People Interact

Blog about people-centered design by Lisa Chow and Sandra Sajonas.

Monthly Archives: July 2013

No seat? No problem with Nada-Chair!

Natural-Nick-portrait-lgslbstr2No seat? No problem! With the Nada-Chair you can take a seat anywhere!

Cheesy campaign advertisments aside, a couple friends and I bought this baby from a fair in Portland, OR. This seemingly complicated BDSM device is actually a travel sling to prevent slouching by providing lower back support.

For the last 2 weeks I’ve been using mine, even wearing it on the 5 hour flight back to NYC. I’m even rocking it right now as I type this. So far, I’m satisfied. It has certainly improved my sitting posture by serving as a seat back. Thanks Nada-Chair for this random, weird yet useful and usable product.

Have you come across any random, weird yet useful and usable products?

The Book Elf: The eBook Sharing Social Network – Guest Post by Greg Belvedere

The Book Elf will make sharing eBooks easy.

The Book Elf will make sharing eBooks easy, while adhering to copyright laws. This free eBook sharing social network will start by making public domain eBooks shareable, but gradually add copyrighted works. The site launched July 19th.

People have shared books for as long as they have read them. Unfortunately, most copyrighted eBooks have licenses that make it illegal for the owner to do so. Many of these licenses rely on DRM (digital rights management) file formats to enforce their terms. These DRM file formats create a poor experience for the average reader, while doing little to deter the tech savvy pirate. It would be a shame if we lost the ability to share books as we transition to eBooks. At the same time authors and publishers have concerns about file sharing that we must address. The Book Elf strikes a balance that will satisfy both readers and copyright holders.

The Book Elf will start by letting users share public domain eBooks. Public domain works don’t have copyright restrictions, so you can share them freely with your friends. Most literary classics are in the public domain, giving users a great selection to chose from. Users can find eBooks by searching their friends’ shelves, or searching The Book Elf which also links to the Internet Archive’s public domain collection. If a public domain eBook is not in our collection, users can upload a copy. We will verify the public domain status before adding it to the user’s shelf and our collection. Users can also write reviews for eBooks.

In order to allow legal sharing of copyrighted works, The Book Elf will create a new eBook license that allows authors and publishers who adopt it to make their copyrighted eBooks shareable through the site. The Book Elf will approach independent authors and publishers with this new model first. Instead of using DRM file formats which create a poor user experience, The Book Elf will build DRM into the website itself to prevent copies from proliferating. Three simple rules will keep sharing fair for copyright holders, while still leveraging the advantages of this digital format to give users a great experience:

  1. Users can only share copyrighted eBooks with friends in their network. This prevents users from giving a copy away to everyone with an internet connection (the way most file sharing methods do).
  2. Users may download a copyrighted eBook from a friend’s shelf, but they may not place it on their own shelf to share with other users. This will prevent people who do not own the book, and therefore do not have the right to share it, from making it available on The Book Elf.
  3. When a user downloads a copyrighted eBook nobody else can download that eBook from that shelf for 3 weeks. This will prevent a user from giving an eBook to everyone in their network at once.

The Book Elf makes sharing eBooks both fair and convenient with a new approach to DRM. The site went live on July 19th. You can sign up at http://thebookelf.com.


Greg Belvedere is the founder of The Book Elf, the DRM-Free ebook lending social network.

Everyday Usability: Doors

In a recent talk with teen technology volunteers, I talked about usability, how usability is all around with us (part of the inspiration behind our Everyday Usability series), and made a point in sharing my favorite usability example:  doors.

We see them, use them, go through them, everyday. We don’t really think about doors unless they don’t work (they go against our mental models of how doors work).

Horizontal bar means push. Vertical bar means pull. Doorknob means turn. These are all cues, also called affordances, which tells you what to do with the door. When the cues or affordances are incorrect, opening or closing a door can be confusing and frustrating.

Here are some pictures of doors that I came across recently.

Non-automatic door with "caution: automatic" signage.

Non-automatic door with “caution: automatic door” yellow signage. Door is button-activated as indicated by a hand-written sign “press button”, which was probably put up by a volunteer who noticed that many people had trouble with the door. On many occasions, I’ve seen people stand there waiting for the door to open since it says “caution: automatic door”. I understand that they put “caution: automatic door” because someone may push the button and the door opens, potentially hitting someone else, but saying that the door is automatic is not only incorrect, it’s confusing as well.

Push to operate door. Caution: door opens outward.

This door has a button to the side that says “Press to operate door”. I wonder how many people see the button off to the side (similar to the door picture above). The door says “Caution: Door opens outward” to let people know so hopefully they will stand back and won’t get hit by the door.

Push or pull?

How do you open this door? Push or pull? There is a horizontal bar and a vertical bar on the door.

Door comes with instructions

A door that comes with instructions: “To open door, press doorknob hard.”


Have you come across any memorable doors? Send us your door pictures and stories and we’ll share them on the blog.

Check out more posts in our Everyday Usability series.

Hot Off the Press! The Global Librarian Ebook

As members of the editorial team, we’re excited to share the news. 

The Global Librarian

Librarians around the world have designed and implemented creative ways to serve the information needs of their patrons – wherever they may be. The Global Librarian shares the experiences of these innovative professionals.

Find out more at globallibrarian.org.

Monthly Method Spotlight: Unfocus Group

unfocus/focusgroupUNFOCUS GROUP

What: Unfocus Group

When/why: This method is a great way to encourage creative and diverse contributions from potential users. Assembling a disparate group of individuals opens up new possibilities and ideas.

How: Example scenario -You are creating a new young adult space in the library.

Rather than focusing on just the prime users (teens), create an unfocus group to chime in on the the new space. Maybe include a parent, an adult library patron, a librarian, a custodian, a library community partner, etc.

Tips: To avoid digressions, make the sessions productive by being goal-oriented. Each session can focus on one goal. For example, one session can explore furniture layout and should have 1-2 potential floor plans by the end of the session.

Interested in using/applying these methods in your work? Contact us for more info.