Archive for the ‘ideas’ Category

The ACEO model of user experience research

Monday, September 1st, 2014

When designing a diary study to do ux research, user research or customer experience research, it is handy to have the ACEO model in mind as a guide.

ACEO stands for:

•    Activity – what are people doing?
•    Context – what is the context of their experience?
•    Emotion – what is the emotional impact?
•    Outcome – what is the result of the experience on the user/customer?

These are the four main elements of any individual experience. Structuring your exploration along these lines of enquiry will help you fully understand what is happening and why.

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail:


Quite simply what are people doing or trying to do relating to your product or service at that moment in time? This is an easy task to start with and will form the basis for the rest of your enquiry.


What is happening at the time that might add a different meaning or interpretation to what people are doing? For example, what is their goal at that particular point? What frame of mind are they in? What other external factors are colouring their experience?


Daniel Kahneman tells us that emotional peaks are the things that stick with us most, that make an experience a memorable experience.

And research for the advertising industry shows that if people feel nothing, they do nothing. The IPA found that emotional communications are 12 times more efficient in driving market share. If it’s action we want then we have to make people feel.

So we need to ask: what emotions are people feeling? How strong are these and what is driving them?


Which leads us to our final element: outcome. We are not interested in user experiences out of idle curiosity – we need to know from a business perspective what this experience adds up to – either on its own and together with other experiences.

Only by tracking the outcome can we work out whether the experience was effective against any given goal and if and how it could be optimised.

Here we need to ask: what did people do next? Was this as a result of the experience? What was the influence of this experience on perceptions of the product / service / brand?


So there you have the ACEO modelActivity – Context – Emotion – Outcome, a four point framework for structuring your experience research diary studies.

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What’s your umwelt?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

According to the alt text of the xkcd webcomic, Umwelt is:

“the idea that because their senses pick up on different things, different animals in the same ecosystem actually live in very different worlds. Everything about you shapes the world you inhabit–from your ideology to your glasses prescription to your web browser.”

In animals it is their senses, in humans it is senses plus the tools we use to enhance those senses (our media) and our mental equipment (including our belief systems) that shapes our view of the world.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig refers to this as “Believing is seeing”. Our eyes see what we tell them to see, rather than reporting back ‘as is’ data.

Umwelt tells us that there are a lot of filters between us and the ‘real world’.

Our memory is not a recording device

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Developments in technology have provided us with metaphors for our own memory. Computer memory and storage devices conjure an image of instant retrieval of precise and perfectly preserved information.

“For a number of scientists, the idea that memory is a recording device rests on an unrealistic fantasy of accuracy and permanence. Instead of practices that facilitated ‘reliving’ a permanent record, they sought out ways to reveal an ineradicable role of interpretation… in the construction of knowledge and memory.” Alison Winter  — Memory: Fragments of a Modern History

But our own memories do not operate in this way. Forced to edit our experiences, we are better at forgetting than remembering. Rather than precise recollections we create associations (e.g. to other things, place, context, the Proustian madeleine) and then attempt to retrieve (at least partial) memories using these associations.

Context rather than raw processing power is the human way.

via Brain Pickings

The tyranny of the remembering self

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

“What we learn from the past is to maximise the qualities of our future memories, not necessarily of our future experience. This is the tyranny of the remembering self.”

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking fast and slow

We edit experiences into aggregated memories – overall impressions of something – and this influences our future decisions and actions.


Harnessing the rise of the quantified self in user research

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Run Keeper, Nike + and Google Health are examples of apps that allow you to track your behaviour and progress. They are examples of an increasing ability-desire to quantify and benchmark ourselves.

Companies such as Virgin Active have recognised that collecting this sort of data is extremely instructive when understanding customer behaviour that relates to their business. But app development is not cheap and you can’t produce an app for every type of thing you want to measure.

This is one of the reasons we built nativeye. It allows you to configure your own ‘app within an app’ to collect the specific data you want. So whether you want to track people’s travel, buying or leisure habits you can.

The importance of empathy in innovation

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

We love getting feedback at nativeye. Not only does it mean we’re not just talking to ourselves, it helps us develop in a user-focused way. Receiving feedback of the type, ” it would be great if you had X as it would help us to do Y” is gold. If you hear it a few times from a few different people then you know you have a good argument for developing in that direction (balancing with internal factors such as strategy and resources).

But it’s more than getting user validation for innovations.

When you listen carefully to problems or wishes from real users you put yourself in the moment with your customer, faced with the same task they are facing. You might then start to think, “Yeah if that was me I’d really want to be able to do that too.” Taking on board their emotions leads you to a new level of understanding of the problem and how to design for it  – but also the motivation to do something about it.

User research might not always tell you the answer straight away (the old “customers don’t know what they want” maxim), but it helps to build the empathy that can lead to user-focused innovation.

Do whatever you need to do. Build an experience map – include touchpoints and all the attendant emotions. But first and foremost watch and listen. That will throw into relief where there is room for improvement and critically, help you to empathise deeply with the emotions bundled in with the customer experience. That will lead you to consider the problem in detail and then do something about it.

And that’s the point –

Until you feel the customer’s pain you’re just not informed and motivated enough to solve the problem well.

What about the individual?

Friday, September 7th, 2012

“Every individual is representative of the whole, a symptom, and should be intimately understood.”

As the MR industry becomes enamoured with Big Data – social listening, sentiment analysis and (possibly) Google Surveys, it is worth remembering the value of studying the individual. Gigabytes of data can deliver some pretty impressive insights, but on its own can fail to capture those individual human examples that engender empathy in the researcher, designer, inventor that (I would argue) leads to user-centric innovation.

From Anaïs Nin on Why Understanding the Individual is the Key to Understanding Mass Movements

(via Brain Pickings)

The general obsession with observing only historical or sociological movements, and not a particular human being (which is considered such righteousness here [in America]) is as mistaken as a doctor who does not take an interest in a particular case. Every particular case is an experience that can be valuable to the understanding of the illness.

…, this indifference to the individual, total lack of interest in intimate knowledge of the isolated, unique human being, atrophies human reactions and humanism. Too much social consciousness and not a bit of insight into human beings.


Research and faster horses

Friday, August 24th, 2012

I think this is the best response to the statement – “Why ask customers? They don’t know what they want.”

Steve Jobs never asked. And as we all know, Henry Ford said that if you did ask customers you wouldn’t have gotten the car, just a faster horse.

As Brian Solis writes in the linked article, sometimes customers do know what they want, sometimes they don’t. But if you don’t ask you won’t know. And if you do ask you might discover inspiration for your next innovation:

Other byproducts of good research include the ability to feel customer empathy and translate it into inspiration

Research on the ‘Perception Gap’ by Pivot reveals that 76% of marketers feel they know what their customers want yet only 34% have asked customers – giving rise to the title of the research presumably.

There’s an arrogance associated with not doing innovation research. And if you aren’t Steve Jobs (no-one is), then this arrogance will distance you from what customers want and need (whether or not they can articulate it exactly), leaving your business less relevant and competitive than it once was.

Mapping the Whole Experience

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Have been revisiting Indi Young’s Mental Models recently. In one section she urges readers to ‘Pay attention to the whole experience’ when building up a model of user experience.

The “whole experience” includes all the ways an organization interacts with its users: stores, account statements, customer service calls, product ordering web sites, packaging, and so forth.

The reason to do this is to gain competitive advantage:

Businesses that pay attention to the entire spectrum of customer interaction, and get it right most of the time, win attention and loyalty. Because the mental model depicts the whole of the user’s environment—it is not focused on one aspect, service, or tool—it represents the user’s perspective of the whole experience.

This echoes the call to pay attention to the 7 dimensions of branded customer experience that bridge the gap between brand promise and experience.

One of the applications of nativeye is to map all the points customers experience your product, service or brand – helping you to build user mental model based on real user data.

Capturing tacit knowledge

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Organisations have both formal and informal or tacit knowledge. The first is written down in training manuals and case studies, the second floats around in employees’ heads. The risk with this is that if those employees leave, that valuable knowledge (often practical know-how) leaves too.

A photocopier company was worried about its staff training. Their copier repair guys operated solo, going on-site to fix jammed printers without much time in the office for formal training sessions. But in this process they picked up experience of specific and how to solve them. A corporate ethnographer shadowing the repairmen found that in fact they did swap tips and tricks at the favoured cafe they met for lunch. Knowledge was being transferred, just not formally.

A famous example of deliberately ‘scripting’ knowledge transfer is Steve Jobs insisting that the Pixar toilets were placed in the centre of the building so employees would be forced to interact with each other (on the way to the toilets not inside them).

Transferring knowledge from employee to employee is a way to keep tacit knowledge within the organisation. This can be enhanced by tools, like nativeye, that allow managers to capture ideas and insight from employees whenever and wherever inspiration strikes.

That tacit knowledge is then constantly being encoded in 1s and 0s and is not at risk of being lost.

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