Decision Makers

An interesting new direction for the next toolbox prototype could be the development of a decision aid, instead of dishing out a ready-made path as some of my previous iterations. After all, the main problem is not the ability or capability of new user researchers, nor is it the quality of the available user research methods. The problem is the sheer amount and lack of transparency and overview of existing methods. A decision aid could be just what is needed. Continue reading

Designing Something Requires Focus


“If everyone is busy making everything, how can anyone perfect anything? We start to confuse convenience with joy. Abundance with choice. Designing something requires focus. The first thing we ask is: What do we want people to feel? Delight. Surprise. Love. Connection. Then we begin to craft around our intention. It takes time. There are a thousand no’s for every yes. We simplify, we perfect, we start over, until everything we touch enhances each life it touches. Only then do we sign our work: Designed by Apple in California.”

Team Fortune Cookie presents: Sibylla | Designing for the User Experience

Have a look at our concept for the Microsoft Research Design Expo, named Sibylla.

Do you use email, google or social media on your phone? Would you like to know how the enormous stream of personal data you generate, can enrich your daily life?

We would like to introduce Sibylla, a public printer that gives you back your big data, in a small and meaningful way. Like a ritual, an opportunity to reflect, a suprising insight, or food for thought.

Imagine a fortune cookie that feels like it was made especially for you. Or when a friend mentions being a fan of a band that you just discovered. Sibylla gives you the opportunity to experience the power of big data in an intimate and magical way.


CHI2013: Tuesday April 30

Too bad I wasn’t in the Netherlands for the coronation of our new king! But instead, I got to go to the CHI Women’s Breakfast. There were some inspirational stories, chaired discussions and a fluffy Android animal for everyone. I see how HCI can be a man’s world, when you look at the programmer’s side of it, but in general I have the feeling that it is pretty balanced.

Today another load of entertaining, inspirational and educational events. I started the presentations at alt.chi: Experiences. Alt.chi is a part of the program for promising contributions methodologically far afield, or critical of accepted practices, so there were some entertaining performances.

Joe Marshall dutct-taped himself to a table to show how you (don’t) interact with technology when cold-water swimming.

Schmettow et al from Twente University showed the audience we were mostly geeks (there is a checklist in the paper), and en passant gave a great reason why you should do user research: most users want interaction to be smooth, easy and enjoyable. Geeks however, love to solve puzzles, and get a kick if they master really inaccessible interaction.

Marc Hassenzahl reiterated the basics of experience design: you design the opportunities to experience, from anticipation before the actual use, to the possibility for reflection and storytelling after. While I know the work of Hassenzahl quite well, it was good to get a tune-up.

experience design

Panel: UX Management, Current and Future Trends. A discussion between high-rollers from the ranks of Google etc. The necessary term-throwing: UX, Agile, Scrum, A-people.

Papers: Embodied Interaction. A variety of talks about different ways to research the balance between being and ‘being represented’. How does it effect our interaction with artifacts and each other?

Eva Deckers presented her research on perceptual crossing and how to make this happen between human and technology. Perceptual crossing is when I see you, and I know you see me; and you see me seeing you. Some attention points for designing for perception are:

  • Focus on the senses
  • Explorative behaviour
  • Subtleness of movement
  • Reaction to the external
  • Reflection of contextual noise
  • Recognizing explorative behaviour of something/one else
  • Remember and anticipate on perception


When perceptual crossing happens between an artifact and a person, the interaction becomes more meaningful, but I thought also a bit more intrusive. It is nice when you can perceive that someone or something is watching you, so you can adapt your behaviour. But what if you want to escape being seen? It really got me thinking about the future of HCI. Eva Deckers went on to receive a Cum Laude PhD at the TU/e two days later.

Unfortunately I could not attend the  session on Design Research, but here is a list of the most interesting papers from that:

And I would not want to hold back Benevolent Deception in Human Computer Interaction – Adar, Tan, Teevan !

User Centered Design vs. Experience Design


As I discussed in an earlier post, the typical user-centered design cycle described in Wallach and Scholz’ paper [1] comprises the following five categories: Scope, Analyse, Design, Validate and Deliver. In each iteration, in principle all five categories are used, but especially Analyse, Design and Validate.


In particular user involvement in the Analyse phase, I find interesting. Often user tests or evaluations are only done after the design process, missing an important opportunity to get inspired by and empathize with the users, before starting the design process.

“Deviating from common practice in usability textbooks – where methods of usability evaluation are subsumed under the umbrella of the validation phase – we are also addressing these already in our description of activities in the Analyse phase.”

But even before that, in the Scope phase, a common ground should be established between stakeholders, including users. The major goals and constraints of the project need to be identified and discussed at a qualitative level to set the agenda for the Analysis stage.

“Art lives from constraints and dies from freedom” – da Vinci

Without establishing clear borders of the design space, there is a risk of overdesigning aspects that later become unnecessary. Technological and user-contextual constraints need to be analysed and understood early to provide common ground for the different stakeholders.


In experience design, setting goals is asking ‘Why’ questions [2]. Why would a user want a certain benefit or feature? For example, you might want to design a chair. The chair itself is a feature. Being able to sit, is a benefit of a chair. But why would you want to sit? Perhaps it is to give you a moment of relaxation after walking all day. Perhaps it provides you with a comfortable position to have dinner with your friend. These are experiences. I personally think that experiences are the very best goals to set, being a designer.

Instead of talking about User Centered Design as an opposite or competitor of Experience design, I think Experience design provides great stories as starting points and original ideas, that can become great products if thoroughly developed through User Centered Design. It all starts with Experience design, but it needs to be followed up with User Centered design. Continue reading

Review: User-Centered Design – Why and How to Put Users First in Software Development

A chapter from the book ‘Software for People’ [1], this paper [2] provides an overview of the activities and artefacts of User-Centered Design (UCD) methodology. The paper is very broad in its focus, describing everything from 1985 usability literature to state-of-the-art design activities.


In the introduction the authors take the iPhone as an example. I am reminded of Marc Hassenzahl’s theory [3] that it is necessary to think about the ‘Why’ before ‘How’ and ‘What’. What is described below represents a step forward from only focusing on features, however, it is not explained what the benefit is. Why was the new interaction design so good?

“It was not for providing new functionality that made the iPhone a huge success […]. Quite the contrary: the iPhone even offered less functionality compared to many smart phones at that time […], it’s interaction design being the primary innovative achievement.

In my own experience, the interaction design of the iPhone allows the user to intuitively interact with the device, almost without a learning curve. This is important because it gives the user a feeling of being competent and in control, instead of being overwhelmed as with so many interactive devices.


While reading the rest of the chapter, I got so much inspiration and new ideas, I decided to review each section in a separate post to keep some clarity. Each post that refers to this paper is listed below, I will add the links gradually as I finish each section. Continue reading

Better Late than Never: a Research Question

This chart in my last post makes it quite clear where I stand in terms of progress on this project, and why it was unclear to me where I was going. I think I need to redefine my research question a bit more specific. I also need to go over the research one more time with the research question in mind, and make a short and clear abstract that will also serve as a base for my hypothesis. Continue reading