Mary Treseler

Mary Treseler is Director of Strategic Content at O'Reilly Media, Inc. She acquires, curates, and edits design content, when not writing about it herself. Most recently Mary created and launched The Lean Series with Eric Ries. She has been working in technology publishing for more than 20 years; her introduction to the design discipline began in 1993 with Jakob Nielsen’s Usability Engineering. A Boston native, Mary lives by the sea in South Dartmouth, MA, with her husband and two Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. When she unplugs, you can find her out wandering with her camera or planning her next culinary adventure.

The intersection of data and design is equal parts art and science

Data-informed design is a framework to hone understanding of customer behavior and align teams with larger business goals.

Editor’s note: this is an excerpt from our forthcoming book Designing with Data; it is part of a free curated collection of chapters from the O’Reilly Design library — download a free copy of the Experience Design ebook here.

The phrase “data driven” has long been part of buzzword-bingo card sets. It’s been heard in the halls of the web analytics conference eMetrics for more than a decade, with countless sessions aimed at teaching audience members how to turn their organizations into data-driven businesses.

When spoken of in a positive light, the phrase data driven conjures visions of organizations with endless streams of silver-bullet reports — you know the ones: they’re generally entitled something to the effect of “This Chart Will Help Us Fix Everything” and show how a surprise change can lead to a quadrillion increase in revenue along with world peace.

When spoken of in a negative light, the term is thrown around as a descriptor of Orwellian organizations with panopticon-level data collection methods, with management imprisoned by relentless reporting, leaving no room for real innovation.

Evan Williams, founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium, made an apt comment about being data driven:

I see this mentality that I think is common, especially in Silicon Valley with engineer-driven start-ups who think they can test their way to success. They don’t acknowledge the dip. And with really hard problems, you don’t see market success right away. You have to be willing to go through the dark forest and believe that there’s something down there worth fighting the dragons for, because if you don’t, you’ll never do anything good. I think it’s kind of problematic how data-driven some companies are today, as crazy as that sounds.”

Read more…

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Designing the enchanted future

David Rose on the IoT’s impact on our relationship with technology.

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I recently sat down with David Rose, entrepreneur, instructor, and researcher at MIT Media Lab, and author of Enchanted Objects. Rose refers to everyday objects with embedded sensors and cloud connectivity as “enchanted objects.” These objects tap into one of our basic desires, which Rose identifies as omniscience, telepathy, safekeeping, immortality, teleportation, expression. (He created a poster identifying some of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices organized by the human desire each addresses.) While there is plenty of experimentation taking place in this space, the products that will thrive will add value to our lives by tapping into one or more of these desires.

When looking at technology and its implications, Rose starts by focusing on user needs. Read more…

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Great user experience + clear value proposition = value innovation

"Blue ocean" products change the way people think; value innovation requires changing the rules of the game.

Editor’s note: this is an excerpt from our forthcoming book UX Strategy; it is part of a free curated collection of chapters from the O’Reilly Design library — download a free copy of the Experience Design ebook here.

Value! Value! Value!

The word seems to be used everywhere. It’s found in almost all traditional and contemporary business books since the 1970s. In Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, Peter Drucker talks about how customer values shift over time. He gives an example of how a teenage girl will buy a shoe for its fashion, but when she becomes a working mother, she will probably buy a shoe for its comfort and price. In 1984, Michael Lanning first coined the term “value proposition” to explain how a firm proposes to deliver a valuable customer experience. That same year, Michael Porter defined the term “value chain” as the chain of activities that a firm in a specific industry performs in order to deliver a valuable product.

All these perspectives on value are important, but let’s fast-forward to 2004 when Robert S. Kaplan discussed how intangible assets like computer software were the ultimate source of “value creation.” He said, “Strategy is based on a differentiated customer value proposition. Satisfying customers is the source of sustainable value creation.” Read more…

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The complexity of the IoT requires experience design solutions

Claire Rowland on interoperability, networks, and latency.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is challenging designers to rethink their craft. I recently sat down with Claire Rowland, independent designer and author of the forthcoming book Designing Connected Products to talk about the changing design landscape.

During our interview, Rowland brought up three points that resonated with me.

Interoperability and the Internet of Things

This is an IoT issue that affects everyone — engineers, designers, and consumers alike. Rowland recalled a fitting quote she’d once heard to describe the standards landscape: “Standards are like toothbrushes, everyone knows you need one, but nobody wants to use anybody else’s.”

Designers, like everyone else involved with the Internet of Things, will need equal amounts of patience and agility as the standards issue works itself out. Read more…

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How is UX for IoT different?

Even if you are familiar with embedded device and networking tech, you might not have considered the way it shapes UX.

Editor’s note: this is an excerpt from our forthcoming book Designing Connected Products; it is part of a free curated collection of chapters from the O’Reilly Design library — download a free copy of the Experience Design ebook here.

Designing for IoT comes with a bunch of challenges that will be new to designers accustomed to pure digital services. How tricky these challenges prove will depend on:

  • The maturity of the technology you’re working with
  • The context of use or expectations your users have of the system
  • The complexity of your service (e.g. how many devices the user has to interact with).

Below is a summary of the key differences between UX for IoT and UX for digital services. Some of these are a direct result of the technology of embedded devices and networking. But even if you are already familiar with embedded device and networking technology, you might not have considered the way it shapes the UX. Read more…

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Empathy is at the heart of every great product or service

You need to understand users to create engaging experiences that add value.

In his keynote from Velocity NY 2014, Tim O’Reilly speaks about the link between DevOps and user experience design — empathy is the common thread. Tim notes:

“[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.”

In the design community, empathy is at the heart of delivering excellent user experiences. Read more…

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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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Experience design is shaping our future

Design is transforming the way things are to the way they ought to be.

O'Reilly's design exploration is targeting experience design, the Internet of Things and design, and the interplay between design and businessDesign aligns humans and technology, it aligns business and engineering, it aligns digital and physical, and it aligns business needs and user needs. Here at O’Reilly, we’re fascinated by the design space, and we’re launching several initiatives focused on the experience design community.

Design is both the disruptor and being disrupted. It’s disrupting markets, organizations, and relationships, and forcing us to rethink how we live. The discipline of design is also experiencing tremendous growth and change, largely influenced by economic and technology factors. No longer an afterthought, design is now an essential part of a product, and it may even be the most important part of a product’s value. Read more…

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UX Is about Much More than Making Stuff Look Pretty

User-Centered Design with Travis Lowdermilk

Travis Lowdermilk (@tlowdermilk) is a software developer who recently joined Microsoft as UX Designer for Visual Studio. He hosts the Windows Developer Show and advocates for User-Centered Design (UCD). Travis is the author of User-Centered Design: A Developer’s Guide to Building User-Friendly Applications.

Key points from the full video interview include:

  • What is User-Centered Design and why is it important? [Discussed at the 0.16 mark.]
  • How does UCD relate to HCI and UX? [Discussed at the 1.56 mark.]
  • UX helps developers create engaging apps. [Discussed at the 4.34 mark.]
  • Ask questions, observe users, and modify your apps based on what you see and hear. [Discussed at the 07.13 mark.]
  • UCD applies to large and small companies alike. [Discussed at the 9.54 mark.]
  • Users don’t always know what they want. [Discussed at the 13.37 mark.]
  • Engage users even if it’s just a few. [Discussed at the 18.23 mark.]

You can watch the entire interview in the following video:

Related:

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The promise of WebGL

Author Tony Parisi on learning WebGL and how it's changing interactive graphics.

WebGL (Web Graphics Library) is a JavaScript API maintained by the Khronos group, a standards body responsible for other open standards including OpenGL.

WebGL allows developers to display hardware-accelerated interactive 3D graphics in the browser without installing additional software — READ: no plug-ins needed. It’s currently supported by most of the major browsers (Chrome, Safari, and Firefox). Though it’s not clear when or if Microsoft will support WebGL, the applications created with WebGL are impressive. Ellie Goulding’s Lights illustrates its power.

Tony Parisi (@auradeluxe), author of WebGL: Up and Running, sat down with me recently to discuss how WebGL is changing the way 3D is developed and displayed on the web. While Flash has long been the dominant tool for developers creating animations, WebGL looks promising. My own take is that if the libraries for WebGL continue to mature I believe WebGL will succeed at becoming the preferred tool of choice for developers.

During our interview Parisi elaborated on the state of WebGL, why he thinks it will succeed and where he sees WebGL being used next. Highlights from our discussion include: Read more…

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