I aim to shape products, interfaces and services that mediate meaningful dialogues between people, systems and their environments within everyday life.

Posts tagged ‘user research’


The Finish Line

After some intense weeks of late nights and hard work, the Stanford Human-Computer interaction course I took through Coursera has come to an end. This was a great way to motivate myself to work on my own personal project and after 5 weeks of immersing myself in the whole end-to-end design process, from user research and observations all the way to learning jQuery Mobile for my design implementation and conducting user evaluations. I came out developing a prototype for a mobile biking app designed to encourage and guide urban exploration. It’s still in a very rough stage at the moment and I’ve gleaned some valuable feedback from user evaluations that will require some big design changes. This has become a pet project that I intend to carry on after the course.

This course offering was an experimental launch for such a design course in an online format so there were some hiccups and a few things that could be improved on, but overall it was quite successful. I especially enjoyed the peer assessments for each assignment as it allowed you to see what ideas other students were working on and to receive constructive criticism and feedback for your own project. Professor Scott Klemmer was a great instructor and he plans to offer it again later on with improvements based on feedback and what they had learned from this first round. So, if you’re interested in HCI or UI design or even if you’re familiar with the concepts already, it’s worthwhile to try this course out.


What Good Is Design Research

I just read an interesting article by Adam Richardson that responds to Donald Norman’s view of design research. Although Richardson a

grees with much of what Norman says, he disagrees with Norman’s statement of the role of design research as being fundamental to incremental improvements to already existing solutions but useless for creating innovative breakthroughs. For example, technological inventions such as the airplane, automobile, telephone, radio, television, computer, personal computer, Internet, SMS text messaging, and cellphone were technological revolutions in which design research did not play a role. Richardson points out that in the inception of these breakthroughs, formal design research as we currently know it did not exist. However, he points out that a form of design research was employed in order to determine a particular user need and to develop and evolve the technology to meet the need.

I agree with Richardson’s rejection of how Norman defines design research as user research:

Design research has many definitions, but within the product cycle, it consists of studies aiming to understand the activities, desires, and needs of the people for whom a product or service is desired. Design researchers use a wide variety of methods, but all of them, whether it be ethnographic observations, systematic probes, or even surveys, questionnaires, and focus groups aim at one thing: to determine those hidden, unspoken needs that will lead to a novel innovation and then to great success in the marketplace.

Design research has a much broader scope that not only encompasses user research but also technological research and market research, which provide a more comprehensive understanding of problems leading to more insightful and compelling solutions. One interesting and important point that Richardson makes is that designers need to find a balance between analytical research and inspired creativity. If focused too much on user research and finding evidence to back up every single design decision, we lose opportunities in discovering those inspirational ah-ha moments.


Interviews with Baby Boomers

Using questionnaires and conducting interviews with my selected user group, Baby Boomers, gave me some new perspectives on this demographic. I asked general questions to get an idea of their childhood background and experiences, their outlooks and pe

rspectives on aging, and their aspirations or concerns for the future. Interviewees defined getting old as “normal”, a “natural process”, “maturing in life experience, financially, and in social interactions”, when the “freshness of body and mind are no longer there”, and not being able to do things as before.

I found an interesting divide between the older Boomers who grew up in the West and those who grew up in Asia, particularly in their childhood experiences. Westerners typically enjoyed an enjoyable, fun-filled childhood, while their Asian counterparts endured poverty, civil war, and cultural revolution. As a result, I found that the Asian Boomers feel they have more reason to enjoy life after retirement since they never had the opportunities when they were younger.

There was also a difference between the younger Boomers (aged 43-52) and the older generation (53-63). The younger generation is more active and and more likely to consume social/digital media, however they expressed more concerns about finances, and family responsibility (as a caretaker for both children and parents). Older generations tend to use technology less, yet still yearn to learn or keep up-to-date with new technologies in order to maintain connections with the outside world.

It was interesting in uncovering these differences within my target group, however, I would like to focus on the more general similarities I found throughout my user research. For example, many view retirement as a new phase in which they can live an active and mobile lifestyle of travelling, volunteering, spending time with family/friends, learning something new, playing sports, or pursuing their hobbies. A common concern is, not surprisingly, that of health. They would like a knowledge of options available to them and want to avoid being a burden on their children. A few are particularly afraid of inheriting genetic diseases from their parents such as Alzheimer’s.


Travel Experiences

I just started a new project for my Collaborative Workshop run in conjunction with Tsinghua University in Beijing. My team consists of 3 members from Hong Kong and 3 from Beijing so it will be an interesting exercise in communication and teamwork . The project is focused on the “independent tourist on the go,” where the independent traveller is defined as one that arranges their own travel plans rather than going on an organized tour or travelling on business.

We targeted a broad group of travellers that we categorized as the Wandering Traveller, who is spontaneous, free-spirited and loves to connect with the local culture and people while exploring the world. To get a better sense of these travellers, we set up an online survey to collect stories, memories, and photos of people’s travel experiences to understand their values, motivations and what they deem important while abroad.


From our collected surveys, we categorized our wandering travellers into 3 types: those who are “On My Own” enjoy travelling solo and being challenged, “Laid-Back ‘Locals'”  do not feel the need to sightsee but rather just enjoy the place as an everyday local, while those who are “On a Mission” are goal-oriented and create schedules to see and do as much things as possible.

We decided to target our use group to that of the solo traveller as these travellers seemed more varied and interesting. We conducted in-depth interviews to get a better sense of their various backgrounds and demographics, their motivations for travelling alone, and to understand their different concerns and needs while travelling.




After the interviews we were able to illustrate a more detailed description of our target group: the Solo Culture Seeker.


These people come from all around the world of different ethnicities and speaking different languages. We found that many of them tend to travel outside their own geographic area (and outside their own comfort zone). We found a correlation between sociability and the level of adventure exhibited by travellers, that is, the more sociable the traveller and more willing to communicate with other strangers, the more adventurous he/she tends to be.