Rourkela: The Illustrated Journey Into The Life Of A City

rourkela

 

The “Rourkela:  The illustrated journey into the life of a city ” book project is an unique attempt to stitch to weave a canvas of experience about a place through illustrative medium — it’s more about travelling through time and space to witness the growth of a city and it’s culture.

India’s  first ever integrated steel plant under public sector ‘Rourkela Steel Plant’ facility was established in Rourkela 1954-55. Post independence the then leaders wanted to set up a steel plant to make India self-dependent in iron and steel.Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India wanted to make India an industrialised state. Iron and Steel was the basic requirements of the people at the dawn of the independence. Finally the leaders of the nation selected Rourkela for a steel plant.

So what is the story behind this? How was the city selected? What was the history of that place before? The book tries to explore this fascinating story in with the vivid illustrations. It

aims to include those little little things that makes help understand the place better – including the flocklore of the place to actual historical linkage to some part of the place that typically go unnoticed due to the fact that the place is less written about in different books and magazines.

– See more at:

https://www.facebook.com/IllustratedTypeDotCom

http://illustratedtype.com/#sthash.lUakfo5U.dpuf

 

Rourkela

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MakingSense: Reimagining the Next-generation Retails and e-Commerce Analytics platform

journey-consumerbenefits

 

 

In today’s ever changing world if we need to reimagine the next generation analytics platform for retail and e-commerce market, what it will look like? Well I gave it a go . Following is a conceptual framework (I call it  “MakingSense”) and a business case for an IoT based real time analytics framework for retail and FMCG market. The following post is presented as a real life business case:

 

 

 

 

Overview:

MakingSense” is IoT based market analytics platform to connect all goods and products (specially non-digital goods) that behave as fast moving goods to the cloud-analytics to get real-time market insights to make the required course correction for the market strategy and business decisions for the product manufacturers and retail chains. This enables a direct feedback model between the consumers with the producers and sellers.

 

The problem it solves:

As per current market trends, even high-tech goods like mobiles, digital accessories are behaving like FMCG in market. Rapid change is evident in consumer behaviour due to influence from technology, economy and changing buying power of the consumer . Speedy ‘go-to-market’ approach in the market from players in the market has increased the competition. Many local and niche competitors are giving tough challenges to bigger players in all segments, specially in emerging markets. For globl players the typical market strategy is not working in expected way. Traditional approach of market insights collection is not sufficient to apply the necessary check and balance for market plans in real time.

 

The 4 core needs that Making Sense will address are:

1.The manufacturers need market insights in real time

2.The consumer behaviour towards tech-goods is also needs to be tracked in real time to ensure how close they are behaving to the FMCG market behaviour.

3.In retail and non-tech sector the real time insights are needed for goods that are not digitally connected to analytics eco-system

4.Need to look beyond the traditional field immersions, surveys to get micro-insights for course corrections in strategy.

 

The solution and the business model:

The “MakingSense” platform will help product manufactures and retailers in gathering real time customer insights even for non-digital goods and helps adjust the customer retention dynamics . In retail and non-tech sector the real time insights are needed for goods that are not digitally connected to analytics eco-system. Need to look beyond the traditional field immersions, surveys to get micro-insights for course corrections in strategy.

The platform has self sustainable business model that will make it grow though benefiting the product manufacturers, retailers and the consumers. The final envisioned eco-system will have a big-data enabled management module in cloud, a super easy to use dashboard system for product manufacturers, retailers and consumers and mobile apps and easy integration public APIs along with one SMS enabled gateway.
The producers and sellers can register their products to generate specific code to their products category and if required can use the APIs to map their existing bar-code systems. The normal consumer can register themselves to generate the reward points and to be used directly in the registered retail chains or can redeem for some gifts from their dashboard itself.

The eco-system will allow the product companies and sellers to get real time analytics through creating data points directly.

 

 

Triple advantage benefits for consumers:
The incentivise/rewarding consumers for their feedback is what will make it more successful.
Whether the product the consumer gives feedback on is purchased from the registered retailer or not, he is definitely getting the reward points or freebies from the site.
If he purchases the product from the registered retailers, then he is getting additional discounts or reward points.
On top of it if the product manufacturer registers, then the customer is getting more discounts!

It’s a triple advantage for the customer.

Now, this is a new strategy where the customer is prompted to buy the product from specific manufacturer, from a specific retailers toget advantage of this.
While the whole aim is to get feedback and analytics running, this model also induces a new competition on product manufacturers to provide discounts to bring down the final competitive price to retain customers at the same time the customer is also getting benefitted.

This model is disruptive in nature where every one is getting benefited :

Manufacturer and Retailers – reduction in market research spending , getting real time-analytics — the mood of the segment- customer retention strategy formulation , attract customer to their outlets and
Consumer — reduction in home budget, get incentive, rewards for their feedback.

 

 

 

::Idea::

 

The “MakingSense” platform will help product manufactures and retailers in gathering real time customer insights in real time even for non-digital goods. In retail and non-tech sector the real time insights are needed for goods that are not digitally connected to analytics eco-system. Need to look beyond the traditional field immersions, surveys to get micro-insights for course corrections in strategy.

The platform has self sustainable business model that will make it grow though benefiting the product manufacturers, retailers and the consumers. The final envisioned eco-system will have a big-data enabled management module in cloud, a super easy to use dashboard system for product manufacturers, retailers and consumers and mobile apps and easy integration public APIs along with one SMS enabled gateway.

The producers and sellers can register their products to generate specific code to their products category and if required can use the APIs to map their existing bar-code systems. The normal consumer can register themselves to generate the reward points and to be used directly in the registered retail chains or can redeem for some gifts from their dashboard itself.

The eco-system will allow the product companies and sellers to get real time analytics through creating data points directly

:: Architecture:

The idea is about building an eco-system in multiple-phases that will have three components:

1. “MakingSense SmartCloud” — Cloud based server to store the data related to the consumers and host the analytic platform. This will have the following major components :
i. BigData analytic-engine that can do the necessary data mining to understand trends and formulate recommendations .

ii. Open REST APIs providing easy way to integrate third-party systems such as retail-management systems, third-party analytic and business process tools/apps.

iii. user management modules with different levels of access to different roles.

iv. Reward points management and coupon code management system.

v. Payment gateway and subscription and vendor management.

2.”MakingSense Portal” — Web-based portal/ thin-client solution that will allow consumers and product sellers/retailers who can register and access their respective dashboards

3. “Making-Sense client” — This is primarily mobile/device client and consumer facing service gateways (and optionally hardware) that can be used by the consumers to submit their feedback.
In the multi-phased development roadmap, initially the mobile apps will be primary representative of this section. Later phases will introduce SMS enabled gateways, custom “MakingSense” hardware, which will be cheap yet provide easier way to share data from the consumer.

 

:: User Journeys:

For Sellers (Retailers/Producers)-

1. gets account registered at ‘MakingSense Portal’.
2. get API if to connect to their card scanners /billing machines/users db/inventory/product catalog
3. gets products mapped to “Reward points”/discounts/freebies
4. product manufacture can offer discounts for their product using the API by registring their product

5.product manufacture can register their product to get insight for their product across globe
6.retailers get insight for their retails chains –anything sold though their system
7.retailers can buy insights (not customer details ) for other regions/ segments
8. product manufacturers can buy insights (not customer details) for competing brands and similar products

For Consumer –

1. Registers at the Portal — if he is from a retailer’s database, he can map his account to this system.
2. Connection to his SNS account (facebook) is encouraged (with some additional reward for it)
2. downloads free “makingsense” mobile app, and starts using
3. scan the barcode of any product he purchased and rates the product.
4. For each feedback on different (at least different batch of same product with in a specific time period range) the products, gets “reward points” or discounts codes or freebies coupon codes.
5. If retailers/product manufacturer has sponsored rewards, based on accumulated points, he can redeem them at their store. Else these can be redeemed at the “makingSense” dashboard at the portal.

:: Benefit:

For Sellers (Retailers/Producers)-

emerging market is the next potential
even high tech/high end goods are behaving like FMCG goods…
micro -insights are required to plan the market startegy adjustment
conventional type of large scale survey’s are not going to help much due to high cost and field immersion efforts and time.. — go-to-market is accelerating so ..time has value … micromax makes a phone in 70 days

So new age trend is required to gather data in real time ..to connect goods that are not even digital , we need those data
IoT will help in rapidly accessing this.

They get the following insight from the solution:

customer’s insight
————
who bought
how many times bought
which part of the year bought the most
consumer’s insight
—————————
liked? great – good – bad ?
what else he likes in the same product line ?
what similar product he uses?
what similar product he likes most ? what brands?
collective consumer insights
—————————-
how many such buyers are in the region who are potential buyer?
how is collective preference?

predictive market forecast
—————————-
in which part of the year the product consumption is going to increase — manufacture more and ensure smooth shelf-space management
who are competitor brands
how a product is behaving in a segment?
value curve?
what should be the status?

if connects to his SNS account/FB/retail shopers card — then u get location, age, gender, type etc. — new gold mine where every one will want to invest.

For Consumer –

1. Consumer is rewarded for any feedback he shares for any product he uses.
2. Apart from regular discounts, reward points the customer can get these additional discounts in purchase/freebies which can bring customer delight leading to more involvement and customer engagement (so no matter if consumer does not buy from registered retailers or products.)

 

 

 

 

 

:: Business model::

Business model is mostly through subscription based to access competitor analytics
Along with it the access to premium data and value added services like (customizable report, goal alignment, market strategy etc. ) can be a major source of revenue .

retailers get 100% discounts to access their data — all real time
retailers get 20-30% discount in viewing their competitor’s data in the same region or segment

retailers not listed in the program to have to pay full to get data for a segment
retailers not listed in the program can not view their data

consumer gets 2% bonus discounts or points to submit the feedback on every item he uses

 

 

:: Market Size::

As per ESOMAR Global Market Research conducted in 2011:

Global Spending on Market Research is 32 Billion USD.
Out of this Emerging Market share is 24% == 8 Billion USD
Out of this only Asia Pacific spending is == 5 Billion USD.

India & China are major share holders of 5 Billion USD
India == 40% of 5 Billion USD = 2 Billion USD

Based this 1st year
target in five 1st tier cities.
assuming 30% investment is done in these 5 cities == 0.6 Billion USD
assuming we get 30% of this share in 1st year == 0.2 Billion USD

That results in 100 Cr INR Revenue in 1st year .

 

 

 

:: Potential competitors & Competitive advantage of the idea::


Amazon Dash
Dash is a product by Amazon that allows to facilitate the consumer to order new products from Amazon store

 

 

Dash:

Hardware based + amazon portal is available for consumer to buy
Only limited to Amamzon portal
No-whitelabelled system — Amamzon uses it for it’s own usage.
It’s is NOT a feedback based model, the bigdata only shows which segment is purchasing which product.

 

Making Sense:

Special marketing-insight platform – unique and first of it’s kind.
Specially designed to handle multiple vendors, retailers and consumers along with reward points/incentive management model .
Unique analytics with predictive strategy formation
works across cross platform, outlets, cross multi-channecommercialal platforms both counter based or online.

 

SWOT  Analysis

Strength: 

Cross platform – mobile, tablet, PC, kosk, custom hardware
works across cross platform, outlets, cross multi-channel commerceial platforms both counter based or online.
Can appeal to consumers, retailer, manufacturers

Can be scaled from FMCG to insurance, banking/finance sectors.
Weakness:
New concept, new to the market — disruptive business model for market research where customers are incentivised for their feedback directly.
Requires fund to maintain the incentives/ rewards for the end-consumers.
Large scale imkplementation can bring meaningful results??????
Opportunities:
New unique business model.
Regional market is drib\ven by fragmented retail / distribution channels
Specially FMCG market is highly un-organised
Penetration of single super markets, and online selling is low.
Specially in India the coverage of super markets (Big Baazar, )
Market insights
Threats:
Dash making it’s platform focused on marketing research
Marketing research companies replicating this model– alternative models
Retail chains making their own platform — will get limited view only only their customers..still they need to spend more in their marketing agencies.

 

 

:: Why it’s a killer Idea? ::

The incentivise/rewarding consumers for their feedback is what will make it more successful.
Whether the product the consumer gives feedback on is purchased from the registered retailer or not, he is definitely getting the reward points or freebies from the site.
If he purchases the product from the registered retailers, then he is getting additional discounts or reward points.
On top of it if the product manufacturer registers, then the customer is getting more discounts!

It’s a tripple advantage for the customer.

Now, this is a new strategy where the customer is prompted to buy the product from specific manufacturer, from a specific retailers toget advantage of this.
While the whole aim is to get feedback and analytics running, this model also induces a new competition on product manufacturers to provide discounts to bring down the final competitive price to retain customers at the same time the customer is also getting benefitted.

This model is disruptive in nature where every one is getting benefited :

Manufacturer and Retailers – reduction in market research spending , gettingf realtime analytics — the mood of the segment- customer retaintion strategy formulation , attaract customer to their outlets and
Consumer — reduction in home budghet, get incentive, rewards for their feedback.

 

 

 

As per Tim Ambler of London Business School, “Marketing Productivity” is measured through the following 5 ponts :

1. routinely research consumer beavior?

2. routinely report research with financial matrics?

3. compare results with previously forecasted in business plans

4. compare with level achieved by your competitor using the same indicators?

5. adjust short term performance?

 

All of these are taken care in the  blue print of “MakingSense”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indoor Mapping in Consumer or Retail Vertical and it’s impact on UX

Mapping and localization for indoor mapping is gaining momentum in consumer verticals of IT and software services industry to propose new age technological solutions and process re-engineering services that helps in providing value added features to the consumers of the verticals. Also the consumer data mining and data analytics are pushing new dimensions with the indoor mapping technologies to provide new insights into the consumer and end-users’ psyche. This ultimately opening doors to provide better and delightful user experience for the user during his shopping experiences.

 

Technology Used for Indoor Maps

 

Despite the fact that the location determination of mobile users within a building has attracted much attention lately due to its many applications in mobile networking including network intrusion detection problems, it is challenging due to the complexities of the indoor radio propagation characteristics exacerbated by the mobility of the user. Global navigation satellite systems (GPS or GNSS, which act as the benchmark for the standard Map related applications development, are generally not suitable to establish indoor locations, since microwaves will be attenuated and scattered by roofs, walls and other objects. Due to the signal attenuation caused by construction materials, the satellite based Global Positioning System (GPS) loses significant power indoors affecting the required coverage for receivers by at least for satellites. In addition to this, the multiple reflections at surfaces cause multi-path propagation serving for uncontrollable errors. So the most popular among the technologies that are employed for indoor mapping scenario is the wireless technologies like Wifi and RFID.

In Radio-Frequency identification (RFID) systems, the simple concept of location indexing and presence reporting for tagged objects are used, that only acts as the object identification. Typically RFIDs do not report the signal strengths and various distances of single tags or of a pulk of tags and do not renew any before known location coordinates of the sensor or current location of any tags. Operability of such approaches requires some narrow passage to prevent from passing by out of range. In Grid concepts, a dense network of low-range receivers may be arranged, e.g. in a grid pattern for economy, throughout the space being observed. Due to the low range, a tagged entity will be identified by only a few close, networked receivers. An identified tag must be within range of the identifying reader, allowing a rough approximation of the tag location. Advanced systems combine visual coverage with a camera grid with the wireless coverage for the rough location.

 

The use enhanced Wi-Fi infrastructure to provide location information actually provides the missing piece that only RFID can not provide. WiFi infrastructure help in establishing more accurate and stable landmarks, which serve to anchor the various partial trajectories. This approach uses Received signal strength indication (RSSI) – that is a measurement of the power level received by sensor. Because radio waves propagate according to the inverse-square law, distance can be approximated based on the relationship between transmitted and received signal strength (the transmission strength is a constant based on the equipment being used), as long as no other errors contribute to faulty results.

 

Once the user and/or the tracking objects are located and tracked for their movement, the resulting data is mapped to the pre-built indoor location map to provide meaningful observations on the user’s location in particular section of indoor space and based on this the shopping experience of the user can be enhanced.

 

Indoor Maps in Consumer or Retail Verticals

During the last few decades, research on localization for exploration and navigation in indoor environments has made significant progress. However this technology was not accessible to the consumers till Google declared “indoor maps” as the future of consumer facing verticals, which successful attempts in utilizing this technology in shopping malls, museum and related public places where the real-time user analytics based on his location inside the shop helped formulating a set of customized offering to the user to make his experience easier and delightful.

IKEA, one of the world’s leading home furnishings company, uses Google indoor maps for improving customer’s experience in navigating the stores that are typically “typically a two level building that ranges in size from 200,000 sq ft to 450,000 sq ft–the average size is approximately 320,000 sq ft” and which typically “can work against” the “IKEA’s goal is to make the customer feel comfortable and in control of their shopping experience” — “People can have a hard time navigating the store. There have been stories of people saying that they feel like we are are purposely keeping them in.We want to make their shopping experience as easy as possible” (Google).

In a typical customer’s experience in a large sized mall, or shopping store can be frustrating, when he “want the option to quickly find their way to a particular product or throughout the store”(Ibidem,1)and this is mostly the consumer sees as the product he “needs”. Whereas the shopper or the store owner’s intention in most cases is to “encourage customers to find items they didn’t know they needed” – which is in fact conflicting with the thought line of the customer that is more inclined towards the self-gratification through the identification of items of his need.

 

 

The common set of expectations that lies among the conflicts of interests between the shop/store owner and the shopper provides the foundation that helps sustaining the user experience of the shopper in such an eco-system. The common set of expectations mostly revolve around the concepts of getting (for shopper)and providing (for shop-owner)the best possible experience. The common mission when equipped with the technology, such as indoor maps, sets the momentum of better usability and at the same time offers avenues for more cash flow for the store owner.

Most of the mall or stores which have implemented indoor mapping technology have been profitable by capitalizing “on the growing population of smartphone users” who can use the technology through their handsets. As of March 2012, over 106 million people in the U.S. owned a smartphone with Apple and Google having market share of 30% and 51% respectively — which shows that a significant mass of the consumers are also depending on mobility as a medium to consume the technology aided services. This fact is itself acting as a catalyst to propel the usage of indoor maps in consumer sector. (comScore, 2012).

 

Keeping the user in-touch during the whole experience

 

One of the successful features of the indoor mapping eco-system is to keep the user informed at every step of his experience and maintain a communication thread between the user and the system. A sample flow is shown below where the two way communication is illustrated.

 

 

The illustration above highlights how a simple two way communication is established between the user (through his app on his mobile) and the indoor mapping backend running and performs the analysis of user location data to execute productive actions that meets the user goals and helps improve the user’s over shopping experience in the store.

(c) 2013-14, Samir Dash

UX : Making Sense of Business

The User centred approach to solve a design problem, always keeps user or the segments in mind. However the design problem being solved is always refer to a larger business problem for the product to be successful in the market. So it is always important to keep in mind the business context of the product and the company or business entity who is releasing it to the market, in order to come out with a successful UX for it.

Understanding business context of the client is to understand the business model followed by the client, which is mainly :

  • The complete business offering
  • Customer orientation and service innovation for customer relationship
  • Business Infrastructure
  • Revenue Streams
  • Productivity and Cost control structures

If we refer to any standard business model frameworks such as “Business Model Canvas”, a template that is popularly used for developing and investigating every important aspect of the organisation. The framework in such a template outlines investigations for areas such as key partners, key activities, key resources, value propositions, customer relationship, channels, customer services, cost structure and revenue streams, which always helps to understand and identify the core goals, strengths and priorities of the business that provides the context in which the UX has to be seen.

In a business model we refer to UX when we plan strategy for “Value Proposition”. In the typical Business model Canvas, value proposition involves areas like

  • Newness
  • Performance
  • Customization
  • “Getting the Job Done”
  • Design
  • Brand/ Status
  • Price
  • Cost Reduction
  • Risk Reduction
  • Price
  • Accessibility
  • Convenience/ Usability

 

From a product manager’s standpoint, the successful UX meant for a business must balance between the needs of the users and the feasibility of implementation of the UX solution within the business context.

 

Customer needs + Business context +Technological feasibility = Successful UX making the successful product.

 

The better side of this standpoint is that it limits the craving from the pure designer’s mind set to do a “blue sky thinking based solution that is not practically viable for the business to grow.

Don’t get Confused: UCD vs UCSD

In my last posts I discussed about Usability Design and User-Centered Design (UCD) and User-Centered Systems Design (UCSD). But many confuse between these two.  So in the following I am trying to differentiate these two:

UCD vs UCSD

UCD is differs from the UCSD in the following areas:

  1. Goal: The goal of UCSD is more on the process than the user so as to make the final product/system more usable. UCD rather focuses more on “users” of the product and not the design process. More focus is spent on understanding the user and their need.
  2. Process vs. Techniques Set: UCSD is about system development where as UCD is mostly a set of tecniques and process sets to be used with in UCSD 
  3. Perception: The DNA of UCSD is about changing the mindset of the professionals in the development process so that the designing aspect of usability can be put into practice freely and with higher priority. The UCD process is not about the changing perception about the priority of the design in the whole process.
  4. Broadness: UCSD covers the whole process that includes the areas which are even not part of “designing” whereas UCD can be seen as a subset of UCSD focusing of the “design process sets”.

UCD Models and Process

There 3 different models that support UCD in varying degrees and follow the ISO standard Human-Centred Design for interactive systems:

  1. Cooperative Design: This involves designers and users on an equal footing.
  2. Participatory Design (PD): Inspired by Cooperative Design, focusing on the participation of users
  3. Contextual Design:  “Customer-Centered Design” in the actual context, including some ideas from Participatory Design.

All these UCD models involve more or less a set of activities grouped into the following steps  mentioned below:

  1. Planning: in this stage the UCD process is planned and if needed customized. It involves  understanding the business needs and setting up the goals and objectives of the UX activities.  Also forming  the right team for the UX needs and if needed hiring specialties fall into this step.
  2. User data collection and analysis: This step involves data collection through different applicable methodologies such as user interviews, developing personas, conducting scenarios , user-cases and user stories analysis, setting up measurable goals.
  3. Designing and Prototyping : This involves activities like card sorting, conducting IA, wire framing and developing prototyping.
  4. Content writing: this  involves content refinement and writing for web and similar activities.
  5. Usability testing: This involves is a set of activities  of conducting tests and heuristic evaluations and reporting to allow refinement to the product. However Usability Testing can have its set of steps involving similar activities such as planning , Team forming, testing , review and data analysis and reporting.

All these are similar to most of the steps that fall under Usability Design as UCD can be seen as a subset of process with in Usability Design.

So many processes: What is where?

After going through multi relation models in all these processes and sub process discussed in this post and the previously discussed posts,  it might be little confusing to visual all the overlapping and dependable process sets. So here is a simple representation diagram that roughly shows the overlapping relations:

processes-relation

Usability Design and User-Centered Design (UCD)

The Usability Design is roughly a subset of the UCSD process that matches the “Do Iterative UCSD” step of the UCSD process.

usability_design

The usability design outlines the steps in the development process involving usability design aspects. The process can be divided into three main phases:

  1. Requirements analysis: This step is synonymous with planning and analysis phase of typical software development life cycle(SDLC).
  2. Growing software with iterative design: This is the design and testing phase and development phase of typical SDLC.
  3. Deployment: This is same as deployment phase of typical SDLC.

 

User-centered design (UCD) is a set of design processes in which “the needs, wants, and limitations of end users of a product are given extensive attention at each stage”. It is characterized as a multi-stage problem solving process involving designers who take the lead responsibility in foreseeing and solving the usability problems the users are likely to face while interacting with or using the system/product. UCD focuses on understanding the behavioral aspect of the user interacting for the first time so that the user’s learning curve in using the system can be evaluated in order to optimize and reduce it. User-centered design philosophy emphasizes on optimizing the product around “how users can, want, or need to use the product, rather than forcing the users to change their behavior to accommodate the product”.

Constantine and Lockwood define UCD as :

‘. . . loose collection of human-factors techniques united under a philosophy of understanding users and involving them in design’. . . ‘Although helpful, none of these techniques can replace good design. User studies can easily confuse what users want with what they truly need. Rapid iterative prototyping can often be a sloppy substitute for thoughtful and systematic design. Most importantly, usability testing is a relatively inefficient way to find problems you can avoid through proper design’. (‘. . . loose collection of human-factors techniques united under a philosophy of understanding users and involving them in design’. . . ‘Although helpful, none of these techniques can replace good design. User studies can easily confuse what users want with what they truly need. Rapid iterative prototyping can often be a sloppy substitute for thoughtful and systematic design. Most importantly, usability testing is a relatively inefficient way to find problems you can avoid through proper design’.

Putting it straightforward UCD is all about 4 factors which are mostly related to the end user :

  1. Needs of users
  2. Limitations of  users
  3. Preferences of users
  4. Business objectives of the product.

This helps in achieving the following benefits:

  1. User satisfaction through more user friendly product experience
  2. Increase in customer /user loyalty.
  3.  Making the product more relevant and valuable for the user
  4. Product / system is more value added as users

 

 

—–

(c)2012-13 : Samir Dash. All rights reserved.

 

 

Socio-cultural User Experience (SX) and Social Interaction Design (SxD): The Socio-cultural Context in UX and Usability Design

Summary

This paper introduces the ‘socio-cultural’ dimension of User Experience (UX) and Interaction Design (IxD) with reference to emerging devices and related eco-systems.

Background

With the emergence of Google Glass, the topics related to devices infringing with personal privacy became hot cakes for tech-debates. Many social scientists, human rights activists have started to see the ‘Glass’ as the evil that reminds them with George Orwell’s ‘1984’. The fear of a ‘Google Big Brother’ controlling the major shares of the information world is seen as the intruder to private aspects of ‘the public’.

Fig1: The backlashes on Google glass has become one of the major discussion in recent tech world.
Example link: http://blogs.computerworld.com/privacy/22144/hey-dont-wink-me-glasshole-itbwcw

It is not the case that Google has not spent money on user research and usability aspects before going ahead with the concept of persons using glass that may change the way we interact with systems in our daily life. Usability wise, it is definitely a super gadget that has the potential to  catapult the device industry into next century. But the new features and interaction methods implemented in the device in a manner that is actually a decade old approach that is only fit for human-computer-interaction (HCI) in case of smart phones and tablets which have less tendency to hurt sentiments of those who do not directly interact with the device when the user might be performing some actions in a certain socio-cultural context. These sentiments could result in the fear of losing privacy , cultural distrust and humiliation among the second-hand users of the  device who are impacted indirectly in some way by the device actions in the context.

There is an interesting article on web titled “7 Innocent Gestures That Can Get You Killed Overseas”  that gives nice examples of various innocent gestures in daily life a  person can actually get him into trouble in a different socio-cultural context http://www.cracked.com/article_16335_7-innocent-gestures-that-can-get-you-killed-overseas.html.

Therefore it is high time to rethink in UX domain to discover the missing pieces which we think we have already discovered.

Socio-Cultural User Experience (SX) – the missing piece in UX

I have coined the term ‘SX’ aka ‘Socio-Cultural User Experience’ to represent the aspect of Usability Design or User Experience (UX) that deals with usability aspect of products/ software in a social context.

 SX

Fig2: The UX model is incomplete without its ‘social’ context.
To make usability design meaningful the model must follow the social context

 

Social and Cultural aspect of UX can be interpreted as a new component of UX – it is the missing piece that makes UX meaningful in social context.

Traditional UX model is centered around human user. But the critical factor that makes human being differentiated from other beings is his ability to ‘evolve and follow social standards’. The history of human growth is actually more clearly represented in the “history of human civilization”. So any product design must adhere to the social factor of design  and this is what SX is all about.

Considering the ‘Others’ in the User’s Social circle

The existing UX model does not analyze the need beyond the current user and his ‘type’ to do a usability test  — it never considers how it is impacting the other members of the society while the target user set is using the app/system.

For example, using car horn is a safety measure, but using it near a hospital or school is considered as unsocial and disturbing. There are many social check points that bar users of any system from using it in special socio logical context.

 

Fig3 : The no horn , camera, mobile phones and similar sign posts can be seen as a few of the social guidelines represented graphically on the use of different systems.

So implementing social context related restrictive design is even though new , is actually a age old tradition.

Criteria of a Good ‘SX’ Compatible System

Criteria of a sound usability design of an app on socio-cultural context:

  1. Universal—has design elements that are universal.
  2. Ethical – follows principles and approach that has positive ethical value
  3. Non-racial – non biased and non-provocative attitude to user’s race and beliefs.
  4. Respectful – towards user’s culture, social beliefs and ethnicity
  5. Safety – has it’s social impact that is safe for the User.
  6. Non-abusive – must not exploit the user and the environment he is in .
  7. Common Sense – has geared towards common sense – behaves and reacts to the user in a sensible way
  8. Protect Privacy – App’s feature and interaction must protect user’s privacy and other humans in the social circle.

Example of a Possible Enhancements to a Real Life Product via ‘SX’ :

Fig4 : Google Glass has an inbuilt camera that can take pictures.  

Let’s take the case of Google Glass.

Google Glass is designed in a way that can act as more personal than a mobile handset, as it is a spectacle and can be indispensable   accessory for the user once he gets addicted to it by replacing his conventional glass with it.

But the support for camera to take picture can pose a problem for the user to enter private areas, industrial areas, secure zones and offices where cameras are not allowed. In some places of earth, the cultural restrictions are in practice to ban cameras in certain places — most of the temples in India do not allow cameras inside. Now imagine, if the user has replaced his traditional spectacle for it , then he may find it difficult to manage without it in these scenarios.

So by following SX approach in usability design, the glass will require to have a “detachable set of camera” used in the glass so that the user can detach the camera and which would power it off and at the same time allow the user to keep on using the glass as a conventional spectacle.

This example may be just one of many features that Google glass might have, but it is enough to illustrate the approach in thought.

Social Interaction Design (SxD) – Helping IxD to Focus on Context and Environment of the User

I am using the term ‘SxD’ aka ‘Social Interaction Design’ that deals with the ‘social aspect’ of Human – Computer – Interaction (HCI) and Interaction Design (IxD) that  focuses on usability design in context of how the user is interactive with the app in specific socio-cultural context.

Points to Focus on while designing a SxD Compatible System

  1. Provide multiple alternatives to the interaction methods to control the same functionalities in different socio-cultural context.
  2. User should have total control over enable/disable of interaction methods for different scenarios.
  3. The default interaction method must follow ‘SX’ approach.
  4. Provide options to the user to switch between interaction methods with the system as and when needed.
  1. Alternative mechanisms should be provided for physically challenged users. Rethink on the use of gestures and other interaction methods in the Article 508 context as everyday the new devices with unpredictable (not necessarily negative!) interaction methods and features.

Gesture and other Interaction Medium of SxD:

The ‘Social Interaction Design’ approach has the following major facets in the  system interaction towards the user in socio-usability context:

  1. Facial Gestures—The selection of Human triggered facial gestures (e.g. wink, smile etc.) to activate the system or trigger any action in the system must be judged based on the canonical meaning of those gestures in social and cultural context of the user where he is going to use it.  For example, in case of Google Glass , the feature of “winking” (the gesture developed by Google Glass developer Mike DiGiovanni http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57582500-93/google-glass-code-lets-you-snap-a-photo-with-a-wink/  ) at someone to take a photo can pose a problem if the user is in India or Middle East countries. Even in western world winking at a lady or group of ladies (even though it is unintentional for any kind of abasement) can be taken as a negative action (e.g. weakness in character) and evoke anger and misunderstanding. So even if the winking to take a feature is a ‘cool feature’, in social context SxD will suggest the usability/interaction engineer to rethink on it to implement some options to ‘keep it disabled’ by default and allow the user the total freedom to use his judgment to enable and use the feature in any given socio-cultural context.Fig5: The ‘wink’ gesture developed by Google Glass developer Mike DiGiovann allows user to take a snap of the surrounding with just a wink of an eye.

     

  2. Sound Gestures —  The selection of sound gestures – the use of voice or sound pattern to control the system should be examined for different user environments. For example blowing a whistle to activate a play functionality on a portable music player, or to open an SMS on the cell phone can be an interesting feature, but on the other hand if it becomes useless in a busy street or in a meeting room where a discussion is going on.
  3. Touch based Gestures –   Touch, swipe and pinch are popular now a days as most of the tablets and smartphones offer this as a user friendly interaction method for the user. More devices are coming up which do not have any physical button rather a few multi-touch gestures are enough to fully control them. However ‘SxD’ stresses that the devices must be designed and developed with the interaction method that can allow alternative to the available touch triggered interaction mechanism.  For example , while developing a digital medical instrument with touch sensitive display, the interaction methods  should be carefully planned so that the surgeon can use the system without touching to avoid infections through contact with it while conducting any mission critical surgery.
  1. Hand/Finger based 3D gestures – ‘SxD’ approach encourages to conduct a social analysis of the  hand/finger based gestures that are planned to be used in a system – the gestures should selected / innovated by carefully studying the cultural context avoiding common gestures used in daily life that are considered abusive to others. In addition to this practical usage resulting out of user’s environment and work culture must be given consideration. For example the middle finger gesture commonly used by youths to represent the crack humiliating pun on the other should not be used for any app that is expected to be popular among the users from the similar demography. But note that only considering the demography is not enough to decide the gestures.
  1. Mouse /Keyboard Control – Similar to the gesture , voice and the related interaction method with system, mouse, keyboard, joystick and other typical input device based methods should be considered with in the context in which they are going to be used. As this group of interaction method are very old, many standard guidelines are already in there in practice. They However we need to rethink on them and make sure they are upto date with the ever changing human –computer-interaction domain.

Going Forward

Understanding usability is the first step in developing a successful system/software. However we need to understand the social and cultural implications of the UX implementations of the definitions of usability which we think is good for the user in order to   make our software truly complete and meaningful in all aspect. ‘SX’ and ‘SxD’ are the two missing pieces of this whole puzzle, which we need to discover in order to rediscover UX.

 

 

Download the paper from Slideshare :

http://www.slideshare.net/MobileWish/sx-overview