Category Archives: Uncategorized

The future of biometric data tracking isn’t about devices, it’s about experiences

As a person with Biomedical Engineering background, I am so happy to see the coming trend of body-centric technologies. With carefully-designed UX, they can create a new way of social interactions.

Gigaom

Everywhere you look these days, there seems to be yet another sensor-enabled device or mobile app that wants to monitor everything from your heart rate and posture to your brain waves and breathing patterns.

But mainstream adoption of technology that helps people better understand their bodies won’t just happen because of more sophisticated sensors or engineers who are smarter about manipulating data. According to Dr. Leslie Saxon, head of the University of Southern California’s Center for Body Computing, biometric data tracking will have its “iPod moment” and spread to the masses when it’s packaged with experiences that improve the way we receive healthcare, communicate with friends and even enjoy movies and music.

“Everybody, right now, is so focused on the sensor and the engineering and nobody’s really focused enough, in my view, on the experience,” she said. “That’s going to make the products that hit the home-runs, that…

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Four Reasons Why I Love airbnb

As a big fan of traveling, I was thrilled to find airbnb.com. I am attached to it and visit it frequently even when I am not planning for any trip. It is not only usable but also enjoyable.

This website gives me great experience mainly because of the following 4 reasons:

  • Clean navigation and prominent searching area. As a platform offering choices of accommodations for travelers who have destinations in their mind, searching function should be significant and easy to find. Airbnb does a great job of placing the core function at the very center of the home page, which will also take the central place of on a commonly sized laptop screen. A “search” button colored with bright pink will ensure that you don’t miss the search box embedded in colorful cover photos.   

Screenshot 1:30:13 11:30 AM           In case you are new to the website and just want to wonder around and check it out, the fixed   search bar at the very top of the page will stay what ever page you are going to visit and quickly help you get back to track when you are ready to search for specific destination.

      This simple but thoughtful navigation design can always remind and facilitate users to complete the key task without hassle.

  • Pleasing visual enjoyment. For all online shopping sites, visual attraction is a key to attack and retain visitors. Airbnb is also a form of online shopping sites, where people make purchase decisions without seeing and touching real products. What the difference between airbnb and other online shopping store (e.g., Amazon, Nordstrom, and eBay) is that airbnb is not only selling the product itself, it is also selling the living experience and life styles. These hidden selling points are in no way negligible. Thus, I appreciate the attention and value airbnb has put on the quality of the images and delightful color schemes of the website. I have no doubt that users will be attracted by most of the photos posted and feeling hard to make a decision not because the options are undesirable but because they are all too fancy to just choose one. Furthermore, the whitespace among images is reasonable, rendering great visual effect.
  • Integration of social functions and wish list. This newly-added feature showed a salute to the good idea and experience on Pinterest. I viewed it as a tipping-point that airbnb evolved its focus on exploration rather than just search. Much like a soymilk-maker company in China spent great efforts to advocate and advertise the benefits of drinking soymilk in order to sell its products, airbnb offers contexts and atmosphere of different places around the world to arouse the pleasant yearn for traveling, and indicating living with airbnb is the best way to really immerse oneself in the local culture. I love the wish list function because I can “pin” interior designs that I love, save places for future trips, broadcast on Facebook about my taste, and plan trips with my friend collaboratively. Airbnb introduces the wish list function in the home page, right below the prominent search function. Users can easily browse popular wish lists. What adds to enhance this joyful experience is the great coding – it brings almost infinite scrolling, smoothy and robust. Screenshot 1:30:13 4:48 PM

      In each individual space page, saving to wish list or sharing function (to Twitter and Pinterest) is handy. It is convenient at any stage to bookmark favorite choices. Overall, airbnb enables different pathways for users do discover fun places and ignite their unconscious desires.

  • Trust system and adequate product information. Another formula of successful online shopping site is to build the sense of trust and ease the process of making purchase decisions. Airbnb succeeds in setting up a trust by using traditional user reviews system and approachable profile information of house-renters. Below shows randomly pulled two renter’s profile bar on the property’s page: Screenshot 2:7:13 11:23 AM

      The font used to spell their names is handwriting style, creating a sense of friendliness. Other performance matrices reflect their working style. They helps users to make good matches with the renter they are going to deal with and be aware of what to expect. By clicking the name of the renter, users could check more detailed information and business record of her. All the means very much secured users trust towards the website.

      To help users make informed decisions, useful information is also ready available and easy to navigate through. For example, information regarding a renting property could be viewed in photo’s form, geography form, street-view form, and availability form, using tabs to toggle among. Detailed description, amenity list and house rules (e.g., no smoking, and no pets) are also specified right below the photo gallery. Screenshot 1:30:13 11:03 PM

Above are the major 4 reasons why I have great experience on airbnb. As I browse it, I discover more lovely features that reflect those fine considerations from the website designer. A lesson learned.

Reading Notes: 3 ways of building mobile-optimized websites

Thanks to @mihaela_v, I got a chance to read a comprehensive article about comparison of 3 methods of building mobile-optimized websites. As I am very interested in building mobile-based websites or apps, I would like to take a brief notes about pros and cons of these methods for quick reference.

Method 1: Responsive web design

Same HTML, different page layout.

  • Pros: Same content; A single URL
  • Cons: Content won’t be fully optimized for mobile devices; Slow; Difficult navigation.
  • Examples: Starbucks, World Wildlife Fund, & The Boston Globe

Method 2: Dedicated Mobile Site

Different URLs: desktop website redirect to mobile website. Mobile-version website is basically a separate website from the desktop version.

  • Pros: Easier to make separate changes; Fast; Easy navigation
  • Cons: Multiple URLs; Different content and functionality; Content forking; Redirection required
  • Examples: Walmart, Amazon, & BBC.

Method 3: RESS (responsive web design + server side components)

Two sets of code (HTML and CSS) for different devices, loading depends on server-side programming.

  • Pros: Easy navigation; Less page bloat; Fast
  • Cons: More server resources; Device detection required (which is unreliable)
  • Examples: CNN, eHow, & Wikipedia

A quick note for learning and using smart object in Photoshop

With the need to hand in a graphic design for my website, I explored several tips of using Photoshop to render website prototyping. Smart object is a very important feature for UI designers. Here are some quick links to some insights of using smart objects. 

From Viget-Inspire blog: http://viget.com/inspire/smart-ways-to-use-adobe-photoshops-smart-objects

From Tutsplus: http://psd.tutsplus.com/tutorials/tools-tips/smart-objects/

 

RAA: Applying “the power of the ask” in social media website?

RAA stands for: Research Article Analysis

Paper discussed:

Wash, R., & Lampe, C. (2012). The power of the ask in social media. Proceedings of the ACM 2012 conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, CSCW  ’12 (pp. 1187–1190). New York, NY, USA: ACM. doi:10.1145/2145204.2145381


I’ve always wondered what motivates people to post comments on social media websites. Contributing, fun, or self-presentation? Probably most of readers are just like me: I usually felt lazy and seldom intensively involved in online discussions. This CSCW2012 paper came from Dr. Cliff Lampe at University of Michigan, trying to apply “the power of the ask” to promote more comments on social media websites. Let’s see if he can achieve this goal.


1. Purpose of the research:
Test a UI design grounded on “the power of the ask” strategy in philanthropy to see if it can induce users to contribute on a social media website.
The foundation of this research goal is that “charities and social media systems are both instances of what economists call public goods”. Voluntary contributors are needed but it is always hard to motivate people to become one. The authors claimed these two systems face two similar issues that prohibit people to contribute:
  • Which websites/charity organization to contribute to?
  • When should this contribution happen? Procrastination happens and stops them from contributing later.
The power of the ask is a powerful fundraising method widely used in charitable fundraising to solve these issues: upon asking to donate explicitly, people can react to the request, donate money immediately (when) to the person sent out request (to whom). Thus, the authors would like to apply this method to social media website, based on the similar nature of these two systems.


2. Methods:
The authors carried out a randomized field experiment on an existing social media system: the Great Lakes Echo, which is a WordPress based news service run by the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. During the experiment period (10 weeks), users were randomly assigned to 3 conditions: no ask, immediate ask, and reminder. No ask provides the default interface as we can see in a WordPress blog, with comments and commenting textbox at the end of the article. Immediate ask and reminder conditions both provided popup windows 500ms after the page was full loaded, with two buttons: No Thanks, and Leave a Comment. The difference is that the immediate ask conditions provided a commenting box for readers to comment immediately, while the reminder condition asked readers to comment after reading the article. If you click “Leave a Comment” in the reminder condition, the page will automatically scrolled down to the comments area.
A reader is assigned randomly to only one of the conditions and it will be kept in the browser cookie so that he/she would always encounter the same condition during the experimental period. Also, one can only see comments posted by other users under the same experimental condition.


3. Main Findings:
A total of 266 comments were generated during this 10-week period.
  • No ask and immediate ask conditions performed similarly, with 83 and 81 comments generated respectively. Reminder condition had higher comments: 102.
  • There is a dropoff in the effectiveness of the popups over time, and 3 conditions are converging to approximately the same number of comments on average.
  • Popups didn’t promote the quality of comments.


4. Take Aways:
I like this article in the way that it borrows idea from another area reasonably and tested with a field study, which is quite interesting to read. However, I found several pitfalls (in my view), which I think compromised the study results.
  • The popup windows were shown 500ms after the article was fully loaded. The authors did a good argument on why other solution didn’t work and this one is the most clean one and it is worth to try “at the expense of some amount of external validity”. However, if you could imagine, at the time the window pops up, most readers must have just started reading a little bit, which basically made the “immediate ask” condition useless: who can give a comment when he/she just starts reading? So I’ve expected the result that “no ask” and “immediate ask” would make no difference. I am curious at what percentage of users clicked “No thanks” button under this condition? This was not reported in the paper. Similarly, I am curious to know what percentage of users clicked “No thanks” under the condition of “reminder”.
  • In the result part, it was claimed that 179 out of 209 commenters only contributed a single comment during the study, which could almost rule out the possibility that a single individual contributed enough comments to alter the results. However, it was unclear whether those 30 commenters were uniformly distributed in 3 conditions. With only 206 comments, if most of these 30 commenters who intend to post more comments were happen to aggregate in a certain condition, it would bias the result a lot.

Connect the Digital World with the Physical World II: SixthSense by Pranav Mistry

I posted a blog sharing the idea of connecting digital world with physical world days ago. Today, I would like to extend that topic a bit, with this AMAZING talk, also from TED. Pranav Mistry, a PhD student from MIT Media Lab, demoed his invention called SixthSense with us. The behind idea is to seamlessly connected digital world with physical world, making the interaction more intuitive, and the way he fulfilled it is simple, clean, and yet brilliant.

I am sure you will say “wow” after watching this. Enjoy!