User Experience Research

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Guest lecture on Apr 24, 2008

Contents

Readings

Nir Ackner - Apr 23, 2008 12:20:55 pm

A good portion of the results and tips covered here seem like they are just new names for concepts we covered in class this semester.

The idea of Desirability versus Usability was particularly interesting. It almost seems as if the diagram should include usability as a subset of Desirability, since all of the products that have the emotional factors the article discusses already have the Usability factors.

One tip that I found a bit illogical was the last part of "Keep the backlight on". The article suggests the developer should "Inform the user in the Help text which button is safe to push if the backlight goes off. For example, #=backlight." It seems that having to specify and have users remember a special key per application is a bit silly -- perhaps a key that always works for this purpose would be a better solution?

JessicaFitzgerald - Apr 23, 2008 03:47:59 pm

I thought it was interesting that the third article mentioned a user experience in the terms of a more "emotional" approach. I feel that this is an important thing to pay attention to with respect to user testing, and surprised it hasn't really been mentioned this way in any of our previous readings. An interface may be simple and intuitive but there may be several things that annoy the user so much about the interface or the way it works, the user will not use the interface any longer. In a way the emotions of a user toward an interface can either make it or break it, which is why it seems like a very important thing to pay attention to. Also I thought the last article would be helpful as a guideline of what to do and what not to do when designing a game or other mobile interface. There were a lot of things listed there that you might not have thought of when designing the interface, so I thought it would be helpful to take into account.

Chris Myers - Apr 23, 2008 04:10:48 pm

In response to Nir's comment about the backlight key; it seems that a technical limitation prevents the application from knowing if the display is on. Since they are referring to game programming, all the standard uses for each button fly out the window. The game program has to define the listeners for each button. This isn't really an issue since part of playing the game is learning what the buttons do. It seems nokia's super helpful usability tip for this backlight limitation is to remember to put a note in your help screen. I would think keeping the light on while the game is running would be a better option. (The light timeouts on pause game, for example).

Eric Cheung - Apr 23, 2008 05:03:43 pm

I agree with Nir's comment that much of the information in the articles was stuff we've seen in one form or another. I thought the last reading about the usability tips was useful in that the majority of the tips were generally for mobile devices and not just for Nokia phones. For the tips that were specific to Nokia (e.g. "Use the left softkey to pause the game and bring up the Main menu"), I think it would be useful for Google to publish some kind of similar guide for Android applications. Right now, there doesn't seem to be a standard set of look and feel guidelines for android apps. You basically have to kind of guess what users will be expecting based on the limited number of applications on the phone.

One thing that was surprising about the second reading was that that the percentage of European respondents who said ease of use was the most important buying criterion was so much higher than the overall percentage (95% vs. 59%). It kind of makes me wonder if certain companies would skimp on usability testing for products based in other parts of the world because they apparently don't care as much.

Khoa Phung - Apr 23, 2008 09:17:42 pm

The qualititative review of empirical mobile usability studies is a nice review of our testing with more details. I believe this text may have been very helpful reading it before our usability studies as it points out the test measures in more detail with few examples and definitions. The second text illustrates why mobile devices gain market share and this helps to understand why. It is interesting to note that "...Communications applications, like Email and Instant Messenger..." and "...Email is Not the Killer Mobile..." (2), but general information applications tend to be more of interest. Personalization was also very important. Usability is important as it shows what is expected for both the customer and the developer. The Nokia paper helps to prevent most common mistakes that may have been overlooked, but make a lot of sense. Since our group is making a game, these tips would have also helped if read earlier in class.

Jonathan Chow - Apr 23, 2008 10:28:40 pm

Of the 4 articles, I found the Nokia ones to be pretty interesting. I was amused with way Nokia framed the product life-cycle. It puts "Product in Market" as one of the phases of the cycle. I suppose that getting feedback from actual users will determine how the product is further developed, but this seems rather contrary to what we've been studying this semester.

I also think that the last article could have been somewhat helpful when we were initially designing our Android applications. Although most of the points made seem to be fairly straight forward and consistent with what we've learned, it was one of the rare times that advice is actually given that directly related to our project.

I very much agree with Eric about the usefulness of having a guide for Android applications. Right now, all we have is the API demos which kind of suggest a way to do things, but it would be nice to have some kind of conventions set up. Well all know that inconsistency between applications on the same device is bad, Android really doesn't suggest any consistent actions for applications.

Max Preston - Apr 24, 2008 12:02:37 am

One part of the Nokia Usability Tips article that I found interesting was that you should be careful about colors, since they can have different meanings in different cultures. When localizing a product, it is generally assumed that all text should be translated to the other country's language, and that sounds should either be replaced or be supplemented with a subtitle track. However, I think that localizing parts of the product besides the language is a kind of slippery slope. When you start doing things like changing the colors of warning boxes, you get closer to doing more drastic things might detract from the product. I'm not sure how universally applicable this is for mobile device interfaces, but for example, if you were localizing a game to a country with different customs, would it be appropriate to start changing things like the names and appearance of the main characters, or the game's plotline? This could arguably detract from the product since it could deviate from the original creators' vision. Localization would also cost more and it would be far more likely for bugs to appear, which might result in a lower-quality product. For mobile devices, this kind of issue would likely only be a problem for complex applications or for games, but it is still something to keep in mind.

Edward Chen - Apr 24, 2008 12:21:58 am

The results of the Worldwide Mobile Usability Study seemed to be rather obvious. I, myself, would personally rather pay more for an interface that is intuitive and comfortable than cheap out and pay for something with a poor interface that I would spend too much time and effort getting frustrated over. While a better device may be more expensive, it isn't worth a few dollars to be frustrated over the interface during the device's lifespan.

The usability tips were fairly interesting to read because it made me recall several applications on my phone that violated some of those rules. For example, there was a game that started that a splash screen with an incredibly annoying song. Fortunately, there was a way to turn it off. Another application made an annoying jingle when I selected something.

Scott Crawford - Apr 24, 2008 01:40:20 am

For the most part, the results of the Action Engine Usability Study were about what you'd expect. I was a little leery of the '49% indicating that subscription was the best method of payment' because that changes meaning drastically depending on the number of other payment options included in the survey question (was it 49% for subscription and 51% for 1-time-fee, or were there other options). As far as safe backlight-goes-off buttons, I agree with Nir that my personal experience is that I want a single button that will turn the backlight on again, no matter what state the phone's, without affecting anything on screen (whether or not it does anything when the backlight is on doesn't really matter to me, so long as it doesn't do something when the backlight is off).

Benjamin Lau - Apr 24, 2008 01:58:34 am

I thought the Qualitative Review of Empirical Mobile Usability Studies was an interesting attempt at coming up with a rigorous standard for mobile usability studies. The authors looked at a variety of journals and eventually settled on 3 dimensions as being significantly more important (or at least widespread) than the rest-- effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction. I'm surprised though that they did not try to come up with a common ground for measuring these 3 variables. Satisfaction for example is defined as "the degree to which a product is giving contentment or making the user satisfied" but how do we know how satisfied the user is?

Gordon Mei - Apr 24, 2008 02:50:50 am

It seems that these sensible rules of how to approach defining mobile games behavior in Nokia's guidelines applies beyond the games themselves, such as the rule of removing the disruptive startup sound. It's a portable device, and these sounds would draw distracting attention in locations like libraries or classrooms. Likewise, notebook computers are generally offenders of this rule out-of-the-box, as a default startup sound is frequently heard in, say, a lecture where the owner scrambles to lower the volume after it's too late. Yes, those can be switched off, but not all users bother to do it, and should not be expected to do so. Or with user-understandable terms (create server vs. new game), this also applies elsewhere, where one tendency I see is for people to call their documentation sections a 'wiki', where 'help' would be more intuitive for the users who don't associate wiki with support the way we more advanced users do.

I was also just about to comment what Jessica pointed out above - about the user experience in the terms of a more emotional approach. I sense that the area of UI sometimes lacks some of the respect or appreciation that straight hard programming holds, as I've heard people claim that it's "touchy-feely". Yet that doesn't indicate any less importance just because of the more qualitative nature at times, especially with the emotion-influenced reactions of users. User experience (UE) accounts for our propensity for desirability and impressiveness because after all, we are human.

Alex Choy - Apr 24, 2008 03:15:40 am

I agree with some of the previous posts that much of what was mentioned was already covered. The third article talked about usability and desirability. I agree that, besides price, these two areas encompass much of the reasons as to why people buy a certain cell phone. The last article provided some good information for things that users like and some of the tips seemed to be more specific for Nokia phones. Despite this, the majority of the tips were useful and can be seen in some of the current games on my cell phone. I can see why these tips are important, such as the tip about keeping the backlight on. On my current cell phone, when I play Tetris and do not press a key for a few seconds, the backlight dims, which can be very annoying. Also, I'm not sure why the tip says to "inform the user in the Help text which button is safe to push if the backlight goes off." I believe that the backlight should simply stay on when playing a game (unless changed by the user in the game's settings).

Jonathan Wu Liu - Apr 24, 2008 10:04:07 am

I really liked the Usability Tips reading as a comprehensive summary as to what to look for when designing UI's. It is a good site to bookmark. And with regards to the second article, I would say that interest in ease of use will globally increase over time as our global societies become more chaotic, ie. filled with more and more information. There will be so many different ways to accomplish tasks that to stand out, ease of use will be key. More specifically, ease of use framed towards satisfying emotions will be the most successful. We all subconsciously identify with our emotions simply because we are sentient. Furthermore, satisfying emotions will create the most passionate users who will make your product a success.

Andry Jong - Apr 24, 2008 10:23:27 am

Unlike some of the topics and readings that are covered in class, I think I can relate to this time's reading to our assignment in designing a user interface for cellphone application. Although I have to be honest about how I find the first reading by Kim Coursaris to be a little bit too abstract about her "research in progress", I can agree with the rest of the readings. In the second reading, for instance, it just make sense to me how the most important factor of purchasing a product is the ease of use and positive user reviews. Of course people would want to get a mobile device with ease of use and useful applications; they have limited time and focus when they are using mobile devices. For instance, mobile phone with a lot of games that take them hours and hours to interact with would only be appealing for some users. On the other hand, mobile phones with "news, weather, travel, driving directions and mapping applications" would most likely be more popular.

The third reading, which expand a little bit more about mobile games, is very useful for people who are thinking of creating game applications for mobile devices. However, then again, in summary to all of the 'rules' that are expanded there, ease of use is the main key that developer need to think about. And finally, the last reading touches user experience as a different subject from usability, but relate to each other. As much as we might have heard all of these stuff before, or as much as the facts given in the readings are not surprising, I find them very useful. Mostly because they are quiet related to the focus of our class, unlike some other readings that have been assigned before.

Andrew Wan - Apr 24, 2008 11:57:03 am

The readings seemed valid, but didn't seem to say much we haven't already covered. The Kim article does a good job of outlining the most "important" (or rather, most common) usability measures. Given the available HCI research and industry focus on the subject, none of the findings are particularly surprising. The Action Engine article was similarly interesting in its conclusions, but again these results are generally expected. That said, it seems like most mobile service providers should be taking a more "open" approach to content distribution on their phones. It seems fairly obvious that most people would rather have the ability to personalize their handsets through third parties instead of through the included (generally costly) software portal. I suppose providers have to choose between supporting independent developers, or hosting their own content, but I can't imagine the latter option winning out as open platforms (e.g. Android) become more commonplace.

Cole Lodge - Apr 24, 2008 12:11:33 pm

I would have to agree with several of the above, saying that there really was not much new in these articles. The articles seemed to provide an overview of several of the topics we have covered over the semester. Despite this, It was nice to be able to recap what I have seen already. I did find it interesting how the Nokia article broke down the user experience into two pieces: the user's emotion, and the user's reason. A find it very true that unless you have the "wow" factor to captivate your audience, usability does not matter. The "wow" factor will eventually wear off, and to keep users the product must be usable. This seems to mimic Apple's strategy; they always start by attracting customers with the new, cool product, wowing the customers with their ads. Apple then attempts to maintain their customers with easy to use interfaces.

Robert Glickman - Apr 24, 2008 12:05:02 pm

This set of articles seems a bit out of place at this point in the course. It almost seems like these articles were "leftover" from earlier in the course. The information given, especially in the last two articles, is often repetitive and rehashes principles outlined earlier in the course. The first two articles are a bit of an overview of the course material that may have been more useful earlier in the course. Overall, there was very little that I gathered from these articles which were new and (even remotely) exciting.

Michelle Au - Apr 24, 2008 12:24:54 pm

I found the usability tips for mobile applications very useful and would have been very beneficial to know about earlier. These readings presented a good summary of what we have learned in terms of usability. While reading through all the tips, I kept being reminded of Nielsen's ten usability heuristics, such as: visibility of system status (give feedback to the user), match between system and the real world (don't use technical terms), consistency and standards (use standard navigation buttons), error prevention (correct wrong input as much as possible), flexibility and efficiency of use (let the user skip through already completed levels, intro screen), and help and documentation. It just goes to show how important these principles are independent of the platform.

Johnny Tran - Apr 24, 2008 12:38:57 pm

The articles seemed to reiterate common sense this time, especially the Tips and Tricks article. I suppose it highlights the fact that there are a great deal of developers who are still clueless about which UIs are usable and which are not. As they say, common sense really isn't all that common.

And it applies to companies, too. I found the Business Wire article about which principles users value most to be both interesting and depressing, in the sense that it revealed to me how the mobile device industry is woefully out of touch with users' needs. I thought it was refreshing to see that cost and complexity ranks as major barriers to mobile application usage. And at the same time, it's mind-bogglingly obvious! Common sense, right?

If you allow users to surf the internet on your cell phones but then nickel and dime them for each KB transferred, of course nobody's going to use it. If speech recognition requires pressing an arcane combination of buttons and then speaking with a certain je ne sais quoi, of course everybody's just going to use the keypad instead. I'm glad to see that all-you-can-eat texting plans are starting to become available, but my cell phone company still charges me for each text message I send and receive, so therefore I never use it. And I've seen the slick Razr commercials on television, but every Razr owner I've talked to hates it with a seething passion because the UI was designed by neanderthals on an acid trip.

If there is one thing that Tuesday's articles about ubiquitous computing taught me, it's that technology needs to disappear (which I take to mean more usable, more accessible, and more reliable) before it can be integrated into people's lives. Technology is useless if operation requires an advanced degree in microfabrication, if you need to be Bill Gates to afford it, or if it is so fragile that it crashes and reboots just because you looked at it the wrong way.

But this is the state of mobile devices today. In this day and age where people can use cell phones to send email, plan trips, and stream tentacle porn on the go, I still use mine to make calls and have something to curse at when someone sends me a text message.

Hsiu-Fan Wang - Apr 24, 2008 12:25:27 pm

I think these essays were a pretty good wrapup to a great deal of the material we learned in class, and I especially liked the fact that there were many positive suggestions and not negative ones.

One thing that really bothered me was the the hackiness of the backlight suggestion, wouldn't it be better if applications could just declare that they should not have the backlight turned off when they are running? At least with flip phones it makes sense to me that the backlight would be on when the phone is open and off when the phone is closed, and the whole "need to press a button every so often" becomes a non-issue. While it is _nice_ to have a button that'll turn on the backlight it seems much more reasonable to ask that it simply not be a problem the user has to deal with at all.

Lita Cho - Apr 24, 2008 12:23:59 pm

I felt like we covered most of the topics within these articles within class and our projects. I found the Kim's article quite useful for figuring out what traits we should measure when doing these user studies. When I was doing my personal usability study, I had a hard to figuring out what to qualitatively measure other than number of errors. I also felt like the results from Action Engine worldwide survey was not surprising at all. If I were asked what I would want out of my mobile application, I would have stated that I would shell out more money for ease of usability (and my sanity).

I found that the Nokia's Usability Tips Archive was the most useful, and I wish we had this reading before we made our application. It was concise and all the tips made sense, especially for games. I always thought music was essential to a video game, however, I never thought that they could also be really annoying in public places. I also did think that depending on the culture, your application's usability can be very different. Colors can be different, and the writing might be different depending on your user's culture.

Timothy Edgar - Apr 24, 2008 01:14:52 pm

I agree with Hsiu-fan that the readings were a good wrap up. They seemed extremely obvious espeically after the usability studies we did. Most of what was discussed was that usability and experience was central to the success of an application. The tips in the last reading were interesting to read as they covered a lot of small topics that we covered in some form. The one that stuck out to me was contextual help. We had a discussion recently to implement a help feature in our application, however we were split on the issue. We learned that help wasn't that helpful unless you knew what you were looking for. I was reminded of LabVIEW's contextual help feature that had a window with basic details on a block when you mouseovered it. It was like a mini man file for everything that pointed you in the right direction for more help if necessary.

William tseng - Apr 24, 2008 01:19:15 pm

I find it interesting that in the Action Engine report reading the prevailing factor for uptake of mobile device applications was still 1.) cost then 2.) complexity. The example in the first reading also mentioned the difference between error prevention and error rate. I think error prevention is hard to measure in a user experiment unless the user being interveiwed is very good at vocalizing every thought they might have and you can hear something like "oh I want to do this next, but theres no button for that so I guess i'll try this." I also liked the readings with Nokia's tips for handheld. They provided some very specific information such as "intro spalsh screen's" not being on screen for longer than 4 seconds.

Brandon Lewis - Apr 24, 2008 01:14:03 pm

The first study looks like a good road map to follow when developing a future mobile application.

The second reading confirmed some of what ought to be painfully obvious: mobile applications are too hard to use, and walled gardens do not provide a satisfactory customer experience. People want simple features, and they want access to the "real" web. Apple's iPhone only has it half right: they have superior usability, but they only offer an extremely impoverished walled garden (cingular network, iTunes music store) source for content.

The third reading read like marketing propaganda. I didn't see much valuable content in it.

The fourth reading had some tips that I had a hard time impressing on my group mates: the labeling of controls and menu items is crucial. At one point our application had a button that said "Different day". Different how? Day? That was inconsistent with the use of the word "date" elsewhere in the application. I tried to suggest we use a different label, and one of my group mates honestly didn't see the need. The issue is the use of the adjective rather than the verb in the labeling of the button. Buttons perform actions, so they should be imperative voice verbs, such as "Choose Date", or "Select Date". Another important point is the disabling of sounds. I have only one game on my phone which I never registered and don't play much because there is no way to turn off the sound.

Brian Trong Tran - Apr 24, 2008 01:23:38 pm

I really liked the readings this time around. I agree with all the above comments on how these articles supplemented our experiences with the pilot usability tests. We all know that usability can make or break a product and all the statistics from Action Engine clearly show that. I also like the discussion from Kim and Coursaris on how mobile usability standards are not fully set yet so much usability testing still needs to be done for mobile platforms. I also like how the articles put emphasis on how usability consists of both the UI and the person and their surroundings. We can only control so much of the usability, the rest is up to the environment and people. We already talked about this when we placed heavy importance on contextual inquiries before prototyping.

Daniel Markovich - Apr 24, 2008 01:49:25 pm

Although most of the reading for today seemed like an re-cap of all the principles we have previously learned, finally we got to read about how they relate to mobile devices!!! As a whole though the articles stressed that usability is the key ingredient to a good mobile application, and that this should be recognized as the top priority while developing on a mobile device.


I found the Results of Worldwide Mobile Usability Study the most interesting article by far out of the lot, and feel that this would have been very beneficial for us to read before designing, implementing, and re-designing our own interfaces. It would have been a great guide to follow while trying to come up with a mobile application that would actually appeal to current mobile device users. One of the things that really startled me about the article was the fact that email applications were not ranked very high in demand for a mobile device. Everyone that I know who owns a Blackberry, iPhone, or other PDAs uses their device to access their email on a regular basis, and I myself would rank this as a very high priority while searching for the right mobile device to purchase.

Adam Singer - Apr 24, 2008 01:54:00 pm

I liked these readings. They provided some simple tips for maximizing your application's usability. They also provide proof that customers value usability very highly in mobile applications. A "cheat sheet" for usability tips would be a beneficial thing to have when working in the real world, since it can become easy to forget basic design principles when one is extremely close to a project. Nokia does a good job of providing some basic do's and don'ts of developing for its platform. Apple also provides similar guidelines for Cocoa and Cocoa Touch.

Although Google has a few examples of different layouts and applications in their documentation, it would be good to see some general design guidelines added. This would allow for more standardized development, the lack of which could lead to out of control, Windows-esque interfaces that don't conform to any kind of interface guidelines. Having a slew of apps with wildly varying, and hard to use interfaces could damage Android's viability as a mobile platform.

Pavel Borokhov - Apr 24, 2008 01:15:49 pm

These readings were rather concise and to the point, which was good. In the first reading, it was interesting to see that accessibility was not widely-tested in usability studies, which is too bad. It is worth noting that quite frequently, an accessible interface is more accessible not just to people with disabilities, but to all users, and consequently you can kill two birds with one stone by doing good accessibility testing and analysis (and design). However, the second reading seemed to me to be a perfect example of how important it is to consider one's target user group. Doing mobile device research worldwide and then aggregating the results is not a very good idea to the different nature of mobile device markets between say the US and Europe. In the US, the main driver of device purchases is price, not ease of use. It is amazing how many poorly-designed devices gain wide adoption in US markets simply because they are very cheap (Motorolla phones come to mind), while other devices do not (consider the near-absence of Sony Ericsson devices from the US market).

Paul Mans - Apr 24, 2008 02:12:20 pm

Usability Studies (Kim): -This article is valuable both to reference during design (to make sure you have covered all of your bases), and then of course during the design of your own usability studies. The grouping the 45 studies together in tabular form provides a useful reference of what others have chosen to measure in studies concerning tasks related to your own. This would be very helpful when deciding on dependent variables for your own study.

Why Usability & User Experience (Nokia) -A nice confirmation that a user based design cycle is the way to go when developing a product.

Usability Tips (Nokia) -Nice collection of tips. Particularly good advice I thought was to design your application from the outset so that it can be ported easily to other platforms. Do this by separating the abstract functionality from the user interface implementation.

Randy Pang - Apr 24, 2008 02:15:49 pm

I thought the Usability Tips provided by Nokia was probably the most interesting out of the articles. Although I felt the points it presented were really obvious, they were presented in a clear and concise way and I am also aware of how often the simple principles they state are violated (especially the games on my cell phone). It reminded me of an article I came across the other day, which was a quick list by Google on their UX design principles (you can see the list [1]).

I didn't particularly find the other articles very useful, mainly because I felt their points or conclusions were fairly trivial. People will pay more money for a better experience as opposed to a worse experience, wow, who would have guessed? I also felt that 'Usability Dimensions' presented in the Kim article were a bit overkill. I feel that when designing and getting feedback on your UX, you should focus more on 'there's this big problem area. let's fix it'. I don't really see the point of measuring or categorizing problems into these dimensions, especially since problems often lie in none of them, or multiple of them, with varying degrees of involvement. I think at the end of the day, the only actual useful dimension to measure is satisfaction (i.e. how much happier would this change make the users) -- but of course, we all know that's fairly hard to measure (but fortunately it can be approximated fairly well if you take your feedback correctly and stay alert).

Yang Wang - Apr 24, 2008 02:31:25 pm

I was most interesting to read about the games on mobile device part. Nokia has announced their game enabled cell phone a while ago aimed at the mobile game market. Its main contender was Game Boy Advance and it had great hardware advantage by then. However, the phone was eventually a failure. From game market’s point of view, the stand point of the phone is wrong. It aimed to be a phone that capable of advanced game feature and sold mainly on cell phone shop. That makes its main contender to be other cell phone which has equal or better phone service at a lower price. If its goal was a mobile game system with phone ability and sold at the game shop, it could be a very different story, as its main contender would be Game Boy system with hardware disadvantage and impossible to make phone call at all. This story showed one important thing, which is the mobile phone users could be careless about how advance their mobile phone can used to play games, they just need something to spend a few minutes while waiting something instead of hardcore gaming experience on a mobile phone.

Brian Taylor - Apr 24, 2008 02:17:40 pm

I found the first of the four readings rather annoying in its use of "see this...guidelines" over and over again. That was rather annoying, but most of the tips were fairly useful. It was nice that it was a list to easily go over and look through your application and checkoff which of the requirements it satisfied, and which it missed. Overall, though, it lacked in depth discussion of the reasoning behind its statements. Kim's paper was a bit dry to me overall because I felt that the the language and size of the abstract and introduction seemed to severely outweigh the rest of the paper. Both the body and the conclusions were relatively short overall, and similarly kinda of unhelpful. I did find the graphic useful, though, but that could also be because seeing a graphic in a large chunk of text definitely draws the user's attention. The action engine release results appear to be rather one-sided and only seem to convey the idea that mobile applications are great and so is testing usability. I did not find the reading particularly insightful, although I did find it interesting that Europeans (95%) apparently focus more on ease of use in comparison to cost than the world combined. The last reading was a good introduction to the overall concept and idea behind studying usability, and it had some spiffy graphics that made me want to read it all. It's a good reading for an introduction, but is not too useful for members of this class I believe.

Bo Niu - Apr 24, 2008 02:25:48 pm

The last reading had several useful tips on particular applications, such as the silent default start-up for mobile games to prevent the sound of game from disturbing others around the user. There are some tips that we have covered in class with great detail that are presented in the article such as the time period for display window to appear. The article didn't go into detail as we did in class on how these time periods was chosen though. And for the three other reading, there wasn't much to be discussed, we all know the usability is very important to UI design by now.

Benjamin Sussman - Apr 24, 2008 02:21:13 pm

I thought that the nokia readings were somewhat comical. Redefining terms (in the first article) that we have grown used to, and giving little snippets of help for specific target users and markets (in the second article). The second nokia article was the most interesting for me simply because it was specific enough to potentially be applicable to future projects. There are a lot of new details to take into account when working on a mobile platform (backlight, small color gamut, low resolution or even a high resolution on a small screen which could be difficult for the elderly to read) and their tips hit a lot of the details often overlooked in mobile development.

One really interesting tidbit was from the businesswire article about how email is _not_ the killer app! This was a big surprise, as I have talked to many adults whose motivation to move to a "smart-phone" (a fancy word for a phone that sucks less than a RAZR as it has a real keyboard and e-mail) was *solely* because of e-mail. Obviously this was anecdotal evidence, but it must also be indicative of the fact that the cell phone market is spread throughout age and economic groups. Younger people and less business-oriented consumers are very interested in participating in the cell phone market but are more interested in directions, news, weather etc...

Katy Tsai - Apr 24, 2008 02:22:47 pm

If anything, these readings reiterated how important it is to get user feedback when designing various applications and interfaces. I think it was refreshing to see how the ideas we read from several more outdated sources are still applicable and important today. I also liked how the articles spoke specifically to usability testing of mobile applications. It was interesting to read the results of Action Engine's Usability Study and figure out where my group's application fell in the various applications used by consumers. It helps to see what users are looking for and what they prefer and I can see a lot of overlap between the study's results and our own results from the various interviews we conducted.

I also enjoyed the third article. It lays down the bottom line. Usability tests are so important because they are driven by the user, the people who dictate the success of our products.

Jeffrey Wang - Apr 24, 2008 02:23:17 pm

The report released by Action Engine was very useful. Usability seems to be the key factor on mobile devices. It's interesting to contrast with desktop computers, where speed and power seem to be the main decision factor. An interesting note was the "46% of respondents listed cost as their number one barrier to using data services." It's a bit sad that a lot of interesting applications are possible, but the expenses for a data plan are just too high for individuals. I can personally relate to this, and do feel like telecoms are putting a huge barrier to mobile innovation. The article also proves that presenting data is still bad on a phone. "70% of respondents indicated that they would use mobile applications like news, weather, and sports scores." It seems like these are very basic tasks when compared to a browser.

The article on usability tips was also helpful. However, I wish they were a little more detailed. It seemed to give tips on a very broad scope, but did not go into how to exactly test or experiment these factors. More specifically, given user feedback, how can I apply my knowledge to see tangible results? Overall, the tips were good to keep in mind.

Michael So - Apr 24, 2008 02:38:00 pm

The articles all have the theme of usability and its importance in order to be successful. I think usability is important to consider when designing applications for mobile devices because people are going to be using it. The people who are going to be using it need to be considered. I think that is pretty much common sense. When designing the application, you need to know who is going to be using it. And knowing who's going to use it will help in the design. You will know who to find for testing your prototypes and you will have a mental model of how your target users will be using your application. Making usability an important priority is evident by the reports done the Action Engine people. Ease of use and learning is important for people. People want to be able to use something and not get frustrated by it. The target users should be satisfied. Their satisfaction will have a positive effect on the designers because the benefits include customer loyalty, increased sales, and reduced costs. It is like a mutual relationship between designers and users.

Glen Wong - Apr 24, 2008 02:42:38 pm

I have to agree with what some other people said about the reading reiterating concepts that we have learned in this class. Was I the only one that felt that the first reading felt a lot like the write-ups that we've been doing in this class? Even the super long appendices are similar. As far as the other articles are concerned, I feel like the tips that they gave on design were things we've learned in more depth in this class. Nokia's tips are all pretty logical. I found the backlight tip to be interesting. If Nokia realizes that you have to make a function call every 10 seconds to keep the backlight on, why didn't they add a dedicated command for keeping the backlight on (they make their own phones and software)? To sum things up, the readings were logical, but what exactly are we gaining from this? Like some others mentioned, a reading usability study on the Android phone/platform would have been much more interesting.

Zhihui Zhang - Apr 24, 2008 02:30:22 pm

I found the Action Engine Worldwide Mobile Usability Study to be of interested. I recently purchased a windows mobile phone this past weekend to replace an old pda. While on paper the device had all the features and options you could ever want, the had some serious usability/complexity issues. (for example, the device vibrates whenever you lose your network connection. but this means that every time i walk into soda, my phone vibrates and i think i'm getting a call. and the for amount of effort it takes to use voice recognition, you could've just dialed the number). The one result from the survey that i found surprising was that communication/email was not ranked as features desired in a mobile device. perhaps this explains why iphones and other mobile devices have such high sale volumes even though they've been reported to function rather poorly as phones.

Lastly, i think the usability tips would probably have been helpful (perhaps more than the heuristics) earlier during our project planning.

Reid Hironaga - Apr 24, 2008 02:36:37 pm

These a readings are interesting overviews of very similar design principles to those that we have previously encountered. I didn't really notice anything particularly clever about their design suggestions. I thought it was funny that the list of usability tips in the fourth paper is full of hyperlinks to the same page and formatted in such a way as to be both unpleasing to the eye and on the border of having a difficult-to-follow structure. The key topics are only highlighted by the spacing and not by anything that would be noticeable at a glance. The abundance of positive guidelines is much more helpful than the countless "bad examples" that we have seen before in past readings.

Gerard Sunga - Apr 24, 2008 02:01:34 pm

The readings were fairly interesting, but I found the usability tips from Nokia to be the most interesting. The other readings seemed to be of the typical fare of take your users into account during development. The usability tips reading, on the other hand, offered some concrete advice for mobile applications, in spite of the fact that it focused on games. The advice given is applicable to all mobile applications, whether it be consistency, clarity of inputs, or simplicity. As Preston stated, one of the more interesting tips was the tip to be careful of colors and its possible segue into localization issues for various cultures. For some reason, most of readings we have gone through fail to explicitly mention the importance of culture in designing applications, leaving it under the blanket term of "environment." Localization is crucial, especially when bringing it to other markets and considering the United States itself is often described as a "melting pot" of cultures.

Jeremy Syn - Apr 24, 2008 02:53:24 pm

I found that these articles covered many of the material that we have learned throughout this course. In the second article, their user survey showed that the majority of the ones that they surveyed dictated ease of use as the most influential factor when deciding to buy theit product. Ease of use has a much higher precendence when considering the product over the value for price consideration. The usability tips from the Nokia articles also proved to be very useful. It would have been better if we could have had these tips before actually doing our own pilot usability studies. In particular, I thought it was important to consider different aspects of the program, such as the sounds and lightings for the games on the mobile cell phone. We have to learn to consider what effect each component will have on the program.

Raymond Planthold - Apr 24, 2008 03:01:13 pm

The first Nokia article seemed like a bunch of marketing-speak, but the second looks like a useful reference. It's a little unwieldy to read, and mostly focused on games, but it makes a lot of sense. I definitely agree that Android needs some guidelines like these to make everyone's lives easier.

Yunfei Zong - Apr 24, 2008 03:08:04 pm

Ok, let's be honest here, were you too lazy to look for decent readings this time? Come on now, the first reading is a study of other studies; the sole content in the paper is a table referencing other studies have been done on usability. The only purpose of this paper is to reference other papers that have already been done. We already have a tool for doing such a task. It's called a search engine.

The "why usability" article isn't a bad article, it's just a bit late to the party. This reading provides the definitions of "usability" and "user experience", as well talking about why investing in usability is a good thing. In other words... besides defining 2 terms that we should have known from the first lecture, it states the blatantly obvious fact that developing "based on verified user needs and requirements" is a good thing. Really? Developing products based on what the user wants? Is that really what the user wants? How can the author of this reading be so sure of such a bold statement? [/sarcasm]


The other 2 readings give a couple of heuristics to follow when designing mobile apps. The one about game design is actually quite specific and clear about how to program the game features so that the game is usable in a mobile context. However, the backlight example was just annoying.

"There is no way for a MIDP 1.0 application to know the status of the backlight, but it is possible to turn it on with DeviceControl.setLights. In C++ applications you can keep the backlight on by calling the User::ResetInactivityTime(); method every ten seconds."

Really, Nokia? If they missed a fundamental control method in their API, important enough to need to talk about it first in this article, why don't they fix the damn code, then remove the above statement from this page, so they don't look like idiots?


The final article I read [the 2nd one on the list] was some sort of newspaper-esque article detailing 7 rules that govern mobile user experience. Reading the article, I couldn't help but feel that the article contained positive bias towards the company. Frankly, when the catch is "Shattering the mobile usability barrier..." I expect 7 rules that will completely astonish and amaze me, rather than 7 semi-obvious facts that I could have made up in the time I took to write this comment.

The article makes the rather blatant move of talking about 7 rules that all mobile apps should follow, then stating how and why their company follows all these 7 rules, and how they are the top mobile app maker, then listing all the awards that the company has obtained. Then I noticed that the reading had "Corporate Author" beside it, similar to the Nokia readings. It all makes sense now; this article must have been written by the company's PR department! The only mystery to solve now is why this was one of the assigned readings...

Gary Miguel - Apr 24, 2008 02:59:12 pm

I found the paper entitled "A Qualitative Review of Empirical Mobile Usability Studies" to be pretty dry, but its very existence brings up some important points. The paper seems to be saying that the academic user interface community is years behind the technology industry. The industry has been producing mobile devices like phones and PDAs for a long time, but studies are just now trying to quantitatively measure what works and what doesn't. It's interesting that there's not even wide agreement on what the test measures should be to evaluate an interface, much less the "best practices" for designing a mobile interface.

The article "Results of Worldwide Mobile Usability Study" says that most people make purchasing and usage decisions based on ease of use. Perhaps this is not the case in Europe, but from my experience in the USA, mobile phone operators lock the phones down very tightly, restricting customers' choices of what software to use. This in effect couples the phone's built in software with the service provider, so this means service providers (ATT, Verizon, et cetera) should have a strong interest in making their phones' software more usable. Still, it seems at least ATT puts software on their phones that is designed to try to force customers to buy more ATT services, rather than designed for maximum usability. I had a phone that had a hardware button that stuck out on the side of the phone. With the phone's default software, the button switched the phone to camera mode. With ATT's software, it asked me to turn on "Push-to-talk" mode, which was a service that ATT wanted to charge me more money for. This rendered the button less than useless, since I not only would never use it, but I would often hit the button by accident.

Roseanne Wincek - Apr 24, 2008 01:49:39 pm

I agree with most people here in that these readings are nothing new; everything seems like common sense. That might be because we have spent 10+ weeks thinking about usability and UI. However, many of the suggestions, especially in the last reading, seem completely intuitive - like being able to turn off the sound in a cell phone game or making sure you applications start quickly! I guess we don't have to be told the importance of well designed UI anymore. However, I also think that the high number of bad interfaces still around shows us that many designers and companies don't stress UI.

Diane Ko - Apr 24, 2008 03:05:03 pm

The article Nokia wrote about usability and the article preceding that bring up very good points about the main reason (or hopefully) that people buy phones. Most of the reason why I have no interest in the iPhone, or most smart phones for that matter, is that in general they're not the easiest to use both in terms of complication and in terms of button size. When I look for a phone, first and foremost I care that it can easily make and take phone calls. One of the most annoying features I found for the iPhone was the annoyance of having to navigate to the number pad if you need to dial a phone number. Everything else is secondary for a phone. I think a lot of phone making companies forget this main fact and try adding all these features that only make the usage of the phone more complicated and more battery intensive.

Zhou Li - Apr 24, 2008 02:30:42 pm

This week's reading is by far one of the most interesting ones. It shows how the usability study methods we learned in class are applied to the mobile device market to get valuable feedback and review of each device. The "Results of Worldwide Mobile Usability Study" shows that the majority of the users care the most about how easy to use the mobile devices are when they make purchasing decisions, especially in Europe. This is of course due to the limitation of size and computing power of mobile devices. However, from personal experience, I think the appearance and the look of the mobile devices themselves and the interfaces of the operating system within also have some significant influence on buyers, especially for female customers. For instance, the Chocolate phone by LG was very stylish, and sold pretty well overall the world. But it was not easy to navigate within the system when you have to switch between the touch pad and regular key pad and there was an really annoying delay for text input.

Kai Man Jim - Apr 24, 2008 03:00:32 pm

These readings are very interesting, especially the Usability Tips. It does discuss some of the problems we had when we were designing our project. One of the tip that catches me is the example of Users understandterms. In that, it says with the bluetooth connection on a cell phone, do not use the word like create server, or connect to server. Those words are very technical and people may not understand. We should use some words that are user friendly, like New game or Join game.

In our project, we basically got the same problem. One of our options is to "filter pins". In filter, we have three different levels for security purposes and they were Privacy level, Protected level, and Public level. During to lo-fi prototype, testers were confuse of those words and didn't even try to see what was in the levels. Then we knew that the words were so CS term, and we changed it to My pins, My friends' pins and everyone pins. To be honest, try to come up with words that are user friendly is not easy, since we know the term that is best fit, but they are too technical, and so we have to use a very very common word that has a very similar meaning. It was hard, but we did it!!!

Jason Wu - Apr 24, 2008 03:11:21 pm

The information in these articles were pretty dry and repetitive. However, it was more anecdotal evidence from Nokia's point of view. It included a marketing side about the emotion and reason behind UI, giving the insight that excitement and hype about the interface is more important than the usability at first. Then, only when you have captured your initial user group, then the usability will hold them to your product in the end. One weird comment that everyone seems to be discussing is the backlight problem. It seems weird that Nokia would not just have the option to leave the backlight on for certain programs, or change the settings rather than tell the user how to get around the problem that's inherent to the cellphone already.

Henry Su - Apr 24, 2008 03:16:54 pm

I agree with the Action Engine article that complexity with a mobile device or application can actually dissuade potential customers from purchasing it. I think this is especially the case for older adults, who may have a harder time learning how to use a device/application, and prefer a simple and usable interface to one that has many features that they may not even use. The "Why Usability & User Experience" article talks about an aspect called "user experience". We haven't talked as much about this in class, I think, but it's still an important topic. Even if you have all the right features in all the right places, if the interface looks rough, the user may think the application is boring and is then less interested in it. The "Usability Tips" article covers many aspects of game interface designs; however, I think that many of these principles apply to other mobile applications as well. For example, consistent use of the soft keys contribute well to the flow of the application. I've seen inconsistent labeling before, not on a mobile application, but on a beta of Firefox. In the save bookmark dialog, they placed the "OK" on the right, and the "Cancel" on the left, which is opposite to convention. Thankfully, this was fixed in the next iteration of the beta.

I found "A Qualitative Review of Empirical Mobile Usability Studies" to be rather dry, as it is basically a study on usability studies. They do make a good point that relatively few studies have been done for mobile devices/applications specifically. This is a problem, because mobile devices are even more common than personal computers, and they are quickly gaining a lot of processing power, memory, and storage--meaning that mobile application development is moving quite fast. If usability research does not increase proportionally, we may end up with many mediocre interfaces.

Jeff Bowman - Apr 24, 2008 03:18:04 pm

These readings underscore personally why I got into human computer interaction as a field. As time progresses, device capabilities skyrocket; we see this happening already with internet tablets, iPhones, and even handheld computers running full operating systems. As this improves, the need to interact with the devices becomes more important than factors such as price, speed, and other factors, as the Action Engine reading indicated. While the first Nokia reading was intriguing, it seemed to deal mostly in platitudes; the second one had interesting tips, but only as a case study—the examples they gave were very specific to the Nokia/J2ME development environment they foster.

Megan Marquardt - Apr 24, 2008 02:47:01 pm

The Usability Tips article was very helpful, and we actually utilized one of the tips in one of our revisions in our project: "Replace technical terms with user-understandable terms". We changed the "privacy settings" to more colloquial language like "edit friend list".

The "Results of Worldwide Mobile Usability Study" article made a lot of sense. I tried to think of the things that I want in a cell phone when I buy one, and usability is on the top of the list, much higher than price value. The two requirements that are essential to a cell phone and are also seen in this article is the more personalization options and speed. I think this stems from how small and personal a cell phone is to a user, it's like their own little information box, so users are starting to assume the phone should know their preferences and know what the user wants to do, and do it very quickly.

Siyu Song - Apr 24, 2008 03:11:27 pm

I thought the Nokia pages were a bit too abstract in terms of offering useful information. Everything seemed very high level and read just like a broad overview of "usability" and a few guidelines for features and tasks in games. One of thing things I noticed from the Coursaris & Kim paper was that the three paramters they proposed to be used in future usability studies: efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction all are highly subjective. While I can see how efficiency and effectiveness can have some form of measurement in terms of how fast or completeable a task is. However, satisfaction is so subjective and can vary within the same subject that I feel it would be extremely difficult to measure satisfaction in a way that is consistent and informative.

Ravi Dharawat - Apr 24, 2008 02:56:25 pm

The first paper is definitely a good start. I did not realize that such research had yet to be done prior to 2006. Meta-analysis of techniques regarding mobile devices is definitely a smart thing to do, but I wonder if mobile devices is too wide a group to consider. Did the researchers differentiate between different types of interfaces? And what about new interfaces coming into use over time? It seems to me that this type of research should be repeated every so often, given the mercurial nature of mobile interfaces. The other readings I found less interesting.

David Jacobs - Apr 24, 2008 03:17:40 pm

The guidelines provided in the Usability Tips article seemed at first glance like a nice little set of heuristics (all check-list-y) that one could use to guide the design of an interface. As I read further though, I noticed that it really isn't that simple. Most of the tips are either super specific (such as how to keep the back light on for a particular series of phone OS) or super vague (my personal favorite was the following gem:

Text-entry screens should follow users´ expectations, asking for information that users expect and in the order in which they expect it. Users should always understand what is being asked and in which format data should be entered.

). I guess it's hard to try to summarize all of usability in a single resource, so I can't really blame the Nokia guide for being less than thorough. None the less, I'd prefer if Nokia started out with a quick overview of usability testing rather than linking it inline with the rest of the text.



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