The need for Data Designers and their role in the design process

User-Centered Design tries to optimise the product/service around how users can, want, or need to use the product/service rather than forcing the users to change their behaviour to accommodate the product/service.

We have already seen specialisation in the field that branched out the visual designer to include both both the visual and interaction designer.

We are now seeing a need for further specialisation to include a data designer, this need is driven by the increase in complexity, connectivity, and ubiquity of computational devices, it is predicted that there will be 20 billion connected devices. The underlying factor across these devices is the data, data that influences the behaviour of each of the devices and need to communicate this data.

One of the more popular examples of the value of designing with data is Nest – the smart thermostat; Nest increases conveniences and offers real value through optimising heating patterns by use of data. Without appreciation and understand of data, this would not have been possible, instead would have been approached with wireframes and an application rather than giving it some degree of autonomy.

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Leverage Context For Better Recommendations

Recommendation Engines has become the ‘hello world’ of Data Products (or more generally the data era). Popularised by Amazon that not only found them to be more attractive (user engagement) that curated reviews and also figured out how to make it work at scale and in (near) real-time (using a technique known as item based collaborative filtering).

Once then, every digital commerce site has leveraged the idea and every Machine Learning/Data Mining book reviews the idea and implementation.

At a high, and very simplistic, level, it works by finding the distance between two entities (either people or items e.g. restaurants/food) based on a set of features (e.g. cuisine, food, song/movie genre, song artist/movie director/etc) and using your (or similar person’s) history of entities you’ve previously engagement with (bought, visited, etc) predicts what other entities you would like e.g. if 90% of your iTunes library is Jazz then other Jazz songs will have a higher weight than Rock, thus you will be recommended Jazz songs.

There are times when recommendations need something more than history of engagement, something more timely. I’m sure we have all experienced this, it’s your wives birthday and you shop on Amazon to find your recommendations have been embarrassingly polluted with items you would rather your workmates not see. One suggested improvements for recommendation engines is to use context (if possible). Google does this well (advantage of having established a strong presence of lifestyle and productivity products) e.g. if you’re looking for flights then Google Now will use this derived intent to keep you up-to-date with the latest flight deals.

But this can be achieved by other means, and the example I have in mind, we can leverage the mobiles attributes of being connected, aware, and present to determine if the recommendation is for a individual or group of friends e.g. your out with friends, using your phone to look for somewhere to eat – the phone has your contacts, location, awareness of who you’re with (neglecting privacy in this instance) – instead of using just your recommendations, it should extend the preference out to those in close proximity. It’s not hard to see how this extends to going to the movies, something to do, or music to play.

The rise of Data Designers

It’s a little ironic that I wrote this post while procrastinating doing the assignment for my data analytics course.

… we’re at the break of the most exciting era of computing, the convergence of pervasive computing, our increased ‘dependency’, and data (capturing and handling) will diminish the concept of a computer as a box (keyboard, mouse, and monitor) and transfer it into more of a living ‘thing’ (or service).

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App Extensions/Plugins – An idea to reduce app redundancy

This idea was conceived trying to contemplating a one general trend and one significant challenge in mobile.

The challenge is that, despite the opportunity for innovation provided from few barriers to building and deploying apps, App stores have become flooded, making discovery and management difficult & time consuming for the user. Additionally we see a lot of duplicated functionality across applications (think Retail, Events/Venue Finders, Restaurant, …) i.e. the concept just doesn’t scale well.

The trend is the move towards deeper integration into the platform, taking the true advantage mobile such as better understanding of your current context, interests and being available when needed. The most obvious examples are the Personal Assistants offered by the 3 major players, giving you information based on interests and intent e.g. Google Now provides you with a card of near-by products that you have previously searched for.

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The Rise Of Contextual Marketing

In this post we examine the techniques used to know you for purposes of improving targeted advertising.

In Pete Mortensen’s post The Future Of Technology Isnt Mobile Its Contextual, he highlights the shift in computing towards a paradigm called Contextual-Awareness Computing and outlines the four ‘graphs’ that are required before contextual computing will work, these four graphs are Social, Personal, Interest, and Behaviour. In essence, Contextual-Awareness Computing meaning computers are able to proactively react to external stimuli as opposed to being commanded by its user – these four graphs being considered the necessary information to provide relevant context. The concept lends itself well to the notion of Just-In Time Interaction/Information as touched on in Frog’s Creative Director, Scott Jenson, blog post Mobile Apps Must Die, where interactions and information are not dependent on direct input but rather your current activity i.e. your current context.

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