Get ‘em do it: slides from my UX Camp Brighton 2013 talk

Thanks to all who attended!

If you attended my talk, I hope you have enjoyed it. I’d love to hear what did you thing about the topic, and I will definitely appreciate your feedback.

Here are the slides from my talk:


Today, I’m going to talk about designing technologies that help people to become better – but not through turning us us into half-cyborgs with superpowers.

Instead, I will talk about designing technologies that challenge us so we want to become better on our own, technologies that motivate people to change their behaviour, technologies that persuade and nudge people to improve their skills. Persuasive design is often perceived skeptically – as marketing charlatanism, as dark patterns or as another buzzword, like the bloody gamification.

In my talk, I’m going to advocate why persuasive design might actually be a good idea.

Let me start with a story about Calm Technology. Imagine that you live in a world where computers are everywhere around you – but they are not in the centre of your attention like today.

In this imagined world, computers exist on the periphery of our attention, and come forward into the centre of our attention only when we need them. These computers are always helpful, and you don’t have to deal with them with clumsy and annoying interactions.

In this world, computers are able to sense you through a network of sensors. These computers are mapping people’s behaviour, and based on their observations, and based on the context, they are able to predict your needs to make your life more bearable and effortless.

This is the world of Calm Technology, imagined by Mark Weiser.

Mark Weiser was a researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre. With his vision of Calm Technology, he influenced the direction of the field for at least the next 25 years from 1991 when he published his groundbreaking article The Computer for the 21st century.

Mark’s idea of Calm technology was developed as a reaction to frustrating human-computer interactions of PC era. By that time, operating computers, and not achieving the actual tasks, had to be in the centre of people’s attention.

Mark Weiser argued that computers should disappear from our lives, and appear only when we need them.

I would compare it to the sewage system :) Sewage system is so complex infrastructure, and it is almost always present when we are in the city. But it is virtually invisible.

You don’t really have to know how it works to use it…

It is just there when you need it. Well, hopefully.

A great example of Calm technology is the Nest thermostat. It exists in your house, and you don’t have to pay attention to it. But in the background, Nest thermostat is observing your behaviour, and helps you to save energy and live more comfortable life effortlessly.

But there are also other examples of “smart” technologies that are helping people depending on their context. They are so mundane these days that they became inherent part of our lives.

Think about supermarket doors that open when you approach them. Or a toilet that flushes automatically when you stand up. Or a water tap that turns on the water flow when you put your hands underneath it.

When was the last time when you had to remember your friend’s phone number? You probably don’t know – your phone does it on our behalf! Or think about sat nav – this technology totally changed the way we navigate. Drivers doesn’t even need to know how to use a map!

These systems are augmenting our abilities, and due to their help, we can become more efficient, and our lives more effortless.

A world of super-smart context-aware computers sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Well, I wouldn’t be that sure.

In her Moving on from Weiser’s vision of calm computing: engaging Ubicomp experiences, Yvonne Rogers discusses that technologies that are smart, act upon our behalf and make our lives so effortless can turn us into techno-dependent passive consumerists. Would these technologies make us smarter? Or would they take away our responsibilities, decision-making, learning or serendipitous discovery?

Yvonne argues that we should focuses on putting the human values back in the middle of technology. We should start designing products that challenge people to become better, technologies that would nudge us to learn new skills, and just try harder to be better.

Technologies that nudge people to make better decisions, to e conscious of their energy consumption or technologies that motivate people to do more exercise already start appearing, and I will now share a few examples of these technologies and research that was undertaken. I will also briefly describe techniques they are using to nudge people.

Can I Eat It is a mobile app that provides people with information about food when they shop in the supermarket. When people do their shopping, they can scan the product’s barcode with their smartphone camera. Can I Eat It will look up the product in the database and will return key information about the product. This information can then be utilised in the decision-making process.

The technique of affecting people’s decision making by providing information is called Rational Economic Model. The important factor is not to overwhelm people with a large amount of information, but provide only the necessary information that is absolutely required to support the decision-making heuristics.

It is important to note that people use different decision-making heuristics based on the kind of decision they are making, so when designing he system, it is a good idea to first determine what decision-making heuristics people use in the concerned situations.

Yvonne Rogers, Jon Bird and Vaiva Kalnikaitė developed the lambent shopping handle to research how to nudge people in situ and to confirm how providing people with feedback that supports fast and frugal decision-making heuristics affect people’s shopping behaviour.

The researchers provided participants with the shopping trolley handle equipped with a barcodecscanner and a range of LED lights. The LED lights displayed the air miles of the scanned product. When a product had low air miles, just a few LEDs lit up. When the product had high air miles, many LEDs lit up. This provided simple but easy to process feedback to the participants, who were then able to decide which products to buy based on this additional information.

The researchers reported that 72% of products bought by the participants with the handle had a smaller air mileage, compared to products bought by participants without the handle.

There is a street here in Brighton called Tidy Street, and in this lovely environment Yvonne Rogers and Jon Bird decided to run another behaviour change study. For three weeks, participants were recording electricity meter readings on a TidyStreet project website to build up a picture of each household’s energy use.

The recorded data was then painted by the local street artist on the road outside their homes, providing comparison of each home’s electricity consumption, and also displaying electricity consumption in Brighton on average.

Participants in the experiment were able to compare their consumption against the social norm, that motivated them to try harder. Over the three weeks the project has been running, the street’s average energy use has dropped by 15%, with some people cutting usage by as much as 30%. The question how sustainable these results might be remains open for now.

The Nest Thermostat website claims that the potential savings should be in the area between 14 to 26 percent, depending on the size of the family. That is very close to the results from the Tidy Street project.

What is more important here is the contrasting philosophy how these results are achieved. Nest Therometer is an excellent example of calm technology. It doesn’t require any user action, it learns from behaviour patterns, and still the user is able to save a lot of energy.

On the other end of the spectrum is the social norm principle utilised in the Tidy Street project experiment, where the people involvement is high. People have to consciously learn how to save energy, and they compete with their neighbours. They are also giving back to the community by providing their own results, that can motivate others in exchange.

I leave it to you to judge which philosophical approach to the technology might help people live richer and more human life.

Another great technique how to motivate people to change their behaviour is to allow them to set a goal.
Nike FuelBand successfully utilises this method, provides users with feedback how close they are to reaching their goal, and rewarding them when they succeed.

In a study of electricity use it was found that households that received a difficult goal and were provided with feedback about their performance conserved the most (15.1%) compared to a control group.

Great example of a behaviour change system that utilises emotions to nudge users to do certain activitybis the Nintendo Pokewalker.

The Pokewalker is a Pikachu style toy, that has a tiny virtual pet in it. The normal Pikachu toys require children to press buttons in regular intervals to give the virtual pet food and to leave it to rest and to keep it alive, and to play with the pet to keep it happy.

The Pokewalker is different – it’s got a built in pedometer, and the more the child performs the physical activity, the more healthy and happy the virtual pet gets.

This provides very strong emotional nudge for the child to exercise more, in order to collect points that keep the virtual pet happy.

Rational model – to affect people’s decision-making, provide them with the right level of information that matches their decision-making heuristics.

Feedback – provide people feedback how good is what they just did, or how are they doing in the specifie activity in general. Provide score, points, badges, lights or anything that would ell them to judge if they should try harder.

Social norm – allow people to compare their activity with othes. People can then reflect upon their results. Competition can motivate them to try harder.

Goal setting – setting a goal with give people a nudge to

Emotional feedback – is very powerful and can help to overcome the bummer and effect of social norm, when participants might feel demotivated by being not as good as others.

The age of ubiquitous computing and calm technology seems to be inevitable, and our future is going to be exciting. I believe that the “everywhere” will be a revolution very comparable to the 90s when the web started to be open for masses.

It is important to think not only about seamless and distraction-less interactions, but also about how contextual and smart systems will affect our lives.

The future is inevitable, so we should rather try hard to make it really great, and foremost, human.

Recommended reading

Calm technology

Technologies that nudge us to be better!

Research I have mentioned during the talk

Engaged or enraged: slides and recommended reading from my talk at UX Camp Brighton 2012

Most important stuff first: Thank you!

A big ‘Thank you!’ to everyone who attended my talk about designing for emotional experiences. You were a great and really supportive audience, and I really enjoyed it. I hope you had fun too!

Find the slides from the presentation below. The recommended readings are listed below the slides.


Engaged or enraged: Start designing emotional experiences without losing your UX soul!

Hi everyone! My name is Jiri, I work as an UX consultant for POSSIBLE and I also study Human-computer Interaction at UCL. Today, I’m going to talk about how to design emotional experiences based on insights from users.

Emotional timeline from Experience Map

Let me tell you a short story. About 8 months ago, I was designing an Experience Map for American Express. The brief was to describe journey of their product and how our personas interact with that product at given times. Part of that Experience Map I designed was this diagram showing the emotional state of the main persona – the customer – through all phases of interaction with the product. You can see, according to the map, that the customer is having some ups and downs, but is quite happy in general.

Do you think that this emotional timeline was based on some data collected from users? No. Or you might think that after the map was completed, I tested the experience with the actual users and amended the map accordingly? Again, no. How useful is a deliverable that is not rooted in the evidence from users? How can it inform our designs?


I will tell you about tools for capturing users’ emotions and frameworks for designing emotional experiences today. These tools and techniques are very simple and when you get back to work on Monday, I want you to start using what you’ll learn here today straight away.

Core of user-centred design

We know that insights from users are the core of the user-centred design. Many of us even run various research activities, ranging from think aloud walkthroughs and paper prototyping sessions to a full blown contextual inquiry. I believe that all of us can agree that great design needs to be rooted in users’ goals and needs.

When it comes to designing for emotion though, we are lost.

We are lost

Instead of insight from users, we tend to use our sense, our expertise, or, in the best case scenario, patterns that others claim as successful. We don’t deliberately design for a specific set of emotions and we don’t iterate our designs based on what our users feel when they interact with our products.


There are a few well known books on this topic, such as Designing for Emotion by Aaron Walter or Seductive Interaction Design by Stephen Anderson. What you learn from those books though are design principles, that might help you to design products with friendly and happy interfaces, that might make your users smile.

I talk about patterns like use of anthropomorfic design, use of friendly language, Easter egg games, surprising users and playing with their expectations, emotional impact of colours, or creating product that has friendly and “personality.”

But not all products should be happy, casual and making jokes as the MailChimp chimpanzee.

Planet of the Apes

Your product’s personality might look more like this.

King Kong

Or even like this! Think about funeral service website that would talk to their customers in casual friendly language and make occasional jokes. Or about NHS website where patients can search for urgent help – such website has to facilitate very different emotions to MailChimp as well.

We can’t use same emotional patterns to design every website. Most of them might be very straightforward, such us e-commerce or b2b corporate websites, but there is a whole lot of digital services that might be very different to that. Also, think about the future – we are designing websites now, but as the age of ubiquitous computing is approaching, we might find ourselves designing experiences for a whole range of other digitally enhanced objects for smart homes for example, where the emotional aspect of products will be much more important.

Essentially, to stand true to our user-centred approach, I believe that the emotional side of UX should be rooted in the evidence from user research.

Total Recall

So how can you research emotions? There are various ways how to do it, and I bet you heard about measuring emotions with the help of EEG, skin conductivity sensors, pupil dilation sensors, fascial muscle contraction cameras and other hi-tech solutions. These methods are very accurate, but you need the technology to do them. I want to introduce you to rather low-tech techniques that you can start using straight away, just with pen and paper.

Capture emotions on the fly

I’ll introduce you to a very simple technique of capturing emotions on the fly. Imagine you are doing a think aloud user session. You are observing how the user interacts with the product, making notes of usability problems, and exploring how is the user’s mental model matching with the conceptual model of the product.

But what if you want to record what the user feels at each stage of the interaction? You need the user to self report the feelings, but it usually gets difficult for people to express their emotions. The tool you are going to use should not distract the user too much, or create a massive cognitive load. A tool like that might be the Self-evaluation Manikins.

Manikins 1

Provide users with a scale on which they can quickly asses their emotional state. On this scale, they will mark how happy they feel.

Manikins 2

On this scale, the users will mark how energetic they feel,

Manikins 3

and finally, here they will mark how “big in the world” they feel.

This is a quick and unobtrusive way how to record user’s emotions. There are a few limitations you need to keep in mind. The scale allows to capture only very narrow area of potential emotional states. That is the trade off for the simplicity and effectiveness of capturing emotions on he fly. Also, the technique might not be totally accurate, because some users might have problem matching the manikin and their emotion. That is quite normal though, as we recognise other people’s emotions only in 80% of cases.

Manikins 5

If you have more time to evaluate, or you want to evaluate emotions on much more granular level, it is a good idea to do a study that takes slightly longer time.

The ideal format for that is a diary study. Users keep using the product, and make notes about their experience into a diary that is provided. This technique can be easily hacked for capturing emotions.

Capture emotions over longer period

Provide your users with diaries, and also cards with printed Geneva Emotional Wheel on them. The wheel provides much broader range of emotions for assessment, as well a strength of a particular emotion. Your users interact with the product, and you instruct them to mark their feelings on the wheel throughout their experience. Start with their expectations and their immediate reactions to the product, continue with marking emotions during he actual interaction, and finally let the users to capture their emotions when they tell stories about the product to their friends and feeling they have when they reflect upon their experience.

Geneva Emotional Wheel 2

Your users will use the Geneva Wheel as a scale and will mark their emotions on it accordingly. The scale is much broader and has finer granularity than the manikins, and also allows to record how strong the emotion is, from the centre of the wheel to the border. When you finish your diary study, you collect the diaries, wheels and of course interview your participant.

Design for emotions

You collected lots of data about how your users feel when they interact with your product. But how can you utilise that data?

First, use the data to enrich your personas. This is the easiest way how to feed your evidence into next iteration of the product. You might also review your Experience Map if you have one, or build a new one. Such map can be valuable tool to communicate the experience across your project team and with all stakeholders. If you find that results of your research does not match product’s goal and experience you plan to build, it is time for an action!

Framework for Emotional Design

How can you then start designing the right emotional experience? There are several design frameworks that can help you to stay on the right track. The most simple and straightforward is Don Norman’s “Framework for Emotional Design” that has been published in Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things.

The framework will help you to separately focus on three main parts of the experience: Visceral, that is all about immediate feelings, look and first impressions, behavioural, that focuses on the experience during the actual interaction with the product, and finally reflective that is all about how the user feels after using the product, about reflecting upon the usage and what the user tells about the product to his or her friends.

Framework for Emotional Design 2

Create a table with three columns, Visceral, Behavioural and Reflective, and put down emotions you want your user experience in each part of the experience in the highest granularity possible.

This document might serve as a source for the new Experience Map, or be a standalone deliverable.

Then develop your minimum viable product and test it with the manikins, or even better with the Geneva Wheel. Compare results with your Visceral – Behavioural and Reflective sheet, and iterate the product. The circle closes and you achieved to design real emotional experience based on user research.

Keep designing

So now when you know about tools that you need to design emotional experiences, I’d like yo to go and start designing. Make your users happy, surprised, scared or disgusted. Just go and design some emotions!

Thank you!

Recommended reading on designing for emotions

1) Essential reading

2) Capturing emotions

Geneva Wheel

Self-assessment manikins

3) Emotional design frameworks

Norman’s Framework for Emotional Design

Jordan’s Four Pleasures framework

McCarthy & Wright’s Technology as Experience framework

Why might be the WiFi-enabled London Tube a bad idea?

I received an e-mail from the Transport for London today, that made me a bit sad. Some of the most frequented London Underground stations, such as Oxford Circus, King’s Cross St. Pancras, Victoria and a couple of other ones got a wireless coverage, allowing the passengers in ticket halls, corridors and platforms happily use free internet (after a registration, of course). Before the Games, there should be 80 Tube stations with WiFi coverage.

Now, everyone with a smart device in their pocket can access internet while waiting for their train at the enabled stations. Eager commuters can check when is the next train due, tourists can find out what line they should take if there is a closure and businessmen may search for the most efficient journey from King’s Cross to Kensington Olympia. Cool, isn’t it?

I understand that internet access might decrease the travellers’ enquiries the poor Underground staff has to answer all day every day. Important messages can be served to the customers, and even possibly pushed into the devices. So far so good.

But there is also The Dark Side. Continue reading

UK UPA Ethnography event – a few notes & recap

UK UPAI was fortunate to get the ticket and here are my notes and recap of the 15th March UK UPA event on Ethnography, hosted by Sapient.

The event was quite enlightening, mainly because I never got a proper exposure of ethnographic field research before. Of course I know some theory – for example Alan Cooper dedicates to ethnographic contextual research loads of space in his brilliant About Face and considers it to be one of the crucial cornerstones of the user-centred design process.

Despite that, it is sometimes hard to realise the implications and the range of qualitative data designer or researcher might get out of a such study. One of the speakers, Simon Johnson, went briefly through the field research project for Sky Broadband, that was focused on how users set up their modems. He collected and analysed incredibly huge amount of data from interviews and observations and his insights were used to redesign the product. This eventually resulted in reduction of over 1 million calls per year, which translated into a saving of £4.5 million. And that sounds like a win! Continue reading

Why should UX designers care about ergonomics?

One module I did during my HCI-E course at UCLIC this year was Ergonomics. Because my background is originally in designing web interactions, front-end development and graphic design, I was fascinated by the physical side of Human-Computer Interaction straight from the beginning.

I haven’t got enough time to explain what is anthropometrics (describing physical attributes of target population) or task analysis (vast range of methods allowing to map interactions and processes and to analyse them) here and now. I’m not going to argue how useful might be fitting trials and why having standards and guidelines (UX & UI designers call them pattern libraries and best practices) gives ergonomists great advantages.

All of that knowledge seemed to be so interesting.

But then I thought – how can I use all this in my UX consulting job? Why should UX designer care about ergonomics?

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A few notes on Lean UX talk by Jeff Gothelf – London IA February 2012

London IAI was fortunate enough to secure my ticket for this month’s London IA event, and I was really looking forward to hearing Jeff Gothelf‘s talk about Lean UX, especially about usability testing and gathering user feedback in agile environment. I have to confess that the talk was really great, one of the most inspirational ones I heard in last six months.

“Stay lean and focus on the experience, not the paperwork.”
- Jeff Gothelf

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11 weeks at UCLIC

This autumn was full of big changes!

I moved from wonderful Yorkshire down to London – and you can probably imagine that I started to experience totally different and exciting world – but that would be a story for another article.

I started also new and exciting job as User Experience Consultant at Fortune Cookie. It is now 3 months since I joined the company – and I’m learning more and more every day.

And finally – and this is something I was looking forward to for so long – I started the MSc course in Human-Computer Interaction with Ergonomics at UCLIC! Now, I’m 11 weeks into the course and I have to confess that what I experienced so far hugely surpassed my expectations. Continue reading

Design Jam London 4

Recently, I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to the Design Jam London #4 this November. I heard a lot of praise about this event and I was really interested if it could live up to my expectations.

The event, hosted by City Uni, started early on Saturday morning at 8:30 (ouch) with a brief introduction of the organisers, mentors and sponsors. Soon the goals of the Design Jam and the main challenge were presented.

The main challenge was to design a solution that would help the shoppers to find and choose their best outfit for upcoming occasion. We were encouraged to get out and ask potential users about their shopping habits, behaviour, stories and frustrations, and use this knowledge to inform our design decisions. Continue reading

To boldly go…

Right, it’s official now!

Just in a few weeks I’ll be moving from lovely Yorkshire down to London. That’s one small step for mankind but one giant leap for a man ;-)) How exciting!

University College London

From September I’m going to start the MSc Human-Computer Interaction with Ergonomics at University College London, where I’m going to learn about the wonders of HCI, interaction design, psychology and emotions in design! I’m really excited about that, and about the fact that I’ll have a chance to participate in the London UX community and learn about things I’m really passionate about.

Big thanks to all who support me in my decision! Cheers guys :)

March Northern User Experience meetup

Recently, I attended the Northern User Experience meeting in Leeds that was organised by Keith Doyle from NUX and hosted by Simple Usability in Round Foundry Media Centre in Leeds. The turn-up was good and I was lucky enough to talk to a few really interesting people from the usability / UX industry about how they got into the field and about their methods and workflow. The main talk on the history of User-Centered Design was given by Ian Franklin. Ian presented the development of the UX since the first half of the 20th century to the present days, mentioning different milestones and approaches throughout last 70 years.
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