Category Archives: User Research

Get Together

Get Together

Get Together, my final project at CIID, is now online. Thanks to everyone who helped along the way, whether it was acting in my videos, participating in my research experiments or putting up with a bombardment of text messages. And thanks to everyone that visited our end of year exhibition!

Building on last weekend’s “Dispatch” experiment, I initiated another design probe which I also turned into a short video. This experiment, which took place on Saturday, started when I sent two text messages to 21 of my classmates and a few of our friends.

The first text from my personal mobile:

Dear Party People, I need your help with another experiment. For the rest of the day, please do not contact eachother directly. Instead, send an SMS to xxxx-xxxx and I will forward your message to the whole group. P.S. I heard about a party tonight, I will send details later.

And then a text from an old mobile phone (xxxx-xxxx referred to above):

Welcome to the Pilot Year Dispatch Line. To unsubscribe, reply with the word “bail”. Tak!

For the rest of the night, I used my mobile phones to manage a pretend service that allows friends to share updates with each other. I  unsubscribed people, sent confirmation responses, and forwarded each persons message to the whole group. As it turned out, I did not choose the best night to conduct this experiment because most people stayed in (although I wonder if conducting this experiment actually caused people to stay in). Like the last experiment however, it proved a good way to gain insights about people’s behaviors when it comes to using their mobiles as a tool to communicate and coordinate within a group friends.

You can watch the video above to see what happened or keep reading to see a log of all the correspeondance…

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Cards filled out by participant

Cards filled out by participant

Last night I met up with Sanne and Tommy, two Danish twenty-somethings that carried around my “Mobile Ideas” probe for a week. Amazingly, especially since Sanne lost her phone twice over the course of the week, the little envelopes filled with blank cards actually stayed attached to their phones the entire time.

They wrote 7 ideas each about ways to improve their phone based on complaints they had while using the devices in their daily routines. Some of the ideas were fairly obvious or were simple technical improvements, while others were quite unique and inspiring.

Some of my favorites:

  • Creating automated, self-service lost-and-found  boxes for phones left on the train. Sanna lost her phone on the train twice during the past week, and recovering it each time meant connecting the dots between a lot of people and mild embarrasment when actually picking the phone up.
  • More “pleasant” alarm functions for the morning. Since Tommy has the phone by the side of his bed anyway (in case someone calls, to recharge it, etc.), the phone has replaced his alarm clock. What if the phone could play a random song each morning? Or what if the phone could give you a reason to get up in the morning? I.E. Remind you of your goal to eat more healthy breakfasts, or remind you of that extra reading you still needed to do before class.
  • Text messages as email threads or chat windows. Tommy and Sanne both made note of this. More and more, SMS is used for carrying on conversations. So why not do what Google did for email - turn correspondence into a dialogue by visually displaying all messages as a thread. Or even make SMS resemble a chat window like MSN or Skype.
  • Services for Roskilde! Roskilde is the biggest music festival in Denmark and Sanne wanted a phone to fill her in when she discovered a new band or new song. For example, what if you can send a text to a stage and get a response with the name of the current song being played. Last year Sanne heard so many new songs, but didn’t know how to find them after the festival was over.

Sanne is a business student and Tommy works with a community/youth organization, so I was quite impressed with the ideas they came up just by carrying around some paper attached to their phones. But in the end, this wasn’t so much a tool for getting new concepts as it was a tool for getting stories. So having these ideas on the table helped us have a much more rich discussion and share our stories. Thanks Sanne and Tommy!

Envelopes fixed to the back of mobile phones

Envelopes fixed to the back of mobile phones

This afternoon I initiated another research probe called “Mobile Ideas”. It is an envelope filled with blank cards, fixed to the back side of people’s mobile phones. The idea is to collect inspirational and spontaneous ideas for imaginary mobile phone features based on problems experienced while on-the-go.

Inside the envelope are blank cards

Inside the envelope are blank cards

Each card leads with the sentence “I wish my mobile phone could…” and participants are asked to sketch quick ideas. They are encouraged to think beyond current mobile technology and consider problems not just with the phone, but with any situation where they might be currently using their phone. Fixing the cards directly to the device should encourage spontaneous ideas that address problems in a variety of situations.  I also hope to use these cards to lead more meaningful discussions and more fun interviews when I collect them sometime next week.

Logging calls and texts durings Friday night's experiment

Logging calls and texts durings Friday night's experiment

Shown here is a short video recorded on Friday night when I conducted a small experiment involving my classmates, their mobile phones, and a party we attended.

This is the email I sent that afternoon before making the video:

Dear Party People,

Are you planning on going to the house warming party at
Skabelonloftet? If so, can you all help me with an
experiment for my final project?

What I have in mind is a small game with two very simple

1. You can not call or text anyone on this email list except
for me

2. You can not receive any calls or texts from anyone on
this email list except for me

I will act as an “operator” by keeping track of everyone’s
dispatches. You can call or text me to leave an update
about yourself, or to inquire about the latest update from
a particular person.

See you at the party tonight (i hope)!

There was no real objective for doing this other than seeing how the evening would be different when friends could not as easily contact each other. In the end, it really was not any different at all except for maybe people putting in a little more thought about where & when to meet. What was interesting though was that a few people broke the rules which they originally accepted from me. For example, Mimi got on a wrong bus which she perceived as a “little emergency” and felt the need to inform Nina immediately. Meanwhile, Magnus arrived at the party earlier than everyone else and out of discomfort (or boredom) decided to call people directly to urge them to hurry up.

It was also interesting being the hub for everyone, which made me realize just how much back-and-forth communication goes into something like meeting at a party. Keep reading for a transcription of all the SMS and calls I received…
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There is actually nothing exciting about this video, but I enjoyed it for what it is — a really nice example of video ethnography. We have tried this a couple times, but it is a lot harder than it looks. Even if you can get someone to agree to being interviewed in front of a video camera, you still have to worry about eliciting responses that are somewhat clear and to the point otherwise editing a video as watchable as this one is really difficult.

On the Artefact website they have published the first of three articles about how to film customer insights.

This is going to be a 3 part series on how you can film participants as part of a customer insights deliverable.  This is a specific type of output that does 3 things for us:

  1. Greater client engagement by selling high level insights from the participant themselves
  2. Greater audience immersion (designers and clients) in the research without the paperwork
  3. Greater distribution and communication because of its sharable format

Read the whole thing here

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A quick update — we are halfway through our second Industry Project which is also our last course at CIID. I can not really go into much detail about this project, but it is two weeks long and so far we have found ourselves conducting quite a bit of user research. We first needed to speak with “young people” so Nunzia (my classmate) and I went to a Danish Højskole, a kind of school that many Danish people spend a year at before they go to university. We chatted with 4 different 20-year-olds and talked mostly about how their different communication channels (SMS, phone, Facebook, email, etc.) are used for different purposes. We led our conversations around certain themes such as privacy, planning social events, and being in emergency situations. Unsurprisingly, since 1/3 of Denmark’s population is on Facebook, these conversations always went back to Facebook.

Part of this project requires us to project 2-4 years in the future, so we needed to think about what emerging needs these young people will have as they mature. To gain a perspective on this, Nunzia and I paid a visit to a nearby park that is quite popular with mothers and their young children. We spoke with two women who were in their early thirties and each had a toddler. Our converstations here were less about communication and the themes mentioned above, and more about their daily routines.

I can’t say that we learned anything completely new from talking to either of these groups, but it has given us plenty of stories that we can use as inspiration and evidence as we begin to create our own concepts. Not to mention, every time we go out to interview random strangers like this, it gets a little bit easier.