user experience

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...

Lead Type, Dead Type: New Patterns of Local News Production and Consumption

ELIZABETH CHURCHILL and JEFF UBOIS Newspapers are in trouble. Steep declines in circulation and advertising revenue have forced outright closures, reductions in force, cessation of print in favor of web only editions and frantic searches for additional sources of revenue and audience. In this paper, we report results from an interview study focused on everyday news consumption practices. Our study indicates there are many design opportunities for local news creation and distribution at interface/interaction, infrastructure and strategy levels....

Design Anthropologists’ Role in SMEs: Unveiling Aptitude and Attitude

MARK ASBOE Research collaboration and methods development within user-centered design and the emerging discipline of user-driven innovation have traditionally taken place in research institutions and large forward-looking enterprises. Due to this fact, concepts, methodologies, approaches have primarily gained foothold in companies with resources, competencies and organizational support to make sense of this seemingly fruitful but somehow elitist approach. The roles that the design anthropologist plays in user-driven innovation will depend on size and competencies of the specific organization. The economic realities of small-to-medium sized companies (SMEs) suggest a more holistic research perspective from the single design anthropologist that potentially constitutes the entire (and affordable) user experience department of the SME. This paper suggests a plausible approach for utilizing the skills of a design anthropologist in a small manufacturing company based on experience from two collaborative projects. Rather than informing about...

Back to the Future of Ethnography: Internal User Research at a Consumer Internet Company

ANDREA MOED The Advertising Products research team at Yahoo! is building an internal research practice within an organization that is user-centered, but optimized for consumer product development. While our fellow researchers observe millions of consumers on our websites, we study our coworkers: their experiences with the tools of online advertising, and how those experiences shape the service that our advertiser customers receive. Adopting methods such as task-oriented interviewing and extended observation, we are reconnecting with a tradition of ethnographic inquiry in the workplace that is largely unknown at consumer Internet companies. This paper describes how we have re-learned and built company support for this approach. I describe our work with Yahoo!’s advertising sales and operations staff, highlighting the structural challenges of conducting and applying this research. I conclude by reflecting on how qualitative research can help a company bridge the gap between product design capacity and the ability to produce great services....

Sustaining Stories: The Versatile Life of Sustained, In-house, Ethnographic Practice in a Global Software Company

NATALIE D. HANSON and JOHANN W. SARMIENTO-KLAPPER Ethnographers, in a sense, play the role of story creators, storytellers, and, often, preservers of such stories. The narratives produced and the fieldwork from which they emerge make visible trajectories of practice—for both subjects and researchers— which can be traced both retrospectively and projectively. For “in-house” ethnographers engaged in the sustained work of making sense of and contributing to organizations, a unique challenge emerges: discovering and managing the retrospective and prospective meaning of their storytelling and its visibility. Here we reflect on the challenges and opportunities of sustaining ethnographic inquiry in a large global software company. Reflecting on close to ten years of participant observation, we outline some of our practices related to positioning, re-framing, and expanding the visibility of our work and our organizational roles; a dynamic that continues to shape our practice and its relevance within this corporate environment....

Tracing the Arc of Ethnographic Impact: Success and (In)visibility of Our Work and Identities

DONNA K. FLYNN and TRACEY LOVEJOY This paper explores ways in which ethnographic impact in a large technology corporation is perceived, re-defined, and recognized – by both practitioners themselves and corporate stakeholders. The authors trace a history of ethnographic successes and stumbles, and ways they have confronted a strong usability paradigm that has shaped organizational assumptions of impact and value for product research. They then identify ways in which contextual analysis of their own practice in the corporation led to the successful creation of a strategic engagement model for ethnography, resulting in its growing influence. Through critical analysis of the conditions of influence in their own organization, the authors’ propose some broader frameworks for ethnographic impact and raise some questions for the EPIC community regarding business value, ethnographic identity, and organizational authority....

Designing for Turkish Users: Analyzing the Industrial Designer–User Relationship in Turkey

ISIL OYGUR From the perspective of industrial design, user-centered design denotes more than a methodology to understand users. More importantly, it is a medium to create a relationship between designers and users. While user-centered design has much to offer, user research is not a convention in emerging economies. In this context, this paper puts one such emerging market, Turkey, under scrutiny. Six case studies give a snapshot of the current status of product design in general, and user-centered design in particular, in this country. One of the key findings is that, compared to the West, there is a wider gap between designers and users in the Turkish context. Besides economic situations, the eclectic character of Turkish culture plays the biggest role in the expansion of this gap. The application of Western oriented research methods and concentration on global trends also stand as barriers for user-centeredness. In order to ensure products’ success through research, Turkey needs to develop its own user-centered design model....

Challenges and Opportunities for Ethnographic Market Research in Uncertain Times

JEAN ZELT While we believe in-depth, observational approaches are still the most powerful way of developing an understanding of users, we must adapt our approach to fit within current economic constraints. One way is to employ economical phases of research that support and strengthen data gathered from in-person, in-context engagements. Specifically, these are preliminary landscape and trends analysis, which provides focused paths of inquiry, and online engagement, which allows us to interact with people over a longer period of time and identify stronger participants for in-person research. The second is to demonstrate to clients how our approaches are broadly applicable and scalable—in terms of activities, participant numbers, and length of engagement—to meet today’s immediate goals. Instead of seeing merely compromise, we see opportunity. The adaptations brought on by our new reality are helping us to develop new ways to bring value to clients and challenging us to be creative in ways that will continue to be relevant even after...

(In)visible partners: People, Algorithms, and Business Models in Online Dating

ELIZABETH CHURCHILL and ELIZABETH S. GOODMAN A confluence of personal, technical and business factors renders priorities, practices, and desires visible – and invisible – when people use online dating sites to look for partners. Based on a review of websites, interviews with dating site designer/developers, and interviews with would-be daters about their online experiences and their first dates, we offer some insights into the entanglement between daters, site implementers, and business models that is part and parcel of getting ‘matched’ via the Internet. We also examine the role of the website interface and match algorithms in the expression of the “real me” and the search for “the one” – and then how processes of self-presentation and partner imagination play into the planning, expectation-setting and experience of the first date. Finally, we reflect on issues raised for design and for strategic technology development. This study of online-offline encounters is an example of using detailed qualitative analyses...

“Name That Segment!”: Questioning the Unquestioned Authority of Numbers

DONNA K. FLYNN, TRACEY LOVEJOY, DAVID SIEGEL and SUSAN DRAY In many companies, numbers equal authority. Quantitative data is often viewed as more definitive than qualitative data, while its shortcomings are overlooked. Many of us have worked to marry quantitative with qualitative methods inside organizations to present a fuller view of the people for whom we develop. One area of research that increasingly needs to blend quantitative and qualitative methods is user segmentations. Our software technology product team has been using a segmentation based on quantitative data since 2005. One outcome of this effort has been the development of an algorithm–based “typing” tool intended to be used as a standard tool in recruiting for all segmentation-focused research. We learned that the algorithm was an indecipherable black box, its inner workings opaque even to those who owned it internally. This case study looks at how qualitative research came up against the impenetrable authority of a quantitative segmentation and its associated...

Mapping the Loss of Reflexivity in the Age of Narcissism

BRIDGET WALSH REGAN and AJAY REVELS PART I: AN EXPLOSION OF VOICES, BUT LITTLE SENSE-MAKING With the rise of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, as well as YouTube, and the popularity of blogs, there has been no other time where so many voices are being heard on so many topics. Personal blogs, many of which contain writing and photos and video are kept by 12 million Americans and are read by 57 million Americans. (Brown 2007) YouTube is a beacon site on the Web, a much-touted success story since it’s $1.6B acquisition by Google in November 2006. At the time of its acquisition 100 million videos were being watched on the Web every day. A BBC report in June of 2007 stated that “every minute of every day, six hours of fresh video are uploaded.” These numbers point to an explosion of personal stories, in text, pictures and video, available for any and all to digest. The ability to wander from one person’s story to another linked story to another and so on is infinite. It is easier than ever before to join in the...