Day 11: SXSW

Saturday, March 8, 2003

User Centered Design

Speaking: Garrett, Rettig, Steenson

Rettig is talking about designing for how your users live.

Garrett: Find out how users use your products. Design is typically on features, not use.

Garrett: Incresing complexity of products is one reason for the sudden rise of user centered design.

Rettig: UCD is already having an effect on business. Ease of use a competitive advantage.

(I missed some things. I just found a network.)

Steenson: Usability & info. arch. are starting to get acceptance.

G: Clients better understand what usability is and where the problems are. They want UCD, they just don’t know how it happens. More so in the U.S. than other countries.

S: Is UCD more expensive?

G: Up front costs may be more, but you don’t have to go back and fix things than could have been taken care of ahead of time.

R: Business schools are teaching UCD, programmers are getting involved.

G: The products we use are getting more complex. Lots of interfaces to deal with every day. We need to techniques to make technology work for people.

R: UCD goes beyond websites. Ecological impact of design.

R: Sony doesn’t do market research because, they claim, they’re inventing the future. Some established business processes don’t see the value in UCD.

G: Some say UCD takes away the designer’s creativity. No new innovation occurs.

R: If you’re just asking what people like and use, that’s not UCD. What people say they do is not the same as what they really do. You have to go out and watch the users. UCD is not about rules, it’s about discovering real patterns of life.

The floor is open to questions.

Q: Techniques for convincing companies of the need for UCD.

R: Get more people capable of doing UCD. Carnegie Mellon has been hired by USPS to make USPS processes more understandable. Tapping into your sense of empathy.

G: How do you get companies to care more about people than profit? Videotape users getting frustrated with the product — helps managers make the emotional connection.

Q: Iteration as part of the process & bibliography of works that have shaped the panels thinking on UCD.

G: Move away from milestone releases to smaler, more frequent releases. Figure out which users and processes are most important.

R: Stories, sketches, etc. can be prototypes. You have to get things out there to see if they fit.

S: Young designers tend to hold on to their ideas and resist changes.

Q: Emerging trends for the future of UCD.

R: Spreading the word about good techniques. Drawing more from social sciences. Things we create now are less stand-alone — they do not have the full attention of users. Towards conversations, away from rules.

G: Untapped resource: network apps telling us how users use them.

I, Cyborg — Kevin Warwick

Professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading, U.K.

Cyborg — human given greater abilities via technology. What are the possibilities, if humans can tap into the sensory abilities of machines (x-rays, ultraviolet, etc).

In 1998, Kevin had a silicon chip transponder implanted in his upper left arm. A coil of wire in the transponder would get a charge induced into it by coils of wire in doorways. The building knew where he was at all times, opening doors, turning on lights, etc. Not because he needed it, but to find out. Signals did not change based on his body.

In 2002, he had a new device implanted. It connected an array of electrodes to nerves in his left arm. Cables ran from the electrodes, out of arm, and into a connector pad that could be connected to a computer. They were able to listen in to the signals sent from the brain to various parts of the body. Kevin has video of his neural signals controlling a robot hand. Also, Kevin using the same technology to control a wheelchair. The same thing could be done with a car. He couldn’t bathe that arm for 3 months for fear of shorting out his nervous system. He connected his nervous system to the Internet and was able to control the robot arm in the U.K. from New York. Next, he connected ultrasonic detectors to his nervous system that gave him signals when objects were close. It allowed him to walk around his lab blindfolded. His brain adapted to this new sense immediately. His wife had electrodes implanted in her arm. They were able to send her neural signals to his nervous system, allowing him to feel when she moved her hand.

When the implant was removed, tissues had grown around the implant to make the connection tighter.

Next step, the brain. Sending signals from one brain to another, possibly in the next 10 years.

Kevin is answering questions now. Fascinating stuff. Interesting to think what kinds of interfaces could be possible in the future.