This week I’ve been reflecting on this topic, as my brother shared with me an interesting podcast (Asymcar – The View From Tokyo with Bertel Schmitt) on the topic of manufacturing in the Auto industry, and how car plants have a big role on influencing the final product the clients get to have in their hands.
Another interesting article on HBR touches the topic of Innovation coming out of China and how it will disrupt incumbents in high end industries because China is a manufacturing powerhouse, namely in the Shenzhen region with electronics plants, and Innovation gains a lot from being there, next to the plants.
For better or for worse, manufacturing still has and will continue to have a huge influence on Product decisions for the sheer reason that, changing manufacturing plants, assembly lines and processes is expensive, time consuming and difficult from a logistics point of view. Let’s say that manufacturing in the Auto industry is like steering a huge container ship, takes long time to stop or to change course. Has his own inertia.
Of course this varies from industry to industry, but there’s no doubt that the Auto industry where the costs of product development and manufacturing are very high, and cost reduction is done mostly through technology sharing, platform sharing, via gaining market access and market share is a very good example for all other industries to learn through this amplified effect of the automakers.
Something very dear to me, as I saw in my past experiences, that everytime you have the chance to perform some User Research, you bring home loads of new insights that can be translated into new requirements for product development.
“When user research is done well — i.e. thoroughly, and right at the beginning of the design process — the business impact is huge. It essentially means the difference between getting it right from the start or having to go back and fix your mistakes when you realise that, actually, the product you’ve designed doesn’t resonate with your audience.”
Well, make a search on Google for “UCD process” or “Design Thinking process” and many different diagrams will show up. This means that for someone new in the field, it’s almost impossible to choose one, or, you hear people going on pointless discussions about which one is best.
They all look different, but the fact is that they are all just covering the same principles:
know your real problem through discovery, research, empathy
make your hypothesis visible via some sort of prototype
Test that prototype
Implement your idea or continue to iterate
I’m sure I’m missing some stuff on my description above, but for the sake of simplifying this post, let’s say it’s OK. These diagrams also depict a process that is more or less linear. This is not true. Real world work is way more complex than that. Real world work is not linear, is full of complexity.
…many companies are turning to customer research that is powered by big data and analytics. Although that approach can provide astonishingly detailed pictures of some aspects of their markets, the pictures are far from complete and are often misleading. It may be possible to predict a customer’s next mouse click or purchase, but no amount of quantitative data can tell youwhy she made that click or purchase. Without that insight, companies cannot close the complexity gap.
“The underlying premise is this: when participants achieve a level of understanding such that the situation no longer appears complex, they can exercise logic and intuition effectively. As a result, design focuses on framing the problem rather than developing courses of action.”
I can relate do much to this sentence, and reminds me of another quote from the guys of IDEO:
A friend of mine told me about Google’s new app, Inbox, and since I’m a designer, he would like to hear my opinion. This is my answer to him.
First thing I have to say, is that Google made a good decision by creating a separate product, instead of forcing a new set of features to the Gmail users.
After a few days using the app on my iPhone, here’s my initial thoughts:
It’s a mix of email inbox, a to-do list and a calendar, and I prefer to keep all those things separated. Because they are actually different things, I prefer to deal with them separately.
It’s an effort to try to put some order on the daily email clutter, assuming people don’t want to see all the emails (even if they are commercial messages, brand spam, etc). From time to time I like to give a look on the latest Groupon offers.
Creates bundles of emails by similar content, but so far I haven’t understood what is the criteria to do this. I would stick only to “subject”.
The iPhone app interface displays less messages on one screen, compared to the Gmail app for the same device. I prefer to see more messages on one glance.
Do I need another layer of “interpretation” of data between me and my mail box?
The best email interface innovation in the past years was introduced with the simple and genius grouping concept of email messages introduced on Gmail:
“important and unread”,
and “everything else”
This 3 groupings displayed in the same page, are more than enough for me and that’s about as far as I would go in terms of layers of interpretation of data between the user and the emails.
It’s always a challenge to “play” with people’s perceptions built over so many years, like the email. And the email concept comes from the actual physical mail that’s still around us, and will be for many years.
On the other hand I can understand that Google as a global giant in the internet services and with great teams of designers put together, has the pressure, the budget, the people and the media coverage to put new services outside. So, in that sense, bravo Google, for trying to re-imagine the future of internet services.
For now I’ll continue with Gmail, but paying attention to further developments.
I must say that it scares me a bit to see the latest trends in car dashboards become dominated by big touch screens. Driving a car requires a great ammount of focus from the driver, one shouldn’t be able to perform other tasks on a touch screen, (e.g. to control car features as AC, air vents, etc.)
Recently I came across a study performed by The Foundation for Traffic Safety in the US, about the levels of distraction of a driver on normal tasks in a car. What caught my attention?
A simple task like adjusting the radio produces the double of distraction as during normal driving.
And using Siri interface produces the highest distraction level on this comparison.
I would like to better clarify this last point with the authors, as Siri is a voice interface I wouldn’t expect that level of distraction.
Anyway, imagine now these tasks done on an interface like the one on Tesla Model S:
I’m surprised I haven’t seen many news on car accidents because of Tesla’s big touch screen. I never drove a Tesla, but it would be interesting to have a deeper insight on the driving experience of this car. Maybe I’m wrong.
How can this problem be solved through technology?
For car manufacturers is less expensive to put all the car controls in a touch screen than mounting all in different nobs and switches. But as this solution created challenges for the users, technology can also solve it. How?
Head-up displays and virtual windscreens (like the one from Jaguar on the video below)
The interfaces are better integrated in the overall driving experience, as they allow the user to keep his eyes on the road more easily
Well designed touch interfaces, based on user research
Through automated driving technologies, allowing the driver to safely abandon the steering wheel and assuming a more super visioning position.
1. Virtual windscreens and head-up displays
The Jaguar Virtual Windscreen concept seems a carefully designed interface with a bit of “gamification” as it is inspired by car video games and in line with the sporty soul of the brand. We still need to see the final execution of this interface, but if done seamlessly on the windscreen it might be interesting.
On the other hand, the BMW head up display is a type of solution that seems more intrusive to the driving experience, compared to the Jaguar interface, but still a good help to keep the drivers eyes on the road.
2. Better Touch screen UI’s
One of the biggest issues with a touch screen like Tesla’s, is the fact that the UI (although touch) still provides small buttons in a fixed position (why would I want that if I have a 17 inch touch screen, right?), this guy here made a concept that shows the path to solve that:
3. Automated Driving
Daimler AG just presented a few months ago, is automated driving concept for trucks. Watch the video, where the driver leaves the steering wheel and is able to perform other tasks while the truck drives itself.
So in conclusion, I think that touch interfaces that simply replicate the look and feel of normal buttons and switches, is a passing trend. It’s the result of a specific area of interaction design that doesn’t have enough research done. But it seems already very obvious that interfaces will need to be much better integrated (giving the driver just the essential info or allowing to explore more features, depending on the different moments of the driving experience) with the drivers life on board a car. And ultimately with the help of automated driving technologies, it will be much safer to use any kind of interfaces.
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with insomnia, and when that happens, the best you can do is to make that time productive (and spend the day after, drinking coffee), right? … So, I wrote this post.
In UX there’s a fair amount of projects which goal is to redesign applications that were developed during years, (if not decades) by internal teams. The focus of these teams is on features and not on the User friendliness of the tool.
The end result after years of development is translated in to a set of unorganized interaction patterns. But the tool somehow works, because it was intended for a specific audience.
India is known for the jugaad kind of innovation, something developed in a very frugal way with cheap and easily accessible resources. I thank the Indians for giving us, their attitude of bending the rules with simple fixes and work-arounds, I simply love that.
But what if one has to industrialize it for production, to be used by many people (besides the one who created it), to respect legislation and good practices? Some redesign has to be made, of course, the kind of redesign that I wrote above.
When I’m invited to redesign a tool that is a result of this “Jugaad” attitude, there’s something really important to keep in mind: what you have in front of you is “only” a very good list of requirements, but is our goal as Designers to make that product accessible to a wider group of users:
by giving consistency through a set of known interaction patterns,
by making design decisions that are aligned with the development constrains and the business needs,
by respecting legislations.
So our job is, most of the times, “just” to bring order to users life’s.