Continuous partial attention

“continuous partial attention n. A state in which most of one’s attention is on a primary task, but where one is also monitoring several background tasks just in case something more important or interesting comes up. Also: CPA.”

Continuous partial attention is one of the side effects of mobile networked computing; it’s parasitic on our desires to feel connected to other people.


Continuous partial attention is an always on, anywhere, anytime, any place behavior that creates an artificial sense of crisis. We are always in high alert. We reach to keep a top priority in focus, while, at the same time, scanning the periphery to see if we are missing other opportunities, and if we are, our very fickle attention shifts focus. What’s ringing? Who is it? How many emails? What’s on my list? What time is it in Beijing?

“Continuous partial attention and multi-tasking are two different attention strategies, motivated by different impulses. When we multi-task, we are motivated by a desire to be more productive and more efficient. Each activity has the same priority – we eat lunch AND file papers. We stir the soup AND talk on the phone…We multi-task to CREATE more opportunity for ourselves -time to DO more and time to RELAX more.

Even more >

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Mobile phone user research opportunties in Bangalore

UPA Bangalore is planning to undertake a non-profit study, to understand smart-phone usage pattern, among tech and business users in Bangalore. The aim is to understand how power users like to improve the manner in which they use their smart phones and also identify existing pain-points.

We are looking for volunteers to do part time user-research. Opportunities would include direct and active involvement in planning, recruiting, scheduling, conducting field surveys, user interviews and the works. The effort estimate could range from 8 hours/month to 12 hours/month.

Do get in touch with Muthu at muthuonline [at] gmail (dot) com, if this study interests you.

Eye movement simulator

The image below displays a simulation of human eye movement in the form of heat maps.

eye movement heat map

The Feng-GUI heatmap service is an automatic alternative to eye-tracking. Unlike eye-tracking or click-based heatmaps, Feng-GUI creates heatmaps based on an algorithm that predicts what a real human would be most likely to look at.

Read their explanation on how accurate their algorithms are….

via kingsley

Usability Tests on Mobile Phones

Here’s the executive summary of usability test findings conducted on 3 next-generation smartphones: the Nokia N95, the HTC touch, and the Apple iPhone.

Users with no smartphone experience conducted a series of 8 tasks on each device in order to determine how the devices fared in terms of overall usability. The study also assessed user perceptions of the devices in terms of ease of use, quality, pleasure-to-use, complexity of function-set, appropriateness for business use, and personal purchase preference.

Main Findings:
• Participants completed more tasks successfully using the iPhone than they did using either the HTC Touch or the Nokia N95.
• Participants successfully completed tasks twice as fast (on average) on the iPhone as they did on the HTC Touch or Nokia N95.
• Participants were more interested in purchasing the iPhone for themselves, although the HTC Touch and iPhone were both selected as being appropriate for business users. Users perceived the iPhone to be more complex than the Nokia N95 in terms of the number of features and functions offered.
• In addition to user testing, our cognitive psychologists conducted a heuristic review based on a qualitative scoring of each device along five dimensions (global navigation, usability/information architecture, ergonomics, look-and-feel, and breadth of functionality). The iPhone scored higher on the expert review than both the HTC Touch and Nokia N95.

iPhone did seem to live up to its hype.

Feature comparison Apple iPhone vs Nokia N95

Using ethnography to design for BOP

Interesting read, on how Nokia used ethnography to design for BOP among other stuff like using ethnographers as user emissaries instead of brand emissaries.

“”This sort of on-the-ground intelligence-gathering is central to what’s known as human-centered design, a business-world niche that has become especially important to ultracompetitive high-tech companies trying to figure out how to write software, design laptops or build cellphones that people find useful and unintimidating and will thus spend money on.

Several companies, including Intel, Motorola and Microsoft, employ trained anthropologists to study potential customers, while Nokia’s researchers, including Chipchase, more often have degrees in design.

Rather than sending someone like Chipchase to Vietnam or India as an emissary for the company — loaded with products and pitch lines, as a marketer might be — the idea is to reverse it, to have Chipchase, a patently good listener, act as an emissary for people like the barber or the shoe-shop owner’s wife, enlightening the company through written reports and PowerPoint presentations on how they live and what they’re likely to need from a cellphone, allowing that to inform its design.