Last days I was present at the MobileHCI conference. I was involved in this conference as sponsor chair. This conference deals with how to design and use mobile devices and experiences. There have been two issues that I found remarkable.
The first is the fact that two research projects dealing with the design of user interfaces showed that people preferred to use the slower interface. In one example they had developed an interface with special icons to use in the address book of the phone, targeted at illiterate people. Research showed that although people were faster through the visual interface they still preferred the alphanumerical one. Maybe they just did not want to be branded illiterate?
The second project dealt with research on the amount of air pollution children are exposed to by their route to school. This Lancaster project gave GPS equipped phones to 12 year old children and had them make pictures and blog their route to school, through all seasons. These routes were compared to the known air pollution throughout the city. Also the children got asked questions on how they felt and on their health. Through this research they could show the children that they would have less air pollution by taking another route. But reality is much more complex than we think. Many of those routes were banned by their parents because they are thought not be safe (e.g. a route through the park).
Both projects show that reality is much more complex than we think when designing products and services. This complexity is I think growing with the digitization of our society.
This conference was also the formal start of the Amsterdam Living Lab, a large research program I am involved in where the focus is in helping designers design products that people really want, not the ones designers think they want. I will publish more on this soon.
A last example how reality can be unexpected also came from the Lancaster project. The children all came from a very poor neighborhood. It turned out that some of them could not recharge their phone during the evening because their parents had pre-paid electricity …
And a final fact during the conference in another presentation: more than 60% of the mobile searches are for adult content: why does it not surprise me anymore …