Evaluating Mobile Applications: A Spreadsheet Case Study

Evaluating Mobile Applications: A Spreadsheet Case Study

Derek Flood (Dundalk Institute of Technology, Dublin Road, Dundalk, Ireland), Rachel Harrison (Oxford Brookes University, Wheatley Campus, Oxford, UK), Claudia Iacob (Oxford Brookes University, Wheatley Campus, Oxford, UK) and David Duce (Oxford Brookes University, Wheatley Campus, Oxford, UK)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/jmhci.2012100103


The power of mobile devices has increased dramatically in the last few years. These devices are becoming more sophisticated and allow users to accomplish a wide variety of tasks while on the move. The ease with which mobile apps can be created and distributed has resulted in a number of usability issues becoming more prevalent. This paper describes the range of usability issues encountered at all stages of the mobile app life cycle, from when users begin to search for an app to when they finally remove the app from their device. Using these results the authors developed a number of guidelines for both app developers and app platform developers that will improve the overall usability of mobile apps.
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1. Introduction

Advances in technology have allowed a range of sophisticated devices to emerge which enable users to perform a variety of tasks in a mobile context. These tasks include both tasks which were previously only available on traditional desktop applications and tasks that are only enabled by the use of mobile devices. To facilitate these tasks a wide range of mobile applications, referred to here as apps, are available from easy to install locations, such as the App store provided by Apple or the Android Marketplace provided by Google. In order to improve the portability of both of these types of apps, a number of compromises are necessary. These compromises, such as smaller screen size, more limited processing power and the mobile context in which the device is used, have frequently had a negative effect on the usability of these apps. The compromises can most readily be seen during the use of mobile apps. There has been a large amount of research into the usability of specific mobile apps (Ahmadi, 2008; Geven, 2006; Schmield, 2009; Shrestha, 2007). However, little research has been conducted on the selection, installation and removal of mobile apps, all of which can be problematic. This paper presents a study in which we examined aspects of user interaction with mobile apps during various steps in the usage lifecycle of mobile applications: application identification, installation, usage, and removal. To illustrate the range of interactions that a user may have with a mobile app we also present a mobile app process model which shows the typical life cycle of a mobile app.

This paper is structured as follows. Section 2 describes related work. Section 3 addresses user interaction with mobile devices. Section 4 of the paper outlines the case study conducted to investigate the usability of mobile applications at various steps in their lifecycle. Based on this investigation, a set of guidelines for improving usability is provided in Section 5. The paper is then concluded in Section 6.

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