“NEW” Let’s talk about NEW
for a second. When I talk about NEW technology, I’m not necessarily talking about the latest technology to roll out of research labs.
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 Buxton In fact, as Bill Buxton points out, most of the time this isn’t true anyway.
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 point in your career, you’ll be work with a piece of technology you’ve never worked with before.
Technology I’m also not going
to talk about any one speciﬁc technology. This talk is speciﬁcally technology-agnostic. I’m going to reference some technology that is fairly “new” but this talk isn’t only about today’s new technology, but about tomorrow’s, the one you’re going to encounter out in the ﬁeld one day when someone hands you it.
And then there is the
radical new technology that change everything. The microchip is the greatest example. This is an RFID tag which, along with all the related and associated technologies around near-ﬁeld communication, has the power to radically transform most objects on the planet.
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 what is POSSIBLE, but not always what is useful or usable or even wanted.
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 doesn't happen. Don Norman Don 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 ask What does it do? How should I use this? And most importantly WHY should I use this? As designers, it’s our job to help answer those questions.
New technology + Old product
= A different product What you decide is up to you and your strategic goals. In some cases, it makes sense to not change the meaning of the product. but creating a new product that redeﬁnes what the product is is a very powerful product differentiator.
Extra Time New technologies, like
other large constraints, always seem to take more time than you expect. The technology doesn’t work right, or has unexpected bugs, or any number of ﬂaws and constraints you’ll only discover once you start trying to make something with it. Build in extra time into the schedule.
Limitations of the Technology +
Context You’re going to be wrestling with two things during the course of the project: the limitations of the technology (what it CAN’T do) and where the technology is going to be deployed. By context, I mean the physical or digital space where the technology is likely to be used. (With a mobile technology, this is obviously a harder challenge.)
When we did the Canesta
TV project, we observed people and ourselves watching TV to see what we did. This deﬁnitely changed the kinds of gestures we were going to choose. [Mute story] This is Jennifer Bove, another Kicker principal. She’s wearing gloves because the camera couldn’t see ﬁngers at the time.
Understand what’s already there... When
you’re introducing a new technology into an existing environment, you want to make sure that you understand you understand that environment, even if your technology is going to disrupt that environment.
...because you could disrupt it.
When you’re introducing a new technology into an existing environment, you want to make sure that you understand you understand that environment, even if your technology is going to disrupt that environment. You want to be able to predict HOW the disruption is going to happen, so that it doesn’t negatively affect the environment.
Prototyping Prototyping is obviously more
important with new technology, because until it’s up and running, you might have no idea what it feels like to use. You’ll really get a sense of its limitations once you start playing with it.
Make it work. Make it
work right. Make it work fast. In that order. Paul Hammond It’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 the Canesta project, because the camera wasn’t ready yet, we had test subjects sit in front of a regular TV and make gestures, while we changed the channel with an ordinary remote. Use scaffolding.
Help Sell It You’re going
to need to help sell the technology. This will not only help users, it will help you understand how the technology will be perceived better and what meaning you are trying to give the technology.
Great ideas can’t be tested.
Only mediocre ideas can be tested. George Lois A word of caution about testing from George Lois. If the technology you’re working with is really a departure from what users are used to, there could be some resistance to even the idea of the technology, or just a simple lack of understanding of why they would use it.
EXPECTATIONS Human 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 a set of expectations about it is going to work, and with new technology, it might not work like they think it does, or should.
M A Y A It’s
good to keep this acronym in mind, invented by this guy, Raymond Loewy, a famous French-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 users have no idea where to even start with it. You need to keep the YA Yet Acceptable in mind.
Predictability...is so profoundly soothing...it gives
you a sense of order, that everything’s going to be all right. David Foster Wallace Creating discernible patterns quickly is incredibly important with new technology. You want the product, although new and exciting, to seem PREDICTABLE.
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’s dissonance for the brain. It causes tension because we don’t know what’s coming next. We don’t know how the pattern will resolve.
Follow conventions unless the new
alternative is measurably better. Alan Cooper If you can surround your new technology with conventions users understand, the technology itself stands a better chance of being adopted.
The Of Course Factor What
we should be striving for when working with new technology is this near-immediate creation of the Of Course factor.
Most companies are looking to
“wow” with their products, when in reality what they should be looking for is an “of course” reaction. Christian Lindholm Done right, the new technology itself will provide the wow factor. So we don’t need to worry about that. What we need to concern ourselves with is the making the use of the new technology seem OBVIOUS and PREDICTABLE.
Affordances Affordances (or technically perceived
affordances) are the visible pieces of an product that allow users to understand what can be done with it. A cup affords putting liquid into it. A button affords pushing. And so on. With new technology, being able to understand WHAT DO I 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?
Affordances are particularly important in
digital products because a button on a screen doesn’t have to look like a button at all. If you want people to push it, it should look like it can be pushed. With Canesta, Some kind of indicator of the gesture you could use to do something.
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 Hoy Metaphor can help bridge this gap that Amy is talking about here. If we’ve never seen ANYTHING like it, our minds ﬂail about and we’re confused. But when you have a metaphor, it helps the human brain understand what is going on.
Metaphor is something the brain
does when complexity renders it incapable of thinking straight. Gary Greenberg The brain can’t stand a pattern it doesn’t recognize. If your users don’t understand what is going on, they will make up a reason for why something is happening (or not happening). And that reason could be the wrong one and the user will get the wrong mental model of how the product works.
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.html This is fascinating, I think. The products WORK AS DESIGNED but are designed so poorly that people cannot ﬁgure them out!
Make it a Toy Few
people are afraid of toys, or experimenting with a toy or playing with one. It is a good go-to metaphor, one we used for Canesta too.
Don't be discouraged if what
you produce initially is something other people dismiss as a toy. In fact, that's a good sign. That's 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 Graham People might dismiss what you’ve made as a toy anyway. Add Facebook and Twitter to Paul Graham’s list here as well.
For instance, before he worked
at Apple, Jonathan Ive designed kitchen and bathroom appliances. Having this background allowed him to take some of that design language and apply it to personal computers.
PERSONALITY One beneﬁt of this,
was giving personal computers a different personality. If you give your product a personality, not only will users be more forgiving and interested in it, but they’ll become more attached to it as well.
What is the voice of
this technology? Ask yourself: how does it speak to the user? What positive emotion does it make them feel?
Failure is an area to
show personality. When you are designing with more established technology, it is easy to forget about things like error messages and use cases when something bad happens. With new technology you can’t do that because it’s guaranteed not to work as expected quite often. Luckily, this is a time when the product can show off its personality.
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 that functionality: in the feedback, in the transitions between pieces of functionality or content, in the small details.
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 product details, the emotional component will be difficult to replicate.
Sound Design I just want
to put a plug in here for the importance of sound design. The Web almost ruined sound design with too many horrible sites blaring music at you. But sound can really give a lot of character to a product.
Any time you have a
new device...it also doesn't make a lot of sense. It simply doesn't fit with anything that we're currently used to. Ben Fry In other words, it doesn’t have meaning. What Ben is saying applies equally to new kinds of websites and software too. As designers we have to help make MEANING of new technology. Meaning starts by asking this:
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 Verganti The combination of technology innovation with meaning is a powerful innovator.
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 Schulze I want to end with this bit by Jack. Yes, Jack, Yes! New technologies offer us the opportunity to be inventors of culture, and I hope when the chance comes to do so, you will seize it.
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.