State of UX in India

I recently came across this article by Joe Fletcher titled “The Bridge Between Cultures and Design” The synopsis of the article is that: Over roughly the last 10 years, China and India have given way to a huge rise in technology outsourcing. Jobs are outsourced from companies like Microsoft, Google, T-Mobile, Honeywell, and many others. In Microsoft I’ve worked with teams in both India and China developing software for a variety of uses. Having our headquarters in the US, I usually work with small satellite teams in these countries. I couldn’t help but wonder why these countries who had become huge in the area of software technology, struggled so much in the area of user experience and UI innovation.Note: this article refers specifically to software UX. Both of these countries have very innovative and creative aspects in other areas of their culture, and I’m not expressing these comments as blanket statements.

I think that is a very valid question that Joe puts across. However I do not quite agree to all the points that he mentions in the article especially if one is looking at the case of India.

Cross Cultural Design

One of the key things required to see is the growth of UX as a field in India. While in the west the field UX, Interaction Design, HCI have been around for much longer a time, in India it is know only for say last 5-6 years.

This leads us the point that in India, Interaction Design has a long way to go before it catches up on the west. In my opinion, in India, the Interaction Design as a field is still limited to the software industry and all the User Experience is still discussed in the context of the Software Design. Unless . . . → Read More: State of UX in India

The side effects of FBing!

I read a cartoon strip the other day. One mother to the other: My son is with a book always! How cool is that! The other mother: On that’s nice. His grades must be really good then as he is with a book always. First mother: He is on FaceBook.

Have you been bit by the Facebook bug yet ? I must admit that I have been to some extent. However there have been many other issues of concern that I have been having. One of them being the importance of maintaining my privacy.

The way people use Facebook, Orkut and other social networking sites (SNS) have been a matter of interest to me. This difference is also a result of the cultural differences people have across countries. The fact is also that people have taken a conscious decision on their part (or alteast have thought about it), when it comes to decide what information that they want to share .

One of the things that I always face a problem is the amount of information that I would be sharing on these SNS. Facebook now is the first choice of people to share images amongst friends. I have heard many people request me to upload my professional photographs on Facebook.  I have done so only to a limited extent.

Another large chunk of people use Facebook as a way of letting the world know each and every activity that they do. I mean seriously, is there any reason why I should know in such detail what the other person is doing. If I do, then it is a serious case of intruding into the other person’s privacy. However, wait! I did not intrude… It’s you who made that information public. So there is something going on here and . . . → Read More: The side effects of FBing!

Designing for India

Of late I have been traveling around India. In context of designing for social impact I have always been observant to how design is playing a role and how and where design can further play a role. There have been numerous occasions where I have got some answers. The journeys have been mostly done in the different kind of trains, the auto-rickshaws, the private vehicles and also on foot.

Needless to say there have been numerous occasions where you feel like doing something. There is an abundance of issues that in my opinion need the services of a designer. Every step I took, made me realize the importance of being a HCI designer. One of the greatest learnings that I have taken out of my masters education is the value of seeing problems and design solutions from a HUMAN point of view. The moment one does that a lot of things appear different. And I am not saying from a USER point of view here. In my opinion they are both different.

A HUMAN point of view allows me as a designer to not think deeply about the solutions, but the needs. It allows the designer to take care of the emotions and the pain as felt by humans. After all in the end the designer is also a Human. The USER point of view that usually results from the personas, or by studying the likely people who will use the design solution. More often than not, the designer fails to connect with the person on the level that one experiences the similar joys and pains.

Another realization is that even if you implement the design in a novel manner, how do you ensure that the user’s behavior is changed? For example, you can have the best facilities for . . . → Read More: Designing for India

5 Things that is NOT Interaction Design

I think these two below are interesting artciles.

I have been in a similar position of trying to explain people what I do for a living and the moment I say Experience Design, it becomes more abstract. The moment I say Graphic Design, it becomes too narrow. People ask me to consult on Usability, but I think that a person trained in Usability should do it. But since I learnt it and done different kind of Usability Activities, I agree to it. Some people ask me to do a look and feel of their website. I think that this is a area of expertise for a person trained in Graphic Design working in Web Medium (often called User Interface Designer).

Below here is the link to an article that I recently read on Coroflot. Its thought provoking. In the end one is left with the question whethere the field really requires a formal definition of some kind, or should it be happy where it is and keep exploring newer ventures within the context of interaction design.

An extract from the piece… Like most of my friends and colleagues in the creative professions, I have trouble explaining to my mom what exactly I do for a living, so it’s not like confounded laymen are an indicator of intentional obscurity. But IxD seems to be in a different category entirely. Not only does it confuse outsiders, it confuses Interaction Designers too.

Read more here

You could also read up the discussions on this topic at the IxD discussion forums at this location.

While you may agree of disagree to the things that are said in the above two links, it gives a fair amount of understanding to the kind of confusion that exists within and outside the field.

. . . → Read More: 5 Things that is NOT Interaction Design

Understanding experiences in photography exhibitions for Interaction Designers

This is a final paper I wrote for the Interaction Culture class at Indiana University.

ABSTRACT As Interaction Designers, two of the most important things that one needs to consider are the experience and also the audience being designed for. The presentation of the cultural expression is dependent on the presentation style and a thorough understanding of the audience. This paper aims at giving a close phenomenological understanding of a highly successful photography exhibition by India’s most renowned photographer, Raghu Rai. In the later part of the paper, from these points and an overall experience point of view, it is aimed to generate points for a framework for its application in Interaction Design.

Author Keywords Phenomenology, experience, exhibition, photography, interpretation, culture

Excerpts from the paper Interaction Design and HCI are constantly seeking for analogies from the established fields like computer science, the cognitive sciences, and other disciplines like sociology, anthropology, critical theory and philosophy. There has also been considerable efforts in trying to get an understanding from film theory and looking at experiences in film.

Photography exhibitions on the other hand are highly subjective. It is therefore more likely that any critical accounts of such exhibitions are phenomenological in nature. There is always the vision of a photographer that is being conveyed. And more often that not there is a mismatch between the intent of the photographer and the intent with which the viewer interprets it. There is also the element of time that comes into the picture when doing an analysis of the exhibition.

Conclusion Feelings and sensibility cannot be rationally expressed in words. It can only be experienced. Any exhibition of this kind, not only expanded the horizons for what can be exhibited in the Indian market today, but also helped in understanding what goes on in . . . → Read More: Understanding experiences in photography exhibitions for Interaction Designers

Sacred Digital Experiences

Cleaning is a sacred act. It has been done in the Indian culture (and also in other cultures around the world) since times immemorial. The Indian culture and traditions have been full of rituals and ceremonies in almost every event. And all of these rituals happen after an act of cleaning. There are festivals in which you have to clean up the houses as a compulsion, as it is said that the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, only enters those houses that are clean. In the traditional times (and also to a large population even today), people would not even take food without cleaning themselves up completely after bathing and performing a sacred ritual. This is even done in the coldest of months, and in the harshest of conditions. Many see these acts as cleaning the human soul. At times the act of cleaning also signifies the need to keep off the bad omen and the evil spirits. An extension of this is the ridiculously superstitious ceremonies that are held widely across the country. In times of adversities, the gods are summoned even more and every bit of effort is made to please the gods, so that the souls can be ‘clean’ and the society ‘cleaned’ of the adversity.

Being an Indian, who is religious, and who does not take any food on all most all days without having a shower (unless of course if I am starving), and who wants the goddess of wealth to bless me, I think that “Cleaning my computer’s desktop” (more specifically on a Mac) is a truly sacred act. The sacred experience that I have every time I have to clean my desktop gives me a joy and a sense of satisfaction that perhaps no other act does.

I see the computer’s desktop as an . . . → Read More: Sacred Digital Experiences

FACED (For A Collaborative Effort in Design) framework

FACED: For A Collaborative Effort in Design – Reflections on a framework for design in India.

Indian Design Industry today is faced with an identity crisis. Having worked in the design industries across continents, amongst cultures that are so different from one another, it is interesting to see the ways in which design is practiced. This essay is to provide a reflective analysis of the present scenario of design profession in India and also to provide a framework for looking ahead and facing the challenges that lie ahead. While the analysis is currently limited to and based on Interaction Design, it can be expanded to view the other frameworks in design.

The FACED Framework.

The metaphor used for the FACED (For a Collaborative Effort in Design) framework here is that of a face. It is an epitome of a perfect design. It is with this wholeness that the Indian Design needs to face the world. Neglecting even one of them would lead to incompleteness in the face and hence the efforts could be lacking. In particular the face is that of a Brahman priest, who is considered to be the highest class in the erstwhile existing caste society in India. Design to me is a profession that is of the highest class and hence this association.

The boundaries of the face signify the Design in India presently. The internal parameters (the Stake holders, the Real, the Evangelism, the Judgment) that lie within the boundaries are the ones that the designer has control over directly. The external parameters (the Theory and the Criticism, as denoted with the ears) are the ones, which have been controlled from the outside.

Within all these the designer has to become a reflective practitioner. The center of the forehead is used to signify the . . . → Read More: FACED (For A Collaborative Effort in Design) framework

A Flashy Subculture

After reading an article by Hebdige on Subculture and Style, today, I tried to go into the cultures and subcultures that exist within the frame of Interaction Design. I was surprised how the thing that first sprang up was the culture of Web Design. And inside the culture of Web Design, we had (or still have) the subculture of Flash Websites.

When I dug more into this topic I found that it is really interesting to analyze from the days of the flashy banners (one subculture) , to the days of Web 2.0 (another subculture)

Initially the websites were full with texts, monotonous and boring content. In order to break away from this monotonicity, it was followed by the usage of lots of pictures and providing more and more links in order to make it more interactive for the user.

However in the gamut of links available for the user who often got confused, the notion of using flashing texts, and blinking images were introduced. This led to a surge in the number of websites trying to do it. And yes, what better way to gather attention then have a extremely harsh color like pink, orange, bright greens on a black background. Visual ergonomics took a back seat. It was all about garnering attention. Anything that helped in doing so, was in fashion. So many sites had extra borderings around content, in bright colors to lay emphasis. Clip arts were used to add to the texts to make it look more stylish. I am sure one can look at the prime background colors of the websites during this period and see that it was black.

This was similar to the punk subculture where the appearance itself was enough to get attention. Since what was accepted in the . . . → Read More: A Flashy Subculture