Paul Kahn, Krzysztof Lenk. A suprisingly badly designed book, but packed full of very inspirational information architecture examples, from isometric site-maps to flow charts and wireframes.
amazon.co.uk / amazon.com
This lecture covers some specific ideas that are aimed at traditional designers or filmmakers that want to make narratives involving user/audience interaction.
Speakers were reasonably diverse with no overall design, hci or usability focus, definitely attempting to be inclusive under the term ?experience design?. I have a clearer overview of the state of the US design landscape, and the kind of work that intelligent agencies and individuals are undertaking. There were a number of very sharp individuals presenting.
Experience design is a widely accepted term, widely understood as a process, and validated by the client and market reaction. There is a vacuum waiting to be filled after years of new media mishap, and recent financial failure. Experience design is less about interface and HCI research, it is a more physical and humane practice, dealing with ideas of pervasive media and multiple channels. Almost everybody talked about users, about scenarios, storyboards, storytelling, play and context. The focus was working at a higher level, integrating channels rather than testing response times or classifying information.
Mohan Sawhney summed up the overall ideology that emerged, by discussing methods and tools for crossing boundaries. He used great examples, discussing the ‘black and whiteness’ of ‘old and new’ economy thinking, and offered 9 ways to transcend these boundaries and conceive products and services that met more fundamental needs.
Nick Durrant presented a very engaging idea dealing in very real, human terms, that related to technology in subtle and significant ways. He talked about the real human perceptions of technology, and the effect that the network has on those perceptions and on society.
Tim Parsey of Motorola presented technology and expectation timelines for the future. The research and ‘blue sky thinking’ was interesting (see below) but the disparity between research and practice seems huge: where did these visions become Motorola’s appalling product designs?
Evolving the e-business Landscape – Lessons from Fashion was a confusing and jargon ridden presentation that said nothing that I had not heard before. There is clearly a similarity between Fashion and Technology life-cycle curves, but this didn’t make for a good presentation.
h3. Friday 9th November
h4. Introduction, Shelley Evenson, Scient & Bill Hill, Metadesign
Landscape of Experience has developed from being heavily interface led into being led mostly but not exclusively by multimedia. We are seeing combinations; pervasive media, business, technology, and experience.
h4. Michael Schrage
MIT Media Lab. [email protected]
We shape our models then our models shape us.
How do people behave around models, prototypes and simulations. We should encourage designers to rethink the creation of value.
We need a new innovation investment infrastructure for design management.
The marginal costs of iterative prototyping are collapsing, we are seeing the ‘spreadsheetification’ of design. The cost per iteration (CPI) is headed for the free…
Iterative modeling (once a model has been designed) will become free, transforming the landscape of modeling, prototyping and simulation. With this power we will have much more choice as to what we want to do, design will be a very powerful force. However the more choice you have the more that your values matter in making the right decisions.
Designers will end up having greater ‘iterative capital’. The constraint is no longer the number of dev cycles or iterations that we can use on a product. We can throw iterative capital at problems. But how do we productively waste it? BMW has developed excellent crash test software, which has resulted in innovative designs such as the C1 motorcycle.
We are developing dynamic prototypes, using parallel development, so we can test out multiple solutions at once. A companies innovation profile goes up when they have high iterative capital.
We must create new ways of simulating things, so we can create radical products. Should we co?invest our iterative capital with key customers and suppliers?
What about generative or evolutionary design algorithms? These will work very well with new iterative friendly models. see John Holland ? evolutionary design.
h3. Saturday 10th November
h4. Mohan Sawhney
NWU. [email protected]
childhood is when we learn the most, learning is all about setting up boundaries and putting boxes around things. In this way we reduce our daily mental load by recognising groups of objects, and not having to rely on our perception and cognition to interpret everything around us. Boundaries are defining and limiting tools to classify and structure scaffolds on the world, to construct mental models.
The pendulum always swings in binary oppositions:
old economy new economy
whereas what we should be looking at is enhanced economy
we should be looking at improved business
brick and mortar pure play companies
we should be looking at click and mortar designs
wired network wireless network
we should be looking at the ubiquitous network
We should look at the grey rather than the black and white. Synthesis as opposed to analysis.
How to break free from established boundaries that hinder our creative thinking:
Always ask why ? well we do this already.
Surfacing ? uncover and understand the hidden boundaries. Dell; why are pcs sold through resellers? Southwest Airlines; why do all airlines us a hub and spoke system?
Reversing ? invert your vantage point, sellers should look from the buyers perspective, creating an activity centric metamarket.
Redrawing ? reframe the problem differently. ASPs; changed the service from ‘software as products’ to ‘software as services’
Spanning ? see across boundaries, and across constituencies.
Pollinating ? create linkages across boundaries, exchange best practices and insights, shared spaces and knowledge sources.
Trespassing ? travel to strange knowledge domains.
Emptying ? cleanse your mind of pre?conceived notions and baggage, to open your doors of perceptions to fresh ideas.
Broadening ? see beyond narrow boundaries that frame existing debates.
Its almost never either/or its and.
Brick and Mortar versus pure play companies is an empty debate, because they are simply different ways to serve customers in a hybrid world.
ASPs ? Bollocks ?they need to be providing business solutions, not applications, who in the end cares what software they are using as long as they get things done…
Spin offs ? Bollocks ? why not integrate new technological solutions into your existing model, why did BankOne spin off its ‘ebank’ as a separate service? They subsequently had far more people signing up for e?access to their existing accounts, and scrapped the ‘ebank’.
A little zen poem:
first, there is no mountain
then, there is a mountain
then, there is no mountain
this describes how we use language to define the things around us, but also how things around us don?t necessarily need to be classified.
When you frame the existing customer experience you realise how many stupid boundaries have been set up from different viewpoints.
h3. Evolving the ebusiness Landscape
Lessons from Fashion
The technology lifecycle curve:
There are four forces that shape evolution of products:
Technological determinism, if you can build it, its a good idea: iridium
Cultural transmission, across cultural boundaries products need to evolve: ebay needed to change its business model almost entirely for the Japanese market.
Geopolitical change, political forces can mold a product by regulations and boundaries: the EU trust regulations may effect US policy on privacy and codes of conduct.
Individual innovation, individual entrepreneurs can have a great effect: Steve Jobs has a great individual effect on the computer market.
There are three approaches to filter these forces to make better products:
Command and control. predictability at the expense of flexibility. slow to react to technological change, not typically market sensing, process can stifle individual creativity.
Adaptive. flexibility at the expense of common sense. ignores lessons from the technological past. reacts to the market at a granular level. can mistake the trees for the woods.
Prescriptive. has vision tempered by practical experience. do not let the technology drive the ideas. track the markets. embrace and extend the will of the people. describe the future then build it.
h3. Tim Parsey
what are products?
Industrial design has a tradition of integration, its not one thing that makes a product, its the integration of things. An industrial designer won’t claim to design cars, they will claim to be a part of a process which makes the whole. The door slam on a Mercedes might be the one reason it is a good product to someone.
Over the next few years our experience of products will broaden.
New tangible spaces will emerge, boundaries blur, boundaries broaden.
Intimate conjunction of fashion and technology.
new levels of technological invasiveness on our lives
holistic system challenges
enhanced reality via technologies such as object locators.
Design challenges emerge as time becomes an essential part of the dimension of design.
We have to design a relationship over time, not just a one off experience.
How can we master designing these ever more complex experiences?
Newton palm. The success of the palm is in simplicity, not features
WAP i-mode. i-mode has a simple, complete and fun focused experience
BetaMax VHS. VHS had the porn market, driven by fundamental human desires
humanism and resonance. we must navigate the extended possibilities with humanism and resonance libraries, there is a level of humanism that we are missing right now in digital product design:
aspiration and situation, we wear what we aspire to be
opportunities to be heard as an individual
choice should equal looking after me
simple object magic i.e. a pebble that we pick up on the beach
freedom, a fundamental force that drives everyday decisions.
invisibility and habit, a knife and fork resonate with us so much that we rarely look at them or notice their use. They are unquestionably intuitive for a large part of the population.
design for natural gestures
cultural resonance, old objects get good use, even if they don?t look good or work so well.
memory, we like to use things that are familiar, we like to be in familiar places for a lot of our time.
living on the edge, the highpoints, the peak experiences
mood immersion, daydreaming
holding onto a memory, looking a pictures, photo albums.
mastery, mastering a complex or satisfying process
edgy tech, some people love new technology
values, moral responsibility and environmental values.
We can sort these resonance libraries in clusters that can then form product groups.
The segmentation for future products in Motorola is as follows:
accompli ? screaming edge technology
timeport ? sophisticated tool, trust, advanced, professional
talkabout ? social, family, appliance, helper
v. ? fashion, style, chic, haute
the segmentation strategy can be driven by market demographics, but then uses a deeper level of understanding users by looking at the social and cultural resonances, using the humanistic library as a map.
A good brand is the non-arrogant use of design language. Companies usually try to tell you that you need something which can seem a very arrogant standpoint. But products which allow for new experiences don?t have to be sold in traditional ways, and can allow for a new level of brand consistency.
We are starting to see products designed around the total experience, planning the full cycle from marketing, through to buying, through to a long term usage cycle. How do we evolve the overall context as we develop ideas? we use partners and channels to develop the overall infrastructure to meet new experience requirements.
Gluing the clouds to the ground. Motorola uses timelines to map the future and the current development of products in a wider context. Overall there are four timelines;
user experiences ? greater and greater resonance
evolution ? product ideas
technologies ? what technology will these ideas need, and what will be available.
revolution ? shows concepts that try to pull the future to the present for marketing needs
User experience timeline ? portable, mobile, juggling, mini, flexible, just in time, scaling, intimate, intuitive, freedom, improvisational, discovery, humour, wit, habit, irony.
Evolution timeline ? field phone, lanyard phone, bluetooth earphone, in ear prompting,
Technology timeline ? mini, noise cancellation, skin induction, electronic ink
Revolution timeline ? shoe view, navi feet, hearing hands, pregnancy shawl, mood hood, replay picture
Using models to improve the design process
h3. Hugh Dubberly
concept mapping, the problem with mental models is that they are hidden, what we need to do is to take them and make them visible.
what would you do if:
you were asked to design a complex product.
you know nothing about it
lots of revenue is involved
the team doesn’t want to know about it
there has to be a way of developing a language to bring the ideas out onto the table and creating a place to start. A model is a description of a system, they can be written or drawn. Designers face may problems, we need new tools to model these problems.
we have many tools for modeling the lower right hand corner of the chart, but not so many for the top left where we may find very interesting results. We also need tools to map systems of systems and algorithmic systems which may not adhere to static display.
Simple tasks can be modeled like this
people ask questions of a source to get answers
for more information on concept mapping ‘how we learn’ by gowan and novak
Quality grows out of the design process.
Approach the total user experience, the end to end relationship, from selling to long term use. Marketing and product design should converge. But marketing comes from the discipline of war, i.e. ‘strategy’.
A good design approach is to pull back and look at the bigger picture, and then to look at the problem from another perspective, people, humanistic or user.
A company is reflected directly in its products, or a company is its products, thus design language should be discussed by everybody.
There is a slippery slope from a small company which has domain experts and serves its customers in a personalised way, to a large company which just serves its own bottom line. In the next five years we may see companies going un?public i.e. hiding for a while then reemerging with new values.
You create your own reality, you define your competitors and collaborators, do not blame wall street or other ‘systems’ that you may feel hinders your values, there is always room to push.
At the Kellogg business school they have a game, where there are very simple rules, basically nothing that gets in the way of the players defining how the game progresses. All students come out of the game complaining that it was unfair, and that the other person cheated, or that the boundaries were unrealistic. But they then get shown the equations and realise that they created the adversarial relationship, and that they had defined the whole scenario through their own preconceptions. Mohan says that he instills values into children, not limitations, then let them run free with the temptations of the world.
Whenever you present an idea, present what you might also do next, this is a way of getting larger ideas realised and educating clients or colleagues.
Motorola is partnering with carriers to provide the complete experience.
why does business have to define the ‘total life experience’, will everything in the future be monetized?
Motorola ? more marketing driven
Nokia ? more user driven
h3. Memory and Imagination
Aura Oslapas, formerly MD at IDEO.
Pina Bausch ? choreographing experience.
Studies of people in New York, Paly park? 56th street in NY.
Physical, temporal, sensory, and communal experiences. 360 degree experiences.
Customer journey planning, mapping, where, when, how, why, for how long
Case study with Amtrak shows that there are 10 key points in the traveling experience before you reach the train.
IDEO uses scenarios and illustrations to form the design process. They prototype the experience as far as possible, experimenting with different forms of communication to find a solution that is most likely going to produce the best experience.
The four areas that her new company undertakes are; vision, communication, culture change and experience.
For Hewlett Packard they recommended that the company splits into infrastructure, appliances, services to allow the brand to be experienced in a better way by their different clients.
h3. Information Art
Lisa Strausfeld formerly at Quokkasports and MIT.
Influenced by the huge Nasdaq wall in Times Square she became interested in the idea of the ambient display of information in public or private spaces. There is an increasing amount of ‘always on’ information which is important to us.
At MIT Lisa studied under Muriel cooper at the visible language workshop. Using information objects and putting them in new and unstudied places.
Quokkasports used information as entertainment, looking at the ways that information graphics could become fun in themselves when combined with media, and presented in an engaging way.
For New York?s Penn Station Lisa is designing the ambient media wall. Pentagram is designing the building.
h3. Designing the Multi-Channeled User Experience
Chris Edwards Yale
Single channel interfaces are turning into multi channel interfaces
application browser ? user
application print, pda, phone, fax, letters, tv, itv, web user
We see a need for functionality across these channels, with a context sensitive nature so that we can engage with these products in the most effective way.
United Airlines has seven channels, web, email, phone, palm, pager, fax, and letter. The Flight paging service is a pull application in a browser, where you set preferences and input your own details. The flight paging service then reduces the stress of travel by reducing the need for activity, it puts the interface in the background, and allows for interaction only in the case of delays or problems. Usually a user traveler will phone in to check that the flight is not delayed or cancelled, and now they can rely on the fact that it is all fine, unless there is a problem.
The problem with United Airlines is that the whole system is not a cohesive experience, for instance the telephone operators cannot send you a confirmation email ? they do not have your details, there is little cross?department knowledge of individual users.
With the flight paging service there are multiple logins for different parts of the site, and passwords of up to 11 characters long, which are different from your main user login and passwords. There is little channel transparency, by the fact that your knowledge is not shared effectively across internal departments, and there are different ticketing agencies which have no access to your details.
How can we conceptualise and imagine new multichannel customer experiences.
Students at Yale came up with ideas in brainstorming sessions.
Dynamic flight planning, changes to flight itinerary while you are traveling.
The flight crew as channel, the flight crew can be equipped with the right information to act as your itinerary manager.
We design intentional experiences around technology objects. Flights are information deficit times, there could be an onboard LAN, for laptops to access information.
Human Centred Design
User Observation ? collecting insight and data about peoples lives.
Analysis ? looking at what we found
Synthesis ? make this into an interface
Bill Mitchell has a section in e?topia about the economy of presence, that users give their time to a system and thus are investors in that system.
User scenarios are key to explaining the multi channel experience. they are ways to tell stories about the new ways we interact. We can then quickly evaluate feature ideas in context.
h3. Roundup ? the customer experience
ebay is incredibly dynamic, its more than the sum of its planning
There are perhaps four user paths that can be identified, especially when designing museum exhibits.
Headliners ? scan the headlines of all the topics
Scanners ? look briefly at information that interests them
Readers ? take a linear path, look at things exhibit by exhibit
Nerds ? look at everything, including the sidebars of info
Ambient information displays are becoming quite common ? the Sony Civa picture frame.
There is a broad continuum between relying on research and using intuitive ‘if it works for me’ approach
There should be investment in long term design, in producing dynamic environments that can respond changes. Identity that destructs itself, logo half-life, expiration dates for signage…
Privacy. Issue that needs to be discussed within the user experience.
There needs to be a general knowledge, and acceptance that ‘this is what you are giving up’, and ‘this is what you are getting’.
Refer to ‘code and other laws of cyberspace’
h4. Don Norman.
Unext Learning systems
Memory, perception, cognition
The world is filled with information, our knowledge is in the world.
Web applications can develop themes, plots, and characters, along the lines of theatre. A web application allows us to develop products that really engage people on the long term.
A product needs to be supported equally by all disciplines and teams, design, engineering, marketing and manufacturing.
None of the design schools at present deal with products that approach the complexity of the real world.
Don talked extensively about his digital watch, his PalmV and the digital projector that was in the auditorium. He tried to explain the shortfalls and the affordances that these products have. It was pretty ineffective as a presentation, and did not address the complexity that he had previously referred to.
h3. Idit Harel
MamaMedia ? www.mamamedia.com
Mamamedia is creating online play experiences. Experiences that can get young children connected.
What is engaging and motivating kids today? Usability from a kids perspective is very different to usability from a traditional software development perspective.
There are three generations currently using media:
Baby Boomers ? consumers
Generation X ? consumers, choosers
The Clickerati ? consumers, choosers, creators
We are moving towards greater control and participation in the media experience. The medium is not the message, its what you do with it that counts.
We are not dealing with information technology, but construction, design, imagination, communication, reflection, representation, personalisation technology.
Mamamedia aims to create experiences with play objects, non?linear open?ended play spaces, with customisation, personalisation, and self expression.
what do kids do?
13 year olds are naturally non?linear multi?taskers, they only get to focus if they have multiple tasks. They love mixed media. They are technology fluent, they do not care what technology is used, just what they can get done with it. They are looking for ‘hard fun’ with levels and learning curves, with things that get harder as you get better. They are learning all the time. They value diversity, don’t watch the same tv shows as each other, they like to swap individual experiences with each other. They value individuality, they want tools not answers, and they want to customise.
Kids don?t want to organise information, they want to play.
Later teens use the telephone and instant messaging. They integrate mixed media in their communication with each other.
Wonder comes from expression, exploration, and exchange.
Programming for kids to progamme for themselves.
h3. Eric Lunt
Spyonit [email protected]
Navigating the landscape together, coders and designers. Eric is a coder. We need to integrate design with experience with technology.
How do developers and designers talk?
2 weeks ethnographic research. 2 weeks product design. 2 weeks interaction design. 1 week integration. 1 week Quality assurance.
1 week design. 8 weeks code. 1 week Quality assurance.
There is an obvious discrepancy in expectations.
Designers need to specify all of the branch conditions and states, to specify as many possibilities as possible to the coders. Give the design language to the developers, they will love it.
Trends in technical architecture:
Getting a good design language from the outset.
Object oriented analysis and design
Component based design ? thinking about systems as small objects and making them communicate.
Encapsulation ? define a clear interface for that object
Polymorphism ? it doesn’t matter which object you call, the right one will respond
MVC ? the Model View Controller
Separating out all of the different things that get things done:
Model ? what it does, the application
View ? wml, html, what view are we using
Controller ? what are the actions, what can I do with that information.
Separation of interface from implementation, there are many methods for doing this:
servlets ? put HTML into the code ? not good because designers can’t get in to change things
So what does work?
Moving to component based architecture, component based jsp’s and custom tag libraries. This invents a new role, the jsp bean developer.
application ? jsp bean ? user interface
This creates the struts application framework, where the coder can say to the UI designer ‘here are all the objects available, use them as you wish’
XHTML and XML are great new languages for coders, but designers need not know about them.
XHTML is a cleaner form of HTML that redefines the baseline from which all UI needs to be developed. It moves on from HTML4 which was an ugly beast.
XSL and XSLT allow the coder to transfer between xml files, but this is a programming translation language and should not have to be used by the UI designer.
h3. Creating Experience Compounds
Julie Pokorny Lante [email protected]
There is a computing shift from
Pervasive computing sits in the realm of the physical world, and has little to do with the traditional models of desktop computing.
The user experience needs to be consistent, needs to link diverse elements, compound elements
Services must not compete with user energy, they must be sensitive to things like who can reach me at what time of day etc.
Experience with ‘Mall Pilot’
The real world is very synchronous ? putting interactions across parties, across people individual linear path, creates tremendous problems.
Users need to complete transactions within the domain they started in. They find it very difficult to transfer to another medium to complete the process.
Desktop ? this equals the ‘homebase’ for the user, for control, configuration, and confirmation.
Consider the introduction of experiences.
The desktop is ideal for configured services
The physical world represents challenges beyond interface.
The challenges are:
complete interactions in their context
services can conflict with user energy
interaction interface needs to be highly adoptable
interaction triggers will be most successful in combination
object interactions add complexity
interaction triggers are linked tightly to infrastructure
Interaction, being and empathy
designing experiences starts by understanding
the user is most important, its not about you, its about them
people in the future will accept change more readily, flux
sex drives the use of every new medium
distance learning will be very big
social interactions, family and business become important
Italy ? 60m people, 40m mobile phones, 20m SMS messages per month
entertainment, the pursuit of excitement, theme parks
peer to peer services
users expect systems to learn about them, to invest as much in them as they invest in you
Napster and ILOVEYOU virus appeal to our basic emotions
Empathy is what design really is about
Art is about statement rather than empathy
h3. Tom Hobbs
Facilitating human?human interaction rather than human?information interaction.
Great piece of work from a hospital, where they were commissioned to produce a piece of information design for a poster around the subject of the hospital pharmacy. They could not find a suitable way to represent it because every pharmacy worker has a different story to tell. So they created an installation in the pharmacy waiting room, which videos the customers as they walk in, which in turn makes the customers ask the counter staff about the installation. This led to conversation which allowed every customer a way into the background information on the pharmacy.
Colors Magazine, good approach to the medium, not trying to recreate the highly photographic nature of the printed magazine.
Fabrica.it, unusable interface to a gallery of multimedia work
Sony VAIOnet, bad representation of community
The web design work didn?t live up to the earlier work.
David Small, Small Design. Lessons from the Visible Language Workshop.
Information landscapes have qualities of scale and location, focus and navigation.
He showed the Human Genome as a landscape of information, very nicely navigated and delineated by space and focus. All in real?time from his presentation computer.
h4. Nick Durrant
The hand is a powerful agent of play, we play tag and a ‘magic’ power is transferred.
Kids are saturated by their own media
I dare U ? love hearts
Kids are paying more money for pre pay mobiles than they spend on sweets
email ? one to one
web ? one to millions
what is in?between?
conversation ? 3?7
intimacy, close confidants ? 12
understanding, where you are coming from ? 40
recognition, say hello, remember name ? 140 ? good size for a company
memory of faces ? 2000
neighborhood, share rituals and amenities ? 10,000
Place names are incredibly important, boroughs, districts.
You only believe in memes and higher order things through trust at the lower levels.
Network phenomena happens socially, interaction of private and public space accommodates changing rules, regular, new, social.
Personal computer paradigm ? one person one box. Groupware has to deal with inter?subjectivity.
information communication transaction ???
Public information architectures will mutate into something completely different when they become private.
Desire is the 4th dimension. We get the user requirements, we don?t get the user desire requirements.
Time types ? work, chore, pottering, quality.
People are subjective and very active in interacting with one another. People are creative rather than passive.
‘all I know is how I feel’ empathy is so important.
Think of URLs as a material rather than a structured address space.
bluetooth meets feng shui
wap meets zip codes
beyond this there is stuff we don?t understand
New kind of architectural zones, is my device working here? Rabbit phones?
Telcos are interesting ? they sell bandwidth and time.
G. Debord, the naked city
Games mapped onto city space, Nokia Flirt Cat in Helsinki
Poetic mapping of the city
New interfaces become invisible and thus become interesting.
h3. Conference Roundup
Jeff Wert Wert&Co.
Boundaries between the virtual and the real.
Shift of focus from computers to networked media.
Every day activities are rising to the foreground.
Pollen Mobile develops location-based services for the consumer and business markets. Mamjam is their first product: a location based, social entertainment service based on Short Messaging Service (SMS) messages. It enables people in the same venue to chat with each other by sending text messages from their mobile phones.
Pollen approached us with a very broad intention to use SMS to drive social interaction and entertainment in new ways.
We initially developed three quirky ideas based on playground games, internet chat, and community storytelling that we presented as the basis for discovering business goals and user-needs.
After our initial brainstorm, we initiated a more rigorous user-centred, interaction design process that is detailed in this case-study.
h2. Handsets & Networks
We found several pivotal issues we needed to resolve: SMS has extremely limited functions; with few opportunities to create rich, engaging, extended interactions.
Mobile phone handsets provide no navigation between multiple messages, no indication of user status or location, and have no practical means of viewing session history. Users are accustomed to using SMS for quick functional communication, and extended contact with friends. They certainly do not rely on messages for any kind of complex interaction.
Every transaction between user and server on a mobile phone is a sessionless operation. Each message contains only the time it was sent, the number it was sent from and the content of the message .
Unlike http systems, the server cannot rely on location and session information being stored in the message address. This is complex from a user experience perspective because people are used to responses exhibited by systems that do carry session information and behave quite differently .
SMS messages are managed by the networks with cells, each cell carries messages particular to that region. Cells are notoriously unreliable, and we found that it was common for messages to hang in the system for over ten minutes. This presented some serious problems. Satisfying communications rely on a high level of continuity, and the timing between messages is a critical indicator of the emotional state of your chatting partner.
Mamjam’s service is location based: users are in contact with other users in the same area. However the existing (second generation) handsets cannot determine location, and although locations are triangulated by the network, this information is not publicly available. The location thus had to be manually provided by the user; in a way that then could be usefully interpreted by the server.
Researching and developing a reliable language for users to identify their location became central to the interaction design problem.
Many competing SMS services are currently internet-based: requiring a signup for services from a web site, rather than directly from handsets.
A system like this could conceivably be built without the use of modes . From the users perspective a modeless system could be overly complex and exhausting: every message must somehow include exact commands and instructions for the server. But a modeless system is very attractive from a technical perspective: the server is more likely to correctly interpret instructions.
We consulted with Pollen and selected SMS users to draw up several personas and scenarios. This included contextual enquiry, business goals and user-requirements gathering. We identified the following requirements:
* Users must be able to join the service immediately, not just from a website prior to use.
* The service should accommodate both new and returning users.
* Users are likely to be exposed to the service through all sorts of channels, and therefore signing up should accommodate all points of entry.
* The structure should be designed to accommodate expansion of the service.
* The basic structure of the handshake should carry to other SMS systems Pollen may choose to develop.
h3. First Iteration
The initial interaction architecture outlines our first intentions for the system. (For legal reasons we can’t include the full size diagram.)
The system works in a similar way to internet based chat rooms, connecting users who are ‘online’ at the same time, with the extra dimension that they are in the same physical place. Mamjam supports private, one-to-one communications only: users can’t shout to groups or broadcast messages. Once a user has found a chatting partner the system simply directs the text traffic between them until one party decides to pursue some one else, or signs off.
This structure required users to enter a lot of information about themselves before they could initiate contact with one another. We felt this was valuable in order to reduce the interaction load while chatting. This also resulted from a (perhaps misguided) adherence to the ‘internet chat room’ model.
This system was implemented on Pollen’s test servers, and we organised user-testing sessions. This revealed several problems:
The sign up process was off putting. Users motivation for this product is for entertainment and social contact: they weren’t happy to tolerate a lengthy sign-up process. This architecture required four messages for a new user to sign up. In some cases the user would be spending the equivalent of a 10 minute voice-call before they had connected with someone to chat. It was clear that the service needed to offer a quick method of signing up, perhaps at the expense of more advanced features.
In trying to optimise the system for both new and advanced users; signing up for the first time required a different interaction process from signing up for a second time. There were also several different methods of identifying your location to anticipate every possible user-interaction. There were thus four or five possible entry points into the system. This caused more modal problems than anybody anticipated; the SMS server had to process language and match patterns in an almost infinite realm of possibilities.
h3. Second Iteration
It became clear that the three biggest problems for the social interaction process were:
* Aligning the systems perception of user-context with actual user-context.
* Ensuring users have an accurate perception of the system state.
* Maintaining a rich connection between users, allowing them to interpret and react to one another accurately.
This discrepancy between user perception and system perception can be referred to as ‘slippage’. Slippage is most problematic during the initial handshake when the user is most insecure about their request and about the system itself.
Text messages to and from SMS servers rarely arrive as punctually as they seem to in normal use. This meant it was possible for one of two users, both having agreed to start chatting, to reject the other on the basis that they had failed to reply to their confirmation. In fact the rejected user had replied with confirmation, but their message had been delayed. The message would then arrive with the first user who had since moved to a new part of the interaction process. Their reply could potentially interrupt another process or get lost in the system, confusing and infuriating both users. Serious slippage!
We also found, as predicted, that users did not read back through their old messages. Some phones have a very limited capacity for storing messages and no phone facilitates simple navigation of previous messages, so the current message was the only one through which we could usefully rely upon for users to react to.
The second interaction architecture was developed with the problems described above in mind. Some changes have been made to the system since, mostly around modal issues, and the commands through which users communicate with the server. Although there are still issues regarding slippage, the second iteration makes this much less of a problem. The system is basically modeless, except for the first transaction. All users (new and existing) enter the system in the same way, new users are chatting within two messages, and existing users are potentially chatting after their first message.
h2. In Use
Mamjam is now fully operational, spinning off other services based on the basic interaction architectures we designed for the initial chat service.
h3. Extended Services
In a recent, typical promotion, at the Mood Bar in Carlisle, Mamjam sent a message to people who had Mamjamed there, offering them a discounted drink if they showed their mobile at the bar. The conversion rate from message sent to offer redeemed was 30%.
h3. Building relationships, Community and Storytelling
Having heard that a large number of people were texting their ex-partners late at night; under the influence, Mamjam sent a message asking for their own dating disasters. 13% of people responded with their own story by SMS; 50% of those responding within the first hour.
These users were not given incentives like promotional offers, the call to action was not a simple generic mechanic like reply YES or NO; it was much more involved. Users were required to read and understand the message received, then conceive and craft a response to fit into 160 characters. Yet the response was high and the quality of response excellent.
h3. Stimulating usage
By reminding BT users of a free messaging offer, the objectives are to stimulate Mamjaming outside of the locations in which they first Mamjamed.
p(quote). Message: Spice up your text life for FREE! Mamjam is still FREE to receive for BT users. To chat now just reply with mamjam and your location eg MAMJAM LONDON.
7% of the database of BT users read the message, and then decided to log on to Mamjam. Between them on that day they sent 3,400 chat messages.
h3. Some usage statistics
* First time Mamjam users begin chatting by sending only 2 SMS messages.
* Users are matched with someone within 120 seconds of logging onto the service for the first time.
* The average Mamjam user sends and receives 24 SMS messages per session.
* The top 10% of users send 60 SMS per month and generate an additional 72 outbound messages. Generating an additional ?18 for the network operators.
* The top 50% of users send 20 SMS per month and generate an additional 24 outbound messages, generating ?6.30 of revenue for the network operator.
* Repeat usage: 30% of daily users are repeat users.
We think that the best solution to this particular service has been found, given the limitations detailed above.
There are obvious and not-so-obvious limitations to SMS communications. The most notable limitations are the handsets continuing to rely on short messaging rather than a more advanced chat service, and the network operators inability to develop services and platforms outside of their own internal structures.
This research and product development has generated a lot of further ideas for asynchronous communication structures, and communication solutions for packet switched networks for mobile devices.
 Some phones support greater functionality than others, Mamjam needed to support a broad demographic so only the most bottom-line functionality was available to us.
When sending a message from a server it can be set to “Flash” mode, causing the message to open in the users phone immediately. Some cells also support a “broadcast to cell” function, whereby a single message can be sent to all phones within that cell. This function is expensive and only available to phones on a given network. back
 Information transferred with HTTP is also sessionless, but browsers and servers are afforded with functionality to help them overcome modal issues, like cookies, history bars and links for example. There are other interface restrictions to consider regarding the manipulation of text like the absence of cutting and pasting for example. back
h2. References and Links
At the time of writing the Mamjam numbers are 82888 (BT/Vodafone) or 07970 158 158 (all other networks). Just send any text message to sign up and test it for yourself.
h2. Professional Credits
h3. Interaction design
Jack Schulze Adi Nachman Timo Arnall
h3. Technical Architecture
h3. Information Design
In 1999 a team of six (including myself and “Jack Schulze”:http://www.jackschulze.co.uk) won the London Institute Award for Innovation for a collaboration around narrative and interactive television. We researched existing web-based projects dealing with community, gaming, multi-user space, and interactive narrative.
The project aquired an extensive archive of research material and proposed a number of design patterns that could be used for future development of collaborative television software.
We presented our findings to the public at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2000.