finds potential research participants, screens them, and schedules them. Every day they email us an updated spreadsheet (or as they call it “grid”) with responses to screener questions, scheduled times, locations, and contact info. It still ends up requiring a significant amount of project management effort on our end, because questions will arise, schedules will shift, people will cancel, client travel must be arranged, etc. etc.

For Reading Ahead, we did all of the recruiting ourselves. Although we’ve done this before, this may be the first time since the rise of social media: we put the word out on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, email to friends, and here on All This ChittahChattah.

While Dan lead the effort, we both used our own networks, and so we got responses in a number of channels, sent to either or both of us, including:

  • @ replies on Twitter
  • direct messages on Twitter
  • Comments on Facebook posts
  • Messages on Facebook
  • Emails (directly to either of us, or forwarded from friends, and friends-of-friends

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A private dialog on Facebook

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Comments on a Facebook status update. Note that Dan is able to jump in and make contact directly

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Direct Messages in Twitter

Some people were potential participants, some were referrers to other potential participants, and some were both. And given the range of platforms we were using, with their associated restrictions (and unclear social protocols), we had to scramble to figure out who could and should communicate with who to follow up and get to the point where we could see if the people in question were right for the study. We didn’t expect this to happen, and eventually Dan’s inbox and/or his Word document were no longer efficient, and as some participants were scheduled or in negotiation to be scheduled, he ended up with this schedule cum worksheet:

schedule

Being split across the two of us and these different media, eventually we were interacting with people for whom we had to check our notes to trace back how we had connected to them, which was great for our sample, since it meant we weren’t seeing a group of people we already knew.

It was further complicated when we had finished our fieldwork and wanted to go back to everyone who offered help close the loop with them, thanking them for help. Technically, and protocol-wise, it took some work (who are the people we need to follow up with? Who follows up with them? What media do they use), basically going through each instance one-by one.

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We haven’t figured out what we’ll do next time; we won’t forget the challenges we’ve had but there’s just not time or need right now to plan for the future. If I had to guess, I’d imagine a Google Spreadsheet that includes where we got people from, who owns the contact, whether they are participant-candidate or referrer, etc.). Despite being very pessimistic about the demands of recruiting, we still underestimated the time and complexity required for this project.

Reading Ahead: Looking for the story

Reading ahead logo with space above

I started today by typing up all of the Post-it notes you saw in our recent blog post on Synthesis.

This activity created a 6-page Word document of bullet points.

The next part of the process is something I always find challenging: taking an incredibly detailed list of observations, particpant statements, hypotheses, and ideas; figuring out what the Big Ideas are (there’s a point in the process where many of them seem Big!), and putting those into a form that tells a cogent story.

First step: make a cup of tea.

Ok, then my next steps were:

  • Categorize all those bullet points
  • Synthesize those categories a bit further
  • Write down in as short a paragraph as possible what I would tell someone who asked me, “what did you find out?”

Then I went into PowerPoint, which is what we use when we present findings to our clients. I’ll continue bouncing back and forth between Word and PowerPoint; each piece of software supports a different way of thinking and writing.

I dropped my synthesized categories into a presentation file, sifted all of the bullet points from my Word doc into the new categories, and then started carving and shaping it all so that it started to follow the paragraph I had written. (I’m mixing cooking and sculpting metaphors here.)

I printed out the presentation draft, and laid it out so I could see the whole thing at once.

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Steve came back from a meeting and I asked him to read over what I’d printed out. He started writing notes on my printouts, pulling out what he saw as the biggest of the Big Ideas.

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We talked about what he’d written, which led to an energetic discussion in which we really started to breathe life into this. Tomorrow, I’ll start the day by iterating the presentation draft based on our conversation.

Reading Ahead: Analysis and Synthesis

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Synthesizing field data into well-articulated, data-driven patterns, themes, and opportunities is a big part of our work, but it’s an aspect that generally has less visibility than the fieldwork.

An essential early step in the synthesis process involves going back over the fieldwork sessions. An hour or two-hour interview creates an incredible amount of information. By going back into a record of the interview, we make sure not to leave anything significant behind.

We go through and make notes on interview transcripts (done by an outside service), watch videos of the sessions, and look over photographs, sketches, maps, and participatory design pieces.

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Annotated interview transcript

We made a bulletin board of the people we met, so they’re ever-present while we’re working.

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Yesterday we came together to share the points we’d each pulled out. We present each interview, like a case study, to the team. Sometimes it’s just us, and sometimes our clients join us for part of this process.

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While one of us presented, the other captured the essence onto Post-its. We had a lot of discussion and debate while we did this, pulling together multiple viewpoints.

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When we were done presenting the interviews, the board looked like this:

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Our next step is to take these notes and start grouping them. We’ll look at different ways the information can be organized, and from there, will start refining our work and writing it up clearly and succinctly into a report.

Reading Ahead: Topline Summary

Reading ahead logo with space above

As soon as possible after concluding fieldwork, we write a Topline Summary, in which we capture our first impressions and the ideas that are top-of-mind from being in the field.

We’re always careful to be clear about what the Topline is and isn’t. There’s synthesis that happens from the fieldwork experience itself (which the Topline captures), and synthesis that happens from working with the data (which we haven’t done yet).

In the Topline we go a step further than the field highlights and start to articulate some of the patterns we think are emerging, but these ideas may change once we do a detailed analysis and synthesis of the data we’ve gathered.

In a client project, we’ll have a discussion with the client team around the Topline Summary. We encourage members of the client team to come out in the field with us, and the Topline discussion is a great opportunity for everyone who did so to share their experiences and tell stories. The Topline discussion is also a good time for our clients to let us know if there are any specific directions they want us to pursue as we analyze and synthesize the data we’ve gathered.

We’ve now finished our fieldwork for Reading Ahead. We conducted six in-depth interviews, with photo diary and participatory design activities (more in our next few posts about these methods).

Here’s our Topline Summary:



Portigal Consulting: Reading Ahead Topline Summary

  1. Reading is not just a solo activity; there are significant social/interpersonal aspects for many people
  • Recommendations, book clubs, lending

  • Books facilitate the interpersonal aspects of reading

  • Can be easily lent or given away
  • Given as gifts
  • People can use a book together: parents and kids, showing someone a passage or illustrations, etc.

  • Reading can be a big part of family life

  • Childhood memories, passing books between generations, reading with one’s own children.

  • Connection between home life and outside world (school)

  1. Reading and Books are not always one and the same
  • Erica buys some books because she likes them as objects. She knows she may not read all of them. “I love books. I almost like books more than reading.”

  • Jeff says if you love to read, you’d like the Kindle. If you love books, you should try it out before you buy one

  • The Kindle facilitates types of reading beyond books: blogs, articles, periodicals

  1. Books do more than carry content
  • Books engage the senses: they are tactile, visual objects, with specific characteristics like smell and weight

  • Become carriers of specific memories

  • Develop a patina that carries meaning
  • An inscribed book becomes a record of an event, interaction, relationship

  • There is an art/collector aspect to books (which is absent in the Kindle)
  • First editions
  • Signed copies
  • Galley proofs
  • Typography
  • Pictures and illustrations
  • Quality of paper, printing, etc.
  • Books say something about a person
  • Others can see what you’re reading; like clothes, etc., this carries meaning
  • “Looking at someone’s bookshelves when you go to their house” (Jeff)
  • When people give books as gifts they are deliberately communicating something about the relationship, the event, themselves, and the recipient

  • Books can create a physical record of someone’s reading activity
  • Chris used to line up all the books he had read to get a sense of accomplishment
  • Annotations, bookmarks, tags all convey the reader’s personal history with that book

  1. Books are easily shared
  • Pass them along to others

  • Donate to library

  • Sell or buy at used book store

  • Borrow from the library rather than purchasing

  1. How books are stored and organized carries meaning
  • Emotion, sense of pride, expression of personality, record of engagement

  • Erica organizes her books by how the content/type of book feels to her: “dusty” classics, modern classics, etc.

  • Julie’s extensive shelves are organized alphabetically to reinforce the idea of library

  1. Libraries and bookstores provide specific experiences
  • As a little girl, Erica visited different libraries with her Mom. This was their daily activity, and Erica retains strong and specific memories

  • Julie and her housemate recreated a library atmosphere in their home

  • A quiet, comfortable space
  • Good lighting
  • Alphabetized bookshelves
  • A unified décor

  • For Jeff and others, spending time browsing in a bookstore represents having leisure time

  1. The Kindle
  • For people whose love of reading is bound up in their love of books, the Kindle loses much of the reading experience; it is only a content carrier

  • Julie has a history of wanting to read on electronic devices as well as from printed books, so to her, the Kindle is a big evolutionary step from her old Palm, the iPhone, etc.

  • For Erica, the Kindle signifies “computer,” so it does not let her “unplug” from the fast-paced connected lifestyle that books provide a refuge from

  • Several people described the kinetics of page-turning as an important aspect of reading books that is absent in the Kindle

  • Books afford ways of navigating content that the Kindle does not: flipping, comparing non-sequential pages, looking at the recipes at the end of each chapter, etc.

  • Peter finds it frustrating that when he buys a Kindle book from Amazon, he can’t share it. When he started working in an environment where people were passing books around, he went back to reading printed books

  1. Participant ideation about the “book of the future” and “reading device of the future”
  • NOTE: The first thing a number of the participants said when asked about what the “book of the future” could be and do was that it’s pretty hard to improve on the book-it works very well the way it is. In addition to all the qualities already mentioned, books are

  • Instant on-off
  • Durable

  • But people did have ideas. Here are some of them:

  • Interactive
  • Put yourself in the story
  • Leave the story for more information
  • Choose from alternate endings, versions

  • Size-shifting

  • Able to morph from bigger size for reading to smaller for transporting
  • Retain the book form while adding functionality

  • Book form with replaceable content: a merging of book and device, with a cover, and page-turning but content is not fixed-it can be many different books
  • Books that contain hyperlinks, electronic annotations, multimedia, etc.
  • Privacy

  • Hide what you’re reading from others, hide annotations, hide your personal book list and lend your device to someone (with content for them)
  • Projecting

  • A device that projects words that float above it, so that the reader doesn’t have to hold the device in their hands

Reading Ahead: Fieldwork highlights – Julie

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During the fieldwork cycle, we write quick summaries of each interview session and send these immediately to our clients so they can start to circulate stories. At this point in the process we strive to stay descriptive; our goal is just to get stories about the people we’re meeting out to the extended team (us, our direct clients, and their stakeholders).


Our interview with Julie (not her real name) was the last session in the fieldwork for this project.

Julie and her housemate have an amazing library in their San Leandro home, with three walls of alphabetized floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. With the bookshelves and quiet ambiance of the space, being in this part of their home feels just like being a library.

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The whole downstairs of their house has been optimized for reading; they have great lighting, and comfortable sofas big enough for two people to stretch out on simultaneously.

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Of the six people we met, Julie was the person who most seemed to have integrated printed book and Kindle reading. For Julie, reading a book and reading on the Kindle are both equally positive experiences; in fact, she will sometimes go back and forth between a printed book and the Kindle version of the same book, depending on whether she is at home, traveling, etc.

While some of the people we met described the Kindle as less-than-satisfying compared to a printed book, Julie has a long history of reading on electronic devices, and finds the Kindle a big step forward.

In the following clip, Julie talks about how her electronic reading has evolved, from her first Palm Pilot up to her current Kindle 2:

Reading Ahead: Fieldwork highlights – Jeff

Reading ahead logo with space above

During the fieldwork cycle, we write quick summaries of each interview session and send these immediately to our clients so they can start to circulate stories. At this point in the process we strive to stay descriptive; our goal is just to get stories about the people we’re meeting out to the extended team (us, our direct clients, and their stakeholders).


Jeff (not his real name) is in the midst of a big remodeling project at home so we met with him in his Silicon Valley office. He was the second Kindle user we saw in our fieldwork, and had a lot of positive things to say about reading on the device.

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Jeff says that he’s not a “flipper” but does tend to be reading 3-4 books at a time, as well as newspapers and blogs. These various pieces of content require differing levels of attention and serve different moods, and Jeff likes that on the Kindle he can have all of this material at his fingertips, especially when he’s doing a lot of traveling.

Jeff uses his Kindle for not only for personal reading but for work as well, and sometimes publishes documents he needs to read to the Kindle. He and his team have also experimented with using the Kindle as a platform for delivering presentations.

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Demonstrating a business presentation on the Kindle

Jeff says one of the things he feels Amazon has done really well is to develop the “device ecosystem.” Between his job, the remodel, and a household that includes 4 kids and several dogs, cats, and chickens, Jeff is extremely busy, and he likes the ease and efficiency of the book-buying experience the Kindle supports.

In the following clip, Jeff tells some quick stories about using his Kindle to buy reading materials:

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