UX Lisbon: Designing for New Technologies

by Luke Wroblewski May 13, 2010

At User Experience Lisbon (UX LX), Dan Saffer provided an overview of Designing for (and with) New Technologies with some tips on practical considerations, managing user expectations, developing personality, and creating meaning.

  • The new stuff has usually been around for a long time and is just slowly rolling out. Bill Buxton refers to this phenomenon as “the long nose of new technology”. For example, touch screens were around for 30 years before taking off.
  • At some point you will work with something new to you -not any specific technology but things that will come up in 2-3 years.
  • Technology comes first but the need for it comes later. The point of need is where designers come in. Designers give technology meaning.
  • Practical considerations: build in some extra time. Designing for new technologies always seems to take more time than you need. You have the limitations of context and technology to work through. Don’t break what is already in an environment. Understand what is there before you go in and change it. Prototyping helps you get a sense of limitations. You may need to help sell the technology. Words matter.
  • Great ideas can’t be tested. Only mediocre ideas can be tested.
  • Expectations: human beings brains are set up to understand things based on prior expectations. MAYA = most advanced yet acceptable. Don’t make things so new that people don’t know where to start. You are striving to create new patterns that are predictable. If people don’t find a pattern, they feel tension because they don’t what’s coming next. Follow conventions unless the new alternative is measurably better.
  • Look for the “of course” factor instead of looking for the “wow” factor. The new technology will provide the wow.
  • Look for opportunities to utilize affordances. Attraction affordances can be used to over-cue the first hurdle and get people going. Metaphors can help bridge the gap between a new technology and the real world.
  • Personality: makes products more interesting and gets people engaged with it. Failure is a great place to show personality. With new technologies, unexpected things will happen. An emotional connection to products helps us forgive its faults. What kind of emotion could be generated by using this technology? Emotion is usually found in the small details. It is in the feedback and transition of the functionality. Sound can impact personality.
  • Meaning: there are only two things that can create really new products: technology and meaning. Designers work with both of these. What’s the deepest reason that people would actually use this technology? The most powerful kind of innovation is where both technology and meaning change. Design principles can position a product appropriately.
  • Design is about cultural invention –Jack Schulze. New technologies allow us to be inventors of culture. Seize that chance.