Going for a chat – how making journeys and conversations are usability questions

Pebble has just released its new products on Kickstarter. They have focused on Fitness as a core purpose of all three devices (2 smartwatches and a screenless clip on).

The linkage between wearables and fitness seems now to be unassailable. The logical purpose of wearables is fitness.

This seems a rather limited idea. It also seems to be an idea driven by sensor ability rather than actual user need. We can build portable devices that can measure heart rate and steps thus the device must be about physical health. The technology drives the use case.

Thinking differently

Here is a user centred model of how people can think about a couple of things: the desire to make journeys and the desire to have social conversations. Both are fairly core to human evolved behaviour.

In saying that making journeys and being social is evolved behaviour is not to say all people now want to do either or both.

An interesting thing about humans is they can transcend evolved behaviour to do things in opposition to their biological history. For example, this is why Veganism is completely natural for humans: it is a deliberate choice away from the evolved omnivore. We change, we adapt, we use diversity to create new possibilities.

Humanity’s natural environment is artificial

So movement and sociability are important to people but they can be both desired and undesired (in that difficult to measure area of conscious and unconscious choices). A spectrum of evolved behaviour and human choices that change between people and between times and places for individuals. This is why the diagram has both “Want to” and “Do not want to” axes.

Movement not fitness

Using this model, it becomes possible to think about non-fitness use cases for wearables that are linked to human choices.

  • To make a spiritual pilgrimage
  • To go on a learning journey
  • To meet people
  • To find solitude
  • To be still
  • To jump around

All are valid as they shift across the desires to move (or not) and to converse with people (or not).

User choices not tech solutions

This model can be used to understand other area of product and service development where people confuse the capabilities of technology with the desires of humans.

  • Digital by default and digital exclusion? Are these about inability to learn new skills or a desire to go to places and talk to people?
  • Robot carers? The comfort can be both in the artificially of the care worker and the lack of conversation and yet, for others, the discomfort can be in the same lack of conversation.
  • Internet Of Things? If the house can serve all your needs automatically, do you need to go out? Or could an automated house mean you can go out more as mundane tasks are now well managed?
  • Virtual Reality? Is the ability to travel without movement working for some but not others?

All of these are usability research questions.

Unless you search for the underlying human reasons, you will not understand the perceived behaviours.



Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. www.linkedin.com/in/alastair-somerville-b48b368 Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX

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