Getting from research to personas: harnessing the power of data

The usefulness of personas in defining and designing interactive products has become more widely accepted in the last few years, but a lack of published information has, unfortunately, left room for a lot of misconceptions about how personas are created, and about what information actually comprises a persona. Although space does not permit a full treatment of persona creation in this article, I hope to highlight a few essential points.

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Making your design real: The form & behavior specification

This article is one in an occassional series on design documentation. The first article in this series, Bridging the gap with requirements definition, by Ryan Olshavsky, discussed how to document the needs of the user and the domain issues relevant to the design of products. The second article, Turning requirements into product definition, by Jonathan Korman, discussed how you get from an understanding of your users to a vision for an innovative product that appeals to them. The present article discusses how a detailed specification of the form and behavior takes the guesswork out of product development.

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Notable product: how Nokia’s 8290 does something right

Most people buy mobile phones because they want to be able to make phone calls anywhere, anytime. All the other stuff that’s crammed into phones—calculators, game players, text-messaging capability—represents incomplete solutions for problems that are better served by devices dedicated to those needs. If I want to play a game on the go, I won’t buy a Nokia 8290.

Still, phones offer a lot of sophisticated functionality to support specific mobile phone needs. Users need a way to quickly change ring-tones, ring volume, and message alert tones—so phone manufacturers allow you to tweak these so that one’s phone can behave appropriately as one moves from the construction site to the movie theater.

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Design research: why you need it

Ever notice how often a product that makes a huge splash at tradeshows fizzles in the marketplace? The story goes like this: Product is introduced at show to much fanfare. News media gives Product lots of press, and consumers everywhere express interest in Product’s features and capabilities. Product hits store shelves…and stays there. Some early adopters purchase Product, but it never penetrates into mass consumer markets.

What went wrong? Market research clearly identified potential dollars in target markets just waiting to spend money on the new product. So why did it fail?

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Do U SMS? Text messaging is not the hassle it once was

Few modes of communication burden the user with as much interaction hassle as text messaging on mobile phones. Without help from word-prediction assistants, the word "Hello" requires 13 button-presses, not including an additional 5 to get from the start screen to the messaging app. Nevertheless, the clear benefits of short text message services (SMS) have lured untold millions into uncomfortable, not to say unsatisfying, partnerships with their mobile phones.

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Branding & the user interface: part 1

This article introduces a new series devoted to exploring the opportunities and challenges related to branding technology-based products. The first installment develops a foundation for future, more detailed discussions by introducing several key brand concepts. Forthcoming articles will present a variety of brand-related topics including the differences between traditional media and new media, how to solve common branding challenges, and several case studies that characterize successful technology-focused brand strategies. If there are particular topics you are interested in, feel free to submit them and I will try to address them in upcoming articles.

What is brand?

In tangible terms, brand is a name, a symbol/sign, and typically a system of fundamental visual, verbal, and written characteristics; however, the true essence of a brand extends beyond what we can see and hear. The significance of your company’s brand is also defined by the sum of its interactions with people.

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Not all web sites are alike

With the Web now completely ubiquitous and familiar, and the frenzy of getting on the Web for novelty’s sake long past, companies routinely turn to the Web to address many types of challenges. A Web site can offer a simple brochure for communicating with customers, a way to disseminate information to people within a large organization, a tool for running complex business processes, and much more. Because different sites try to address different problems, creating them requires different kinds of planning and development.

Although it may sound like a truism, many people have a hard time talking about the distinctions between different kinds of Web development, which makes it difficult to decide how to proceed. This article offers a quick survey of various Web projects and of the techniques that address them.

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5 ways to get the most from in-house designers

Over the last two years, we’ve heard from increasing numbers of executives who want to bring interaction design in-house because they’ve realized how critical it is to product success. There are plenty of challenges involved in doing this, including hiring and training the right people. One of the challenges companies may not expect, though, is in deciding how to use those resources once they’ve been found.

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Critic to creator: recognizing good design

Someone always asks the question, and I am never ready for it.

"So, what products out there are well-designed?"

As an interaction designer, I learn about users and design a product that helps them meet their goals—one that is tailored to the way they work. Yet this question can still stump me. I am not alone: all too often, people in our field focus so much on pointing out the egregious interaction design mistakes that make it to market, we forget to pay attention to the good design that exists. Not only does it make our profession look bad if we are always complaining, but it also makes us less effective. How can we create good products if we can only articulate what “bad” is?

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Branding and the user interface, part 2: tips on new media branding: behavior and color

In the April 2003 newsletter, we introduced a new series devoted to exploring the opportunities and challenges related to branding technology-based products. The first installment presented a handful of basic, high-level brand concepts. In part two of our series, we will take a closer look at how branding differs between traditional applications, like printed corporate collateral, and emerging new media applications, such as software user interfaces, with a focus on behavior and color. If there are particular topics you are interested in, feel free to submit them, and I will try to address them in upcoming articles.

Why is Software Significant to Branding?

Everyday, more and more customer touch-points traditionally facilitated by human representatives are instead administered by computers. This is the case even in the most common experiences. For instance, when you check out of most grocery stores, whom do you pay? You may think you’re paying Patty, the human checkout clerk, but I bet many of you are actually sliding a card through a computer (you know, the one that asks, “credit or ATM?”).

These days, you can no sooner operate your business without computers and their software than you can without people. Your company may sell auto parts, vacuum cleaners, or fine wine, but if you have a Web site or B2B e-commerce system, you’d better believe you’re in the software business, too. Because of its increasingly significant impact on your company’s brand, the quality of software’s behavior is a crucial factor in your organization’s success.

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