Tuesday, November 20, 2007

High-Cost Usability - by J. Nielsen

Sometimes, investing more on usability pays off ...>>>

About Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" ...

one quote from the article on "Markeplace"
[...] Tom Chavez heads Rapt, a company that helps determine what advertising real estate on a Web page is worth. He did the math on how much the 1 percent of people who don't use the button are costing the company.
TOM CHAVEZ: Basically you have $110 million of revenue loss per year associated with that button. [...]
Read on:: >>>>

Interesting and Rich "Design for Usability" Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services offers a rich set of detailed guidelines for designing usable websites.
They are an interesting "package" of resources, especially for first time designers.
As positive aspects, I have found the width of the aspects covered, the pervasiveness of examples and the grounding of the design guidelines with links to research-based evidence.
However, there are some weak points to be noticed. It appears that some guidelines well fit the design of "governmental" or "public" websites only (and probably this is their purpose). They leave little spaces for alternative design decisions (still usable!). They are too "imperative" and do not take into account specific requirements and needs that other families of applications may have.

An inspiring speech: Steve Jobs at Stanford

some remarkable quotes from the speech:
I still loved what I did; I've been rejected but I was still in love.
I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going is that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love.
And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.
If you haven't found it yet, keep looking, and don't settle.
You'll know when you'll find it. So keep looking, don't settle.

Branding and Value-Centered Design: accepted paper at CHI2008 Workshop

I'd like to share come relfections on the relationships between product design and communication design, which will be soon published in a recently accepted position paper at CHI 2008 Workshop on Values, Value and Worth, written by me, Franca Garzotto and Paolo Paolini.
The paper is entitled "Branding and Value-Centered Design".
Here in the following I report an important idea from the paper which illuminated my understanding of interactive communication.

Brand “Product Experience” vs Brand “Communication Experience”
A digital brand experience can take place in two distinct macro-scenarios: branded digital “products” and branded digital “communication artifacts”.
When designing an ICT product, brand values are typically embedded in the features of the product itself, as these can drive, for example, adoption, satisfaction, and brand retention in the users. Apple’s iPhone is an exemplar result of effective “branded product design”. The fact that it is perceived as “[…] a typical piece of Apple’s design: an austere, abstract, Platonic-looking form that somehow also manages to feel warm, organic and ergonomic” [5] highlights that the product embeds all Apple’s brand values, and is able to convey them.
Branded product design makes a similar assumption as Values Sensitive Design (VSD) [4] in HCI, and focuses on the user experience that is confined within the boundaries of the interaction with the product itself. In other words, branded product design considers the user’s exposure to brand values (of the entity behind the digital artifact) that occurs within the physical and psychological space of the interaction with the product (see Figure 1). This kind of brand experience corresponds to the Laffley’s [7] second moment of truth, which may occurs over and over again as the interaction with the product persists.

In the design of a brand “communication experience”, the role of values and the way users are exposed to them is quite different, an more similar to the philosophy of Value Centered Design [3]. A brand “communication experience takes place when a user gets in touch with a branded digital communication artifact, i.e., an interactive object which is intended to be primarily a communication means by which a subject, being it a company, an educational or cultural institution, a charity, a governmental body, an artist, or any other entity, can establish or reinforce its brand image. Websites are a typical example of branded communication artifacts. Through the web, an “entity” not only can offer services and inform its stakeholders, but also interact with them; it can also build and maintain a stronger relationship, influence their attitudes and behavior, and finally deliver a promise of values. The actual fulfillment of this promise is something that the user can actually experience (and verify) outside the boundaries of the interaction with the artifact.

The interaction with a digital communication artifact corresponds to Laffley’s first moment of truth, when the user experiences a “product on the shelf”. It offers a preliminary brand experience aimed at conveying the promise of another, more substantial brand experience that will occur in a different space. For example, a university website should somehow embody the university “brand values” in the design of its content, layout, services, information architecture. Some of them could be functional to communicate and to persuade potential students about the “quality of the teaching”, “the excellence in research”, and the “exciting life on campus”. This communication should lead the user to have actual (substantial) experiences with the entity behind the web based brand experience (i.e., the university) in other contexts, e.g. by enrolling to the university, by contacting the university office to know more. It is in these actual experiences (second moment of truth) that the user can verify those promises and experience these values in his/her life.

Paper-like screen reading with Amazon Kindle ----

Amazon has launched a portable book reading device: KINDLE :::

Designing "for Use" and not "for Users" - by Larry Constantine

I have found a really interesting article from Larry Constantine on UIE.COM.

Designing Web Applications for Use
By Larry Constantine, Constantine & Lockwood, Ltd.

I find the first part of the artcile very challenging and true. This statement is particularly impressive and insightful:

First, an overly purist user-centered, customer-centered approach often contributes to the dreaded disease of creeping featuritis that plagues so much of modern technology. Features are piled on features, with interface controls ending up hung willy-nilly on the interface until almost anything is possible but users can’t figure out how to do it. As Microsoft’s Chris Capossela put it, “When we asked [what users wanted in] Office, nine times out of ten, they named something…already in the product; they just couldn’t find it.” Don Norman expressed the root of the problem this way: “Listening to customers is always wise, but acceding to their requests can lead to overly complex designs....[that become] more complex and less understandable with each revision.”

personal comments::
In fact, I think that a solely user-centered approach is not fruiful and realistic in delivering an effective user experience. A Stakeholhder-centered approach, instead, is more balanced because it takes into account the needs and goals of all stakeholders involved, not only the users.

Jared Spool on "The Age of the Experience"

Requirements and goals should primarily concern the envisioned experience for the user (and expected from all stakeholders), rather than features and functionality.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Experience is the Product" By Peter Merholz

Peter Merholz from Adaptive Path (an experience design firm based in San Francisco) gave this interesting presentation on the shift of paradigm from technology and feature-driven design to experience-driven design of interactive products.
Enjoy on slideshare:


Friday, November 09, 2007

Call for PhD students in eLearning - University of Lugano (Switzerland)

The RED-INK doctoral school has the goal of understanding the complex issues related to the introduction, management and impact of educational technologies and eLearning in the perspective of the new context of the knowledge society.

RED-INK is currently offering funded Ph.D. candidate positions.

Ranking: University College London enters top ten in universities in the world

Read the news on UCL website >>>

See THES-QS World University Rankings >>>

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

About....illuminating ideas

"Illuminating ideas are so simple that they seem to have been around the corner ever since. This is why we say: it‘s true".

(surely someone have already expressed it much better than I did, but this is what I think).

Picture from this summer - in the garden with my first daughter

Quotation from Antoine de Saint Exupery - about perfection

“In anything at all, perfection is attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away". (Antoine de Saint Exupery)

Quotation - method and intuition

I have found this insightful quotation - attributed to Mihai Nadin - in the lecture notes of Stanford HCI course by Prof. Klemmer:

“Method helps intuition when it is not transformed into dictatorship. Intuition augments method if it does not instill anarchy. In every moment of our semiotic existence, method and intuition complement one another. (Mihai Nadin)”