Friday, April 25, 2014

EID This week

I think our four posts on the Ergonomics in Design blog came out very well this week.  We had  a variety of topics, with a good balance of design, business, and science.

Here is a quick summary:

West Elm and Etsy:  These are two competitors that created a partnership that aligns their products in a complementary rather than competitive way.  It enhances their customers’ experience and increases sales for both of them.  Create ideas often break the conventional wisdom.

UX Designers and qualitative research The source article rubbed me the wrong way, so I had to dispute it.  One of the writers over at Quirks Marketing Research Media seems to think that UX designers don’t know how to do qualitative research and market researchers don’t know how to design.  I can’t speak to the second half, but I personally know a lot of UX designers who are great at qualitative research.  I think of myself in that category as well as many of my colleagues.   

Baby Bottle Ergonomics This is one of those really simple ideas that makes you wonder why no one thought of it before.  We have bent handle designs for so many things – scissors, knives, pens, keyboards.  Why not baby bottles?  Not only is it easier on the mother’s wrist (and heaven only knows that mothers of newborns need every break they can get) but it also prevents the baby from swallowing air bubbles.  Fantastic!

Aesthetic Affiliation This is one of those scientific endeavors that caught my eye because it is a great example of unconscious processing having a potentially large impact on our lives.  In this case, being exposed to more attractive designs made users more open to new or tough ideas.  It worked for things like investing in risky investments and things like risky adventures like extreme watersports.  Potential for enhancing and worsening our lives, so something to watch out for.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What are we saving, really?

Here is a great example of an interesting perspective that really looks at how we define our reality.

My quote of the day today had this:

"Myth: we have to save the earth. Frankly, the earth doesn't need to be saved. Nature doesn't give a hoot if human beings are here or not. The planet has survived cataclysmic and catastrophic changes for millions upon millions of years. Over that time, it is widely believed, 99 percent of all species have come and gone while the planet has remained. Saving the environment is really about saving our environment -- making it safe for ourselves, our children, and the world as we know it. If more people saw the issue as one of saving themselves, we would probably see increased motivation and commitment to actually do so." -Robert M. Lilienfeld, management consultant and author (b. 1953) and William L. Rathje, archaeologist and author (b. 1945)

And this is what it got me thinking. 

I hadn’t thought along these lines before, but the idea resonates quite strongly now that I have read it.  If modern society doesn’t change its practices with regard to climate change, there is a good chance we will put ourselves into extinction and take many species along with us.  But in fact the earth is more resilient than we are.  Over the following hundred or maybe thousand years, the surviving forms of life will spread and evolve without us.  And new forms will spring up.  The earth will be perfectly able to get by without us, and perhaps happier as a result.

So we are not engaging in eco-friendly behavioral change to save the earth.  We are doing it to save humanity

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What to do about the free market?

Except for a few fundamentalist extremists, even the most ardent free marketer acknowledges that totally free markets are not perfect.  We need some constraints, some regulation, some way to keep our animal spirits from breaking free from our moral sentiments (if you don’t get those references, look them up).

But we have to do it in a systematic way.  Case by case, piecemeal exceptions, carve outs, loopholes, etc are not the solution.  They sound good.  They often resonate with the special interest being protected.  But they make our system much less efficient, make more jobs for lobbyists than anyone else, and distort the market terribly.  They result in tax codes and health care reforms that stack higher than skyscrapers. 

This is a perfect example.  I can understand what gentrification does to the original residents who can’t afford higher real estate prices and rents.  But the last thing we should do is create some San Francisco-specific rules about rent control or what building construction and lease agreements are allowed.  Not only is this same thing happening in cities all over the country (in selected neighborhoods), but similar kinds of shifts happen in other sectors as well. 

Instead, what we need to do is to decide what our core values are.  If it is not a totally free market, then what is it?  Then based on the results of that philosophical argument (and hopefully consensus), we need to create a general set of principles that apply across the board.  I am not saying a postcard sized tax form will ever be feasible.  But we also don’t need to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Ergonomics in Design

You may notice my volume here has gone down a little.  I am now splitting my blogging activities into two streams.  This site will continue to have my usual meandering thoughts about a variety of topics, usually tying them in a roundabout way to human behavior and design.

I also have taken on the role of publishing a curated site over at for the HFES design journal of the same name.  That is curated, so the idea is for me to find an interesting article or idea and start a conversation around it.  I recommend checking this out if you haven't already.  There are some pretty good topics covered over there.  And since the site has a web manager, the aesthetics are a lot better too.

I will continue to post links to both of these on my Facebook page and Twitter feed, so if you are following me there you can keep getting those reminders.