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Big questions, good data, smart designs

Spotify’s Rochelle King on designing with data for optimal user experiences.

The best designers possess empathy for their users — and data is key to gaining this kind of understanding. I recently sat down with Rochelle King, vice president of global design and UX at Spotify, to talk about data, design, and user experience. King stressed the importance of understanding what the numbers in the data mean — and on staying focused on the real endgame:

“​I think a common misconception or misstep that happens is people just look at the numbers and they forget that they’re actually representing human behavior. That’s a dangerous cycle you can fall into — you can start to optimize the numbers for the sake of optimizing numbers rather than thinking about building an experience that helps to craft the best experiences possible. You start to focus on improving numbers rather than on making a great experience​.”

The benefits of data-informed decision-making are clear, but the process is far from easy. Read more…

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What happens when fashion meets data: The O’Reilly Radar Podcast

Liza Kindred on the evolving role of data in fashion and the growing relationship between tech and fashion companies.

Editor’s note: you can subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast through iTunes, SoundCloud, or directly through our podcast’s RSS feed.

In this podcast episode, I talk with Liza Kindred, founder of Third Wave Fashion and author of the new free report “Fashioning Data: How fashion industry leaders innovate with data and what you can learn from what they know.” Kindred addresses the evolving role data and analytics are playing in the fashion industry, and the emerging connections between technology and fashion companies. “One of the things that fashion is doing better than maybe any other industry,” Kindred says, “is facilitating conversations with users.”

Gathering and analyzing user data creates opportunities for the fashion and tech industries alike. One example of this is the trend toward customization. Read more…

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A foundation of empathy: The O’Reilly Radar Podcast

Putting ourselves in the shoes of the user is key to building better systems and services.

Editor’s note: you can subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast through iTunes, SoundCloud, or directly through our podcast’s RSS feed.

In this podcast episode, Tim O’Reilly talks about building systems and services for people, keeping a close eye on the end user’s experience to build better, more efficient systems that actually work for the people using them. Highlighting a quote from Jeff Sussna, O’Reilly makes a deeper connection between development and the ultimate purpose for building systems and services — user experience:

“[Jeff Sussna says in his blog post Empathy: The Essence of DevOps]: ‘It’s not about making developers and sysadmins report to the same VP. It’s not about automating all your configuration procedures. It’s not about tipping up a Jenkins server, or running your applications in the cloud, or releasing your code on Github. It’s not even about letting your developers deploy their code to a PaaS. The true essence of DevOps is empathy.’

“Understanding the other people that you work with and how you’re going to work together more effectively. That word ‘empathy’ struck me and it made me connect the world of DevOps with the world of user experience design.”

Read more…

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Podcast: Design for how the world should work

Josh Clark and Tim O’Reilly on designing beyond screens, and beyond a single device.

Editor’s note: this podcast episode is the first in our new bi-weekly O’Reilly Radar Podcast series. You can subscribe through iTunes, SoundCloud, or directly through our podcast’s RSS feed.

As the Internet is increasingly embedded into our physical world, it’s important to start designing for physical and intentional interactions with interfaces to supplement the passive, data-gathering interactions — designing smart devices that service us in the background, but upon which we also can exert our will.

In this episode, Josh Clark (in an interview) and Tim O’Reilly (in a keynote) both address the importance of designing for contextual awareness and physical interaction. Clark stresses that we’re not facing a challenge of technology, but a challenge of imagination. O’Reilly argues that we’re not paying enough attention to the aspects of people and time in designing the Internet of Things, and that the entire system in which we operate is the user interface — as we design this new world, we must think about user needs first.

Read more…

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Talking to big machines

What “design beyond the screen” means for the industrial Internet.

GE_turbine_3_2-103

GE’s 3.2-103 wind turbine analyzes tens of thousands of data points every second and communicates seamlessly with neighboring turbines, service technicians, and operators.

One of the core ideas we set out to explore at Solid is “design beyond the screen” — the idea that, as software moves into physical devices, our modes of interaction with it will change. It’s an easy concept to understand in terms of consumer electronics: the Misfit Shine activity tracker has a processor and memory just like a computer (along with sensors and LEDs), but you don’t control it with a keyboard and monitor; you interact with it by attaching it to your clothing and letting it gather data about your movement. At its most elegant, design beyond the screen minimizes interaction and frees humans to spend their mental energy on things that humans are good at, like creative thinking and interacting with each other.

Design beyond the screen is a much broader and more transformative concept than just that, though: it encompasses changes in the relationships between humans and machines and between machines and other machines. Good design beyond the screen makes interaction more fluid and elevates both people and machines to do their best work. The impact of good design beyond the screen could be huge, and could extend well beyond consumer electronics into heavy industry and infrastructure. Read more…

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Applying design values to programming

Can we create more vibrant intersections?

Design by connection by Dave Gray, on FlickrFor the past two decades, the web has been a vibrant intersection of design and programming, a place where practices from art and engineering both apply. Though I’ve spent my career on the programming side – you don’t really want to see the things I design – I’ve loved the time I’ve spent working with designers.

Much of that time was frustrating, because I was frequently stuck telling designers that no, 1990s HTML couldn’t produce page layouts like QuarkXPress. The medium was different, with its own complications. However, as designers became familiar with the web, and found new ways to apply it, the conversations became richer and richer. Front-end web development became an amazing place where designers and technicians could work (and sometimes curse) together. Read more…

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