A few weeks ago, my friend Tak made sheep-shaped waffles for a group of friends.
Tak designed and built a custom waffle iron as part of an ongoing project, “Sheep-shaped Cuisine.” The project draws from his experience as a product designer.
He went through a process of sketching, sculpting and prototyping before arriving on his final design. The waffle iron is a functional piece of art, complete with his own logo engraved on the outside.
The waffles were delicious, fun and beautiful.
Whataburger (and External Architecture in Service Design)
Interaction designers know that (information) architecture can make or break an experience. But, when we look outside at the businesses and services we use on a daily basis, we see that architecture — particularly the external architecture of buildings — is beginning to play less and less of a role in contributing to the infrastructural layer of service design experiences (the planned interaction between customers and service providers).
Starbucks is perhaps the most famous business that takes advantage of its internal architecture to enhance an experience. Whether we walk into a Starbucks in North Dakota or in Mexico, Turkey or Taiwan, we know what’s up: We know where the line is, we know we’ll see coffee mugs and music for sale by the register, and we know that the bathroom is at the back and anyone can use it (unspoken rule).
Many other companies employ the same tactic—designing a service to seem familiar no matter where we use their service.
While it’s much easier (especially budget-wise) to capitalize on familiarity within an experience through the use of internal architecture, I’d bet that taking advantage of external architecture could be equally worthwhile and perhaps even more worthwhile.
Maybe I’m biased, though, since my reasoning for this belief comes from missing Whataburger, a legendary burger chain which originated in my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas.
The founder of Whataburger, Harmon Dobson, was a pilot. He used to fly over Corpus Whataburger sites with a Whataburger banner affixed to his plane, dropping coupons from the sky onto unsuspecting patrons. In his time doing this, he concluded that making his business more eye-catching (from all angles) would be a good investment.
An Auto Mechanic Walks Into a Bar…
Creativity and design inspiration often come from unexpected places. This is certainly the case for Jorge Odon, the Argentine car mechanic who created a device to assist the delivery of babies who become stuck in the birth canal during delivery.
Odon built his first prototype using a glass jar as a womb, his daughter’s doll as a trapped baby, and a fabric bag as the extraction device after watching a YouTube video showing how to extract a lost cork from inside a bottle. It took a car mechanic, with no medical training or experience, to improve on the current options that include the use of forceps and suction cups. Odon was able to make a leap that designers in the medical device field have been unable to achieve.
Designers know that cross-pollination of ideas can be an inspiration in the creative process. Steve Jobs said, “The key to creativity is to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then to bring those things into what you are doing.”
A key to user-centered design is the notion that partnering with users to understand their work, processes, goals and needs will bring key perspectives and insights to the design process. Users know their work, but are unable to unlock that knowledge to envision how a process could be improved or reimagined. When we partner with users, we are able to bridge the gap between what is and what can be.
Source: The New York Times
Catalytes Present: Lean for Agencies
Catalytes Nick (CEO) and Ray (Sr. UX Consultant) stopped by General Assembly last week to talk about their experience applying a Lean UX methodology to a recent client project. Pizza and learning was had by all. Here are the slides, which contain most of the salient points. But please feel free to get in touch with us to explore the issues in more depth.
What’s Really Wrong With HealthCare.gov
The HealthCare.gov site is broken. There’s no question about that, and it’s a legitimate concern. But, the success of the new health care law depends on much more than a functioning website. Research we’ve conducted indicates that even an up-and-running HealthCare.gov won’t meet the needs of the American people because it will fail to address their lack of knowledge and understanding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
This past summer, a team of Catalyst Group designers and researchers conducted research studies with hundreds of participants to learn what people understand (or don’t understand) about the ACA. The studies made use of both qualitative and quantitative methods, and our participant pool represented all regions of the country and all ages, races and ethnicities, marital statuses, income levels and, of course, insurance statuses (e.g., uninsured, Medicare).
Our findings? The majority of Americans have little to no understanding of what the new health care law does and what it may mean for them. Most people can’t say if the law will affect them at all, or what they’re required to do (if anything) as a result of its enactment.
Unfortunately, HealthCare.gov, which focuses heavily on Marketplace application and plan enrollment, does very little to help consumers understand whether or not they needed to visit the site in the first place. The result is that many Americans will struggle to use and understand the site when they don’t even have to. Our research findings help to illustrate the point:
Reimagining the Affordable Care Act’s Insurance Exchange
Since the healthcare.gov website launched it has been criticized by many for its poor user experience (UX) and intermittent accessibility. In an effort to break away from the noise and brainstorm actionable ways to fix the user experience, Matter Worldwide has organized a panel of experts to come together and uncover ways to fix the problem.
Catalyst’s very own Ray DeLaPena participated in a panel discussion focused on ideas for improving the healthcare.gov user experience. Ray discussed the UX strategy of the site and based his feedback, as we here at Catalyst always do, on months of research with hundreds of people about health care and the new law.
You can access the panel video here.
Give Me Back My Cheese Curds
This past weekend my family and I ate at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants. The visit was inspired by my daughter’s craving for one of the place’s signature dishes: fried cheese curds. (Don’t judge, you love deep-fried cheese, too.) Sadly, the curds had been recently removed from the menu. The waiter wearily explained that there was a new chef in the kitchen who wanted to “mix things up” a little. Our favorite dessert had been similarly deleted. Needless to say, the meal went downhill from there.
The experience got me thinking about how your customer can have a view of your product that’s very different from yours. The urge to mix things up — or to “innovate” — comes from a good place. It’s the urge to continuously improve a product or experience by trying out new elements.
But, there’s risk in changing an established experience: You might accidentally remove something your customers love. The feature you think is boring and obsolete could be the one reason your customers (or some of them) continue to use your product. In addition to identifying problem areas that need fixing, ongoing conversations with customers can build a deeper understanding of what’s working well.
Terms like reinvention and revolutionary have strong appeal, but they should be used carefully. It may not be as glamorous or exciting, but unless you know for certain that your product is bombing, incremental change based on validated learning (based on customer feedback) is probably a faster and less risky route to improvement than a complete refresh.
I don’t know if the new chef asked anyone before removing the cheese curds from the menu, but I do know one irritated 10 year-old who isn’t especially interested in what’s there instead.
Photo source: cheeseunderground.blogspot.com
'Arrested Development' UI Showcase
In honor of recent press hinting that more Arrested Development will come, please find a comprehensive set of interfaces featured (in order of appearance) from the last season.
All of the interfaces are fictional; however, University of Phoenix, Deadline Hollywood, and Zillow are real websites that feature Arrest Development content and/or have been tweaked for hilarity. Enjoy!
"University of Phoenix" (phoenix.edu)
"Halliburton Teen" (Note: halliburtonteen.com redirects to Netflix)
Don’t Know About You Guys, but … Uber KITTENS
Bless Uber—bless its sweet little user experience.
For National Cat Day (I guess that’s a thing) Uber has teamed up with animal shelters in New York, Seattle, and San Francisco and is delivering kittens for a 15-minute snuggle to the lucky few who can get their requests in.
Your $20 is donated to the animal shelter. Your cuddles are donated to kittens.
We at Cat-alyst will be refreshing our request every millisecond. We wish everyone luck (and kittens).
Crosswalk Light Tutorial
I was in the town of Manhasset on Long Island a couple of weekends ago and noticed this crosswalk light tutorial affixed to a pole. My reaction was very similar to the eye-rolling I do while reading the “Do Not Eat” warning labels found on recently extracted silica packets.
Crosswalk signs have been around since the beginning of the 20th century (yeah, I looked that up on Wikipedia) and I’m assuming that, like traffic lights, it’s a concept explained at some point during every child’s stint in grade school—at least, it was a quarter-century ago for me.
But, in the remote town of Manhasset, tucked all the way up there on the northern shore of Long Island (a whole 5 mi from Queens), these peculiar yellow boxes with their flashing hieroglyphics are such a rarity, perhaps, that the town’s residents never actually needed to know how to cross an intersection and are suddenly in dire need of an explanation!
While that theory is highly improbable and mostly sarcastic, I’ve got to wonder: If the town is going through the trouble of making an instruction manual for crossing the street, shouldn’t they at least explain that pressing that little red button below the sign never really works?