research staff member
"One of the greatest pleasures I have now is sharing those same books and many new ones with children today."
On the book: Designing Personalized User Experiences in eCommerce (2004)
What made you decide to write a book on this topic?
Our team (John Karat, Carolyn Brodie and myself) was recruited by the management of the ibm.com site to conduct research and make recommendations regarding the feasibility of a personalization strategy for the ibm.com site. Conducting the user-centered design research with current and target customers to understand the potential value of a personalized user experience to them in using the ibm.com site was very intellectually stimulating and exciting. We identified the fact that providing people control over the personal information employed in the delivery of the valued personalization features on the site was paramount to them being comfortable and agreeing to disclose the data and use the functionality. Our team became very interested in the area of privacy because of the importance to the customers of control over their personal information.There was a very significant business case for proceeding with the personalization strategy as people stated that the increased ease of use in identifying accurately and quickly what they needed to purchase through use of the personalization features meant that they would give the site an increased amount of their business.
For our team's research on personalized user experiences in eCommerce, we conducted a brainstorming session by email across IBM's Research sites in the United States, Europe, and Asia. We sent people a short statement about the goals of the research for ibm.com, and asked them for their ideas about what they would like to see included in the scope of possibilities for personalizing people's experiences on the site. After we did a content analysis of all of the ideas we received, we had amassed 120 ideas for technical functionality that could provide the personalized experience.
In parallel we had also conducted a wide-ranging literature review and completed competitive testing of selected key web sites across a variety of domains. We also analyzed the data related to types of activities on the ibm.com site and developed a set of task scenarios that covered these top priority customer tasks. We took the results of all of these research activities and made some educated guesses about a set of functionality that together would provide a complete and highly satisfactory experience given the target user tasks, and built the first version of a Wizard of Oz prototype that illustrated the functionality for target users. We completed three user studies of target users working with the prototype to complete the top priority tasks and collected data on their performance and preferences. We iterated on the design of the prototype inbetween each study.
We delivered the customer-validated design to ibm.com with the recommendations for how to proceed at the conclusion of the research. We wrote two technical chapters in the book based on the research. The first, led by John Karat, describes the theoretical framework for the approach our team employed and how the line of research might unfold in the future. The second chapter, led by Carolyn Brodie, described the design of the intial prototype and the design and research decisions across the three studies based on the customer data. This chapter highlights and describes the 12 features we identified as together providing a personalized experience that our customers found very valuable to them in their everyday responsibilities in their businesses as well as in their personal lives. Our team's patent we filed on an interaction method we created as part of the research is also discussed in this chapter.
What are the greatest challenges to you as an author?
When you write, you have to be able to clearly communicate what you have learned. I always find it an exciting experience to write because during that process, the synthesis of all of the data becomes knowledge that can be leveraged by others. You and others see the connections to other work and new possibilities emerge. The biggest challenge in writing for me is probably carving out the time to do so in our busy schedules with project deliverables each year.
What inspires and encourages you to write?
I love the ability to synthesize the information and identify the nuggets, the knowledge that you take forward and act on next. It's wonderful to discuss research with colleagues within IBM as well as in the international community and find the connections with other research results too. This is how a the community of people in a particular domain area makes progress, moves forward, and knowledge is increased.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Please seek review and comment on your work from people with a variety of perspectives. You can learn so much from them and improve your ability to communicate your ideas. The new perspective may also help you identify new research ideas to pursue.
Who are some of your favorite authors today?
In the field of privacy and security where our team has focussed the last three years, my favorite authors are Dr. Lorrie Cranor, Dr. Paul Dourish, and Dr. Latanya Sweeney. In the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) field whose perspective we bring to our research in privacy and security, my favorite authors are Dr. Andrew Sears, Dr. Julie Jacko, Dr. Deborah Mayhew, Dr. Randolph Bias, Drs. Judy and Gary Olson, and Dr. Ben Bederson, Dr. Allison Druin, and Dr. Ben Shneiderman.
What role did books play in your childhood?
Books played a wonderful and central role in my childhood. One of the greatest pleasures I have now is sharing those same books and many new ones with children today.