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With a company that changes all the time, how can you show the personal touch of human interaction without showing pictures of humans? Essentially, blurring the line between technology and people, specifically as it pertains to customer service and advice.

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Why are photos not an option? I don't think anything will work nearly as well as a human face, so it's quite a constraint. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Oct 4 '12 at 21:11
    
Are abstract representations of people out? –  Ben Brocka Oct 4 '12 at 21:14
    
Abstract is fine. Maybe some iconography? –  JoshD Oct 4 '12 at 21:17
    
Pictures of actual people are out because initial usability testing showed that it was off-putting to our consumer. They stressed though that they liked "a human element" and the customization that a human could offer, they just didn't want to see it. –  JoshD Oct 4 '12 at 21:20
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Think a human touch, instead of a human element. –  Fresheyeball Oct 5 '12 at 5:14

2 Answers 2

Not sure what kind of product or service this is referring to, or what exactly you tested but sometimes hands can be more approachable than faces. Apple does a great job of adding the human factor to their tech in their commercials: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCjeSNomXrU&feature=relmfu.

Also people are very sensitive to minor details in photos of other people. Things as small as pupil diameter can have a big effect on perception: http://westsidetoastmasters.com/resources/book_of_body_language/chap8.html. So before counting out photos of people in general because of your user-testing, you may want to look at the details of the specific photos. Cliche stock photo could also be a turn off: http://justcreative.com/2008/09/30/top-7-most-cliche-stock-images-used-in-web-design/

If people are definitely out, you could try obviously "lived in" spaces, like a kitchen with dishes still out or neighborhood street. (Apple does this as well.)

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Picture of everyday use objects will do.

There are many elements to choose from, a few examples:

  1. Replace sleek perfection with natural ordinariness: Hand drawn diagrams/sketches/icons/fonts instead of perfect looking CGI
  2. Introduce the effect of time: A worn out paper background for example. Let the dust settle on the surfaces. Cloth, leather or wood like backgrounds will also do the job.
  3. Be pixel imperfect: Have a little inconsistency, anti-symmetry in layout.
  4. Move naturally: Controls which are just a little lazy, with a little inertia.
  5. Talk easy: The narration and context of the text content, must make feel user part of a human conversation. For example, use "Hi there. You good name?" rather than the cold computer like "Greetings customer. Fill in you proper name".
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I'm really not sure about 4; I can understand the idea, but in practice I think you'll bring more attention to the control constraints than the content of the site. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Oct 5 '12 at 8:33
    
@JimmyBreck-McKye Depends on implementation, Like a subtle "cushion" effect to a complicated effect on a button press. –  user117 Oct 5 '12 at 10:17

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