Over the past few months, physidigital objects have been regularly appearing on Digital for Real Life. Last week, Adobe announced the launch of Mighty, a cloud-connected pen that allows designers to draw on a tablet or smartphones. Features like pressure-sensitivity help create a natural drawing experience that is supplemented with 1-click access to Adobe’s suite of tools. The company also introduced Napoleon – an enhanced ruler – that makes it easy to draw straight lines and arcs on tablet interfaces all while maintaining the tactile feedback that comes from drawing in a natural way.
With the use of digital money management tools on the rise, Nurun, with the guidance of anthropologists in the Nurun Lab, undertook an extensive ethnographic study on the relationship that exists between people and money in 2012-13.
Why such a study?
Nurun has always believed that digital can help brands solve their customers’ problems and respond to both articulated and unarticulated needs. To kick-start our creativity, we developed a study using a human-centered methodology, of which ethnography was the centrepiece.
The Nurun Lab team, based in Montreal, worked on this study with the Madrid and Paris offices in an effort to generate not only local, but also multicultural insights into the kinds of relationships that people have with money. Our first objective was to establish the criteria that would be used to select participants for the study. The goal: to identify those who would be most likely to provide provocative and stimulating ideas.
To support this first objective we built a core segmentation, which included the relevant criteria outlined in the following diagram:
While we were planning the ethnographic portion of the study, we also compiled a benchmark of remarkable innovations in the financial field. The intent of this parallel effort was to gain a better understanding of how the market is responding to the problems faced by consumers today, or at least to the problems that they perceive consumers are facing. One of the most surprising elements of this research was the range and vitality of small players at the forefront of innovation in this field. One might have thought that the barriers to entry in this field were too high for start-up enterprises, resulting in the domination of big players. We were pleased, for the field and for the potential of Nurun to break into this area, that this was not the case.
Returning to the ethnography, the Montreal, Madrid, and Paris teams each searched for people who represented as many of the criteria outlined in the core segmentation as possible, balancing between extreme and “normal” values. Each informant then received a diary in which they were asked to track their spending and saving, wants and needs. This diary became the foundation for the next step of the fieldwork.
Our next step was to conduct in-depth, ethnographic interviews, which in turn allowed the Lab to build detailed profiles of each participant organized around their relationship with money. These portraits highlighted the wide range of our informants: from an internationally recognized architect in Madrid and a single mother running from a bad credit history in Montreal to a young dentist starting her own practice in Paris and an elderly woman in Madrid, these were just a few.
The three teams of ethnographers met for a workshop to share their findings and discuss the portraits of the informants. This collaboration led the team as a whole to articulate a set of shared insights. The insights uncovered a tension between the initial role that money plays to facilitate social relationships and foster freedom, and the growing sense that people are losing control over the money in their lives.
Back in Montreal the Lab team revisited these insights and organized them into three groups:
To lay the foundation for the workshop, the Lab analyzed how these three groups of insights fit together. We developed a cultural and behavioural model that visually articulates how people’s emotions towards money connect with their social and relational views on money. In essence, this model tells the story of how people across three countries are dealing with and managing their money.
Our team of experts, including an anthropologist, a strategic planner, a banking expert, an IT specialist, a user experience expert and the Lab team, convened for a two-day brainstorming session. The first day was devoted to generating “magic;” brainstormers were encouraged to think outside the box as they developed solutions for the ethnographic informants they had come to know through each of the portraits. The goal was to generate solutions that would seemingly magically address the needs of the informants. The result was a set of provocative ideas around how to provide consumers, not only with financial management tools, but more importantly with the tools that would enable them to manage their money from an emotional perspective as well.
On the second day the team voted for their three favourite insight areas from day one. Lab facilitators then introduced a series of constraints into the brainstorming process, looking to see how the insights from the first day would be affected if put through the prism of the following three ideas:
Day two of our highly organized brainstorming session also yielded a wide range of ideas. From the somewhat far fetched yet provocatively stimulating ideas of day one, we moved to a more concrete set of ideas. While still trying to help consumers control their emotional relationship with money, we focused more on how power can be transferred from the banks back to the consumers.
To bring the project to a close, we voted to start sketching one idea generated by the workshop. The clear winner for all the participants was the notion of a “Smarter Wallet.” This idea most clearly connected the positive emotions associated with the social realm of money – its ability to help us learn and to actualize who we are in our societies, communities and families – while correcting the more negative emotions associated with how financial institutions make people feel anxious, isolated and out of control.
Our process was one of the greatest successes of the workshop. It enabled us to bring our far-reaching ideas together with more practical notions, resulting in a series of sketches that truly addressed the participants’ needs. We didn’t lose the innovation and creativity inspired by the ethnography and the workshop, rather we successfully channeled it into a workable and marketable idea.
Some might say that the sketches for our app share elements of Mint, or even Google Wallet, but we believe that it takes an important step further. The Smarter Wallet gives consumers the ability to not only manage their money, but to become aware of and manage their emotions towards money as well. It also brings back the notion that our banking habits are social, allowing the wallet to be shared by family, friends and communities. In the process, our sketched app became a tool that educates and binds people together. After all, it is our money that allows us to come together with the important people in our lives to make an often impersonal world much more meaningful.
We previously discussed the importance of responsive design and its role in bridging the gap between brand offerings and consumer needs in. With consumer preferences constantly shifting and evolving, responsive design can be a lengthy undertaking, but there are nine main considerations to keep in mind when designing responsively.
1. Before you start, develop fundamental site goals
2. Develop compelling content that deliver value
3. Understand situations where context and environment might affect user needs
4. Provide value for different contexts…
5. …But never omit information
6. Responsive design is still unconventional, so get client buy-in early
7. Iterate often, and iterate quickly
8. Convince the client early that the fold doesn’t matter as long as the content provides value
9. Make the content compelling
Do you have any tips for designing responsively?
More and more popular websites are adopting a Responsive Web Design (RWD) approach, in which sites resize to fit a device screen. With the influx of tablets and smart TVs, the landscape of screen resolutions is ever growing, and it’s not a surprising that RWD is currently all the rage. Though the concept of formatting content to fit any screen is here to stay, the term “responsive” design as we know it will probably fade away.
Although a step in the right direction, the idea of “responsive” design focuses more on fitting content to various screens, rather than shaping content to fit the value.
In the near future, we will transition from the idea of merely designing responsive websites, to a more holistic concept of designing systems that transfer valuable information between users and digital services. With more screens on the horizon and the proliferating concept of an “Internet of Things,” we’ll instead be designing information and usability with heavier emphasis on context, intent and lifestyle.
For now, our most flexible, connected device is the smartphone. We also have our tablets, laptops and desktops. Each device offers us different benefits and drawbacks, which leads to people using them in different contexts. For example, tablets are designed around media consumption, whereas desktops are better for doing work. Because digital devices are becoming increasingly differentiated and context heavy, we can’t just think “How can we fit a website to a specific screen?” We also have to ask “How can we fit content to provide the most value depending on context?”
Working with clients
When working with a client who wants a responsive website, the hardest part is getting them to develop a set of fundamental goals that drive both the content strategy and user experience. What value will the site provide? What actions should users perform? Should the site merely inform users, or should it convince them to sign up? Are there different goals depending on the context and environment? Will users be browsing while driving or while lounging at home? Through research, it is possible to determine what contexts and environments the website could provide the most value. The more information that can be gathered on fundamental goals, requirements, value opportunities and user context, the more valuable the website will be.
Since responsive sites are still fairly unconventional, getting early buy-in from the client is very important. Use sketches, wireframes and prototypes to show the client both the thinking and the functionality behind the design decisions, whether it’s menus, banners or carousels. The client needs to see how the site will react to touch and how the various screen sizes will affect the visibility of content.
Furthermore, use context in your designs to your advantage. For example, if metrics show that mobile users look for specific content, make that content front and center; don’t make them work for it. The more you make them work, the sooner they will leave to find it somewhere else.
Responsive design is exciting. It’s an important step towards designing for context, environment and lifestyle, rather than for screens. Now that we’ve started to surround ourselves with more technology and more interfaces, we’ll need to start thinking about how to deliver the right information for the right time and the right place and abandon the one size fits all approach.
Connecting explores the future of interaction design and user experience with some of the industry’s most renown thought leaders.
Over the course of the past year, the Nurun Lab developed and undertook a Design Thinking project to better understand how consumers watch TV. This question is particularly pertinent in light of the changing TV landscape, especially with the emergence of connected devices and the explosion of content across platforms. We set out to understand the impact of these changes on real people.
To build a strong understanding of the changing TV landscape, we knew we needed to get acquainted with real people, their problems, their frustrations, their workarounds, and their needs and desires in and around the world of TV. We knew that gaining this human-centred, in-depth knowledge could inspire innovative ideas and business solutions, and change how people interact with their TVs for the better.
The TV Ethnography study was designed in several phases, starting in the Lab’s anthropology research centre and moving throughout Nurun where it could have the greatest impact on our client work.
ONLINE FIELD WORK
We started off with a web-based preliminary study – called Netnography – that was meant to provide an overview of people’s frustrations, desires and excitements surrounding TV.
To get more spontaneous reactions from real people, we developed and fielded a proprietary Twitter-based tracking and analysis tool. The result was a very visual and meaningful way of collecting data, which allowed us to generate hypotheses about TV viewing that we could explore further with the subsequent ethnography.
Based on the Netnography findings, and as a way of beginning to work with the insights generated in the study, we began building a minimum viable prototype that we believed would address the needs and wants of TV viewers. The prototype was also meant to push our initial understanding of the role that multiscreen interactions played in the TV landscape and to determine what we needed to research next.
Our experience demonstrated the need for a prototype that would re-inject seamlessness into the multiscreen TV viewing experience. Our idea was to use a tablet as both a second screen and as a super remote control that could gather video content across platforms. Our prototype was also equipped to learn and adapt to each user’s TV viewing habits.
REAL-LIFE FIELD WORK
Once our initial prototype was completed and we had identified further areas to research, we decided to launch a deep, field-based ethnographic study on TV viewing rituals.
To launch the study, the Lab selected participants to self-document their TV viewing behaviours. This self-documentation was a way to collect preliminary data while providing the informants with insights into their TV consumption patterns. This would then be further explored through in-depth ethnographic interviews.
Based on the material we collected from the self-documentation, as well as a series of in-depth ethnographic interviews with each informant, we created a series of portraits of our television viewers.
Analyzing these portraits within a multidisciplinary team – an anthropologist, a strategic planner, IT developers and a designer – we were able to generate insights from the data we had captured about our informants’ TV viewing behaviours, routines and rituals, individually as well as collectively.
When we brought our ethnographic findings together, it was clear that traditional benchmarks for measuring television audiences and viewing habits had lost their ability to define current TV consumption patterns. From the multiplication of content viewing devices to the rise of new consumption behaviours (such as replay, on-demand, streaming or even illegal downloading), we were able to see just how much the television consumption landscape has changed. Moreover, while broadcast figures from Nielsen, the leader in media consumption monitoring, show a drop in the size of TV audiences, our findings demonstrate that people are watching just as much television than ever before, just in a different – and more individualistic – way. TV viewing now involves the encounter of particular content, on a specific device, in a certain social context.
At the same time, even though the ability to watch any content on any screen has freed users from the tyranny of a TV schedule, people still crave the social dimension of watching, and talking about watching, TV.
Social media has become a great tool to fill the void left by the atomization of TV consumption. Tools such as Twitter or GetGlue can connect people, spark conversations and foster a feeling of community amongst all of the show’s viewers.
For the future, we believe that stakeholders (producers, channels, manufacturers and cable companies) should think of the TV viewing experience as a “responsive ecosystem,” in which each device plays a different role depending on the other devices available at the moment of use. Any screen can be the first, second or even the third screen, and designers must be ready for this.
SPREADING THE LAB’S WORK WITHIN NURUN
As knowledge of the Lab’s exploratory work spread, we chose to share our findings with a few of our clients in the telecommunications industry. We recognized the impact our findings could have, from helping our clients face new competitors who have bypassed traditional business models to enabling them to create differentiated value propositions that are attractive to new viewers as well as old ones who are trying to “cut the cord.”
Videotron, one of the leading cable providers in Québec, has spread its entertainment offering to every screen in order to cater to the varying viewing habits of its customers. Nurun used the results of the ethnographic study and the foundation of the initial prototype to support the development of a seamless viewing experience between the company’s website (illico.tv) and tablet applications (iPad and Android). The app, which was developed by Nurun, offers Videotron’s customers a unique assortment of films and TV shows on all of their various screens, while increasing the opportunities for devices to communicate with each other. In the first month of its release, the illico.tv iPad app was downloaded more than 100,000 times.
Based on the Lab’s research, several other digital services and products are also being worked on at Nurun. They will be released in the next few months to help create an adapted offer and help build tomorrow’s TV landscape.