February 17, 2012
Coming from architecture school, I saw a lot of designs being created that tried to control or force the hypothetical occupants into the designer's mental model of how to live. The "idea" of people didn't take how people actually were into account. Behaviorally, I think people are naturally disinclined to change their behaviors without strong motivation and followthrough. One of the biggest challenges to introducing innovative new products and technologies is developing and refining them to the point where they are comprehensible, intuitive and fit in neatly with existing user needs and workflows. Most importantly, in a way that is enjoyable and inspiring to users. I think strong products don't try to change users, which is often the didactic approach that technogies take, but listen to and respond to them, and can act as a catalyst for new behaviors or habits
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One thing I worked on at 23andMe was the genetics research, which for the first time, was being conducted online in order to reduce the time for research to reach actual people. This consisted of people taking online surveys. Not exactly fun work for most people. I developed a UI and feedback system for enabling people to answer really short mini-surveys, with interactions and buttons that could provide users instant feedback, and hopefully propel them through as many surveys as possible. This turned out to be incredibly effective in terms of the number of surveys each user completed.
I'd have to think about it, but I know a large number of designers, and I'm pretty good at talking up people I don't know if I'm excited about their work. Some well-known people I know are Larry Tesler, John Maeda, and Terry Winograd.
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I'm a product designer and product manager. I've been working in web technology for 6 years in relationship and workflow productivity tools, personal genomics, and news aggregation—with a background originally in architecture and art history.