"experience design" entries

Toward a damned good information architecture

An IA model informed by an "information ecology" composed of users, content, and context.

Download a free copy of “The New Design Fundamentals” ebook, a curated collection of chapters from our Design library. Note: this post is an excerpt from “Information Architecture,” 4th Edition, by Louis Rosenfeld, Peter Morville, and Jorge Arango, which is included in the curated collection.

Users. Content. Context. You’ll hear these three words again and again throughout this book. They form the basis of our model for practicing effective information architecture design. Underlying this model is a recognition that you can’t design useful information architectures in a vacuum. An architect can’t huddle in a dark room with a bunch of content, organize it, and emerge with a grand solution. It simply won’t hold up against the light of day.

Websites, intranets, apps, and other information environments are not lifeless, static constructs. Rather, there is a dynamic, organic nature to both the information systems and the broader contexts in which they exist. This is not the old world of yellowing cards in a library card catalog. We’re talking complex, adaptive systems with emergent qualities. We’re talking rich streams of information flowing within and beyond the borders of departments, business units, institutions, and countries. We’re talking messiness and mistakes, trial and error, survival of the fittest.

We use the concept of an “information ecology” composed of users, content, and context to address the complex dependencies that exist. And we draw upon our trusty Venn diagram (see Figure 2–6) to help people visualize and understand these relationships. The three circles illustrate the interdependent nature of users, content, and context within a complex, adaptive information ecology. Read more…

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Designing for ecosystems: Making meaningful IoT products and services

Mike Kuniavsky on PARC’s work on IoT and the mindset shift the IoT will require.

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Attend Experience Design for the Internet of Things, our online conference where six of the smartest people working in design and the Internet of Things will share actionable advice and the essential knowledge you need to create extraordinary IoT experiences and advance your craft. Mike Kuniavsky will present “User experience and predictive device behavior in the internet of things.”

The emergence of the Internet of Things has prompted the production of thousands of new connected devices. More challenging and interesting in many ways, though, is how to embed intelligence into existing products and services. Corporations are trying to wrap their collective minds around the possibilities the IoT presents, but many don’t have the internal expertise to make sense of the space. Companies like Palo Alto Research Center Incorporated (PARC) are helping these organizations with the transition to the IoT. I recently chatted with Mike Kuniavsky of PARC. Kuniavsky is a user experience designer, researcher, and author. He is a member of the Innovation Services Group at PARC, a strategy consulting team within the research organization, formerly known as Xerox PARC.

Bringing the IoT to Fortune 50 companies

PARC has been around since 1970 and has contributed to the evolution of computing, including laser printing, graphic user interface, and the Ethernet. It should be no surprise that they are working on the next generation of computing with the IoT. Kuniavsky explains a bit more about what he and the team are working on:

The Innovation Services Group is essentially PARC’s consulting arm. Of course Xerox is still PARC’s biggest client because it’s our parent company, but it is no longer our group’s biggest client, for sure. We mostly work with Fortune 50 companies. A lot of what we do is essentially reduce the risk of adopting novel technologies through the use of user experience design and ethnography, and an innovation strategy. These days, a lot of that is in the form of looking at things that are broadly in the Internet of Things. Part of that is because that’s where my expertise is; I’ve been playing with connected hardware for 25 years. Part of it is because that’s where there’s a lot of interest. It’s gotten me to really think about the entire ecosystem that the Internet of Things is. It’s not just hooking up a sensor to the Internet and sticking it somewhere in your house. It’s a much larger ecosystem, from my perspective. That’s what we’ve been exploring a lot because that’s what’s interesting to our customers, is understanding not just how this piece of cheap commodity hardware, which can be replicated very easily by any one of their competitors, is going to create an advantage for them, but how this one specific piece of hardware is going to create an ecosystem that is going to be very competitive and is going to create significant value. Read more…

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How to conduct a Design Sprint

Design Sprints bring clarity to your roadmap to kickstart and obtain initial validation for product design work.

Download a free copy of “The New Design Fundamentals” ebook, a curated collection of chapters from our Design library. Note: this post is an excerpt from “Design Sprint,” by Richard Banfield, C. Todd Lombardo, and Trace Wax, which is included in the curated collection.

A Design Sprint is a flexible product design framework that serves to maximize the chances of making something people want. It is an intense effort conducted by a small team, where the results will set the direction for a product or service.

The Design Sprint consists of five discrete phases:

  1. Understand (review background and user insights)
  2. Diverge (brainstorm what’s possible)
  3. Converge (rank solutions, pick one)
  4. Prototype (create a minimum viable concept)
  5. Test (validate with users)

A Design Sprint reduces the risk of downstream mistakes and generates vision-led goals the team can use to measure their success. For the purpose of this book, we’ll focus on digital products since our direct experience lies in that arena, though the Design Sprint has roots in gaming and architecture, and many industries have employed them successfully. Read more…

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Information architecture’s role in UX design

Jorge Arango discusses the state of IA and the importance of designers' understanding of context and perspective.

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Jorge Arango is an information architect who has been practicing in the user experience field for more than 20 years. Before moving to San Francisco about a year ago, his work was conducted in Panama. Last year, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and now works as a partner at Futuredraft, a digital product design consultancy. Arango brings a unique perspective, given his background in architecture prior to becoming an information architect. He is currently finishing up the 4th Edition of Information Architecture — lovingly referred to as “The Polar Bear book” — with Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville.

IA’s broadening appeal

Information architecture (IA) has always been an important part of user experience design, though not always acknowledged as such. With the emergence of social, IoT, and mobile, we have watched IA taking on a more dominant role in product development. Arango talked a bit about the evolution:

I’m surprised by how many people actually know about it because I think, frankly, a lot of what we do is fairly esoteric. I’m not just talking about information architects. I’m talking about those of us in technology in general, and in the design professions. On having moved to California, I have this open question in my mind: how much do people know about this stuff here? Is it something that is talked about? I’ve been pleasantly surprised by interactions with clients and prospects … There seems to be a realization. In many cases, they probably don’t know to call it ‘information architecture’ per se, but there seems to be a realization that stuff needs to be easy to find and easy to understand.

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Making a business case for design decisions

Key messages to help you communicate design decisions to stakeholders.

Buy Articulating Design Decisions, by Tom Greever, currently in early release. Note: this post is an excerpt from the book.

While every project is different and every client has unique needs, I’ve found that there are some ways of explaining design decisions that I seem to use over and over again. I often say the same kinds of things to defend my projects and, I’ve compiled them here for reference. Some of them are similar or related to one another, but they should give you a good basis for the kinds of responses that are effective in design discussions.

These are the key messages that you need to communicate in order to deliver on your strategy and achieve the objective. So, with your strategy and tactics in mind, find the messages that apply most to your situation and modify them to accommodate your particular context. The goal for this chapter is to give you a list of common ways of describing design decisions that you can use and re-use at each meeting: a set of templates to give you a head start on forming the best response.

I’ve organized them into four categories, in no particular order: business, design, research, and limitations. This is a list of re-usable responses, whether you are appealing to the business, pointing out important design logic, addressing research and data you have, or noting the limitations you face. Use these messages to make your case for a better user experience. Read more…

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Smell and taste: New frontiers for experience design

Designers need not start from scratch as they wrestle with orchestrating experiences that span digital and physical.

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Download a free copy of Designing for the Internet of Things, a curated collection of chapters from the O’Reilly Design library. This post is an excerpt from Understanding Industrial Design, by Simon King and Kuen Chang, one of the books included in the curated collection.

Two of our richest senses, smell and taste, are not often associated with design. However, the creation of objects that support these senses is an ancient practice, embodied best by the tea set, where rituals of assembly and service lead to hints of the aroma. Holding the tea cup warms your hand without burning it, and the slow sipping of the tea forms a communal bond with other participants. Outside of classic and common serving items, designers today are increasingly finding new ways to collaborate with chefs and food companies to design with smell and taste in mind, forging a new frontier for sensorial design.

Martin Kastner is the founder and principal of Crucial Detail, a studio in Chicago that specializes in custom pieces to support unique culinary experiences. Martin is best known for his work designing serviceware concepts for Alinea, the 3-star Michelin restaurant founded by chef Grant Achatz. That collaboration has extended to other restaurants owned by Achatz, including The Aviary, a cocktail bar that prides itself on serving drinks with the same level of attention as a fine dinner.

At The Aviary, one of the most popular creations by Crucial Detail is the Porthole Infuser, a round vessel that presents the ingredients of a patron’s cocktail between two flat panes of glass, emphasizing the transformative action of the steeping process and building anticipation for the cocktail’s taste. The Porthole Infuser takes a part of the preparation process that is normally hidden and brings it directly to the person’s table, providing time for the drinker to contemplate the ingredients on display, creating a mental checklist for their tongue to seek out when they take their first sip.

The popularity of the Porthole Infuser at the Aviary led Kastner to create a Kickstarter campaign to fund the additional design and manufacturing required to release it as a commercial product. Support for the project was dramatic, achieving 25 times more funding than originally asked. This backing set the course for a redesign that allowed the infuser to be manufactured at scale and sold for $100, down from the several hundred dollars that each custom constructed version for The Aviary cost.

The Porthole Infuser is marketed as more than a cocktail tool, working equally well to support the smell and taste of oils, teas, or any other infusion recipe. It’s an example of how designers can enhance the dining experience, not by crafting the smell or taste of the food itself, but working in collaboration with a chef to heighten our awareness of those senses. Read more…

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Empathy: The designer’s superpower

Scott Jenson on empathy, interaction on demand, and Google’s Physical Web Project.

Toolbox_florianric_FlickrI recently connected with veteran designer Scott Jenson, who is currently developing the Physical Web Project with the Chrome team at Google. We’ve been talking quite a bit about empathy in the past few months here at O’Reilly, and Scott’s recent blog post, The Paradox of Empathy, caught my attention. I sat down with him to learn more about his thinking around empathy and to talk about his work on the Physical Web Project.

Empathy is part of every great designer’s toolkit

Jenson is often asked for recommendations for learning the next tool, or program. but as he explains, learning how to empathize is fundamental to product design:

When I reflected on what I wanted people to understand, what the core thing was, it wasn’t a technique. It wasn’t a visual style. It wasn’t learning a certain program. The core thing was making sure that you never thought about the product from your point of view, but from somebody else’s point of view. That’s what prompted the [The Paradox of Empathy] post.

He breaks empathy down into four components:

I basically take the whole design process from soup to nuts and break it up into four types of things, what I called understanding, bridging, flowing, and refining, which is a little bit of wordplay, but it was just really trying to say that most people talk about the icons and the buttons. That’s the last category, the refining. What I tried to do was to go back in time to get earlier and earlier interactions with people. So, the flowing is basically just how the whole program feels and what metaphors do you use, and how many steps do they take. It’s the level above the bits. Bridging was about matching the technology to the actual user needs. The most important one, the one that we actually tried to do the most when I was at Frog Design, was understanding, which was just to understand what people were doing, what were they up to, where they were at. In fact, to the point where you’re not even designing a product for them. One of the reasons why I think [The Paradox of Empathy] post got some positive response, was the fact that the first two were so clearly focused on user research.

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IBM is banking on design’s ROI

Phil Gilbert on IBM’s deep design roots, change management, and hiring for culture fit.

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Companies of all sizes are recognizing that by taking a design-first approach to product development, they can improve profit. I recently sat down with Phil Gilbert, GM of design at IBM, to discuss how he is helping to lead the transformation to a design-first company within IBM. Adopting design as a key corporate asset may seem like a no-brainer, but for a company of more than 350,000 employees, it’s a massive undertaking. IBM hasn’t been quiet about its plans to hire 1,000 designers over the course of five years and embed design in product teams throughout the organization.

IBM’s long history of design

What I was surprised to find when reading about IBM’s latest design plans, is that the giant tech company has design roots dating back to the 1950s. Gilbert shares in more detail:

We started our first design program — and we were one of the first to really apply design holistically at scale — in 1956. In the 1950s and the 1960s and into the early 1970s, we had a constellation of designers around IBM that, quite frankly, has never been equaled.

Elliott Noyes was our first head of design. Thomas Watson Jr. hired him in 1956. He assembled people like Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Paul Rand. He assembled this team of people, and, essentially, I think the reason it happened then is because humanity was addressing a fundamentally different relationship between ourselves and technology. There was a lot of turmoil and angst as a result. We used design at that time to communicate and engage in a conversation with humanity about that relationship and about our role with technology. We viewed it as a very holistic statement — we communicated it through our products, our communications, our buildings, and we did it through our exhibits at places like the World’s Fair.

Since then, I don’t think there has been as fundamental a change in the relationship between human beings and technology. The move from mainframe to mini-computer, the move from mini-computer to personal computer, the move to client-server computing — all of these things were actually fairly incremental. But I think in 2007, with the release of the iPhone and with the ubiquitous access via mobile devices, I actually think that we’re, again, in a time of real turmoil and change around this relationship of where does technology sit with human beings.

This is a real change, and I think that human-centered design and design thinking as a method to achieve human-centered design is why it’s become so important. Because our relationship with technology is, it may not be as frightening as it was in the 50s and 60s, but it certainly is fundamental. I don’t think we quite yet understand it. I think design is the primary lever that we have to understand that relationship and then to communicate that relationship.

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Emerging technologies are disrupting product design life cycles

Jonathan Follett on creative class workers, product life cycles, and enhancing company-customer relationships.

Richmond_Folk_Festival_Mobilus_In_Mobili_FlickrI recently sat down with Jonathan Follett, principal of Involution Studios and editor and author of the recently released O’Reilly book Designing for Emerging Technologies. We talked about the ways in which emerging technologies are disrupting the product life cycle and considerations for companies looking at new ways of approaching product design and development.

The age of the creative class

Follett noted the cyclical nature of the design life cycle, drawing parallels between today’s emerging technology and that which arose during the Industrial Revolution. He outlined a few ways we’re seeing technology disrupt the product design life cycle today:

When I talk about emerging technologies, sometimes I refer back to the second Industrial Revolution, where you had a whole bunch of emerging technologies of the time coming together. You had your automobile, your lightbulb, your electric power, your telephone all coming to the fore at the same time. That created the modern world we’re living in today.

When we’re talking about product design and new products coming to the fore today, we can see the same thing happening, whether you’re talking about the Internet of Things, or robotics, or synthetic biology and genomics, or any of those other exciting elements that are all mixing together. That’s one way. … [We’re] creating whole new lines of products that we’ve never even thought of.

The other way we’re seeing disruption in the product design life cycle is that we’re finding different ways to work together as creative class workers. What I mean by that is knowledge workers, scientists, designers, engineers. You’ve got all of the leverage of open source. You’ve got open source mechanical designs, open source CAD drawings, open source electrical designs that a product designer can leverage to create their new products. [We’re] doing what Isaac Newton said — he stood on the shoulders of giants; that way, he could see farther. We’re having an opportunity in real time to find a crowdsourced IP and bring it into a product design, and push the design out the door so much faster than before.

As a creative class, we’re finding new ways to work together that are not restricted to Industrial Age thinking. Open source and crowdsourcing are just two examples of that.

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6 best practices for giving a product critique

Productive critique can strengthen relationships and collaboration, improve productivity, and lead to better designs.

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Download a free copy of Designing for the Internet of Things, a curated collection of chapters from the O’Reilly Design library. This post is an excerpt from Discussing Design, by Adam Connor and Aaron Irizarry, one of the books included in the curated collection.

There are two sides, or roles, in any critique:

Recipient: The individual(s) receiving the critique (i.e. the creator or presenter of whatever is being analyzed) who will take the perspectives and information raised during the critique, process it, and act upon it in some way.

Giver: The individual(s) giving the critique, who are being asked to think critically about the creation and provide their thoughts and perspectives.

Within both of these roles, there is the discrete aspect of intention: why are we asking for/receiving/giving feedback. Intent is the initiator of the conversation and is often what separates successful critiques and feedback discussions from problematic ones.

For the best discussions, the intent of each participant, regardless of whether they are receiving or giving critique, needs to be appropriate. If we aren’t careful, critique with the wrong, or inappropriate, intent on either side can lead to problems not only in our designs, but also in our ability to work with our teammates. Read more…

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