Do you create products or organize events for UX professionals or manage a UX team that’s hiring? Sponsor UXmatters and see your ad or logo here! Learn moreLearn More

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2006 Issue

By Jonathan Follett

Published: October 23, 2006

“Without cooperation among designers of digital products, the proliferation of complex information systems can lead to unintended consequences.”

Without cooperation among designers of digital products, the proliferation of complex information systems can lead to unintended consequences—chiefly user fatigue, frustration, and the confusion that results from dealing with a host of variant user interfaces.

We can describe nearly every aspect of human life as a system—from the biology of our bodies to the houses in which we live, the documents we read, and the maps we navigate. Our lives comprise many systems, and information technology is making our interactions with these systems increasingly complex. Until recently, most people knew little about many of the systems they encountered and relied on specialists to help them navigate them. We have relied on doctors to understand how our bodies work, accountants to understand how our finances work, and contractors to understand how our homes work.

The Double-Edged Sword: The Informed Amateur As Expert Partner

The digitizing of information, the rapid rise of digital information systems, and increased access to those systems by a broad range of people have challenged the way in which we look at specialists and the roles they play. In many industries, specialists are no longer information gatekeepers, but rather system negotiators. For example, in the travel industry, agents provide value not by finding the best deals—which you can do yourself online—but by ensuring your trip goes smoothly. If you’re stuck at an airport after missing a connecting flight, you have someone to call. Read moreRead More>

By Peter Bogaards

Published: October 23, 2006

“The conference was a great success and engendered much excitement and enthusiasm among its 625 attendees.”

In the beautiful surroundings of the Pathé Tuschinski Theatre in Amsterdam, the Dutch chapter of SIGCHI—SIGCHI.nl, now rebranded as CHINederland.nl—on June 8th, 2006, held its 10th annual conference, which was entitled The Web and Beyond, as shown in Figure 1. The conference focused on the challenges and opportunities Web 2.0 presents to the field of user experience design.

The conference was a great success and engendered much excitement and enthusiasm among its 625 attendees, representing the business, marketing, Web design, and HCI communities—most from The Netherlands. After several years of economic decline and many company reorganizations in The Netherlands, people thought the event marked a kind of turning point for the UX community.

Although the audience at this conference mostly comprised locals, two of the three keynote speakers were from the United States: Jesse James Garrett, of Adaptive Path, and Jared Spool, of User Interface Engineering. The third keynote speaker, Steven Pemberton, though originally from England, now lives and works in Amsterdam. Another American, Bill Scott, of Yahoo!®, presented the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library. Jeroen van Erp, of Fabrique.nl, chaired the conference.

Between the keynote addresses, there were several parallel sessions. Most sessions were in Dutch and addressed the conference theme of Web 2.0 within the Dutch context. Speakers addressed themes like technology, users, business/marketing, design, and society. Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: October 23, 2006

“It was great to experience the Dutch UX community and, at the same time, enjoy a high-quality conference where there was plenty of good content I could follow.”

The Netherlands’ tenth annual SIGCHI Conference took place on Thursday, June 8th, 2006, in Amsterdam. Titled The Web and Beyond, the conference focused primarily on interaction design for Web 2.0. The conference drew a capacity crowd to the fabulous art deco Theater Tuschinski. There could be no more beautiful venue for a design conference.

I arrived at the Theater Tuschinski in Amsterdam to find two long queues, each extending down the sidewalk on either side of the entrance. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to many people in line, each queue was for people whose names began with specific letters of the alphabet, so many people found themselves in the wrong queue. The registration desk was also initially understaffed, so we were concerned that we might not get inside the theater before the conference began. However, the organizers recruited more people to staff the registration desk and the queues began moving much more quickly, so we got in on time. Other than this little usability glitch with the queues and a problem with the presentation software during the introduction, the rest of the day went by without a hitch.

The morning comprised two keynote addresses. They were presented in the main theater, which accommodated the entire crowd. After lunch, the conference broke into three tracks, one in English; the rest in Dutch. At the end of the day, the crowd again gathered in the main theater for the final keynote address and a panel discussion. The keynotes and other presentations in English were all given in the main theater, so that is where I remained for most of the day. Read moreRead More>

By George Olsen

Published: October 9, 2006

“While user-centered design (UCD) techniques can sometimes be valuable on new-product projects, more often, they don’t seem to work particularly well when designing breakthrough products.”

For UX designers, some of the most exciting projects to work on are new-to-the-world or breakthrough products that solve real problems people didn’t even realize they had. Get them right and they may be hugely successful in the marketplace, but they’re also the riskiest projects. While user-centered design (UCD) techniques can sometimes be valuable on new-product projects, more often, they don’t seem to work particularly well when designing breakthrough products. Here are some lessons I’ve learned from my own work on new-product projects.

  • Know when UCD techniques aren’t what you need.

When it comes to matters of aesthetics and fashion, UCD techniques offer little assistance. They can’t tell you how people will respond to products they’ve never seen before, products people have difficulty imagining—for example, imagine trying to explain today’s Internet to someone 30 years ago—or products whose success is simply a matter of taste. For example, the House of Dior once had a fashion-show hit with a dress they made out of newspaper. So, they created a version of the dress in newsprint-look fabric, which became a huge commercial success.

In the online world, there are many examples of Web sites that people have discovered by word of mouth, because they’ve caught the public’s fancy. A notable example was the Burger King® “Subservient Chicken” Web site, shown in Figure 1, which had 20 million hits within the first week and resulted in a nine-percent growth in sales of their TenderCrisp sandwiches and double-digit product awareness. Read moreRead More>

By Richard F. Cecil

Published: October 9, 2006

“People use their mobile phones in environments in which there are hundreds of distractions competing for their attention. In such environments, services that require complex interactions fail.”

About a decade ago, the World Wide Web was just taking off, and people spent a lot of time trying to determine just what it would be useful for—other than online chat rooms and personal Web pages. Though it took us a while to figure out how to use the power of the World Wide Web, the Web has since revolutionized communications and commerce in modern society.

Today, we’re trying to understand how mobile devices—and by extension the mobile Web—can fit into and even enhance our day-to-day lives. As we do so, we should endeavor to avoid the mistakes we made before we understood the opportunity inherent in the Web.

When companies first decided to venture onto the Web, their sites merely comprised repurposed content from their print collateral and did not fully exploit the advantages of the new medium. Unfortunately, many companies are already repeating this mistake on the mobile Web. They are repurposing their Web content without any consideration of the differences in the mobile Web user experience. Even worse, companies are applying desktop GUI (Graphic User Interface) idioms to mobile devices. People use their mobile phones in environments in which there are hundreds of distractions competing for their attention. In such environments, services that require complex interactions fail.

Currently, mobile devices provide a lifeline to our social lives. We use mobile devices primarily as social connectors, because of the immediate access they allow. Calling someone and sending a text message have become relatively easy things to do—at least, we’re willing to suffer through the bad user experiences that let us do these things, because we value connecting with our friends and family. Read moreRead More>