Archive for ‘user-centred design’

April 6, 2009

Help finding scenarios

I’m organising a project on tracking systems for elderly people. The scenario is as follow:

Elderly people, their relatives, friends and assistance personnel living in a specific area can carry a GPS device (it maybe their own mobile phone) which make it possible to visualise their position on a map (maybe google maps). They can also send short messages as in Twitter or Google Latitude. The visualisation may be possible both on a mobile phone screen or on a computer at home, possibly using applications like facebook (or any other application that support any kind of social interaction).

I’m trying to figure out how this scenario could define new services for 

  • functional use (i.e. telemedicine, assistance services, ask for help)
  • Persona use (i.e. reassurance when living alone)
  • Social networking (i.e. inviting people for lunch, going out for a walk)


So, this is a call for contribution: any idea about how to use this opportunity?

I promise that I will publish a list of all the possible scenarios on this blog. We may also think of an award for the best idea, but if I promise for instance a trip to Aalborg I’m not sure I will have too many contributions.

December 15, 2008

Three good reports on service design

Three very interesting reports are on my desk in this moment. I’m very slow at reading them, but I think they are a must for whoever wants to work on service design, especially in the public sector.

The only one I managed to read so far is “the Journey to the Interface”, by Sophia Parker and John Heapy (Engine) (Parker and Heapy 2006). The other two are “Designing for Services – Multidisciplinary Perspectives “(Kimbell and Seidel 2008) and “Innovation by Design” edited by Emily Thomas (Thomas and Grace 2008). In fact there are many interesting reports on public services coming out almost every week and mainly from UK (Damn!!! How comes the other countries are so late in this?) Therefore I created a new page in the service design wiki on recent reports on service design.

The report by Sophia Parker and John Heapy is VERY interesting. In fact the report was written in 2006 and things seem to change very fast in UK, but probably this document was a good step towards the most recent announce of a design council program for the development of innovative public services in UK.

Initially, the reference to the journey and the interface made me think that this was yet another report on experience design. In fact the report doesn’t go very deep in the question of how to design the “mechanism” of a service, but it considers the whole strategic and political framework for the development of innovative services. The report considers the shift from fordism to mass customization and to new needs for services to be co-produced, thus it emphasizes the importance of designing the point of contact in a way that supports individual needs and local solutions.

I found the third part particularly interesting, because, for the first time, I’ve seen someone mentioning the need for measuring service performance. The authors propose to measure service performances not just in terms of traditional metrics (e.g. waiting time) but also in terms of user experience. “this form of measurement – in customer terms, not universal standards set centrally and sometimes arbitrarily based on what users might judge to be good – can be called my metrics” (p70)

Also part 4 – on the politics of service design – Considers the main assumptions in the existing public service system (about efficiency, personalisation and devolution] and analyses those assumptions in a service design perspective. By focusing on the relationship between services and people, rather than on organizational efficiency, service designers can really think of improving services on a day-to day basis. This can be done thourhg harnessing users’ participation, feedbacks and insight generation.

Another concept I found very interesting and very close to the way I see the question of innovation in public service is the investment in “in-between” spaces. Traditional public services are creating “light spots”, in which services are offered. Within those spots services are working at their best. However those light spots are also creating deep shaded areas, in which services are not very efficient or are not accessible. For example some elderly care services may work very well in an area, but may be very inefficient or may not respond very well to people needs in another areas. Childcare services may work very well for people working in standard working areas, but be inaccessible or inefficient for people with unusual working hours. Meal services for elderly people may work very well for people with relatively normal diets, but be inefficient for people with very special dietary needs. Serving those interstitial areas would be very expensive or sometimes almost impossible. Investing in “in-between” space, as far as I understand, means giving spaces for people to work out solutions in those spaces. This would be possible by making space for people to contact each other, thus promoting horizontal network and forms of collaboration institutions and the users of public services. (e.g. the patient opinion website,

In such interstitial spaces the wisdom and creativity of people emerge, harnessing this wisdom would be a big resource for innovation in services. Of course the intervention in those places requires a very delicate approach. In fact the authors pose the question of how can the government invest in those spaces without legislating for everything that takes places within them.

Kimbell, L. and V. P. Seidel (2008). Designing for Services – Multidisciplinary Perspectives: Proceedings from the Exploratory Project on Designing for Services in Science and Technology-based Enterprises. Oxford, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford: 56.

Parker, S. and J. Heapy (2006). The Journey to the Interface – How public service design can connect users to reform, Demos.

Thomas, E. and C. Grace (2008). Innovation by design in public services, Design Council – Solace Foundation inprint – The Guardian: 64.

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September 27, 2008

Final considerations on video sketching

At the end of the Ludinno worksop I would like to add some final considerations on how videos have been used in a user-centred design activity

ANALYSIS: Video has been used for analyse users in their own working/life environment (an example of this will be added soon).

INTERPRETATION: the videocard game has been used to interpret the video analysis together with users/clients and to identify direction for the concept development phase

CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT: instead of pencil and paper students have represented the concept by acting it. Here the process have been slowed down by the time spent in learning the video software and in planning the video, even for quick and dirty videos

TESTING HYPOTHESES: videos have been used to test users behaviour in special conditions

PROPOSING CRITICAL VIEWS ABOUT A CONCEPT: In those cases the use of the video emphasised emotional or social implications of certain concepts, thus proposing a discussion or opening a problematic perspective

PROVIDING NON VERBAL INSTRUCTIONS. This is the case of using videos instead of written or spoken communication, for users who are not able to understand them.

PROVIDING ADDITIONAL INFORMATION THAT CANNOT BE PROVIDED IN OTHER FORMS OF COMMUNICATION. Video are able to provide the emotional involvement of the spectator, creating empatic links between the designer and the user

…and, of course, videos have also been used for the PRESENTATION OF THE FINAL CONCEPT

September 17, 2008

Video for User Driven Innovation

In this period I’m quite busy, working in the Ludinno workshop, a workshop on user driven innovation. The workshop is part of the project funded by the Nordic Innovation Centre (NICe).

The first week of this workshop was on using video to get information and involve users in the analytical part of the design process. Users have been observed, filmed in their own working/life context, and interviewed. At the end of the week students and companies (some of the companies were in fact organisations representing the users themselves) discussed the video and generated a patterns of relevant themes for the following design phase.

The second week is about developing a concept. However, unlike usual design processes, here paper and pens are banned. Students have to express and develop their concept through videos. They can use any kind of video technique (from stop motion to chroma key, from 3d animation to simulation using lego briks) and they must shoot videos until they define a concept that can be presented to the industry partners. On Friday they will discuss the video and the followin week they will have the chance to refine the concept in a final video.