25 March 2010

Book: Ubiquitous computing user experience design

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Smart Things
At Lift France 09, Mike Kuniavsky spoke about Changing Things: Fab Labs, towards decentralized design and production of material products (link to 25 min. video).

Kuniavsky’s new book on ubiquitous computing user experience design is now finished and will be shipping in August.

Based on case studies, the book will show the evolution of products caused by ubiquitous computing. It also describes frameworks and processes, as well as giving practical advice on how to handle these unique design challenges.


The world of smart shoes, appliances, and phones is already here, but the practice of user experience (UX) design for ubiquitous computing is still relatively new. Design companies like IDEO and frogdesign are regularly asked to design products that unify software interaction, device design and service design — which are all the key components of ubiquitous computing UX — and practicing designers need a way to tackle practical challenges of design. Theory is not enough for them — luckily the industry is now mature enough to have tried and tested best practices and case studies from the field.

Smart Things presents a problem-solving approach to addressing designers’ needs and concentrates on process, rather than technological detail, to keep from being quickly outdated. It pays close attention to the capabilities and limitations of the medium in question and discusses the tradeoffs and challenges of design in a commercial environment. Divided into two sections ? frameworks and techniques ? the book discusses broad design methods and case studies that reflect key aspects of these approaches. The book then presents a set of techniques highly valuable to a practicing designer. It is intentionally not a comprehensive tutorial of user-centered design’as that is covered in many other books’but it is a handful of techniques useful when designing ubiquitous computing user experiences.

In shot, Smart Things gives its readers both the “why” of this kind of design and the “how,” in well-defined chunks.

  • Tackles design of products in the post-Web world where computers no longer have to be monolithic, expensive general-purpose devices
  • Features broad frameworks and processes, practical advice to help approach specifics, and techniques for the unique design challenges
  • Presents case studies that describe, in detail, how others have solved problems, managed trade-offs, and met successes

Mike Kuniavsky is a founding partner of Adaptive Path, a user experience consulting company in San Francisco. He has been developing commercial web sites since 1994, and is the interaction designer of an award-winning search engine, HotBot. He created the Wired Digital User Experience Laboratory and served as its chief investigator for two years. His design work and writing have appeared in many publications, including WebMonkey, ID Magazine, Wired, Step-By-Step Design, Inc., The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times, and .Net (UK).

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