News from CHI Conversations
CHI Conversations covers Computer/Human Interaction, including design, human factors, cognitive psychology, social science, and more. Our initial series is BayCHI, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of ACM SIGCHI.
If you have a CHI-related event or series you'd like to see published on CHI Conversations, please contact CHI Conversations Executive Producer Steve Williams. See also the Conversations Network FAQ.
The Grateful Dead's legendary performances, and the grassroots tape-trading network that grew around them, multiplied the band's fan base and generated a distributed archive that sustains their worldwide musical and cultural legacy. Nicholas Meriwether is head deadhead of the Grateful Dead Archive at U.C. Santa Cruz. He is devoted to using Web 2.0 user experience theory and practice to organize accessible collections of those memories.
What's the key facial feature of your design? That one element that grabs people on an irrational level, reflects the big concept, and becomes the icon for your product or service. Gretchen Anderson points to BMW cars' split grill, Tivo's big, bright "pause" button, and the Flip camera's flip-out USB plug as examples of successful facial features. Yes, strive for usability, but the most usable designs can be boring. Your design needs personality, too!
Every user experience embodies its creators' experience. All of its creators, not just the single person with the title "user experience designer." Justin Maxwell has come to believe that conflict in an organization will be apparent in its products. A team that gets along and has fun will create fun products. Justin gives a clear definition of user experience and concludes, "User experience is multi-dimensional, is evolving, and cannot be designed."
With several mobile device platforms in wide use, the designer's job is more complex than ever. Suzanne Ginsburg sorts it all out, proposing several approaches and giving examples and tradeoffs of each. Should you design a native app only for the iPhone? A web app that works on Android and Windows phones, too? Or should your design fall somewhere between, targeting only a few platforms? Or take a hybrid approach? Suzanne gives guidelines to help you decide and describes tools that can ease the designer's task.
Chris Longhurst - Unintended Consequences of Healthcare IT
If your confidence in healthcare is hurting, listen to this inspiring talk by pediatrician Chris Longhurst for a quick boost. Chris gives an intelligent and honest overview of technology adoption by hospitals, its huge benefits in reducing errors and costs together with its unintended consequences and how to manage them. Learn nine common problems that arise from healthcare IT adoption and take heart that we have smart, caring doctors like Chris to work through them, so patients can reap the benefits.
With each new social network, it seems social media becomes more important. With a lot of competition for our attention, effective user experience is critical. Erin Malone says we must focus on how people first interact with our designs, then carefully help them flow from one stage of participation to the next. Erin describes clear patterns that help social services ease people on board and encourage them to interact with others.
Building the right marketing strategy can be tricky if you see your customer only through a bubble of research. Peter Merholz strives to construct better models for understanding customers as something more than sheep, highly-rational Vulcans, or Type A personalities. Peter's case studies include connecting consumers to a financial services program and redesigning insulin pumps.
Do we know how to design successful social environments? Is "social experience design" understood as well as "visual design" or "interaction design"? Not yet, says Xianhang Zhang. He believes social design is still in its pre-scientific era: inefficient, error-prone, and unpredictable. Hang calls for a formal theory of social experience design and describes his own theoretical framework. As a first exercise of his principles, he is creating a Design Guild as a way to foster better designers.
Careful study of Amazon.com reveals design treasures of surprising value. Jared Spool has studied Amazon for years and developed insights into which design elements create more sales, and why. But he cautions designers not to copy Amazon blindly. Some features only work for the dominant on-line retailer. Some don't even work for Amazon, whose site is peppered with "dead soldiers," the remnants of abandoned experiments. Along the way, Jared points out funny effects of Amazon's automation at scale. Even those show Amazon has much teach us.
While much open source software suffers from poor design and usability, Firefox shines. What makes the Mozilla community different? With great branding, usability backed up by research but tempered by realism, and a powerful extension architecture, the Firefox web browser claims 400 million users. On the eve of the release of Firefox 4, Mozilla designer Alex Faaborg covers the unique challenge of coordinating user experience design in an open source community, important features of past versions, and the future of the Firefox interface.
Why are so many TiVo owners TiVo advocates? Cable subscribers often simply use the DVR supplied by their cable provider, but TiVo devotees crow about its ease of use and features. In this 2004 BayCHI appearance, TiVo's Paul Newby and Margret Schmidt explain TiVo's development process and a bit of TiVo's history. They mix detailed techniques and formal studies with humorous anecdotes and engage with the audience on challenging questions.
Jef Raskin started Apple's Macintosh project, and he wants to set the record straight. He decries mistakes in published accounts of the creation of the Macintosh. For example, he cites the "creation myth" that the Mac was built by "college drop-outs and intuitive engineers flying by the seats of their pants." Jef spices his account with anecdotes of square pixels, one-button mice, bit-mapped fonts, and more. A longtime BayCHI member, Jeff passed away a year after this program, the last of his six BayCHI appearances since 1994.
No product is an island. People switch freely between desktop apps and web sites, so studying your product in isolation can't reveal the true pattern of your customer's behavior. Cameron Turner describes several kinds of user studies and the kinds of insight each can offer. It's now possible to capture every click and every change of context, so smart filtering and sampling are important. Studies must comply with privacy laws, a particular challenge with subjects in many countries. But the benefit of new analytics tools are worth the effort.
Good user interface design reflects the realities of human psychology, which has evolved over eons. Jeff Johnson studies the relationship between technology and human perception. In our daily use of computers we form goals, make plans to achieve them, and evaluate our progress, all in a fraction of a second. We consciously experience very little of this of decision-making. Jeff uses vivid examples to explain the perceptual constraints that good designers must keep in mind.
GreaseMonkey is a powerful tool for customizing web pages after they are rendered in a browser. Kent Brewster of Netflix demonstrates how you can delete elements from a page, splice in data from another source, or change the way parts of a page are displayed. Designers can use this to make working prototypes before they go to the engineers that need to implement the changes for real.
Why did that visitor come to your site? The answer will always surprise you. Avinash Kaushik explains that the "Highest Paid Person's Opinion" (HIPPO) often overrides expert analysis. He argues that qualitative and quantitative research, traditionally separate, are far more effective when combined, as unified web analytics reveal what's important to the individual user. He suggests we stay in perpetual beta, because nothing on the web is ever really final.
You may find Cisco's TV ads touting "the human network" a bit abstract, but the company is serious about understanding how networks can help people collaborate. Hear user experience experts from several Cisco teams discuss their research into how a global workforce can work together, in particular using video to build knowledge in an organization. The panel shares lessons learned in applying current technology to business collaboration and planning for the network of the future.
As we use social tools on the web, design patterns are emerging. Social design must be organic, not static, emotional, not data-driven. A social experience builds on relationships, not transactions. In 2008, Yahoo!'s Christian Crumlish introduced the idea of social design patterns to BayCHI. In this 2010 program, he shares what he has learned, including principles of social design: Pave the cow paths. Talk like a person. Be open. Learn from games. And respect the ethical dimension.
People are born learners, but our instinct to strive, learn, and grow can be quickly derailed by the kind of praise we receive early in life. Those praised for being "smart" learn that intelligence is a fixed, innate, effortless gift, and they often fail to reach their full potential. Others learn early that effort is the key to life-long learning and go on to exceed our expectations. Those are the findings of social psychologist Carol Dweck's extensive research into the "Fixed Mindset" vs. the "Growth Mindset."
What are people doing, socially, on-line? How well can you really know someone on-line? If you see a critical comment, how do you take it? Is the author well-liked or respected by others? Christian Crumlish, curator of the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library, distills on-line social interaction into patterns. He discusses the interrelated concepts of individual, community, and activities and the constructs of identity, presence, personal history, reputation, and trust.
How can social tools provide a vibrant and relevant experience to the people who use them? Amy Jo Kim explains how to create a richer experience through open tools for syndication, support of independent software developers, and especially game mechanics, which she categorizes as collecting, points, feedback, exchanges, and customization. Learn how YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and others use these elements of game mechanics to engage people more deeply.
When was the last time you made art at the art museum or gave a complete stranger advice in the middle of an anthropology exhibit? If the answer is "never," then you, like most people, have been visiting the museums of the past. Nina Simon discusses how to bring our science centers and museums into the modern age of active, participatory viewing.
As attempts to reform and improve the American health care system plod forward, little is said about giving patients more tools to manage their own health and wellness. Rajiv Mehta and Hugh Dubberly, applying their imagination as designers, suggest tools for patients to design their own treatment and improve personal well-being.
Listen to enough Baroque harpsichord music, and you'll decide you've heard enough! So says Elaine Wherry, and she applies that lesson to her web designs. Baroque composers used ornament and layering to overcome simple melodies and limited instruments like the harpsichord, but the effect can be grating. As musical technology progressed, composers created more refined works. Elaine draws a parallel with web design and suggests the history of classical music can be our guide toward more subtle designs.
What if you could type with your eyes? People with limited mobility may have no other choice. But it's slow, currently around 12-18 words per minute. Is that the best we can offer? Scott MacKenzie describes the physiology of the eye and technical limits on eye tracking, his work to evaluate various input methods, and his new approach, the "scanning ambiguous keyboard," that helps some disabled people communicate more freely than ever before.
Everyone has too many distractions and too many fires to put out. How can you stay aware of the status of your systems and prioritize events that interrupt your day? Conrad Albrecht-Buehler presents "Heed": Simpler than a dashboard, but more informative. Less disruptive than an alarm, it helps you keep an eye on your systems and gives you a more usable warning when things are going to blow!