user experience

Leaving the Bed of Procrustean Experience: On the Need for Ethnography

by MICHAEL THOMAS, Ford Motor Company User Experience (UX) Research and Design is a dynamic and diverse domain where designers, social scientists, and hybrids of all sorts are putting theory to work. It has successfully advanced a more holistic framing for human-centered design intervention, ideally keeping our attention on the user as the key unit of analysis at every stage. But we’re also discovering that herein lie potential opportunities for further refinement. UX has familiar practical limitations, and we debate these continually—the best way to measure, how to communicate, appropriate sampling, sample size, methods, protocols, metrics, and so on. Its fundamental limitations, by contrast, are inherent theoretical assumptions and biases. It is critical to innovate at this level of UX’s underlying principles; to move beyond the generally unspoken assumptions that the user is necessarily an individual and that the user’s perceptions about discrete temporally and spatially bounded experiences are authoritative. As a case...

From UI to UX: Building Ethnographic Praxis in a Usability Engineering Culture

KIRSTEN BANDYOPADHYAY SalesforceREBECCA BUCK Salesforce In this never before shared case study, we explain how our UX research team increased its scope of work from surface-level UI issues to a full portfolio of user-centered research. We use organizational ethnography and organizational change literature to develop a three phase model of research team growth. We then discuss the implications of our model for strengthening ethnographic praxis in cultures dominated by usability engineering. We conclude with a reflection on building internal bridges to facilitate change. Keywords: organizational change, UI, UX, research, ethnography, usability, lean....

Evolution of User Experience Research

by KATHY BAXTER, Salesforce; CATHERINE COURAGE, DocuSign; & KELLY CAINE, Clemson University Ten years is an eternity in the tech world. But the speed of change makes the classic “decade of reflection” even more valuable for assessing which changes really count and why. We had a chance to reflect systematically on the last decade of user experience research for the second edition of our book “Understanding Your Users,” which was first published in 2005. Since then, user research has become more widespread and more sophisticated. It has also responded to challenges of faster development cycles while simultaneously contributing more, not just to product development, but to the bigger picture of strategic innovation. So among the noise of trendy terms and fashionable phrases we found five key trends that really do matter: 1. Usability to User Experience One of the biggest changes is the shift from a focus on “usability” to “user experience.” “Usability” is an attribute of a system or user interface (UI). It...

The Enterprise, On the Go: Exploring Mobile Work Practices at IBM

by CHRISTINE T. WOLF, IBM Research From conference rooms to conference calls, from our homey desk at the office to a hotel room across the world, people are working “on the go” in various ways. Mobile devices make many of these forms of mobile work possible. From the early days of the personal laptop, to the revolutionary Blackberrys and PDAs, to today’s smart phones, tablets, and wearables, our work tools are rapidly changing, and enterprises must quickly adapt new solutions to keep up with our constant mobile demands. At IBM, the importance of mobile enterprise solutions is on everyone’s mind. As we tackle the demands of the enterprise on the go, we are using ethnographic insights to further and deepen our understandings of what “mobile work” means today. Consider Sally*, a tech consultant. She uses her phone to join a conference call with her team while driving to a client site in the morning. At the client site, she presents slides from her laptop and uses her phone to demo solutions. In the afternoon, she is back...

Breaking It Down: Integrating Agile Methods and Ethnographic Praxis

taking ethnographic video, illustration by Carrie Yury
by CARRIE YURY, BeyondCurious Critical thinkers that we are, researchers are skeptical of buzzwords, one-size-fits all methodologies, and facile business trends. We scowl as ‘ethnography’ is invoked just because someone actually talked with a customer. We say things like, “If you want to be Agile, try yoga.” Even so, we remain deeply committed to the core value of these approaches when they’re done right. At BeyondCurious, we practice Agile Research. Why did we adapt our research practice to Agile? We did it because we had to. BeyondCurious is an innovation agency that specializes in mobile experiences for enterprise clients. Mobile moves incredibly fast. In order to be an effective, viable, and integral part of BeyondCurious’ mobile design and development process, research has to be done in sync with the rest of the team. And the rest of the team, from strategy and design to development, works in two week, agile sprints. It wasn’t easy, but we’ve adapted our research methods—from ethnography to UX research—to...

Elizabeth F. Churchill / A Profile

EPIC Profiles Series by KATHARINA ROCHJADI, Swinburne University of Technology At 7 am sharp on a Monday morning, Skype broke the silence with an incoming call. On the line was an affable, well-spoken woman with a British accent. It was Elizabeth Churchill, a familiar name in the EPIC community and a founding member of its steering committee. It was a great pleasure to speak with such a prominent figure in ethnographic praxis. Elizabeth is Executive Vice President of ACM SIGCHI and Director of User Experience at Google. Until very recently (in fact, at the time of this interview) she was Director of Human-Computer Interaction at eBay Research, and prior to that founder of the Internet Experiences Group at Yahoo! Research. Elizabeth routinely starts her morning by checking her emails. “I check to see what’s happening in the world, and also to connect with collaborators and colleagues in the research world as well as at my workplace. I like to check in and see if there is anything I need to catch up on as soon as I get up...

Transforming a Financial Institution: The Value of UX Professionals

ERIN O’LOUGHLIN, GINA LUCIA TAHA and MICHELE VISCIOLA Application of a user-centered approach rooted in ethnographic methodologies facilitates a major European bank’s transition to a business strategy based on understanding people’s needs, behaviors, values and motivations. Three UX case studies conducted over three years illustrate our educator, moderator, partner framework for collaborating with large enterprises in flux....

Little Data, Big Data and Design at LinkedIn

JULIE MARIE NORVAISAS and JONATHAN “YONI” KARPFENLinkedIn LinkedIn's User Experience Design (UED) Research team is relatively small. The data we gather is even more drastically outnumbered. LinkedIn’s design and product development process is steeped in behavioral data, real-time metrics, and predictive models. Working alongside teams generating and focused on big numbers, our group of qualitative researchers helps decision makers understand how our products fit into members’ lives, envision future experiences, and take a peek behind the numbers. We'll share how our team discovers and uses “little data” to inform and inspire, in the context of a company driven by “big data.”...

Human API as a Research Source in Health Care

KNOWL BAEK, KYLE DUKE, ROY LUO, MONICA LEE and ANIJO MATHEW This paper illustrates how the concept of “Human API” can help cancer post-treatment cancer patients with challenges they face once they are released from the hospital. The results and implications of this semester long graduate project will help illuminate how the Human API through its various data collection methods could potentially play a larger role in extended cancer care. The research will also attempt to determine if hyper-connected networks of individual patients could become effective sources of information for health institutions to engage and connect with patients after treatment or surgery....

Mobility is More than a Device: Understanding Complexity in Health Care with Ethnography

TODD S. HARPLE, GINA LUCIA TAHA, NANCY VUCKOVIC and ANNA WOJNAROWSKA This case study on mobility in health care demonstrates how ethnography and design research helped Intel meet the business challenge of redressing market share. Ethnography enabled the team to assess the interplay between mobile devices and other hospital technologies, understand how they fit within or subverted existing practices, and document positive and negative features of the technology. Our deliverables not only answered the direct business question, but also expanded the scope of possible solutions....

Framed by Experience: From User Experience to Strategic Incitement

ARVIND VENKATARAMANI and CHRISTOPHER AVERY Ethnographic and other related practices in industry focus - for a variety of historical reasons - primarily on studying the experiences of individuals/institutions as consumers/users. We suggest that this framing limits our work to descriptive forms of knowledge, and renders invisible larger social and institutional changes that nevertheless have an impact on the domains we study, and whose invisibility curtails the forms of innovation we can support. While a variety of practitioners are indeed broadening the range and scope of their work, we contend that for this expansion to succeed sustainably in our community it must also incorporate a discourse on values, and engage with other forms of knowing outside the frame of consumers and users, by encompassing context and engaging in a values discourse....

Ethnography as a Catalyst for Organizational Change: Creating a Multichannel Customer Experience

ROBIN BEERS, TOMMY STINSON and JAN YEAGER This paper describes how ethnography became a catalyst for organizational change in a leading financial institution by providing a collaborative context for functional groups to come together in co-creating a multichannel customer banking experience. While consumers increasingly expect a good cross-channel experience as a de facto element of their engagement, few companies successfully deliver this experience in a compelling way. Because functional groups are siloed, focusing on their own business goals and managing their own discrete parts of the customer experience, there is limited understanding of the experience as a whole and limited interest in bridging units to improve customer experience. Building a 360° view of the customer is an “excuse” for people to step outside their silos. The ethnographic process can become a collective learning platform where people gain a common understanding of the customer and how they’re accountable for delivering the customer experience. However the...

No More Circling around the Block: Evolving a Rapid Ethnography and Podcasting Method to Guide Innovation in Parking Systems

JAMES GLASNAPP and ELLEN ISAACS After many years with little innovation in parking technology, many cities are now exploring new systems meant to improve the use of limited parking real estate, reduce congestion, increase parking convenience, and raise additional revenue. We did an observational study to inform the design of one such novel parking system, and in doing so developed an ethnographic method we call REACT (Rapid Ethnographic Assessment and Communication Technique). REACT uses observational methods to uncover key findings relatively quickly and increases the impact of those findings by communicating them through an engaging video podcast. In this paper, we describe the REACT method and show how we used it to discover several key findings regarding parking practices that changed our team’s thinking about the intended customer, highlighted some critical design issues, and revealed unanticipated opportunities for new technology solutions. The video podcasts were extremely well received and ultimately affected the thinking of...

Unclear Social Etiquette Online: How Users Experiment (and Struggle) with Interacting across Many Channels and Devices in an Ever-Evolving and Fast-Changing Landscape Of Communication Tools

MARTIN ORTLIEB People care and worry about how online and online/offline interactions should practically happen. They experiment with different tools and different visions of themselves in different situations, be they online or offline or across both. However, they feel there is no established etiquette about how purely online relationships should be conducted, but also how to transform relationships that began ‘online only’ into their social environments that reach beyond the Web. In this paper, I illustrate how user expectations of the desired practical experience conflict with the predominant model, “concentric circles of social distance,” that underlies most tools/services. Through six strategies of user workarounds I show glimpses of models that users do employ as they struggle to find stable ground for moral and ethical behavior as they experiment with interactions online....

Toward Industrialization of Ethnography

TAKANORI UGAI, KOUJI AOYAMA and AKIHIKO OBATA This paper explores a way to expand business using ethnography as an industrial service or product. First, a challenge that companies are facing and trying to deal with, which is industrialization is described. In the software industry, as computer prices go down, the requirements for software development involve accurate estimates of the cost, the time and the resources involved in the process. Due to these new market demands, software development reached a level of maturity, which required a new approach to product development. Likewise, as ethnography grows into more intricate realms, there is a need for a more robust approach to ethnography application in business to help it achieve the right maturity level of industrialized processes. In this context of complexity, case studies from Fujitsu and examples from literature were used to test the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) framework to use to evaluate the practice of ethnography in business. As a result, a brief assessment...