Designing for Awareness in Attention Economy [Transcript]


At Big Design Conference 2011, Taylor Cowan and Brian Sullivan gave a talk about designing for awareness in the attention economy. Taylor and Brian will be giving an updated version of this talk at SxSW Interactive 2012.  Dr. Leslie McMillan of UTD’s ATEC program provided the transcript.  You may want to go ahead and review the slideshow, and them bookmark this page for future reference.  Enjoy!

[Transcript provided by UTD's ATEC program]

What is the Attention Economy?

Today, you are going to learn about an incredible facet of the human mind, which is often overlooked by designers.  Scientists have determined that every second that your mind is processing over 400 billion bits data per second.  There are only 100 million stars in the Milky Way.  So, your mind process 4 galaxies worth of information every second.  Yet, MIT scientist tell us that people are really only able to understand 2,000 bits of data per second.

When you think of the impact of digital channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin, Digg, and so on, more information is being thrown at your brain each day.  One reporter said, “It is like a maniacal paperboy throwing you the paper every 10 seconds.”  It is actually worse.  These channels push data to you.  And, you can cross-post on them.  Plus, you literally can blast information at the touch of a virtual button.  Who needs a paperboy?

With so much information coming at your customers, you have a huge opportunity.  By paying attention to attention, you will become better equipped to make your customers more aware of important information.  You can design products to better suit their needs.  Simply put, your customers will notice you.  In this talk, we are going to several things:

  1. You will learn about some classic definitions of awareness and what they mean to you.
  2. You will learn about two different modes of awareness (passive and active awareness).
  3. You will learn about five different levels of active awareness (normal, concentrated, selective, alternating, and divided).
  4. You will learn how UX Models do not “pay” attention to attention.
  5. You will learn how to move from an attention economy into an engagement model with five different strategies

What is Awareness?

William James was a psychologist that studied awareness over 100 years ago.  According to James, awareness meant to actively focus on a single task, even when you had many rival things competing for your attention.  This is a classic definition of awareness that falls short in today’s world of Facebook and Twitter and mobile devices.  In the 1970s, Herb Simon began talking about an information economy, where he viewed human awareness as a finite spigot.

As you recall, we are only able to fully aware of 2,000 bits of data per second.  Herb Simon talked about how you have a poverty of attention when you have a wealth of information.  In 1996, Herb Simon said that early computer designers got it wrong. These early designers were looking at things from an information scarcity when they should have been thinking about attention scarcity.

Tom Davenport’s book called the Attention Economy continues with Herb Simon’s thoughts.  For Davenport, your attention is the currency of business.  You do literally “pay” for your attention.  And, there is an opportunity cost associated with paying attention.  If you are paying attention to one thing, you are ignoring something else.  Tom Davenport also talks about an attention-to-engagement model.  Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action are the steps to being successful in the Attention Economy.

When we look at our UX models today, we see wheels, planes, circles, and honeycombs.  All of these UX models do not really talk about the importance of attention.  In some respects, it is probably assumed, which is a problem.  Designers need to design for awareness in our attention economy.

Your Modes of Attention

You have two modes of attention: passive and active attention.  Passive attention is sometimes called “auto-pilot”.  Let’s assume you are driving to work for the 5,000th time.  Your mind shifts to passive attention.  You might be surprised when you are suddenly pulling into the parking lot.  Your mind has been thinking about other things.  Yet, you still drove to work.

Active attention occurs when focus on a task, even when you have rival things competing for your attention.  Let’s go back to the car example.  You are driving to work in passive mode.  You hear someone honk their car and wheels are screeching.  You snap into active attention.  Check the mirror.  Scan for an danger.  Swerve to miss a car.  Adrenaline fills your body.  You slowly calm down.  Then, the next day, you drive back to work in passive mode.

Active attention is different than passive attention.  There are five different versions of active attention. Every person has them–normal concentration, selective, alternating and divided attention. While at first glance, they all seem similar, they’re vastly different. And the cool thing is that you can design for each one.

5 Types of Active Attention

Normal attention is when you focus on a single task. A couple of examples of that might be the surgeon, which we talked about a minute ago. It might be that you’re focused on making that golf putt. Or it could be that you’re juggling. But you are focused, really on a single task.

The next type is concentration. You really focus on a single, which purposely avoiding distractions.  You might be something that’s slightly beyond your current skills, or it’s something that you consider to be very, very important.  Examples of this might be:  you’re in the trade show here at Big Design, a lot of people are talking and you are able to tune them out, and concentrate on that single person that’s trying to talk to you. Another example might be that you’re reading a book for school or work and you’re trying to find specific information. Or you could be a gymnast, trying to add a new twist, trying to stick that landing in order to win a competition. 

The third type of attention is selective attention. And that’s where you unconsciously block out other stimulus while you’re performing some type of a task. Examples of this really tend to be visual in nature. This is very important, because visually you are tuning things out.

Our Gestalt principles are very important to us. Proximity, similarity, continuity, symmetry, closure and area, visually we look for these stimuli, because this type of information, allows us to create patterns, and we selectively tune them in and we selectively tune them out. Who has seen the dancing gorilla video? Raise your hand please. What happens here is, you’re supposed to count the people that are in white t-shirts as they pass the ball, and a gorilla literally walks through, right? I didn’t catch it the first time; I was shocked when I saw it the second time. But really, it shouldn’t be that unfamiliar to us. Banner blindness is a really good example. Or we ignore ads that are on websites. We know it looks like an ad; you just avoid it. The dancing gorilla and banner blindness are examples of selective attention.

Alternating attention is when you focus in on one task, yet, you’re aware of something else. You tune something in, then you tune into something else, then you tune back into something else from time to time. Here’s an example: you’re reading a book for pleasure, and at the same time, you might hear, an episode of Family Guy playing in the background. You look up, “Pretty sweet!  That’s one of the Star Wars episodes that I’ve seen. I’ll come back to it.”, and you switch back, to your book, for now. Then you tune back in, and you watch the part that you find really funny. You do this type of alternating, task switching very quickly. And a lot of people do this, all the time. And again what’s important here is that your attention spigot is a finite set and you’re dividing it out, and you’re task switching very quickly.

Lastly, is divided attention. And that’s when you divide your level of attention between many different things. And you don’t really focus in on any one, you split your attention, into a lot of different things.  So this spigot that we were just talking about, instead of it being cut in half, it’s cut into, maybe, a hundred different slices, and you’re aware of that, and you’re switching, switching, switching. Here’s a really simple example: the laundry is something that you’re doing while you’re listening to your children read, and you’re making sure you’re dinner doesn’t burn in the oven.

The Myth of Multi-Tasking

There is a really good book about the myths of multiltasking called: Myths of Multi-Tasking.  You really don’t multi-task, what you really do is, rapid task switching.  And what scientists say, is that it’s better to finish one task, go all the way to completion. Focus on it; complete it, then go to the next task.  Remember the digital natives we were talking about earlier? Digital natives tend to think they actually can do rapid multi-task switching better than, really just about any generation that’s come along.  And it’s a myth. You only have a finite spigot of attention and your focus moves quickly. The more that you’re aware of, the harder it actually is on you to keep up to date. Digital natives do their homework, update Facebook, search the internet, change their relationship status on Facebook, do a Twitpic, search… right? Search for the closest place to eat, and they’re doing this while they’re doing other things.

They’re not really doing a deep task, they’re doing a lot of non-deep tasks. You’re doing a lot of stuff, yet you’re not really doing any one thing to completion. And again it comes back to this brain, and we’re all under this pressure- digital natives, digital immigrants, we have all of these channels- Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, and it is changing the way that we operate.  And I think there are opportunities that developers and designers can take that can actually take advantage of the fact that we have these different levels of attention, and this finite spigot.

I’m now going to turn it over to Taylor Cowan, who will give you design strategies and examples, of how we can take advantage of this situation.

Strategies for Designing for Awareness

My name is Taylor Cowan, as Brian said, I’m an evangelist at Microsoft. Brian approached me about six months ago with this topic talk, and it was kind of along the lines  that he noticed that the Windows 7 Phone  had some interesting means, or abilities of notifying you, so we thought, “Man, maybe we can come up with a talk that just focuses strictly on what attention has to do with, or how it applies to user interaction and interaction design.” What we discovered is that not only are there system driven strategies, but  these (or but there are- we will need to ask what was intended here) are the strategies that we as designers control.

There are also user driven strategies, or strategies that are not applied to computing or technology, but that we use in every day life. And we’ll look at both of these today. Lets first look at the user driven approach, (maybe edit this out- will ask Brian what they want-I really like this picture Brian found, you can see that kid is really, I think what really happened is, he put some of that sand in his mouth.) We found that there are four different ways you can divide it up, or use the driven approach.

There is task driven training and verbal protocols.  We’ll look at some protocols, and when you see them you’ll go, “Oh yeah, I use those in everyday life.” Advanced training, for things that take you to the next level for things that you would not use in your every day life, and user check lists. I think we see these all in our activities at work and at home.

The first one is how-to training. That just involves concentration, memorization. You use that when you’re about to take a test.  You have to rehearse over and over again. One of my favorite stories in this area, is about a violinist, a very accomplished musician.  I couldn’t find out where it came from, but the story is, that someone says, “How did you become such a great musician?” and she says, “Well, I basically discovered that it’s ignoring certain things, in lieu of other things I didn’t want to do.”

So she found that she wasn’t progressing as a musician as fast as she wanted to, and she discovered, when she woke up, she’d eat breakfast, and check over everything that needed to happen and then go into the practice room, and she reversed that. She just went straight into the practice room and focused on practicing for four hours, and then attended to the other things in her life. So she found that in order to become good at something, you have to ignore other things.

We’re always having a trade off.  And as a musician, I have found that to be true as well. This is an example of a verbal protocol. If you’re a rock climber, or if you’ve ever done it even casually, there are the ways we are going to speak to each other. This is how I as the relayer know that you as the climber, are ready to climb. And this is very important. If we don’t have this protocol, the belayer (?) may not be ready, they may not have the rope firmly fixed in, and I’ve even discovered if you’re the relayer you actually often need to tie into the ground. Especially if you weigh less than the person who is climbing, because when they fall, they’re going to lift you up as well, -that happened to me once. So these are things that actually save your life when you’re climbing, and that’s an example of a verbal protocol.

The six thinking hats is a technique I learned from Brian. In this protocol we divide up ways of critique into six different colors.  Each color has a role that you’re playing, so the white hat, means we’re giving out information; blue, we’re organizing things, green is creative. We don’t get to critical until we get to the black hat.

I’ve found this to be extremely effective. I’ve used it in my job at Microsoft to help a group of software engineers and designers come to consensus about what we’re going to build.  I found that it saves time because if you use a verbal protocol in design you’re guaranteed at the end of two hours, there’s going to be an outcome. I’m sure you’ve all had those meetings that went on, and on, and on, and on, and at the end of it, you just kind of agree to disagree. We hadn’t come to any agreement about what we were going to design. But using a verbal protocol, in this process is very effective. It disciplines people to hold their critique until you actually understand the domain.

Of course Captain Sully, everyone is familiar with this. This is an example of advanced training. So this is the pilot that you want flying your plane when you’re in the air. I think it’s an amazing story of skill and how it applies to real life, and saving peoples lives, when bad things happen.

And finally Check Lists. The Checklist Manifesto is a great example of how simple checklists can solve problems and save money. So, the World Health Organization (WHO) discovered that by creating a checklist, on how to triage and go about running a hospital, they were able to reduce death rates.) It’s also important for us to look at this in today’s economic situation, where you may not have money, and you may not need money to make things better. It could just be making people aware of things by organizing them; in this case, checklists.

Now I’m going to move over to the digital space, or design space. This is where I begin talking about things that we control as designers and software engineers. We divided this up into four areas. Most important are the strategies for interruption and notification. They are distinct, and as a designer you need to make sure when you’re creating notifications, interruptions, that you understand the purpose.  If you don’t, often times you’ll misuse a strategy in the wrong place. I’ll give an example of where that happens.

I think as users I’m sure you’ve experienced a situation where the system interrupts your task (it) wasn’t wanted, you didn’t necessarily need to know that someone wants to talk to you on the phone, when you’re currently editing a document or trying to find a product. Making it multimodal, or using more than one interaction design, so using sound, using colors, using smell, etc. There’s also another effective way of (lording) people to things.

Finally, we’ll look at some designs, and examples of how that is supplied in real life. We’re going to grab someone’s attention and say, “Stop what you’re doing, I want you to look at something even more important.” We’re going to interrupt what they’re doing.  That’s why it’s important that there be a reason for doing that. We’re changing the intent of their focus on to something else.

A notification strategy, we’ll use when we passively want to notify people. We want to maybe bring something in the corner of the peripheral and say’ “Hey, you may want to know about this, but your life will not end if you don’t pay attention to it.” So if you are really intently focusing on the task at hand, you can ignore it. But if you’re allowing your periphery to grow, you’re multitasking, at least you can see and say, “Hey there’s something interesting that’s happening there.”

Let us look at an interruption strategy. This is common; we all have seen it in every operating system that was used. Here it’s a modal dialogue saying, “Are you sure you want to install the selected program?” in this case the designer will put this front and center, and completely interrupt the activity that they are up to. You want to make it big and obvious, and of course, multimodal is better. If you can put a sound, or you can change the color, anything you can do to alert them as good. Interestingly sound is a very good alerting strategy. You see that in the animal kingdom of course, birds alert other birds, to dangers. You’ll see the monkeys will scream at things when danger is around. That’s something that comes natural to humans- sound is a way to alert people. Police also use it, of course.

An interruption strategy is life or death; or very, very, very important, something that must be attended to. You’re allowed to use this interruption strategy if the user is going to be happy that you notified them. So you need to make sure that they’re going to be glad that you told them, “ This is very important” because they might have enjoyed what they were doing.

Did you all see the video I was playing when you walked in the room? If you came early, I showed a video. This is an example I took off the web and you could kind of see how that modal dialogue box stays in the center of the screen no matter what you do it’s right there in the middle. (I was browsing products, and she comes up after about maybe 30 seconds). So before you even had a chance to read about the computer you’re interested in all of the sudden, there is an interruption in the middle of the screen. For me this is an example of an improper use of interruption, (people). They can see at the bottom that there is contact information. They’re humans, they’re competent, they can contact Dell when they are ready. I found this to be very upsetting. If you do want to make this dialogue box go away, and you accidently miss that red box, and click in the middle, off you go and you get a dialogue box and it says, “I want to talk to her”, and that’s not what we really wanted to do. We wanted to just close the window.

Your notification strategies in contrast should be subtle. Some good examples of those would be, Facebook.  I’m sure, every time you go into Facebook, you see the little red indicator that says there’s stuff that’s waiting for you to see.  You’ll see that in email programs, all over the place now. I find those very nice because you may have your Facebook page open, and then when you see that red indicator you think, “Ah! I’ve got something waiting for me, maybe I need to go pay attention to it.”

On the bottom left, that’s a Windows phone user interface, and at the top of the user interface, is what we call a toast notification. The reason they are called toast notifications is that they appear from the top, they kind of come in like a piece of toast popping out of a toaster. But they’re subtle, they don’t go in front of the user interface and disturb what you are trying to do, they’re just at the top. That’s indicating that there are Wi-Fi networks available in the area if you’d like to connect. This may be interesting, and useful information that you’d may like to know.On ESPN, they have a way of showing scores, that goes on the top of their website. So those are just some examples.

The rule of thumb is that (those are not life or death, they are just things that people may want to know about). And therefore you are allowed to use a little bit of screen real estate. This is a great example where we’re going see lots and lots of notifications that you may not have thought about. Or a lot of information that you didn’t realize is all encoded on the screen. Lets sort of look at him step by step and see how interesting this user interface is.

The little red box, this is common all over the place now, notification of one new item. Usually we see that people don’t have pictures, they haven’t even taken time to upload the photo, maybe they’re spamming you, or maybe something that you really don’t want to pay attention to, so that information is interesting. There’s a little icon there that indicates that the item is new, that’s also very interesting to the user. Here they’ve encoded (what) and advertisement is so that if you really don’t want to pay to attention to it, it’s obvious. You have an ability to see this (is) and advertisement by the color. Short URL’s are very easy to detect- they’re usually colored differently. The hash sign indicates a hash tag or that this user has categorized their post in some certain way.  Of course you can go and find other posts that are similar. So that’s a great example of notifications all over the place in one very simple user interface.

Now lets go into the gaming world. The game world is probably the most advanced at notifying people of stuff, so if you really want to see sort of far out into notifications don’t just look at business applications, look at what your kids are doing on the games; because they definitely abide by the rule in terms of a notification in interaction.

Someone playing multiplayer first person shooter is going to be very, very upset if it interrupts his or her field of vision with a notification. They’re trying to shoot other people; they don’t want to be interrupted. On Xbox they use the toast notification at the bottom of the screen and, it will fade in, ever so gently and says: “hey one of your friends is online”, so you may want to have them join the game. But it’s not in the middle of the screen (when you’re where) your field of vision is. Now assume that you want to interrupt, in this case they’re currently playing the game, and you’re going to tell them that their friend is joining and this is their (levels) of information on him; I would say that’s too much. You’re interrupting their game play just to tell them that someone else’s joined; that’s not acceptable. They may actually get shot by not being able to see in the center of the screen.

This is my domain, where I live most of the time. So my job is to go to companies and say “Hey there’s a new platform out there and it’s a little bit different than other platforms you’ve been using and I want to help that customer maximize the platform to its highest degree, or its best ability”.  What I found is when new platforms arise people really don’t know how to use it. So I’ve found myself spending a lot of time talking about why notifications are interesting and why they help and sort of make your applications shine.

One of the big selling points for this particular platform is what we call tiles and you can see these are my tiles on the front of my phone. As a user I choose which tiles are there. So effectively I’m telling these applications “hey I like you so much, I’m going to give you some space right here on my front page and allow you to notify me of stuff that you want to tell me about”, so I do have some ability to filter, and of course (this of this) user interface scrolls up and down so you can have your most important ones on the top and then of course less important ones go down. The notification strategy doesn’t necessarily have to be just on the peripheral, it can be in the center.

In this case the entire user interface’s point is to be (at glance ago), you glance at the phone, “oh I’ve got a new e-mail, I need to look at that”’ then you’re on your way. So this is the information that has been encoded on that screen, maybe a little bit more than you thought at first. It’s telling us that there’s a missed call it even shows that I’ve got to voicemail. Two instant messages came through, I’ve got to outlook messages we know the weather in South Lake, we know that it is partly cloudy by iconic representation, and happily it’s Saturday, and we don’t have any appointments. So we’ll have to go anything we can enjoy the entire day. Another very interesting thing is, notice that there is exactly seven tiles on the screen. I honestly don’t know if this is intentional; I’m sure some of you are already sort of suspicious of what I am going to point out, the seven plus or minus two. I don’t know for a fact that the design team meant that, but it just so happens that there’s about six or seven tiles in the front and they’re not just small bits of information but they’re discrete chunks of related information on the screen.

So according to George A. Miller, humans have the ability to quickly glance at seven bits of information and remember it, so that is a really interesting part of that of a user interface, and you may want to read up on Miller if you’re creating a notification panel, or a screen, you may come to think, “wow if I go far above seven, no ones going to be able to keep with an amount of information.” So the human brain is interesting in that different parts of our brain process different types of information. They’re not are all going into the same place. The point here is that if you want to interrupt someone or make them aware of something, using multi modal strategies makes that information stronger and makes it last longer, it makes it more memorable in our lives.

MIT’s done some research on how our brains process information. You may be surprised to find that we process four billion bits per second, are going though our brain. That is everything, that our touch, feel, our eyes, our ears, our nose, that seem out of date and its processing through this organ of ours. But we’re only aware of about two thousand so our awareness what were able to react to handle his is much less the rest the sub conscious. Out of that two thousand bits per second were really only able to process sixty. So the point is, is that there’s this tunnel of information coming into the human, and in the attention economy you’re competing as designers for the very last bit, that sixty bits per second that kind of where you’re going to live. That’s why thinking about in interruption in notification is important.

This is the multi modal example. Can you guys remember what it is? Two meat patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, onions… It works, obviously… [laughter] That’s great, that only works on us that are about thirty and older I think [laughter]. So these are some good examples of multi modal. The Xbox controller, it shakes so you have actually touch involved in that. It’s got a little bit of lighting on it as well. I like this Coors light, that’s an interesting multi modal example I wouldn’t of though of right away. When it’s cold but the label changes colors, so it’s just kind of a fun play on multi modal. Our phones vibrate, things change colors, make sounds. Phones are great multi modal user interfaces.

I don’t know if you heard the talk on Touch this morning, but touch is an area where we definitely need multi modal interaction so when you touch something on the screen, it needs to change colors or do something so that the user is confident that the computer knows that they touched it and has responded to them, that’s important. This is a Windows phone seven Panorama. This is the design space that I am in most of the time. It’s a new user interface technique where this area slides left and right across the phone giving you more design space. We often get a question from Iphone and Android designers that are moving on to Windows phone; “What the heck do I do with all the space? What’s valid for this space?” In this space perhaps the most important thing is making that consumer aware of information that’s available to them. It’s explorative, it’s playful, it’s not task driven.

When you create an app in your domain, the Panorama is where you would show what other people are doing, what items are popular, what things have I done recently or what’s near me, and this is about making that application more personable to the user and therefore make it more useful. Interactions are personal, this is just another example, that’s a picture hub on the platform, and every picture that I take on the phone it shows up on this hub, so you can see what you’ve done recently. It also will show the pictures that your friends are taking, if you connect the phone to Facebook and connect it to Linkedin, it automatically begins to funnel this pictorial information that is happening in your social network and again; it’s interesting to that person because it’s their friends, it’s not just some pictures they picked out of nowhere. It’s very personal to them, so we’re taking that consumer and enticing them saying, “hey there’s some interesting stuff I want to look at” and when they click on it, then we go into more task driven interactions. They say “Hey I like this picture may be I want to dig deeper into it.”

This is a pivot on the platform and this is another new component you’ll encounter when you start coding for it. It’s called a pivot, it’s really a lot like a tab control, and when you have a long list of information this is the control you use to dice it up into sections. An example would be travel, he would take hotels and say I’m going to organize by price, organize them by star rating, and organize them by how near they are to me currently.

This is an example of one of my favorite apps;, and it’s funny, I did a survey of all the apps in the marketplace to see which apps are really grasping a platform. Which ones are really maximizing its use? At first I thought it would be it would be the Groupons, Facebook, and the Twitters. I don’t know who made this app, but I think they’re awesome. It’s simply What I liked about it, is that when we began to interact with it quickly began to remember what were the last properties I had looked at, and it kept those right up front on that panorama, and so I imagine, “oh, I’m looking for a house, if I go and speak to Lois, my wife, and say hey, I like this one, they’re up front and center, I don’t have to add them to a list, or add them to a box.” The device knew that I liked that based on the fact that I had clicked on it recently. So the idea of when things occur in time is very important to making that important to our user.

Another thing is spatial awareness, so not only are we interested in temporal awareness, which is when things happen; we’re also interested in spatial awareness. When we want to find things in the domain that are interesting to notify people about. Now If you go out to be design, I’ve written two articles that sort of dig deeper into both spatial awareness and temporal awareness, and describe how you can use those dimensions the tease out aspects of your domain to find areas for notification. Fandango is another great example; theaters near me, what’s happening right now. They maximize that panorama by keeping up front and center things are happening spatially or near me and temporarily and near in time up front and center on the Panorama.

Another thing that Brian has spearheaded is a technique in design on which is called mind mapping, and there’s a book on How To Think Like DaVinci, part of that book pinpoints that DaVinci did a lot of mind mapping, and I thought that was interesting he shows some of the old manuscripts and they are mind maps, they’re concepts that are joined by other concepts and they flow naturally. But apparently DaVinci used mind mapping a lot. So here’s an example of me taking the airline domain, the problem is I’m trying to help this customer find out what would be interesting to their consumers to keep them notified of. Because we want to use the tiles, we want to use these two certifications but what should be put there, and why?

So I start off and just draw the domain right in the center of the page, and then up at the right, I’m going to put recent nearby and upcoming. That sort of a way to jog my thinking about things that are useful to notify that person. So we’re thinking spatial awareness, temporal awareness, and keeping that mind and thinking about, at the same thinking about travel. So I’m an airline traveler, what I like to know about? So I just draw the customer and I put up coming. So we’d want to know, do we have upcoming flights? Do we have upcoming hotel stays, or car rental? That’s something that they would definitely want to be aware of quickly, because when you are on the go, you drive into DFW, you don’t know if that flight is going to be at terminal A, B, C or D. I always forget to make sure I do that, and if you go in, then you are going to have to ride that train, and you might miss your flight. I should probably take into account the recent bookings you’ve had, because we tend to travel to the same places if we are a business traveler.

Recent search is very important because when you’re finding those deals, you tend to go back and search again and again for that same thing. I think the user interface should keep tabs on that, and remember it. Recent trips; don’t just think before and after the trip, think during the trip. What would you like to know about during a trip, you’d want to know what’s near me, what restaurants are near me, what hotels are near me, maybe I haven’t booked that yet, what activities are near me. The user interface can know my location, and can say hey maybe you would like to take the river cruise on the Riverwalk, I know exactly where you can buy a ticket for that. Another nearness dimension is an airport. If you’re travelling it’s nice to know which airports here you, can click on it and get driving directions back we’re going back home.

What things are valid for alerts? You may want to alert the user about fare sales. You are going to want to alert the consumer about a gate change. A gate change is something that they would gladly have you interrupt their day to tell them. Or cancellation, again that something is defiantly valid for an interruption strategy: “hey your flight has been cancelled, I’m sorry but, you need to know that as soon as possible.” Getting there, we want to be able to remember where they’re going to be going so we can show the maps easily. They should be able to click on the hotel item and quickly get to a map that shows me how to drive there. Last but not least, when you’re teasing out ideas in the domain, don’t just think about the relationship between the company and the consumer, and think about the relationship between the consumer and their friends. In the travel domain, what is interesting between a traveler, and their friends, well you may want to share your itinerary with your business colleagues, or your spouse, or your family, so that they know where you’re going to be and how to contact you.

Of course when you’re returning, they would like to know when you flight arrives to pick you up. So it’s a good example of how my social network definitely applies to notifications and travel space. That concludes our presentation today, I hope that everyone today can think about how does notification and the interruption apply to my applications, and instead of just putting it in there think carefully why are people getting notified of this and where does it belong.

To effectively design for awareness in the attention economy, we need to pay attention to active and passive modes of people.  Develop strategies to ignore, notify, and interrupt people in the right circumstances.  We also know that multi-modal interfaces help people to store data and retrieve it later.  We also know that placement of data on the page helps to make people aware of it.  Interactions are extremely useful.  The personal interactions with phones and tablet, especially allows for exploration and customizations.  Panaromas and pivot tables provide ways to make you aware of large sets of data without it being in the way.  Your UX models have not been paying attention to awareness.  Thank you for your attention today.  We hope you use this tips and tricks as you design for awareness in the attention economy.


So the question is, once you created the mind map, how do you make use of it? We’ve created a mind map, and we have teased out some areas in travel that would be interesting to notify people about. So the way I like to use the mind map is the very first thing that you do. You create it, and it gives you an idea of the whole domain, and then you take up those elements and you run those through the design studio process with the six thinking hats. You may say, OK these are all the things of which we’ve teased out, get about five people in a room and say we’re going to design the Panorama for this application. These are the notifications I would like to send and I’d like each of you take a white piece of paper go off and do a notification or user interface and take into account these notifications, then come back and talk about it. So what you’ll find is that they’ll quickly look at your mind map and pick out the ones that appeal to them the most. If you say you have five people you begin to notice groupings of the more popular ones. Then at the end of the session when people vote on their favorite ones, the best will just filter up to the top. So the mind map is the very very very beginning.

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Contributed by Brian Keith Sullivan (280 Posts)

Brian Sullivan is the Usability Principal at Sabre. He is President of DFW-UPA. Brian is one of the creators of Big Design Events, Big Design Magazine, Big Design Dallas and Chicago. Brian is actively involved in World Usability Day. You can read his UX writings at The Usability Corner. Brian has an MA, MBA, and CUA.



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