Social science meets computer science at Yahoo!
The San Francisco Chronicle published an interesting article on Monday about how "Yahoo Labs has bolstered its ranks of social scientists, adding highly credentialed cognitive psychologists, economists and ethnographers from top universities around the world. At approximately 25 people, it's still the smallest group within the research division, but one of the fastest growing."
The recruitment effort reflects a growing realization at Yahoo, the second most popular U.S. online site and search engine, that computer science alone can't answer all the questions of the modern Web business. As the novelty of the Internet gives way, Yahoo and other 21st century media businesses are discovering they must understand what motivates humans to click and stick on certain features, ads and applications—and dismiss others out of hand.
It's encouraging that Yahoo Labs is "focused now on the benefit that computer technology provides to people, as opposed to focused on what technology can invent," said Len Shustek, an angel investor and chairman of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
For a company that provides such a mishmash of applications and features to generally low-sophistication users, aren't they arriving a bit late at this realization?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Wayne Greenwood is best known as the former Co-Founder & Chief Design Officer of Cooper, the ground-breaking design firm that invented User Personas and Goal-Directed Design. Most recently, Wayne was VP Product Design & User Experience at Striiv, a startup using mobile fitness games as a catalyst for behavior change, and Director of Design & User Experience at Cooliris, a Kleiner-Perkins startup dedicated to evolving beyond the browser.
In addition to working inside five scrappy startups and two Fortune 500 corporations, Wayne has provided strategy & design consulting services for companies in the entertainment, healthcare, and business software industries. For more thoughts on UX, follow him on Twitter.