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Designing for (and with) New Technology



A talk given at various places throughout 2010.

A talk given at various places throughout 2010.



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Designing for (and with) New Technology Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Designing for(and with)New TechnologyDan Saffer, Kicker Studio@odannyboy @kickerstudio
  • 2. “NEW”Let’s talk about NEW for a second. When I talk about NEW technology, I’m not necessarilytalking about the latest technology to roll out of research labs.
  • 3. The bulk of innovation behind the latest "wow" moment is also low-amplitude and takes place over a long period— but well before the "new" idea has become generally known, much less reached the tipping point. Bill BuxtonIn fact, as Bill Buxton points out, most of the time this isn’t true anyway.
  • 4. Bill Buxton’s “Long Nose of Innovation”The mirror of the Long Tail Effect
  • 5. Example: Touchscreens 2000s 1970s 1980sAn example of the last wave of NEW technology, touchscreens, germinated over 30 yearsbefore wide consumer use.
  • 6. New... to the world to the market to an industry to a company to...you?So when I say NEW technology, it could mean all these different kinds of new. At some pointin your career, you’ll be work with a piece of technology you’ve never worked with before.
  • 7. TechnologyI’m also not going to talk about any one specific technology. This talk is specificallytechnology-agnostic. I’m going to reference some technology that is fairly “new” but this talkisn’t only about today’s new technology, but about tomorrow’s, the one you’re going toencounter out in the field one day when someone hands you it.
  • 8. Almost everything around us is technology of one sort or another. We just forget that at onetime, it was new technology.
  • 9. Examples of current “new” technology: Adding sensors to previously blind objects.
  • 10. Adding networking to a stand-alone device like the Sonos.
  • 11. New algorythms and data visualizations, like this from the Swiss-Spain game yesterday fromthe Guardian.
  • 12. Robots
  • 13. Unusual use of old technology, like combining GPS with the mobile phone camera to createaugmented reality applications.
  • 14. Digitizing previously analog activities such as putting a DJ’s turntables onto iPads.
  • 15. Radical improvement of an existing technology. This is an example of an older Canestacamera.
  • 16. And then there is the radical new technology that change everything. The microchip is thegreatest example. This is an RFID tag which, along with all the related and associatedtechnologies around near-field communication, has the power to radically transform mostobjects on the planet.
  • 17. Where does technology come from?Discovery of the possible through science and engineering.But what it doesn’t usually come from is via user needs. Scientists and engineers make whatis POSSIBLE, but not always what is useful or usable or even wanted.
  • 18. Although we would prefer to believe that conceptual breakthroughs occur because of a detailed consideration of human needs, especially fundamental but unspoken hidden needs so beloved by the design research community, the fact is that it simply doesnt happen. Don NormanDon says, rightly I think, that the technology comes first, then the need for it comes later.That’s where we come in. Designers help give the technology meaning. People will rightly askWhat does it do? How should I use this? And most importantly WHY should I use this? Asdesigners, it’s our job to help answer those questions.
  • 19. New technology +Old product =The same productsomewhat better(or worse)
  • 20. Add a touchscreen to a computer, and you can get a Tablet PC.
  • 21. Or you can add a touchscreen to a computer and get something like the iPad.
  • 22. New technology + Old product = A different productWhat you decide is up to you and your strategic goals. In some cases, it makes sense to notchange the meaning of the product.but creating a new product that redefines what the product is is a very powerful productdifferentiator.
  • 23. Practical Considerations Expectations Personality MeaningHere’s what this talk is going to cover.
  • 24. Canesta Gestural Entertainment CenterThroughout this talk, I’ll be referencing a project my company did about a year ago.
  • 25. Canesta Gestural Entertainment Center. Find out more at http://kickerstudio.com/canesta.html
  • 26. PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONSBefore we dive into the more theoretical topics, let’s talk about some things to keep in mind.
  • 27. Extra TimeNew technologies, like other large constraints, always seem to take more time than youexpect. The technology doesn’t work right, or has unexpected bugs, or any number of flawsand constraints you’ll only discover once you start trying to make something with it. Build inextra time into the schedule.
  • 28. Limitations of the Technology + ContextYou’re going to be wrestling with two things during the course of the project: the limitationsof the technology (what it CAN’T do) and where the technology is going to be deployed. Bycontext, I mean the physical or digital space where the technology is likely to be used. (With amobile technology, this is obviously a harder challenge.)
  • 29. When we did the Canesta TV project, we observed people and ourselves watching TV to see what wedid. This definitely changed the kinds of gestures we were going to choose. [Mute story] This isJennifer Bove, another Kicker principal. She’s wearing gloves because the camera couldn’t see fingersat the time.
  • 30. Understand what’s already there...When you’re introducing a new technology into an existing environment, you want to makesure that you understand you understand that environment, even if your technology is goingto disrupt that environment.
  • 31. ...because you could disrupt it.When you’re introducing a new technology into an existing environment, you want to makesure that you understand you understand that environment, even if your technology is goingto disrupt that environment. You want to be able to predict HOW the disruption is going tohappen, so that it doesn’t negatively affect the environment.
  • 32. PrototypingPrototyping is obviously more important with new technology, because until it’s up andrunning, you might have no idea what it feels like to use. You’ll really get a sense of itslimitations once you start playing with it.
  • 33. Make it work. Make it work right. Make it work fast. In that order. Paul HammondIt’s fine to start with low fidelity methods for prototyping too. Paper, cardboard, and so called“Wizard of Oz” techniques with “the man behind the curtain” controlling fake results. On theCanesta project, because the camera wasn’t ready yet, we had test subjects sit in front of aregular TV and make gestures, while we changed the channel with an ordinary remote. Usescaffolding.
  • 34. Help Sell ItYou’re going to need to help sell the technology. This will not only help users, it will help youunderstand how the technology will be perceived better and what meaning you are trying togive the technology.
  • 35. For Canesta, we produced a series of marketing images to help make the technology moreappealing and better understood.
  • 36. Words matter.What you call the technology and HOW you explain it is extremely important for potentialusers’ comprehension of what it is.
  • 37. Using the word Find instead of Search helped explain what the Yolink product was.
  • 38. TestingAs with anything new, testing prototypes with users is recommended, with one caveat:
  • 39. Great ideas can’t be tested. Only mediocre ideas can be tested. George LoisA word of caution about testing from George Lois. If the technology you’re working with isreally a departure from what users are used to, there could be some resistance to even theidea of the technology, or just a simple lack of understanding of why they would use it.
  • 40. EXPECTATIONSHuman beings’s brains are set up to expect that things will work as they have in the past.New technology disrupts this process. But even so, users are coming to your product with aset of expectations about it is going to work, and with new technology, it might not work likethey think it does, or should.
  • 41. We have high expectations for our devices now. And users get used to a level of technologyspeed, power, and execution.
  • 42. MAYAIt’s good to keep this acronym in mind, invented by this guy, Raymond Loewy, a famousFrench-American industrial designer from the mid-20th century. He coined the term MAYA:Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable. You don’t want your design to be SO radically new that usershave no idea where to even start with it. You need to keep the YA Yet Acceptable in mind.
  • 43. Pattern RecognitionThis is because humans are pattern recognition creatures. It’s startling to our brains whenthings don’t work as we’re used to.
  • 44. Predictability...is so profoundly soothing...it gives you a sense of order, that everything’s going to be all right. David Foster WallaceCreating discernible patterns quickly is incredibly important with new technology. You wantthe product, although new and exciting, to seem PREDICTABLE.
  • 45. Once our brains find a pattern, we make predictions based on that pattern.And if we discover the pattern isn’t there, we feel robbed or cheated or wronged. It’sdissonance for the brain. It causes tension because we don’t know what’s coming next. Wedon’t know how the pattern will resolve.
  • 46. Follow conventions unless the new alternative is measurably better. Alan CooperIf you can surround your new technology with conventions users understand, the technologyitself stands a better chance of being adopted.
  • 47. Just as one example, look at how much early cars resembled the carriages that came beforethem.
  • 48. New patterns eventually become old patterns.Luckily, we adapt quickly.
  • 49. The Of Course FactorWhat we should be striving for when working with new technology is this near-immediatecreation of the Of Course factor.
  • 50. Most companies are looking to “wow” with their products, when in reality what they should be looking for is an “of course” reaction. Christian LindholmDone right, the new technology itself will provide the wow factor. So we don’t need to worryabout that. What we need to concern ourselves with is the making the use of the newtechnology seem OBVIOUS and PREDICTABLE.
  • 51. AffordancesAffordances (or technically perceived affordances) are the visible pieces of an product thatallow users to understand what can be done with it. A cup affords putting liquid into it. Abutton affords pushing. And so on. With new technology, being able to understand WHAT DOI DO HERE? is essential for adoption. This is where affordances come in: do I push it, click it,drag it...how do I get started? where do I begin?
  • 52. Affordances are particularly important in digital products because a button on a screendoesn’t have to look like a button at all. If you want people to push it, it should look like itcan be pushed. With Canesta, Some kind of indicator of the gesture you could use to dosomething.
  • 53. Attraction AffordanceSometimes people need help getting started.
  • 54. MetaphorAsking yourself What that exists is this product like? can help you come up with a designlanguage and affordances that can help explain the technology to users.
  • 55. Metaphor allows usto understand theabstract.
  • 56. People won’t buy a product if they can’t understand it immediately. They can’t understand it immediately if their worldview doesn’t already have a readymade place for it. And their worldview won’t have a readymade place for it, if they’ve never seen anything like it before. Amy HoyMetaphor can help bridge this gap that Amy is talking about here. If we’ve never seenANYTHING like it, our minds flail about and we’re confused. But when you have a metaphor, ithelps the human brain understand what is going on.
  • 57. Metaphor is something the brain does when complexity renders it incapable of thinking straight. Gary GreenbergThe brain can’t stand a pattern it doesn’t recognize. If your users don’t understand what isgoing on, they will make up a reason for why something is happening (or not happening). Andthat reason could be the wrong one and the user will get the wrong mental model of how theproduct works.
  • 58. Only 5 percent of consumer electronics products returned to retailers are malfunctioning—yet many people who return working products think they are broken, a new study indicates... Accenture estimates that 68 percent of returns are products that work properly but do not meet customers expectations for some reason. http://www.pcworld.com/article/146576/ most_returned_products_work_fine_study_says.htmlThis is fascinating, I think. The products WORK AS DESIGNED but are designed so poorly thatpeople cannot figure them out!
  • 59. The average consumer in the US willstruggle for 20 minutes to get a deviceworking before giving up.Elke den Ouden
  • 60. Make it a ToyFew people are afraid of toys, or experimenting with a toy or playing with one. It is a goodgo-to metaphor, one we used for Canesta too.
  • 61. Dont be discouraged if what you produce initially is something other people dismiss as a toy. In fact, thats a good sign. Thats probably why everyone else has been overlooking the idea. The first microcomputers were dismissed as toys. And the first planes, and the first cars. Paul GrahamPeople might dismiss what you’ve made as a toy anyway. Add Facebook and Twitter to PaulGraham’s list here as well.
  • 62. Design Languages from Other AreasOne powerful thing about metaphor is that it allows you to bring in thinking from otherdesign areas.
  • 63. For instance, before he worked at Apple, Jonathan Ive designed kitchen and bathroomappliances. Having this background allowed him to take some of that design language andapply it to personal computers.
  • 64. PERSONALITYOne benefit of this, was giving personal computers a different personality. If you give yourproduct a personality, not only will users be more forgiving and interested in it, but they’llbecome more attached to it as well.
  • 65. What is the voice of this technology?Ask yourself: how does it speak to the user? What positive emotion does it make them feel?
  • 66. Failure is an area to show personality.When you are designing with more established technology, it is easy to forget about thingslike error messages and use cases when something bad happens. With new technology youcan’t do that because it’s guaranteed not to work as expected quite often. Luckily, this is atime when the product can show off its personality.
  • 67. Flickr, which utilized new technology several rounds of new technology ago, does this verywell.
  • 68. EmotionOf course, what I’m really talking about here is emotion. If we have an emotional connectionto something, we’re more willing to forgive its faults and experiment with it more.
  • 69. Creating a product means creating an emotional connection whether we mean to or not.So we should deliberately MEAN to. How should people feel about the product?
  • 70. Emotion is almost always found in the small details.Emotion isn’t usually in the functionality of a product itself, but in THE EXPRESSION of thatfunctionality: in the feedback, in the transitions between pieces of functionality or content, inthe small details.
  • 71. Small details are hard to replicate.No matter how new, how inventive, how earth-shattering your technology is, sonner or later,it will be replicated, either exactly or almost-so. But if you’ve paid attention to the productdetails, the emotional component will be difficult to replicate.
  • 72. How does using this technology make users feel?Technologies (and their context of use) have their own emotional weight.
  • 73. Sound DesignI just want to put a plug in here for the importance of sound design. The Web almost ruinedsound design with too many horrible sites blaring music at you. But sound can really give alot of character to a product.
  • 74. MEANINGOnly two things typically create innovative products: technology and meaning. As designers,we’re uniquely poised to work with both.
  • 75. Any time you have a new device...it also doesnt make a lot of sense. It simply doesnt fit with anything that were currently used to. Ben FryIn other words, it doesn’t have meaning. What Ben is saying applies equally to new kinds ofwebsites and software too. As designers we have to help make MEANING of new technology.Meaning starts by asking this:
  • 76. What is the deepestreason people woulduse this technology?
  • 77. New technology often hides a more powerful meaning. Eventually a company discovers and reveals that quiescent meaning–celebrating what I call a technology epiphany–and in doing so becomes the market leader. Roberto VergantiThe combination of technology innovation with meaning is a powerful innovator.
  • 78. “Beat the Bag”
  • 79. What does this technology do that is BETTER (not just different) from what currently exists?
  • 80. Capture Meaningin Design Principles
  • 81. Canesta GesturalEntertainment CenterBe able to use it on a date.Be as lazy as possible.Use it with a bottle in one hand.
  • 82. Practical ConsiderationsExpectationsPersonalityMeaning
  • 83. Some people (they are wrong) say design is about solving problems. Obviously designers do solve problems, but then so do dentists. Design is about cultural invention. Jack SchulzeI want to end with this bit by Jack. Yes, Jack, Yes! New technologies offer us the opportunityto be inventors of culture, and I hope when the chance comes to do so, you will seize it.
  • 84. Good products change the way we think about that type of product. Great products change the way we think about the world.Because after all...I hope you all go out and make great products.
  • 85. Thanks.dan@kickerstudio.com@odannyboy on Twitterhttp://kickerstudio.com