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Location Matters: How to look beyond what users say they want


This is a presentation and note for CHI 2007 in San Jose, California, USA. The talk is based on Location Matters project done in 2006 for Nokia Design while I was leading its Tokyo studio team called …

This is a presentation and note for CHI 2007 in San Jose, California, USA. The talk is based on Location Matters project done in 2006 for Nokia Design while I was leading its Tokyo studio team called ‘Insight & Innovation’. We developed 8 salient user experience scenarios on how people will utilise the location information available on mobile devices, based on online surveys, contextual interviews in 5 cities, experience probes and creative workshops with designers, scenario building & visualization exercises with manga artists. The final outcome of the projects were 8 user experience scenario movies and a printed book. The externally published part of the project is considerably small but you can get a glimpse of the knowledge base we built.
You can download the original published paper in the following link:

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  • hello, my name is Younghee. You may be wondering if you are in the right session- ‘Location Matters’ was our project name (not our paper’s name) and I am going to share some of our experiences from this project with you today.
    // This is a presentation and note for CHI 2007 in San Jose, California, USA.
    // The talk is based on Location Matters project done for Nokia Design while I was leading its Tokyo studio team called ‘Insight & Innovation’.
    // Contact: /
    // Presentation format created by Paul Seymour.
  • I work for a company that mainly makes mobile phones. In the early 2006, we were asked to identify the most appealing scenarios how people will use location information in mobile devices. That is - based on understanding what people need and want.
  • Need.
  • And Want. These are two keywords for my talk today.
  • Let me first begin by introducing our team. We are called ‘Insight & Innovation’, and we are a part of Nokia Design. We are a very diverse team both in terms of professional disciplines and our cultural backgrounds. Our offices are located in Tokyo (where I am based in), Helsinki (where I used to live), London, and LA. We also run ‘design oasis’ offices in places like Bangalore in India and Rio in Brazil to collaborate with local universities there. Our team’s role within the company is to think about the future and to study areas that we as a company do not understand very well.
  • we already have many colleagues in the company - from scientists, engineers, to business developers who have been working for the ‘location’ related technology and business strategy. When I joined the company in 2000, I had already seen documents with more than 100 pages, listing all the ideas in ubicomp, which most of them were depending on location awareness of various kinds.
    So the question given to us was what would be most appealing to people, in the real life? We were not short of ideas; instead we needed a different perspective to see the flood of ideas we had. Our real challenge was to bring in the results with confidence to say, ‘hey, these are probably what people will find useful and appealing’.
  • In this talk, I will briefly explain our approach to this mission, show you a few selected examples of the results, and share our reflections that we found quite neat to share with you.
  • let’s look at the fact sheet. we had about 6 months, 150 thousands of Euros for external collaboration, and a core team of 3 people and a few more.
  • Some of you may be already formulating your own project plan… We decided to take on 4 tasks in our design research phase. Which took about 2.5 months in total.
  • To begin with, we launched an internal online questionnaire about the navigation, map use, and strategies dealing with getting lost, or being in a new area. We love abusing our internal colleagues for getting the initial direction of the research. Especially we like colleagues who work in various areas who have nothing to do with design and usability to share their life experiences not as experts. we also collected and analyzed the currently available products and services. Lastly - we launched an online survey for those who are using existing products, mostly about navigation and maps in 6 European countries by putting recruitment ads in local newspapers.
  • After educating ourselves, we launched user studies in 6 countries. You may ask why we had to conduct the study in so many cities, as we could have pursued the quality rather than quantity. The main reason was to understand the differences and similarities of location information needs coming from differences in the culture and the infrastructure.
    (Because of the time constraint, we couldn’t really afford to travel to all locations. So we devised a very detailed interview protocol, and a very thorough - anal if you like - guideline how to organize data and report the results. We then contacted mainly those who we had prior experience working with directly or through people we knew to conduct the study in their own city.)
  • While the user study was ongoing, we started to work on developing what we called ‘exploration tasks’. Since the user study was done with little preparation time given to the participants, the intention of this work was to give a lot of time for people to think about, sometimes to experience new things upon our instruction. It was intended to trigger new ideas and insights through doing. The project team worked on the list of exploration tasks based on the areas which were considered relevant to the use of location information. We then designed the ‘kit’ to suit the tasks, which were sent to selected participants. Most of participants were chosen among the various design teams.
  • Some tasks just required participants to sit down and think or reflect upon their life and environment. For instance, this task was to draw the map of the city that they live in, as if describing it to a stranger to the city.
  • Another map exercise to identify areas within their city with different qualities - like safety, favorite hangouts, particular emotions.
  • Yet another map of non-physical places. Online services or concepts or relationships that participants clearly felt that they had the quality of space or place to them.
  • Some tasks were more related to media experiences. This task was about listing 5 favorite songs and think about any associated memories related to locations, places, situations, or people.
  • This exercise was to bring an old photograph, writing down things that the participant still remembers and does not remember about the situation captured in the picture. The comment on this particular example was ‘After my speech, my mom told me how embarrassed she was because I didn’t tuck in my shirt. But I cannot remember what I said during the speech’.
  • Some tasks demanded a bit more dedication throughout the day. This task was to take pictures of the environment including the participant every 30 minutes for one day.
  • We did consider the safety of our colleagues, so we did not include anything dubious or dangerous. For instance, one of the ideas for the tasks we dropped was to follow someone like a stalker for an hour.
    But some of the tasks still required participants to be out and about. This task was to document a path from point A to B to best show the way to a total stranger to the city.
  • This participant wrote down how he felt when he got lost because he lost his sense of direction coming out of the metro station. He noted his feelings on his ‘travel book’ and later compiled the pages in his home book.
  • The home book was designed in such a way that participants could feel the sense of accomplishment as they were working towards completing the tasks.
  • 8 out of 19 participants who completed the exploration tasks were invited to the workshop in Tokyo. First -They shared their experiences in their home cities. For instance, he is sharing his observations of finding a new place in LA through his visual recordings of the path he went through. We also gave participants new exploration tasks in Tokyo where they did not know the language or basic infrastructure such as public transportation system. This image in the bottom - is one group receiving an instruction for exploring an area in Tokyo from another group of participants. When people were all seasoned with their personal and shared experiences, we ran sessions to generate new ideas and user scenarios.
  • so what did we learn? we prepared a few selected examples of results to share with you.
  • and we would like to present these examples according to where we got them from - our in-depth and contextual interviews in 6 cities, or creative workshops with our designers who went through exploration tasks.
  • Lets start with the interview results. The most useful result from the interviews was to identify functions that people say they need - because the current solution does not work, can be improved, or does not exist. These needs were identified in the context of their everyday environment, which allowed us to understand the factors that trigger these needs.
  • This lady living in London was very interested in finding new places. She explained that she often writes a note on her phone when she sees a potentially interesting shops or restaurants. Because sometimes she sees them when she is in a bus, or when the place was closed. London is full of small places that are not branded or found in the guidebook.
  • This gentleman interviewed in Seoul wanted to have the people-based navigation system. Seoul does not have street names, and the density of the city is so high that explaining to someone how to find a place can be very challenging.
  • Many interviewees in Tokyo expressed their wish to smoothly navigate through the complex underground metro network they use everyday. Some stations in Tokyo such as Shinjuku are huge with almost 4 million people passing through in a day. Getting lost in the station and coming out of the station are often experienced even to those who live and work in the city for many years.
  • In India, the most common way to find the way is to ask someone you encounter along the way.
  • However, because of the lack of infrastructure, problems occur when there are no people around to ask. It is also about the trust on people or the services. The lady interviewed in her way to find her destination that she has never been to was very nervous in the rickshaw because she could not possibly let the driver know that she does not know exactly where her destination was. She was worried that the driver may take advantage of the situation and go through a very long route, or cheat on the meter.
  • Now - what did we learn from the creative workshops? The most useful result from the workshop was understanding the broad range of motivations that were not necessarily tied to any particular situations. These motivations were demonstrated through participants’ discoveries of their everyday routines and reflections on their emotional needs - rather than practical needs.
  • This is another participant’s home book page for the task ‘show me the way’. Participants all shared their way of ‘showing the way’ when they got together in Tokyo workshop.
  • After the sharing, participants were asked to do this in different neighborhoods in Tokyo and give the instructions to other groups. During the reflections after all the tasks, this participant said that the best working strategy of showing the way was to give him certain assurance that he was on the right track, such as ‘check this signage. if this is on your right side, then you’re on the right track’.
  • Once we got started collecting the most salient themes during the workshop, this became one of them. Most of the themes, including this one were fundamental motivations that participants felt strongly about.
  • So we took each of the themes and expanded them further to identify the situations that fulfilling this would be important.
  • This group listed the situations in the dimension of whether reassurance is relevant for the individual, or for a group of people. to highlight a couple -
  • this is a task of observing the familiar places in the city and how the place changes depending on the time of the day, or the day of the week. she notes how dull this market place looks like compared to the summer time (oh, btw this was in Helsinki in March). she also explained how she does not normally reflect upon her everyday environment - though there are many memories and small changes she could notice once she got on it.
  • this exploration task was to take picture of places including the participant every 30 minutes throughout the day.
  • can you read the comment in the right corner? ‘Exciting life of the rich & famous’ - an ironic comment. Should I say ‘surprising’ here? When we got together for the workshop in Tokyo and shared the results of the exploration tasks, one of the salient themes was ‘spicing up the daily routine’.
  • again, we expanded on this theme and identified the specific situations where this is important.
  • we voted on identified situations later - and many ideas that we may not consider ‘practical’ ‘needed’ won participants heart - like posting lunch pictures to Flickr, public social curiosity - finding out more about people nearby.
  • One of scenarios developed from this theme was based on a middle aged man with gardening hobby. The group wanted to have community knowledge sharing and ‘show-off’ as a source of spicing up the daily routine.
  • another scenario developed was about ‘pulling me out of my routine’. The idea was to piggy back on the social network to get the various kinds of information and inspirations for altering her routine - by being aware of her social network’s life patterns.
  • Well, it’s time to wrap up. When we came up with the plan, we feared that the user study based on guided questions and contextual prompts would not bring enough ‘foresights’, because there were few commercially available location-based services. Secondly ‘normal’ people may not know the technological enablers and thus potential opportunities very well. Thirdly - due to the time constraints we had to deliver the results, we could not give participants enough time to think! That’s why we had a parallel track with designers to approach the issue from a very different angle. No questions asked, but instead - thinking and doing.
  • To recap, the most useful result from the interviews was identifying needs and wishes for improvements to the given situations, with exact accounts of where those needs were coming from.
  • The most useful result from the creative workshop with exploration tasks was identifying high level, underlying motivations and emotional gratifications that are relevant for various life situations we encounter in our daily lives. These often included ideas that may seem quite trivial at the first glance.
    From this, we composed & designed 7 user experience scenarios.
  • As you may wonder what we mean by scenarios - we will show one examples of the scenario movie.
  • And at the end of our 6-month journey, we created the project archive book with all the detailed results of our design research and exploration. Our scenario presentation uploaded in the intranet has been downloaded more than 4000 times, and most importantly used to create the common ground in coordinating many parts of the company working in this area to speak the same language and to understand people’s lives before the enabling technology.
  • thank you! please forward your questions to me and my dear co-author, Akseli Anttila.
    // This is a presentation and note for CHI 2007 in San Jose, California, USA.
    // The talk is based on Location Matters project done for Nokia Design while I was leading its Tokyo studio team called ‘Insight & Innovation’.
    // Contact: /