The Innovation Games Summit was about inspiring keynotes, hands-on workshops and networking during a couple of days in Amsterdam. The keynote topics ranged from Market Strategy to Design thinking, Gamification and Storytelling. I was giving a speech about how I use Innovation Games in my work as an Interaction Designer and Project Manager at ayond.

The Innovation Games is a series of serious games used for engaging, understanding and aligning your stakeholders and customers using collaborative play instead of boring traditional workshops. Since the games are mainly used as methods for market research, I wanted to talk about a mostly untapped potential of using Innovation Games in user research. Some interesting discussions took off after the presentation about whether the prestudy phase / design thinking phase can be executed in the form of Scrum with sprints just like the development part of a project. Design, some argued, cannot be timeboxed in the same way like the development phase can because of the nature of the design process. But when using games or methods for each step in the UX and design process you have clear milestones for preparing, executing and analyzing games or methods making it easier to map it into sprints.

Since I often have both the role as Project Manager and UX designer I also presented my version of an innovation game called Buy a Feature used for prioritizing backlogs. In the original game version and in all other methods that I know of, the opinions of the users are not taken into count in the actual prioritization process. My twist to the game is to first let users form the most important target groups play the game, the result that comes out of the game is a prioritized list of what features they like best. Then this information is brought along to the following session where I let the client play the game. By doing this you make it possible for them to also take into consideration the most wanted features selected by the target group.

baf

Read more about the game Buy a Feature at the Innovation Games Company’s website.

Gamification, Innovation, Interaction Design,
Imagine making a 3D model using only a depth camera and your browser, a process so quick that in moments your fully-textured 3D printable model loads on your web browser.

3D printers give you the promise to print amazing objects and unlock your creative potential. But to make 3D prints you have to first make a 3D model – and creating 3D prints from complex 3D models can quickly turn into a tricky process of complicated computer programs, tedious iterations and lots of melted plastic in the trash.

With technology from our partner Volumental a 3D model can be created using only a depth camera and your browser, a process so quick that in moments your fully-textured 3D printable model loads on your web browser. The water-tight, closed model is then downloaded to your computer or sent off to an online printing service, ready to print. The dream of a replicator is therefore realized.

Volumental’s 3D Scan-to-Print web app will finally make this to a reality as they creating the world’s first browser-based 3D printable model creator. “If you have the skills to watch a movie on Netflix, you have the skills to create amazing 3D models to print”, they say.
Their technology is the world’s first that allows users to create usable, shareable 3D models of your living room sofa, grandfather, or a kitchen appliance all without leaving your browser window. We wish Volumental all luck and actually we are already preworking with the technology for some of our client.
See how it actually work below.

Emerging technologies, Gamification, Innovation, Interaction Design, Trends,

Ask why

Bill DeRouchey, principal designer for GE, gave a presentation about how to get people to open up and talk about their products and problems in UX interviews and workshops. His tactics was to ask why, a lot. Why do you press that button and not that? Why did you react like you did etc. But you have to show real compassion and genuine curiosity to make people open up and tell you what they really think.

When you have done this you know enough to, instead of asking why, be able to say this is why. You have gained enough understanding to see the big picture and then come up with improvements and solutions. This is why, according to DeRouchey, we see a trend of UX designers becoming Product Managers, you become an agent of change.

The Internet of things had been touched on every now and then throughout the conference but not with that exact term. Bill also predicted that soon the world will be run on software and that everything will be equipped with sensors. And we are the ones that know how to design those systems. He urged UX designers to learn as much as possible from people you meet throughout your career and apply your skills on fixing the really big problems in the world, scarcity of water, food, the poorly functioning banking systems, energy problems etc. Don’t just do another startup that focuses on a simple feature, be bolder.

Gamification

More down to earth again, Carolyn Chandler in her presentation The Business of Play said something that is very true when it comes to the phenomenon of Gamification. Points and badges without actual fun and value is like putting lipstick on a pig. A successful example, however, is the game Zombies, Run!, which has the objective to get people to exercise more. When you open the app while running you hear audio that tells you that you are picking up items on the way which you can use to build your city. Every now and then you will hear a zombie approaching and the app urges you to run faster. The fact that we are growing up with games makes the use of those mechanisms in other fields than acual games really interesting. Read more about gamification in the book Seductive Interaction Design by Stephen P. Anderson or The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell.

Finally

I can really recommend Web Visions to developers, UX people, AD’s but also entrepreneurs or anyone who is interested in what is happening with the web. I talked to the organizer and he said that since you can find out pretty much anything on the web, there is no point of having presentations that feels like a tutorial on some program. He wanted to invite people with a message and visions which I really think he and the Web Visions team succeeded with.

 

Gamification, Innovation, Interaction Design, Trends,
The second day of Web Visions NYC contained a whole range of great keynote speakers so I will just mention some of the things I found interesting.

The second day of Web Visions NYC contained a whole range of great keynote speakers so I will just mention some of the things I found interesting.

Communication and building community

Jason Kunesh who was lead UX at Obama’s campaign 2012 gave some interesting thoughts about working with interaction design in the middle of an election. Since there was so many different roles and opinions involved he claimed that his work was not as much getting deliverables done but instead to create a community where everyone are on the same page. Slow things down first, get consensus, only then can you operate smooth enough to work fast. And if you are stuck on something, bend the rules and adapt to the present conditions. Which was pretty similar to the advice that Content Strategist Sara Wachter-Boettcher was giving: “find the people your work affects, and incorporate them from the start”. I think this is very important both inside an organization and in the client-web agency relation to make sure everyone have the same expectations and goals.

New web standards

Kevin Hoyt from Adobe gave a demo on how to use PhoneGap which they acquired 2011. The idea with PhoneGap is to import one set of web code and the system will render a native app version for iOS, Android and several more. What was interesting is that Adobe is working actively for improving web standards to make them able to control all the native functionality on smartphones such as the built in accelerometer and recording devices. With that said they are in fact working towards a web where PhoneGap will not be necessary since you can directly reach all the native functionality through normal web coding. This does seem like a likely scenario and if it becomes reality the native app will be having some serious competition with web apps.

Finally there was an amazing keynote by Douglas Rushkoff about his notion presentism and I am really looking forward to read his book  Present Shock. He argued that there is a shift of how we deal with time. Before we had to wait for things but now we can choose to get all information at once, for example we can now jump to the end at once on streamed TV programs on the web. He envisioned for example the Facebook timeline to become outdated and instead replaced by a more web like visualization where connections of people, objects and trips etc. are all tied together.

Gamification, Interaction Design, Trends,
Web Visions is a three day conference in New York that has been held yearly since 2001.

UX people, designers and developers gather to hear about how the future of the web could be like. As their website states “WebVisions explores the future of design, content creation, user experience and business strategy in an event that inspires learning, collaboration and entrepreneurism”.

I will write some posts the coming days about what is happening on the conference. The first day was mostly about responsive design. Jason Cranford Teague gave his best tips on how to plan and execute a good responsive website.

First of all why design for different screens?

Mobile internet users are increasing drastically and with that a multi-screen solution is no longer a luxury but necessity. 15-20% are surfing with mobiles today and the trend is upward while desktop is declining. Some countries including India are primarily surfing on mobile not desktop. At ayond we are seeing some clients that have 50% of their traffic coming from mobile devices. Look how your site looks on different devices at the Responsinator.

Important takeaways for us and our clients

A retrofit (rebuilding a not responsive site) takes longer than if you build the responsive from the beginning. This could be problematic if using agile methodology. If responsive design is a low priority demand, you should still consider whether it should be in the final scope or not since you save time if the developers can prepare for it from the beginning.

Communication between interaction designers, designers and coders are essential since it is no longer about pixel perfect design since elements are floating depending on screen size. This require a knowledge for the designer/interaction designer of what is possible and not possible to do with the code. And possibly a new set of design tools that are more prototype oriented, for example Proty, Adobe Reflow, UX Pin.

If you do this right:

  • Sites are faster to develop – Minimal extra development to support several platforms
  • Code is cheaper to maintain and modify.
  • Pages generally load and work faster.
  • Designs are more versatile with Responsive Design. (Which makes them as future compatible as possible).
  • SEO strategy is easier to maintain since all traffic is coming to the same site.

After having been listening to Jason I still believe that 90% of all sites are best of with responsive design instead of using a separate mobile app (web or native). However, you should never forget to consider where and how the user will be working – the context. If you do, choosing the right mobile strategy is not so hard after all.

Gamification, Innovation, Interaction Design, Mobile, Trends,
If you have been following the ayond news flow, you might have seen that I was granted a stipend to the International Innovation Practicum (IIP) at the Bay Area in San Francisco in August.

If you have been following the ayond news flow, you might have seen that I was granted a stipend to the International Innovation Practicum (IIP) at the Bay Area in San Francisco in August. During the one month stay I interned as an Interaction Designer and Graphic Designer at Innovation Games®, a company in the heart of the Silicon Valley that does serious games for market research and user research, of which the latter of course interested me the most. During my time at Innovation Games® I developed a board game version of the iPad game Knowsy. It was a fun project since I was involved in everything from the beginning to the end, from finding out board game standards to having a dialogue with manufacturers and testing paper prototypes to the finished graphic design.

The game had some new features which is going to be integrated in the new version of the iPad game. I also did some early sketches of an iPhone version of the game.

game2

©2011 The Innovation Games Company

Fortunately I had the opportunity to participate in the Innovation Games Facilitator Training days that made me a Trained Facilitator, which means that I am certified to teach and use the methods professionally. The work at Innovation Games was great, but it is only half the story. Just as important was going to events and meeting Bay Area entrepreneurs. Because it really is a special atmosphere, the energy and inspiration is flowing. Just about everyone you talk to have had a couple of start-ups and an interesting career. And most of the time the start-ups have been unsuccessful, but that’s not less meriting, because this is how you get invaluable experience.

The Valley style of starting a company is doing things fast and iterating, if you get an idea you start developing it without much preparation, the refinement is in the iteration, when it fails you start on version number two. This is sort of the Design Thinking concept, which is a relabelling of the Human-Centered Design approach with iterations and user testing that has become very popular in the area. Although some Interaction Designers I have talked to critique that the iteration happens too late, sometimes to a nearly finished product, which of course is not cost effective. Nevertheless, the Bay Area is a great place for an Interaction Designer because the discipline is widely accepted, everyone knows that all the successful companies have invested a lot in usability and design. To cite Charlotte Burgess-Auburn, Director of Community at the d.school in Stanford: “this stuff is really the engine of what Silicon Valley runs”.

Networking is key in Silicon Valley and it struck me how powerful it is. The first week I was a bit lost and did not know which events to attend and who to talk to, but then one thing led to another and my last week was packed with events, dinners and meetings with all sorts of interesting contacts. And people are very open to both asking for favours and helping one another professionally, because you never know what a contact can do for you in the future, and therefore everyone do their best to help you out with their knowledge and network. Another observation I did was how open people are with their ideas, it does not take many minutes in a conversation with an entrepreneur before he or she tells you every detail in the business they are about to start up. To cite Mike Beebe, one of the coaches in the IIP programme: “Ideas are worth nothing, everything is in the execution”. This is also because if you do not spread you ideas no one knows how to help you. Of course it is different when you are talking about bigger companies where the non-disclosure agreements are overflowing as well as the law suits.


Gamification, Innovation,