Posts tagged “user”

We make change. It’s what we do.

Here’s a snippet from What Was Facebook’s Best Redesign, Anyway? [Technologizer]

I had fun looking back at the fruitless nature of Facebook redesign backlash. No one is surprised anymore when a redesigned Facebook home page-such as the one that rolled out today-causes an outrage.

But that made me wonder: what design, exactly, do people want? Was there ever a single home page layout to which Facebook users, given the choice, would happily revert? In other words, have we cooked up in our minds some ideal vision of an “old Facebook” that never really existed?

I’d like to declare this as a National Week of Umbrage. Between Netflix and Facebook, it’s been a strange few days. And still, we have our share of “It’s just a [blank], get over it!” and (as in that post) “What do people WANT?” Sadly, most of it misses the point. While there are definitely features that suck (wait, I’ve got to manage two queues? wait, you’ve reordered stories from the friends I just recategorized according to what scheme again?) and of course features that are improved, this is really about how you manage change. This isn’t, ultimately, about features. Facebook is the social OS for many many people. Netflix is the entertainment OS for many many people. We invest countless hours in using the thing, including setting it up just the way we want. That’s our choice, in fact, it’s almost an imperative. I can organize my fridge and my sock drawer in a way that I find appealing, satisfying, efficient, or whatever. And no, I don’t have to be on the autism spectrum to do that and to find reward from doing that.

When things change, without warning, without rationale, without a clear sense of how things are different – and better – for me, without an easy way to adjust to the changes, then we’ve got a problem. Google Docs redesigned something or other the other day. Today I previewed the changes. They are vaguely dramatic, aesthetically. But my workflow hasn’t changed, and I will adjust. I didn’t find myself unable to find my docs, or having to do more work instead. I’d hardly hold up Google as some ideal user-centered culture, but they seem, in general, to roll out redesigns, and even business changes, without a lot of teeth-gnashing on our part.

The intimate relationships we have with these services are indeed emotional ones. When change is foisted surprisingly on you, it’s unsettling.

Change is inevitable, necessary, good. But I’d love to see some less-hamfisted rollouts, and I’d love to see these companies understand – at the very fiber of their being – how much we are connected to their products and how their brutish ways make us feel. It’s not the medium, it’s the lack of message.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] The Art of Design Research (and Why It Matters) [design mind] – [Lovely piece by Jon Freach on what design research brings to design and innovation.] And sometimes design teams don't have the patience to see the value in dragging out a study in an effort to make it scientifically or statistically significant. We're just not wired that way; we prefer to make and experiment and then analyze later. So what is research good for? 1. Learning about people's behavior; 2. Understanding and analyzing culture; 3. Defining context; 4. Setting focus…Design research is not "a science" and is not necessarily "scientific." It gives designers and clients a much more nuanced understanding of the people for whom they design while providing knowledge that addresses some of the most fundamental questions we face throughout the process. What is the correct product or service to design? What characteristics should it have, and is it working as intended? "The research" won't necessarily provide cold hard answers. But it will generate some good and feasible ideas.
  • [from steve_portigal] CBS Radio Tells Its D.J.’s to Name Titles and Artists [] – [Tying together the fortunes of radio and record sales?] Last week the head of a major radio company felt compelled to instruct its programmers to identify more of the songs played on the air, by title and artist name…at some indeterminate point in history ­ the mid-1980s ­ song identification began to vanish from the air as programmers struggled to squeeze out anything considered “clutter.” “You were always conscious about the amount of talk you would put on,” he said. “But the truth is that people tune in and tune out, and it was probably underestimated at the time how much people really wanted that information.” For record companies, having a song’s title and artist’s name mentioned on the air ­ especially if new and unfamiliar ­ is crucial marketing…“At one point in our culture there were well-schooled retailers who could help people figure out what that song was, because they wanted to buy it,” said Greg Thompson, VP at EMI Music. “In this day and age that doesn’t exist.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Start-Ups Follow Twitter, and Become Neighbors [] – [The supposed demand to be co-located in the same office building as Twitter, hoping for some f2f meatspace benefits from proximity to a virtual powerhouse] And so he snagged an office at 795 Folsom, Twitter’s headquarters in the SoMa neighborhood. There, he has been stalking executives on — where else? — Twitter, to see who is to visit Twitter’s offices. When he finds out, he pounces and “hijacks the meeting,” he said, by asking them to swing by his company, Klout. By doing that, he has met Robert Scoble, the influential technology blogger, and Steve Rubel, director of insights for the digital division of Edelman, the big public relations firm, and has spotted Kanye West in the lobby on his way to Twitter. Through elevator and lobby run-ins, he has also forged a close enough relationship with Twitter’s chief executive, Dick Costolo, that Mr. Costolo is helping Klout raise venture capital. “Now I have his cellphone, and I text him,” Mr. Fernandez said.
  • [from steve_portigal] User-centered Innovation in Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability class [SF Chronicle] – [The article mostly focuses on a specific innovative design – a low-cost incubator-type-solution for Nepal; but the most quotable bits were towards the end, where they discuss the operating framework of this class.] About to start its eighth year in January, the class has completed about 60 projects for 15 partner organizations in 10 countries. It brings together students from different academic backgrounds…They all have one goal in common: to design products for the poor and to treat them as customers rather than handing them our leftovers and castoffs. "We are trying to figure out what they want and need," said Jim Patell, the Stanford professor who leads the class. "It is not our job to tell them what they want."

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 [] – [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.

Lunapads or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Discomfort

My second column for Core77, Lunapads or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Discomfort is up. Here’s a potentially knee-jerk-reaction-inducing excerpt, so I recommend clicking through to see the whole piece.

There are so many signals here that buck the mainstream norm for “feminine hygiene.” Where current imagery might feature billowing swathes of diaphanous fabric, smiling models and free birds winging on high, here we have two enthusiastic, potentially sexually aggressive women. Instead of handling the product discreetly, they are thrusting it towards us in celebration? Challenge?

If they were selling, oh I don’t know, maybe ice cream, I’d find this pretty hot. If I’m accurate in picking up (subtle for someone with my too-too-straight life) lesbian cues, then even more so. I’m kinda freaked out by these women, but mmm, sexy. But oh, no, it’s not ice cream. It’s definitely not ice cream. It’s menstrual cups (umm, what?) Good Lord, boys, head for the hills!

Also see previously on Core77 Homer Simpson’s Duff Beer: Barley, Hops and Cultural Stories?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Getting in (and Out of) Line [] – [What are the economic behaviors – and motivators – of waiting in line, and how is the pursuit of the money shifting those standards?] A line conceives of people as citizens, presumed equal, each with an identical 24 hours a day to spread among the lines around them. A market conceives of people as consumers, presumed unequal, with those who can pay in front of the others. It allocates efficiently, but it eliminates a feature of line culture: the idea that, in line at least, we are no better than anybody else. In a way, the market’s spread is a return to another kind of scrum, one in which financial, and not physical, might means right. Perhaps one day lines will be remembered as antique, a quaint system in which things were granted simply for having shown up early, an interlude of relative equality between the scrums that reigned before and after. [Thanks, Anne!]
  • [from steve_portigal] Diary of a ‘portable people meter’ person [SF Chronicle] – [What it's like to be a human subject for gathering radio station data] "I was a good panelist," she said. "I wore the meter all the time and followed the instructions. I didn't find it that intrusive. But I wouldn't take it to some occasions, like out to dinner, and they want you to wear it all day, from the time you wake up until you go to bed, and to wear it on your person. You can't just leave it in your purse. And they pick up on it. They'll call you the next day or night and say, 'Hey, you weren't wearing it for 15 minutes yesterday.' "

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Geek Power: Steven Levy Revisits Tech Titans, Hackers, Idealists [Wired] – The real problem, Greenblatt says, is that business interests have intruded on a culture that was founded on the ideals of openness and creativity. In Greenblatt’s heyday, he and his friends shared code freely, devoting themselves purely to the goal of building better products. “There’s a dynamic now that says, let’s format our Web page so people have to push the button a lot so that they’ll see lots of ads,” Greenblatt says. “Basically, the people who win are those who manage to make things the most inconvenient for you.” [Strongly worded insight about the state of Internet business rings tragically true /SP]
  • Organizing Armageddon: What We Learned From the Haiti Earthquake [Wired] – One of the biggest ideas to hit the humanitarian community in the past decade is the notion of surveying the recipients of aid to see what they think. That’s very commercial ­ treating them more like clients than victims…After the Asian tsunami, the Fritz Institute conducted one of the first-ever surveys of aid recipients. Only 60 percent of families surveyed in India and Sri Lanka said they had received timely aid and were treated with dignity in the 60 days after the tidal wave hit. Almost everyone reported getting water within the first couple of days, but just 58 percent of Sri Lankans reported receiving shelter in a timely manner. In general, post-disaster studies tend to measure “throughput indicators” like how much food was distributed, or how much shelter got provided, instead of “output or outcome metrics” like lives saved or suffering alleviated. [A powerful reframe on saving lives, with more cultural shifts clearly needed. /SP]

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Buddhist leader tests Asustek e-reader [SF Chronicle] – Venerable Dharma Master Cheng Yen, 73, leads Taiwan's largest charity of 120,000 volunteers and teaches Buddhism on her television show. Add to her resume product tester for Asustek Computer Inc.'s e-book reader. "Because of her patience she can do a better job testing than most," said Jonney Shih, chairman of the Taipei computer-maker and honorary board member of Cheng Yen's Tzu Chi Foundation. "Some ideas were a little bit different from normal usage, but I asked my team to sincerely accept that advice." The charity is testing e-book readers for its Buddhist scriptures and to record donations, said Shih, whose company donated land next to its headquarters for Tzu Chi's Taipei office. Cheng Yen, who gives daily sermons on Tzu Chi's TV station in traditional robes and shaved head, founded the organization in 1966. The reward for Tzu Chi's help will be a final version of the product tailored to the charity's needs in the next 2 months, at least 3 months before the commercial release.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Gerry Gaffney interviews David Hill of ThinkPad [UXPod] – We try to get as much user feedback as possible, and we have many different ways we can gather that. For instance we have advisory councils, we have analysts and things of that nature comment on future plans. We meet with large customers and disclose to them future plans and get their feedback on our products. I use my blog, very effectively I believe, by occasionally posing questions, doing polls or even much more detailed web surveys. So really there's not one answer to how you get feedback from customers. But my belief is that there's no such thing as too much information. I love to meet with a customer, or observe people at an airport or in an airplane or in a classroom. You'd just be amazed what you can learn from field research or in a conversation with a guy next to you on an airplane. It's just remarkable. Sources really are so varied that it's difficult to put your fingers on [and say] this is the process we used to gather feedback.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Polyvore, a fashion Web site for the masses [The New Yorker] – Lee and her colleagues like to keep tabs on exactly how people are using Polyvore. They know that the average user spends ten or eleven minutes per session and clicks on twelve Polyvore pages per visit; they know that users “import” 1.2 million products per month. But they are boundlessly curious about the Polyvore setmaker’s process. And so Lee invited Gail Helmer, the user from Calgary who goes by the handle MyChanel, to come to Mountain View and let the engineers observe her at work on a set. Lee called it “usability testing,” as if Helmer­chosen because of the quality, consistency, and popularity of her sets­were a lab rat. “She’s very fashion-savvy,” Lee told me. “She’s one of the top members.” Helmer arrived at the offices straight from the airport, wearing jeans from Zara tucked into black boots, a gray sweater she’d bought for ten dollars, and a white ruffled shirt. “Banana,” she said, pinching a ruffle. “The Republic of.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Last supper ‘has been super-sized’, say obesity experts [BBC News] – The food portions depicted in paintings of the Last Supper have grown larger – in line with our own super-sizing of meals, say obesity experts. A Cornell University team studied 52 of the most famous paintings of the Biblical scene over the millennium and scrutinized the size of the feast. They found the main courses, bread and plates put before Jesus and his disciples have progressively grown by up to two-thirds. Based on the assumption that the width of an average loaf of bread from the time should be twice that of the average disciple's head, the researchers plotted the size of the Passover evening dishes. The main meals grew 69% and plate size 66% between the oldest (carried out in 1000AD) and most recent (1700s) paintings. Bread size grew by about 23%.
  • Butch Bakery – Where Butch Meets Buttercream – "Butch Bakery was born when David Arrick felt it was time to combine a masculine aesthetic to a traditionally cute product -the cupcake. When a magazine article mentioned that cupcakes were a combination of everything "pink, sweet, cute, and magical", he felt it was time to take action, and butch it up." Flavors include Rum & Coke, Mojito, Home Run, Beer Run, Campout, Tailgate, Driller, and (ahem) Jackhammer
  • Making Design Research Less of a Mystery [ChangeOrder] – Design researchers don't work exactly like professional detectives. We don't sit down with their users and start asking them point-blank questions regarding a single moment in time, such as, "Exactly where were you on the night of November 17th, when Joe Coxson was found floating face-down in a kiddie pool?" We don't consider the users as criminals, having perpetrated crimes against the state—our clients?—that must be solved. The crimes are the points of friction that go remarked (or unremarked) about the course of our subject's lives, in using the tools that surround them, and in the myths and beliefs that drive their everyday behavior. Our methods of detection are geared towards being sponges, soaking up both the large-scale and minute details that indicate layers of behavior that may have gone unremarked in the design and everyday use of various products, services, and interactive systems.
  • The Medium – Shelf Life [] – People who reject e-books often say they can’t live without the heft, the texture and the scent of traditional books. This aria of hypersensual book love is not my favorite performance. I sometimes suspect that those who gush about book odor might not like to read. If they did, why would they waste so much time inhaling? Among the best features of the Kindleis that there’s none of that. The device, which consigns all poetry and prose to the same homely fog-toned screen, leaves nothing to the experience of books but reading. This strikes me as honest, even revolutionary….Most of these books were bought impulsively, more like making a note to myself to read this or that than acquiring a tangible 3-D book; the list is a list of resolutions with price tags that will, with any luck, make the resolutions more urgent. Though it’s different from Benjamin’s ecstatic book collecting, this cycle of list making and resolution and constant-reading-to-keep-up is not unpleasurable.
  • Human-flesh Search Engines in China [] – The popular meaning of the Chinese term for human-flesh search engine is now not just a search by humans but also a search for humans, initially performed online but intended to cause real-world consequences. Searches have been directed against all kinds of people, including cheating spouses, corrupt government officials, amateur pornography makers, Chinese citizens who are perceived as unpatriotic, journalists who urge a moderate stance on Tibet and rich people who try to game the Chinese system. Human-flesh searches highlight what people are willing to fight for: the political issues, polarizing events and contested moral standards that are the fault lines of contemporary China.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Peter Booth (of Tin Horse Design) – Observing the Consumer [Eastman Innovation Lab] – Maybe this is a personal bias, but I'm often very compelled by how designers (at least, those who really "get" user research) talk about research. Because they always frame in terms of what it's good for, how it helps us make better things, they speak to many of the things I love about research, as a researcher. But people that do research don't always think about it – and thus describe it – that way.
    (via Core77)
  • A lament for the bookshelf [The Globe and Mail] – So we lose forever the pleasure known to humanity for 500 years of taking a stroll up and down the aisles of someone else’s brain by perusing their bookshelves. Gone will be the guilty joy of spending a rainy afternoon at a cottage with the remnants of someone else’s childhood: their Nancy Drews, their 1970s National Geographics. Without bookshelves, you will never know the warning signs contained in the e-reader of your handsome date – you will not know for months that he is reading The Secret and Feng Shui for Dummies, even if you stay over. You will never be able to ask, as casually as you can, “Did you like this?” as you pull down, as if fascinated, Patrick Swayze’s autobiography.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Amazon’s Kindle app for the PC – (Is it still an app if it runs on a computer?) While it seems to be tied to the launch of Windows 7 this week, it will also run on XP, etc. The Kindle experience starts to become platform independent. So what it is? A UI? An OS? An ecosystem? Or a store?
  • Advertising – The People Spoke. In Windows 7, Microsoft Says It Listened – Microsoft asks PC users for feedback. But after the debacle with Vista, they realized that the concept of consumers as an intrinsic part of the development process could be an effective selling point for Windows 7. And so was born a campaign carrying the theme “I’m a PC and Windows 7 was my idea.”
    “Our customers co-create the product with us,” said David Webster, GM for brand and marketing strategy “We’re using the customers’ voice to tell our story.”
    In one ad, these words are superimposed over a photograph of a woman: “I asked for it to use less memory. Now it uses less memory. I’m a tech goddess.”
    In another ad, these words appear over a photo of an older man: “I suggested they make it less complicated. Guess what? Now it’s less complicated. I so rule.”
    In commercials, Microsoft engineers say, “Bring it on; what do you got?” PC users fire back with pithy phrases like “Less clutter, just less clutter.” And the engineers reply: “Loud and clear. We’re all over it.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Seen Reading – a "literary voyeruism blog" set mostly (I believe) in Toronto – What is Seen Reading?

    1. I see you reading.
    2. I remember what page you’re on in the book.
    3. I head to the bookstore, and make a note of the text.
    4. I let my imagination rip.
    5. Readers become celebrities.
    6. People get giddy and buy more books.

    Why do you do this?
    Readers are cool. Authors work hard. Publishers take chances. And you all deserve to be seen!

    (Thanks Suzanne Long!)

  • Choose What You Read NY – Choose What You Read NY is a non profit organization that offers free books to New Yorkers, encouraging its residents to read more, giving them an alternative to the free papers that get tossed out and even the digi-trash that crowds our time. In doing so, we help to recycle used books that would have unfortunately been thrown away.

    You will find us near major subway stations on the first Tuesday of each month.The idea is that once someone is finished with a book, they either drop it off in one of our conveniently located drop boxes or back to us at a station. Unlike a library, there will be no due dates, penalties, fees or registrations. We only ask that you return it once you are done so that the same book can be enjoyed by another commuter.

  • What was the last book, magazine and newspaper you read on the subway? – 6000 people respond and the New York Times posts the results
  • How and what people read on the New York City subways – Plenty of detailed examples of people, their books, and their travels: "Reading on the subway is a New York ritual, for the masters of the intricately folded newspaper, as well as for teenage girls thumbing through magazines, aspiring actors memorizing lines, office workers devouring self-help inspiration, immigrants newly minted — or not — taking comfort in paragraphs in a familiar tongue. These days, among the tattered covers may be the occasional Kindle, but since most trains are still devoid of Internet access and cellphone reception, the subway ride remains a rare low-tech interlude in a city of inveterate multitasking workaholics. And so, we read.

    There are those whose commutes are carefully timed to the length of a Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker, those who methodically page their way through the classics, and those who always carry a second trash novel in case they unexpectedly make it to the end of the first on a glacial F train."

    (thanks Avi and Anne)

  • Lego grabs ahold of customers with both hands – From 2006, great Wired piece about Lego's approach to involving ardent fans/customers in developing future products.
  • Noting:books – the simple yet dynamic way to track your reading, from the dates you start and finish a book, to your thoughts along the way.
  • CourseSmart brings textbooks to the iPhone in PDF; major readability challenges ensue – “It’s not the first place to go to read your textbook,” Mr. Lyman said of the iPhone app. But he said that it could be helpful if “you’re standing outside of the classroom, the quiz is in 10 minutes, and you want to go back to that end-of-chapter summary that helped you understand the material.”
  • Nice profile of Lego’s business culture and the tension between growth and losing track of their legacy – But the story of Lego’s renaissance — and its current expansion into new segments like virtual reality and video games — isn’t just a toy story. It’s also a reminder of how even the best brands can lose their luster but bounce back with a change in strategy and occasionally painful adaptation.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The process of converting books to Kindle format introduces errors in the text – The cost of a printed book covers some degree of proofing and checking—not enough, but some. The cost of a Kindle book does not support editorial quality control, and the multi-step conversion process, handled in bulk by third parties, chops out content and creates other errors that no one fixes because no one is there to do QA.

    As the economics of publishing continues to change, perhaps one day soon, a Kindle edition will contain the same text as the printed book. Until it does, Kindle is great for light reading. But if it’s critical that every word, comma, and code sample come through intact, for now, you’re better off with print.

  • The Social History of the MP3 – For Reading Ahead, we're looking at other transitions to digital: "So omnipresent have these discussions become, in fact, that it's possible the past 10 years could become the first decade of pop music to be remembered by history for its musical technology rather than the actual music itself. This is a chastening thought, but at the same time we have to be careful not to overlook how the technologies we invent to deliver music also work to shape our perception of it. When radio came along, its broadcasts created communities of music-listening strangers, physically distant from each other but connected through the knowledge that they were listening to the same song at the same time. Where radio brought listeners together as a listening public, the LP started splitting them apart. The LP and 45 rpm formats took the phonograph, which had been in existence for over half a century, to the masses, right as the American middle-class was going suburban and privatizing their lives."
  • Medical Students Experience Life as Nursing Home Patients – Students are given a “diagnosis” of an ailment and expected to live as someone with the condition does. They keep a daily journal chronicling their experiences and, in most cases, debunking their preconceived notions.

    To Dr. Gugliucci’s surprise, she found nursing homes in the region that were willing to participate and students who were willing to volunteer. No money is exchanged between the school and nursing homes, and the homes agree to treat students like regular patients.

    “My motivation is really to have somebody from the inside tell us what it’s like to be a resident,” said Rita Morgan, administrator of the Sarah Neuman Center for Healthcare and Rehabilitation here, one of the four campuses of Jewish Home Lifecare.


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