All posts in “ixdwriting”

What matters is what it does.

(Written as part of Fjord IxD writing, shared with Fjord USA)

Today (It’s Apple’s 30 year birthday), these two videos caught my attention. It makes me think that what matters is NOT what it can do, but what it does. Technology – whether it’s a piece of hardware or software, I hear a lot about its great capabilities and possibilities. But what really matters is how people are utilising the capability and how it makes difference in your life.

Hope these inspire you as well!

Sexy B2B application

(Written as part of Fjord IxD writing, shared within Fjord New York studio)

We design digital interface (among other things). To be a relevant to the market or simply to amuze ourselves we want to design for the latest platform with the latest technology that enables us focus on true user experience, rather than coming up with work-arounds of technical limitations.

However, digital adaption in business environment is far slower than the consumer market. During Aetna project last year, we discovered that Walmart had only 1 PC per store that was shared by all staffs and the store managers were equipped with feature phones. In In service design point of view, we can still design a system that works smoothly while embracing these ‘slow users’, but the interface is not going to be sexy.

There are other factors that make B2B applications not as appealing as consumer ones.

One is about the decision making process and the proxy of users. The specific tasks that the users will be doing in the application are represented by the business owners who may not necessarily be the user of the application. Therefore, the points that the designers try to come across from UX point of view could be compromised by people who say that they know what the users are doing.

Another is about powerless users. The impact that the individual user has on the product sales(or user base) is relatively small on B2B solutions. Consumers will leave the service right away when they can’t figure out how it works. But business users have to deal with the poorly designed application until the company decides to end the partnership. So the efforts  that go into making a flow ‘a couple clicks less’ may not be as valued when designing for B2B.

As we focus more on service design, I personally thought about this ugly B2B application issue quite a bit. How do we fight for the simpler, sleeker and sexier user experience for B2B? Here are a couple of bullets to fight back.

B2B users are humans too and the principles of designing for humans (simplicity, easy of use, emotional pleasure etc) should still apply. In fact, the tasks that users need to accomplish on a daily basis on B2B applications are more complex than consumer’s, B2B applications are the ones that need more UX support.

Also, B2B users are the users of consumer products and they are familiar with the latest technology. Working with familiar user flow, they can get the job done much quicker.

I’d love to hear what other people think about this.

P.S. An article about designing for B2B.

Recap of An Event Apart

(This was written as part of IxDwriting at Fjord New York and shared within the Fjord USA team)

Earlier this month, I attended An Event Apart, a web design conference in SF, and wanted to share what i have learned. In general, it feels that ‘Mobile first’ is not spread across the world as I thought. At Fjord, it’s not even a question, but many speakers had to emphasize on why mobile should be the first touchpoint to be considered. So yay for being ahead of the game. Also, some sessions were too technical (CSS tricks that only works on certain browsers, for example), but some sessions were about design principles, approaches and processes.

My favorite talk was ‘How designers destroyed the world’ by Mike Monteiro, the author of ‘Design Is a Job’ (Brian put this on the shelve, if you haven’t seen), who talked about responsibilities of designers, being able to to predict consequences of design and call out when things are broken even when the project left your hand.

His speech began with a broken world story of Bobbi Duncan, a 23 yrs old lesbian college student, who had been managing the privacy settings on Facebook very carefully so that her conservative father cannot discover her sexual identity. On campus, she joined Queer Chorus and the president of the group added her on Facebook without her permission. Then Facebook automatically posts it on the wall to all her friends including her father which resulted in severe damage on her relationship with her father. (Original story from WSJ. “When the most personal secrets get outed on Facebook”)

From this story, he questioned about why it happened, and how Facebook is designed in a way that the group mechanics override the personal privacy settings. Not because they didn’t know about it, but because no one cared for various reasons. Then he continues..

Design is not how it looks. (Sure.)
Design is not how it works. (Then what?)
Design is how it affects.

So let’s care what we do and be proud of what we create.
(and then he threw his mic to the stage floor and step down.)

Later I found his entire speech online. This will be much more interesting that my summary. So enjoy!

Simplicity *and complexity* in persuasion

(Written as part of Fjord IxD writing, shared with Fjord IxD team)

Last week, I have shared a video of B.J. Fogg on Simplicity and behavioural change. This week, I want to add ‘complexity’ to this.


To give you some more background, I will explain a bit about persuasive technology. Technology shapes the way we behave – we write more to other people because there is email or text, whether it’s intended or not. Persuasive technology is referring to technology that is designed to change attitudes or behaviours of the users through persuasion or social influence, rather than coercion. (Thx, wikipedia) The Russian subway is a good example of persuasive technology because it is designed to make impact on the society and the individuals in it by designing the way people purchase tickets differently. I like that project because it not only makes people actually do what they are supposed to do, but also bring awareness to others. Captology is a study of computer as persuasive technology led by B.J. Fogg in Standford University.


In the video I shared, he explains why simplicity is an effective principle of persuasion. You are using resource that you have when completing a task. The resource can be defined as a combination of time, money , physical efforts, brain cycle, social deviance and non-routine. Simplicity is what makes you use less of resource to complete a task. I thought was a good way to measure our design against; a flow with less clicks, a navigation that people are already familiar with.

By making a task simpler, you can make people do it. Remember the ‘Fogg Behavior Model’ that Nour shared last week? When a task is simpler, it is easier to do, so it’s more probable to leap the activation threshold. (yellow arrow) This links to Nour’s point last week about tiny achievable habits.



Simplicity is a great tactic for achieving greater goal but it’s not a solution for all. In fact, sometimes people do things that are more complex in terms of using the resource. In terms of usage of resources, the russian subway example is in fact a complex design. It requires a lot more time and physical movements than just pressing a button. Moreover, it takes a lot of courage to squat 30 times in front of strangers. What makes complexity work against the simplicity are emotions and feelings. Humour, empathy, pleasure, intellectual satisfaction and sense of belongings are the kind of spices that you want to put in when you design for behaviour change. They are very good at elevating motivation and make people cross the ‘activation threshold’. When motivation plays high, ease of things can be less relevant. (orange arrow)



The second picture is abnormal (=complex), but it’s more effective behaviour changer because it appeal to empathy. People play complex mmorpg games (I cannot name any latest example – I’m old.) because it appeal to intellectual satisfaction and pleasure. So emotional peak is another factor that we can measure our design against.


Ease of use + emotional satisfaction = good design

Maybe the conclusion is too boring, but this is what I have. When you design something, use those two ingredients wisely!

Simplicity in persuasion

(Written as part of Fjord IxD writing, shared with Fjord IxD team)


Inspired by the Russian subway ticket machine that accepts 30 squats for a ride (thx Jesus for sharing), I wanted to talk about persuasive technology. While trying to figure out what to write, I found this video of B.J Fogg (who coined the term captology) in which he explains why simplicity matters when changing people’s behavior. It is very well thought out, and provides very useful frameworks when describing complex emotions. (could be a good reference for user journey).

(If you have less than 11 min 55 sec, see attached images for summary)

Recap: Wired Health Conference 2013

(Written as part of Fjord IxD writing, shared with Fjord U.S.A and re-posted in Fjord Blog)

I was lucky to attend WIRED Health Conference on Wednesday and it was really interesting that I feel like I must share what I’ve learned.

Interesting Projects


  • Theranos – accessible blood test
  • MC10 – flexible electronics
  • – evidence based medicine summary (UGLY WEBSITE, GREAT CONTENT)
  • Ubiome – participatory microbiome study


  • Theranos offers accessible blood test. At Walgreens (coming soon) you can extract your TINY blood sample and get the result within a few hours. This improved experience improves engagements. No fear of needle and no worry of time allow people to get faster cure, more frequent sampling, and faster medication adjustments and so on. But it’s more than just the sampling experience (touch point). They figured out the pricing (same price for anyone with or wi/o insurance), and improved sample handling process to reduce human errors (93% of errors in labs.)  It’s a real example of ‘service design win’ in many levels – I love this service.theranos
  • MC10 is the company behind flexible electronics, big hardware improvement in wearables. Their first commercial product (partnered with Reebok) Checklight is a hat with head impact indicator that you can wear underneath your helmet. Especially for youth sports the shock in heads can be critical, but sometimes they get put back to games without knowing the damage. They also developed Biostamp, sensors that can be attached to your body. The potential use cases can be MANY including baby monitor that’s ON the baby’s skin.reebok_checklight
  • The founder of (The Number Needed to Treat) is a big advocate for NO FREE LUNCH. Every drug has side effects and often the harmful side effects exceed the benefits. E.g., People take statin to reduce cholesterol, but it can cause diabetes. At you can find evidence based drug information (not from the pharma companies) as well as get personalised drug dosage instruction based on your basic health appraisal (weight/height/gender/age)

I know they need some design expertise and it’s painful for us to look at this site, but it’s built upon a great intention and a good resource for you 🙂

  • Ubiome is a group of young scientists who successfully crowdsourced their funding for their crowdsourcing microbiome data collection in Indigogo early this year (asked $100k, raised $350k). They developed a kit for individuals to collect their samples which they will use to analyse and study. The more samples they have, the better WE’ll know. Microbiome is very interesting branch of medical science, if you haven’t come across already, here’s a simple introduction.ubiome_founders


Relatively recently, the medical industry is paying attention to microbiome, ‘the ecology of human body’. In layman’s term (my favourite language), the tenants who are renting space in our body – some are here long like rent controlled. Microbial cells outnumber human cells more than10 times, which indicates that microbiome study may reveal more about us than DNA study. Long fascinating story short, we know very little about it for its potential for medical studies and practices. To know more? We need data. That’s what Ubiome is all about.

Summary + Keywords

  • Big data is a big hit for health industry as well, and the next big wave in health industry will be PERSONALIZED MEDICINE.
  • Participation is the key to successful big data use – the more you give, (the better we know. Therefore) the better you get. It’s true in all sorts of things that deal with data, but it does have more meaningful impact in health industry. (It’s about life!) Ubiome is a perfect example.
  • Where are we in Quantified Self and wearables? Wearable tech companies have learned a lot for the past year or so and they are realising that’s not enough. Jawbone can tell you to get up and move when it finds you sitting at a place for too long, but you could be driving or in a meeting. Machines have long way to go. So companies like Jawbone and Withings are taking multi sensor approach to learn more about us. Better decisions can be made when more contexts are considered.
  • In conclusion, Problem + Creative minds = Opportunity. Because of the shitty situation HEALTH in United States is something negative and problematic. However, luckily there are many creative minds in this land of opportunity who can turn shitty problems into opportunities and others who listen.

This is it! Thanks for reading. For those who are so generous to read so far down here, here are some nuggets I want to pass along for healthy long life.

Rule of thumb: Regularity.  

Your body needs to know what to expect. Irregularity leads to fatal diseases. But we all know this, just can’t keep it up.

Careful with vitamins supplements 

You may not know this. Current study says no long term benefit but harm (17% more death rate) for people who took vitamins.

Careful with antibiotics 

Altho it could be lifesaving for certain situations for children, the side effect can be greater.

Full agenda.

Designing for wellness

(Written as part of Fjord IxD Writing, still in draft)

It’s still a work-in progress, and the end goal of the writing is to have a point of view in designing for health care

All the points that I need to come across

  • Tackle the right problem
    • Health is not just about moving more
    • We are neglecting ‘mind’ and ‘social’ aspect of our health
  • Illusion and perspective
    • Health is intangible state and we need to present its state in a way that we can understand
    • So we try to simulate health in a perspective that human understands (graph, visualisation etc), but at the same time, it’s very easy to make a false illusion. (net balance of calorie is a great example) We need to give the right perspective users need.
    • Health is complex and it’s a state that you achieve through many different parts working together.   (like a city. But you can only see 1 layer of the city through a map.)
    • Need for full picture –  we experience small parts here and there, but we need the full picture.
  • Motivation
    • Giving the right advice – Why am I doing this? Why you should be doing this? What’s the benefit/consequences for doing this?
    • We are not addressing what’s happening near me.
    • Leveraging social aspect – I am letting  my team down
    • Motivation in personal level – this is ‘my best’ week
  • Technology is not there yet
    • There’s a discrepancy between what you know and what machines know



Wellness apps stickiness

(Written as part of Fjord IxD Writing, shared with Fjord New York studio)


Inspired by Mahin’s email a few days ago, I will write a few words about the proliferating health devices.

“Fewer than 20% of people keep using things like trackers and wellness apps – and the dropoff tends to happen within just a few months. And the ones who keep using them need them the least. It’s a huge problem.”

I see two things that drive this trend.

1. Lack of user motivation

It’s the classic example of “because technology can but I never really wanted one”.

When it comes to improving health, what I am missing is motivation, not a series of numbers. I don’t need device to know I haven’t moved much today and I need more exercise. But once I am motivated, numbers start to matter. Now, I want the measurements because they help you think where you fail and what you can do better next time. one interesting article from the provider but not really your favorite topic.

For me, someone who is not motivated to move more, my calorie burn reports are just one more email that stack up unread in my inbox – I agreed to subscribe a few years ago because of one interesting article from the provider but not really your favorite topic.

2. Disconnected dots.

You don’t become a healthy person just by moving a lot, but also by thinking positively and socially active.

You buy these devices and the premise that this will make you more aware of your health, but you get to see only one aspect of it (physical movement is the most popular data type). But human beings are way complex that one data element cannot possibly measure/represent it’s state. So you try these devices a couple month and may see your calorie burns trends up. But you still won’t know why you are not any healthier then you give up.

(This is our big learning from a 2 year long project, Macaw)

Be inefficient

(Written as part of Fjord IxD Writing, shared with Fjord New York studio)

Working under time pressure, I find myself seeking for “best solution for now” instead of “best solution ever”. If you ask me to find the latter, I won’t be able to give you the answer right away, but the former I can. I may even be able to come up with execution plans. I know what can be done in time. But for unknowns, I will have to put on my creative hat and explore what makes it best.

I know efficiency is reality, but sometimes there is gain from inefficiency – creativity and unexpected surprises that you encounter exploring things and the acceptance to take them as inspirations.

Here’s my inspiration to make me share this. So let’s make inefficiency affordable and have fun!