Gary Hustwit brings us “a look at the creativity at work behind everything from toothbrushes to tech gadgets” with his new feature-length documentary film, Objectified. The film includes interviews with international visionaries and design leaders such as Jonathan Ive from Apple and Chris Bangle from BMW among others. “[The] film documents the creative processes of some of the world’s most influential designers, and looks at how the things they make impact our lives.”
Objectified will premier at the South by Southwest Film Festival from March 13th to the 21st.
With the Consumer Electronics Show and MacWorld underway here on the West side, I thought it would be good to highlight some key user experience and product development events that have already been scheduled for the year ahead. From virtual sessions to week-long events, here are some events worth checking out across the globe. Please add a comment below if you would like to add other events here.
As the year winds down, we come to expect many “best of … ” lists. An interesting one that caught my eye today was Business Week‘s top ten books within innovation and design.
The list includes books from authors such as Procter & Gamble’s CEO A.G. Lafley, analysts at Forrester Research, a senior writer at Business Week, and various professors.
One of the books, Stephen Baker’s The Numerati, of which I had previously heard, seems particularly intriguing in the realm of user experience (here’s an excerpt). It examines the use of copious data and trends in creating customized products and services. I hope to find the time to read this one in the near future. Take a look and see if any on the top ten list appeals to you.
It seems the Netvibes team has been busy. This week it announced support for greater customization for users and an expansion of its widget technology. For those of you that don’t know or don’t use Netvibes, it is a personalized homepage where you can follow your news, email accounts, blogs, social networks, etc. It is what Yahoo provides: a start destination, with even greater flexibility and personalization (ala iGoogle, Pageflakes, MyYahoo!, GlobalGrind, MyAOL, and MyMSN ). With these new offerings, Netvibes has further proved its focus on enabling personalization and facilitating consumption.
Earlier this year, I converted from Google’s iGoogle homepage to use Netvibes. I have been very happy with the switch. With Netvibes, I found myself reading more of the content I love. With its ability to present text, video and images through simple feeds, I can consume the content I like more easily and in a more enjoyable manner.
Now Netvibes is adding even more customization with its layouts. There is a great number to choose from and the process is extremely simple (once you find it). The silent video below demonstrates the easy way to customize each tab to one’s delight:
The rollout of this feature has been fairly good as well, with messaging at the top of one’s homepage (see image below). The only issue I had was in discovering how to access the feature. Without viewing the video it was not immediately obvious to select the arrow to the right of the active tab. Clearer messaging around this on the “learn more” page or directly on the screen would have been perfect.
This article strives to explain, in non-technical terms, what is user experience design, why it is critical in the modern business landscape, and how businesses can take advantage of what the field has to offer.
What Is User Experience Design?
User experience design is a specialized field that combines product strategy and usability engineering. It aims to make products and services useful, enjoyable and easy to use, which drive competitive advantage and profitability.
Making Products Useful
Customers use and buy products because they are useful, enjoyable, or both. User experience designers use their expertise and methodologies to establish what specific features and traits can render a given product useful and enjoyable to the target customer.
Making Products Profitable
User experience designers constantly strive to improve products, and they have the expertise to evaluate the most promising product features as well as to analyze the competition to discern how to gain advantage over them with new features or by improving existing ones as well as ease-of-use. Not only that, but for certain products and services like web sites, they can formulate a strategy that will increase target user actions such as online purchases and page views.
Making Products Easy to Use and Enjoyable
In today’s business landscape, ease-of-use is increasingly becoming a competitive advantage and customers are demanding and expecting products to be intuitive and easy to use. User experience designers are trained to systematically improve the organization of information and the intuitiveness of interactions of products and services.
Mark Chu-Carroll, an engineer at Google who’s been beta testing the Google Android Phone for six weeks before it officially launched, wrote an excellent review of it on his blog, Good Math, Bad Math. He drew many comparisons and contrast to Apple’s iPhone, which serves as his primary mobile device.
In a nutshell, he concluded that “the software is excellent, the hardware less so,” but he was also quick to note that “the software is really late-beta quality. It’s lacking polish, and there are a few awkward points.” Mark went on to comment on the Android’s web browser, as he believes browsing capability to be a distinguishing factor for phones such as the iPhone and Google’s Android phone. He wrote:
Today is the big day, and no matter for whom or what you are voting on November 4th, you not only want your vote counted, but you also want it counted correctly. In the spirit of fair elections with a twist of usability geekiness, we at Montparnas compiled a few resources where you can learn more about usability of voting machines.
The Usability¬† Professionals’ Association (UPA) has been running a great project that seeks to evangelize good usability in voting machines. It’s one thing when it’s difficult for a user to add an item to a shopping cart, but it’s a whole different ballgame when votes that determine a presidential election are miscounted or not counted at all. Usability in voting machines is perhaps the most important application of the usability engineering field. The UPA writes on their site
ReadWriteWeb wrote on Thursday that the news feed is the “dominant information paradigm of our time.” I don’t know that I would go quite that far, but it has spread like wildfire throughout the web despite causing a ruckus when its originator, Facebook, first launched it just two years ago. Today, most respectable social websites have some form of a news feed.
Why has something that was once so hated, suddenly become indispensable? Well, it was hated because it gave others visibility into one’s actions. Why did we eventually fall in love with it? We fell in love it because our voyeuristic tendencies eclipsed our privacy concerns, and those services offering news feeds improved the paradigm by giving users greater control over what is broadcast and to whom.
Social media includes community-based video, photo, audio, and news websites as well as blogs. Although each of these types of websites has unique content and dynamics, they are also alike in many ways. This article explores various ways to get the most out of any social media site.
Social media sites rely on user-generated or user-submitted content to draw other users (visitors). In turn, users add content to these sites because they reach a broader audience. Additionally, the social interactions that are made possible by these websites create further draw. It is in these three areas – sharing, consuming, and interacting – that social websites can be optimized.
Empower Dissemination and Interaction
Don’t let the website’s content sit idle. One of the most difficult things in creating and running a successful social media site is amassing content, whether it be video or news story submissions. That is why it is critical to get the most of out the content by allowing and encouraging users to disseminate it throughout the web and fostering various interactions that bring that content to life and build a community around it.
1. Let users submit content to third-party social news and bookmarking services like Del.icio.us, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc.
From mood lighting, to an exhaustive entertainment system, to reasonable fares and good service, there is a lot that Virgin America is doing right. I recently flew the airline, and was taken aback by the attention to detail and the luxury experience that VA has created. I flew on their 1 year anniversary so there were added perks such as red cake and champagne at my destination. These are beyond the differentiators that the company highlights, but exemplary of the company’s outlook–it’s about the experience.