Thursday, September 30, 2010

Catch my Mood

Successful advertising always captures the mood of the users. With many devices, like mobile phones, even vending machines, trying to become 'mood sensitive', we designers can capitalize the data of the user's 'mood' for advertising.

As advertising on devices increasing becomes content and location based, along with 'augmented reality' becoming a reality , adding the 'mood' can lead to the next level of advertising.
Imagine my phone detects I am 'sad' or 'happy' or 'confused' based on my speech pattern, body temperature or heart beat and display ads which are mood sensitive for the already captured location and content.

Below is an example scenario:

Deepti is research student, who spends her evenings working by the river shore

She receives a phone call saying her research work on Pre-Columbian art in Peru will be funded.

The phone immediately detects she is excited and happy, and displays messages asking her to celebrate. It shows options where she can celebrate based on her location.

While advertising based on user's mood, we should also ensure it is very subtle and not intrusive.

Mood sensitive interfaces can have other uses apart from advertising. It can be used for medical purposes or for children with special needs.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cooking the Engaging Experience Iteratively

Iterative design is like preparing the popular sweet of West and South India – Puran Poli (in Marathi) or Holige’ / Obbattu (in Kannada).

Traditionally, the entire process of making Puran Poli was very social, where women gathered around and would discuss their problems or share their joys while preparing the dish.

In the design process, we can start with brainstorming sessions and interactive workshops which ‘engage’ the stakeholders, team members and end users to make the product create the ‘engaging experience’. We can also collectively derive at ‘Scenarios’ to capture the ‘social’ aspect of the product being designed.

A scenario talks about the user, situation and user’s goal. Let’s assume we are designing a mixer grinder (blender), one of our scenario can be ‘Mrs. Joshi and her friends want to make a traditional sweet dish for Ganesh Chathurthi. She needs the blender to help her prepare the sweet while talking to her friends’. Mrs. Joshi will then need a mixer which does not disturb the conversation with her friends. If so, then it needs to make very little noise so that it does not drive her friends away from the blender or disrupts the ‘engaging experience’

Engaging experience can be built iteratively by thinking on 'what features to have', 'how to implement' and 'when to implement'. Iterative design involves building the core essence of the product first and later building over and around the core essence in several sprints. Just like the puran poli where the ‘core’ is jaggery and channa dal, which gives the dish its taste.

The process of preparing the ‘core’ (Hoorna or Puran) begins with the right mixture of jaggery, channa dal and cardamom. This mixture can be eaten as is and is the bare minimum to be considered a sweet by itself. This is similar to KANO’s model of ‘Must haves’ in a product. So in the above scenario, the ‘Must haves’ of the blender is built around the features supporting the ‘quiet performance’.

Once the goals and scenarios to achieve the goals have been established, the next process is to divide these into iterations, on how to achieve the must-haves (core), the extended features and the delighters.

While making Puran poli, the next stage will be to use the core (Puran or Hoorna) as a filling. This is similar to the extended features the product will have around to enhance the ‘core’ or goal.

Here, we can re-validate our features which go around the product. Can it still be packaged as puran poli or if suddenly realize there are no right ingredients, can it be packaged as something else like Kadabhu (Karjai). Either ways, the core (jaggery+ channa dal) still remains the same.

In iterative design process the requirements may change over course of time, however the ‘goal’ of the user still remains the same. Eg: The blender instead of just being table top can now be combined with a micro-wave oven, so that it cooks while blending. Or, an application to help users get live traffic update can change from being a web application to a mobile application to better help users while driving. In both examples, the goal – ‘to provide quiet performance’ or ‘to get live traffic update’ remains the same as the ‘core’ filling of Puran poli or Kadabu.

Once the decision has been made, the next level of preparation begins. The Puran poli is fried and the product is ready to be packaged.

Finally, packaging the product is similar to serving Puran poli with ghee on top or serving it with milk on a banana leaf. The aroma creates the aspect of ‘delight’. Just like how products need to have ‘delighters’ or pleasant surprises which helps go beyond the basic necessities.

The core of the Puran poli can also be extended to other dishes. Usually the left-over hoorna is used for making a special rasam - Kattina saaru (in Kannada) or Kaatachi Aamti (in Marathi). The experience is extended as it is had after eating the sweet dish. Or, even if someone does not have the puran poli itself. This is similar to extending a product’s brand to other mediums. Eg: creating a section on Facebook or Twitter to market the product.

Throughout the entire process of preparing Puran Poli - from planning, cooking, to serving, and even eating it, is very interactive and social. These are the qualities we designers need to incorporate to make our design process more ‘engaging’ apart from providing an engaging experience to the end users. We need to ensure we engage our stakeholders and team members in all stages of our design process to decide on ‘what the product will have’ and ‘how to implement the product’.

Few methods a designer can use - User stories are helpful to begin and also draw boundary for conversation between team members. Creating story maps based on scenarios along with other team members can help decide how to iteratively develop the product. Interactive quick sketches by inviting other team members to sketch (if they wish) their ideas on top of our sketches or critique your sketches also leads the team to engage in your design and encourages to be expressive as well.

Thanks to Swapna for sharing these awesome pictures on preparing the Puran poli. Recipes to make other delicious dishes can be found on her blog -

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This newspaper, err... advertisement talks...

Few days ago, I woke up to a talking ad by a major car company featured in newspaper. The newspaper had a small device pasted on the last page which began to talk after opening the paper. This was a cool concept, however sent a scare among readers as well. Many readers in Bangalore thought there were some insects in the paper making noises and few called the cops mistaking it to be a bomb!

This device was very similar to the auto- launched audio/video ads one sees on websites. As soon as you open the website, they begin to play the video/audio. And you need to pause to make them stop. The newspaper needed to be closed to stop the audio.

The audio ads (both in newspapers and web) can be very annoying for these reasons:

They are not context sensitive – This often leads to embarrassing situations. When I wanted to catch up with the daily news while in a long meeting, a lingerie ad began to play, raising eyebrows of the other colleagues! The audio/video ads do not know which situation the user is currently in. Whether s/he is a meeting or at home. Or is s/he alone or with friends. Audio ads can work if they find the context and play appropriate ones while respecting ones privacy.

Difficult to make them ‘shut-up’ – In both cases, user has to check how to turn the annoying ad off. In newspapers, which page it is in and how to turn it off. In websites, which tab (out of all the tabs open) is the ad from?

Unrelated sounds – User gets a car ad when surfing news on Afghanistan

Inaudible Having a low-quality, amateur recording

Hopefully, we designers will take care of these problems while designing the ads the next time.