People Are From Earth, Machines Are From Outer Space.

Donald Norman, a renowned cognitive psychologist, talks about machines and human behaviour.  He talks about the need to develop sociable technology in a very amusing way. He writes in a more of sarcastic tone and critique tone about the machines we use and how unsociable are they. Norman feels that it is time to socialize our interactions with technology. Sociable machines that have basic lessons in communication skills. “Machines need to show empathy with the people with whom they interact, understand their point of view, and above all,  communicate so everyone understands what is happening.”

Sociable technology should have four themes of communication, presentation, support for groups, and troubleshooting. He advocates the fact the machines have to have social skills designed into them. This can be correlated with services, where even though we are interacting with people, the service activities are dictated by formal rule books of procedures and processes, and the people we interact with can be as frustrated and confused as we are. This too is a design issue.

Design of both machines and services should be considered a social activity. All products have a social component, which needs to be obvious.

This article certainly makes me think about what and how I design and surely remember to consider the social aspect of the design.

Norman, D. A. (2009). People Are From Earth, Machines Are From Outer Space. Interactions, 16, 39‐41.

The Washing Machine That Ate My Sari—Mistakes in Cross-Cultural Design

“The Washing Machine That Ate My Sari—Mistakes in Cross-Cultural Design” is very informative article discussing about the common mistakes in designing for a global market. It clearly states the concept of identifying the users’ needs by studying the physical, psychological, social and emotional aspects.

Some good examples of Kelloggs corn flakes and Whirlpool washing machine are used to explain the fact that it is the core need to understand the users and the targeted market. Kelloggs corn flakes did not work for the Indian market as in India people prefer hot and filling breakfast rather than a cold breakfast. They believe it is a healthy notion to eat a good, heavy and hot breakfast at the start of the day to keep you going. In the case of Whirlpool, Indians washed clothes like saris, lungis made of fine cotton and silk which got entangled in the gap in the machine and tore off. So, the title of the article correctly says that ‘the washing machine that ate my sari’.

Designing for a global market is much more challenging that designing for a local market, as the consumer behaviour is different for different regions. As far as there are differences in the consumer behaviour, there will always be a need to design differently for each regional market in the world.

The writers of the article rightly advise to learn from mistakes to go into a new era in design, unlearning what they have been doing for decades and learning to design new solutions for new users in new markets across a changing globe.

Chavan, A. L., Gorney, D., Prabhu, B., & Arora, S. (2009). The Washing Machine That Are My Sari ‐ Mistakes in Cross‐Cultural Design. Interactions, 16, 26‐31.

Lecture – Understanding Users

A lecture that gave me insights in to identifying the users and understanding user behaviours. Prior to this lecture, I had an understanding that users are everyone that is present in this world. Today, the world is a small place with global exposure over Internet, users are everyone who have access to the product, even though the might not come in contact with the product. This notion of mine, proved wrong. I learnt that users are the people who directly interact with the product to perform or achieve a task. They are classified into:

  1. Primary users who use the product frequently;
  2. Secondary users who use the product occasionally;
  3. Tertiary users who are indirect users.

Furthermore, even though I am using the product or fit into the user group, I as a designer am not the user. Each product is designed keeping in mind a specific or targeted user group. There is no one-size-fit-all design. So, we need to identify the potential users based on the age group, gender, cultural background, users’ work and environment, cognitive, behavioural, anthropomorphic and attitudinal characteristics. Users are the base for designing a solution by an iterative development process. We need to understand the

  • Cognitive aspects such as the attention, perception, memory, learning, reading, speaking, listening, problem-solving, planning, reasoning and decision-making;
  • Social aspects such as interaction of the users in their social environment, emotions like compassion, sympathy and consideration;
  • Affective aspects such as how users see, feel, understand and experience.

All these aspects are to be considered while designing for users so that we can clearly identify their problems and provide apt solutions.

While designing for the users, we need to consider Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs as well as the hierarchy of design needs as shown in the figures below.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Hierarchy of design needs

Hierarchy of design needs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Users like functional and emotionally engaging products. They interpret products based upon the social, cultural, intellectual aspects. User centred design is more of a scenario based design as stories are a natural way to explain human activities and tasks that easily relate to the users.  Scenario based story boards serve as a communication tool to obtain proper feedback from users and colleagues and provides key insight into the design for the design team. These boards enable to focus on the actual product and the experience of using the product. Best approach to understand users is to observe them doing the prescribed tasks for the proposed product and involve them in the design and development.

This lecture gave me proper insight into understanding the requirements of the users with respect to product design and really helped me identifying the user requirements and taking informed decisions for the first assignment.