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    Entries in UX (11)

    Thursday
    Dec072017

    Color of the Year 2018

    In the continuing tradition of 'If it interests me, it must be interesting to other people too' that explains just about everything that gets covered on this blog, it is once again time to examine one of my favorite and recurring topics - Pantone's 'Color of the Year' choice.

    I continue to be completely, and probably irrationally fascinated with Pantone's 'Color of the Year' designation and process.

    In case you are unfamiliar (shock!), with Pantone and the Color of the Year designation here is all you need to know. Pantone is the world's leading authority on color, color systems, and publishes the industry standard definitions of colors. In other words that nice new orange shirt you just bought is not just 'orange' it is 'Pantone Persimmon Orange 16-1356 TPG'. Pantone provides guidelines and definitions for thousands of variations of colors, and it is the standard by which colors are classified.

    Each year the color experts at Pantone declare one specific shade the 'Color of the Year'. This specific color, (in 2017 it was 'Greenery' in case you did not know), is meant to be a kind of reflection of trends in art, design, fashion, movies, popular culture, and branding and often will subsequently become more common in actual products like clothing and jewelry as a result of the Color of the Year designation. So perhaps if you think back on 2017 and think you have seen a lot of Greenery around - sort of a vibrant shade of medium green, you have Pantone to thank or blame for that.

    So this week Pantone announced its choice for Color of the Year for 2018 a deep, intense, and saturated  hade of purple called 'Ultra Violet' - aka Pantone 18-3838.

    The rationale behind this choice of of Ultra Vilet for color of the year?

    Here's what Pantone's color experts had to say about the selection: (side note, isn't 'Color Expert' one of the coolest job titles ever?)

    A dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade, PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future.

    Complex and contemplative, Ultra Violet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now. The vast and limitless night sky is symbolic of what is possible and continues to inspire the desire to pursue a world beyond our own.

    Enigmatic purples have also long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance. Musical icons Prince, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix brought shades of Ultra Violet to the forefront of western pop culture as personal expressions of individuality. Nuanced and full of emotion, the depth of PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet symbolizes experimentation and non-conformity, spurring individuals to imagine their unique mark on the world, and push boundaries through creative outlets.

    So what, if anything, should any of us care about what Pantone says about culture, trends, society, fashion, and how we all are collectively feeling - expressed through the colors we are seeing and using more and more?

    I suppose the main thing to think about is right in the verbiage Pantone used to describe their thinking processes behind the selection. The words awareness, mindfulness, and creative inspiration all show up in the description. Pantone is suggesting that the colors (and feelings) we will seek in 2018 will be ones like Ultra Violet, a color that (if such a thing is possible), will help to make us feel more open to creative expression, reflection, experimentation, and non-conformity and more inspired to take on the world perhaps.

    No matter your personal point of view, it is pretty fair to characterize 2017 as a kind of an unusual year. The US economy continues its amazing recovery 2008 lows (the recession now seems so long ago it is hard to remember it at times), unemployment seems likely to move under 4.0%, and measures like the stock market and corporate profits seem to indicate the good times are not yet close to ending.

    But lots and lots of folks are not sharing equally, if at all, from this recovery and growth. And of course the things that are happening in politics and with corporate/business scandals (looking at you Matt Lauer), remind us all that even in seemingly 'good' times that there will always be work to do.

    Pantone thinks/hopes that Ultra Violet will 'take our awareness and potential to a higher level. From exploring new technologies and the greater galaxy, to artistic expression and spiritual reflection, intuitive Ultra Violet lights the way for what is yet to come.'

    Let's hope.

    The colors we choose to wear to paint our homes in to use in our creative endeavors say plenty about us, about who we are, how we feel, and perhaps how we want to feel.

    What do you think? Ready to rock plenty of Ultra Violet in 2018? I think it would make an excellent tie, (in case you have not shopped for my Christmas present yet).

    Have a great day! 

    Monday
    Dec042017

    Alexa, what do I need to get done today?

    High, probably at the top of the list of 'Cool things I acquired in 2017 list' is the Amazon Echo, powered by Amazon's 'Alexa' platform.

    I talk to Alexa every single day. In fact, I probably spent more time with Alexa than anyone else this year. I probably ought to think about what that means. Anyway, back to the point. The single feature I use and enjoy the most is the 'Flash Briefing' or short news and information update that can be configured to have Alexa (via a slew of independently created 'skills' or sources), to give me a tailored, personalized update of news, sports, weather, meetings, and other updates that are meaningful to me. I probably use this feature two or three times a day. I know, I am weird. But I have become so hooked and almost dependent on Alexa that I even bought a second Echo device for the second floor of my house, so that Alexa and I would never be too far apart. Wow, that is really weird. But (again) back to the point.

    Last week Amazon announced the formal launch of the 'Alexa for Business' platform, that will enable organizations who place Alexa-enabled Echo devices in their offices, lobbies, and conference rooms to centrally administer these devices, provision user access to these devices, enable both public and private/custom skills to these devices, and finally, (and perhaps most interestingly), allow employees to access private/custom/proprietary skills on their personal Echo devices at home.

    Think about walking into a conference room and simply stating 'Alexa, start the meeting' to have Alexa fire up the connected A/V in the room, call the conference bridge number, provide the authentication to the conference call provider, and send out a notification to everyone on the meeting invite that the call/meeting has started. Really cool, (especially if you are as sick as me as having to enter about 27 numbers and codes to kick off a conference call), and according to the early Alexa for Business release documentation, really easy to set up.

    In addition to the meeting management stuff, Alexa for Business will be able to perform in a business/office setting the same kinds of tasks that millions of people are using Alexa for at home - controlling smart lights and equipment, getting Flash Briefings, setting reminders, managing To-Do lists, and even performing basic calendaring. I ask Alexa 'What's my next meeting? all the time.

      

    These use cases are all pretty cool, and are easily translated to workplace contexts as they are all simple and pretty straightforward. But do not underestimate how cool it would be to have Alexa lay out your day, your meetings, and your important 'To-dos' in a simple summary at the start of the day.

    But what is potentially more interesting is that Amazon has created a Skills developer kit and a set of APIs to enable solution providers, (like your HRIS provider), and individual organizations to create custom skills to enable Alexa-type access to things like sales reports, employee schedules, business travel itineraries, or even and update on the slate of candidates you have to interview for your open position on that day.

    It is not at all a stretch to expect that very soon, some if not most of the major HCM solution providers will begin to offer at least some support for Alexa for Business skills, as (and this is just like we saw with smartphones and tablets), as more and more employees adopt and begin to use these devices at home, they will want to use them for work. And also 'at home / for work' if that makes sense.

    If I were an HR/Talent pro thinking about or evaluating some new HR Tech tools I would definitely ask the providers that are vying for my business what/if any plans they have to incorporate Alexa, or voice UX more generally, into their technology and supported processes. 

    Because it is only a matter of time until your CEO or your Head of Sales comes to you to ask 'Why can't I do, (insert something they like/need to do here) on my Echo?'

    Happy Monday. Have a great week!

    Thursday
    May182017

    Google and the interface of everywhere

    Google's big I/O event happened this week, and in customary fashion the search and technology giant made a bunch of interesting product announcements and made public for the first time some brand new solutions and innovations. Folks in the HR/Recruiting space will largely be most interested in and perhaps concerned by Google's announcement that it intends to launch 'Google for Jobs', a consolidated job search tool (powered by Google's search technology at the core), for job seekers that will surface job listing from a number of sources like LinkedIn, Facebook, and CareerBuilder. And while that announcement certainly was interesting, and needs to be top of mind for folks who run or heavily promote their jobs on job boards like Indeed, to me, it was not the most interesting thing to come out of I/O.

    First, Google announced the forthcoming Lens app, a tool that essentially makes a smart phone camera more intelligent by allowing you to learn about a product by taking a picture of it, find out information about a performance by taking a photo of the name of the band, or connect to a wifi network by snapping a photo of the login and password information. This app is a nod to the increasing use of the camera/photo as not just a means of recording an image, but as a method for navigating the world and its objects and experiences around us.

    Second, Google announced additional places (beyond its Home device and its Pixel phone) and tools where its 'Assitant' app will be available - on iPhones for the first time, on more Android devices, and soon, in cars, refrigerators, and more. Google's near-term vision is to make Assistant available essentially everywhere, and to (ultimately), disconnect or break the bond between the smart phone, (and Android for that matter), and the Assistant capabilities.

    These two announcements combine to form the basis and the beginnings of a powerful service (Assistant), that eventually will seem "interface-less", or said differently, will be accessed via a variety of devices and methods - voice, images, touch screens, and sure, if you must, by typing commands into a keyboard. Who knows, maybe the next iteration of Google Glass, (remember that?), will be to largely function as a lens and continuous input stream to the Assistant. As you stroll around with Glass you can ask it for advice and information about where you are, the restaurant you are walking by, and who knows - maybe see a list of open jobs at the Cafe you are sitting in having a coffee.

    What is interesting about all this, to me, is the longer term implications it has for the tools and technologies that we use at the workplace. Consumer-driven technology innovation has been driving enterprise tech for a while now. You were using a smart phone or a tablet at home, before you ever did so for work. And I think the same thing will become true for this future world of the 'everywhere' interface to smart tools and services designed to help us navigate the world, and get things done.

    Smart phones exploded for work applications because (in part), we didn't want or need to be trapped to a desk and a computer in an office in order to get things done. Now, we are beginning to see what is coming 'next' - after the smart phone, when the technologies are all around us, in our ears, in the devices we interact with, and never more than a spoken 'Ok Google' away. What will be the first HR system to be fully integrated and accessible via voice, image, and even wearable tech? 

    I think it is tremendously exciting and fun. And way more interesting and powerful than a new website that aggregates online job listings. But if you have to talk about that, it is ok. I get it.

    Have a great day!

    Monday
    Jun272016

    Be careful when evaluating for user experience

    Over the weekend I read an interesting discussion online about one organization's software selection process, i.e., should we select solution 'A' or 'B'. In the end the company went with solution 'B', and the decision was largely based on the idea of 'user experience' or usability. The specific details don't matter here, (which is why I am not linking to the source), but it made me think that I should write about UX this week. And that made me think that I have written about UX a dew times before, and it might make sense to re-run a couple of those posts this week. So here goes - more from the archive on UX and usability....

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    From November 2014 - There's more to User Experience than usability

    Here is a quick take and a diagram on UX that I wanted to share on a cold, kind of snowy Wednesday in my part of Western NY, (and thankfully not too snowy, lake effect snow is a funny thing, one side of town can get buried in snow, while a mile away sees hardly anything at all).

    I was plowing through my Feedly last night, (while watching my Knicks fail, admirably however in Milwaukee), and I came across this really interesing piece on API design from the Nordic APIs site. 

    I know what you might be thinking: Really, you must have a terribly exciting life, reading about API design and watching basketball. And you would be right! It is terribly exciting. 

    You don't have to read the entire piece about API design, (I admit, it gets a little ponderous near the end if you are not really, really into APIs), but I wanted to share what I thought was the most interesting and perhaps relevant part of the piece, a diagram called the UX Honeycomb, originally developed by Semantic Studios. The diagram is meant to portray the facets or elements of User Experience, and as you will see, there is much more than 'usability' at play here.

     

    The point of the UX Honeycomb is to make sure that designers understand the various components that encompass UX, and to also emphasize the center element - 'Valuable'. So while for UX professionals, 'usability' remains important to overall UX, it is not by itself sufficient. And it is also a great reminder that the elements like 'useful', 'accessible', and perhaps most importantly for HR readers, 'credible' remain critical.

    And the way that the elements of the UX Honeycomb seem to have really close applicability to lots of what HR in general and HR technology projects in particular is the primary reason I wanted to share the diagram. Whether it is a traditional HR-led initiative like training, or performance coaching, or rolling out a employee wellness program, or a straight up HR systems implementation, evaluating your approach against these UX elements I think makes a ton of sense.

    Is what you are doing, or trying to get others to do, useful, usable, desirable, credible, valuable, etc.?

    I think you have to be able to check 'Yes' on just about every one of the elements on the UX Honeycomb no matter what the project is, in order to have a chance to capture the attention and the time of your users, employees, and leaders. I am going to keep the Honeycomb in mind moving forward, and I think you might want to as well.

    Anyway, that's it.

    Stay warm out there today.

    ---------------------------------------------------

    I probably should have updated that last line to say 'Stay cool out there today' - have a great week!

    Wednesday
    Jun082016

    The user interface is your voice

    Earlier this week Trish McFarlane and I did an HR Happy Hour Show and podcast based on the always interesting and influential Internet Trends Report from KPCB. On that show, we talked about some of the trends and ideas identified in the report (demographics, generational changes, and more), but one of the report's major themes that we did not discuss was the increase in capability and use of voice as a primary technology interface. Think Siri, Amazon's Echo and the like.

    The report spends a lot of time on this trend, (about 16 slides, almost 10% of the entire report), but I wanted to highlight just one of the slides, and then opine a bit about what this trend could imply for HR and workplace technologies going forward.

    Here's the money slide from the KPCB deck on the growth and potential of voice interfaces, then some FREE comments from me:

    Three quick takes on this chart and the voice interface trend overall...

    1. As the chart above shows, accuracy of these systems in terms of their ability to correctly recognize and interpret speech commands and instructions has been growing rapidly. And as these tools get better and better, users will take advantage of them more and more. Why? Talking is easier (and much faster), than typing or clicking. And convenience - think about when you are in your car, or making dinner in your kitchen, or eating a salami sandwich, (ok, maybe that is just my use case). Either way, as capability improves so will usage rates.

    2. While the primary use cases for voice interfaces and commands are largely personal, (these interfaces are primarily used for things like getting directions, making calls, sending texts, and the like), it is not a far stretch of the imagination to think that such a potentially widespread personal and consumer trend will work its way into workplace and organizational activities as well. Once your employees get used to using their voices to issue commands and requests for personal uses, it won't be long until they want to know why they can't navigate the online employee directory using voice, or ask the HRIS system to email them a PDF copy of their current benefits enrollments. Technology that takes hold of consumer consciousness almost always wants to enter the workplace as well. 

    3. Like wearable technologies like Google Glass and similar the initial workplace applications for voice interface technology might not be in so-called 'knowledge workers', but rather with front line and customer-facing workers like service techs, retail workers, or even in manufacturing and distribution. These are most likely the people that would benefit from increased computing capability that does not require them stopping what they are doing to manipulate a PC, table, or even a smart phone with their hands. We like to think that most tech advances benefit tech workers, but this might be a case where the best ROI comes from enabling field workers with the latest advances in tech.

    I think it is very interesting times in the voice interface space, and I wonder how long it will be until we see the first important breakthroughs in this area in the HR and workplace tech space.

    What say you?