Are Mobile Spreadsheet Applications Usable?

Are Mobile Spreadsheet Applications Usable?

Derek Flood (Department of Computing and Communication Technologies, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK), Rachel Harrison (Department of Computing and Communication Technologies, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK), Claudia Iacob (Department of Computing and Communication Technologies, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK), Ann Nosseir (Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK) and Kevin McDaid (Software Technology Research Centre, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/joeuc.2013010103

Abstract

Many businesses are heavily reliant on data and many people working in business like to have almost constant access to this data. Mobile phones provide users with access to a wide range of office applications, including word processors, email applications, and spreadsheet applications. However the limitations of the mobile devices can cause a number of usability issues which may limit the productivity of users of these devices. This paper presents the authors’ investigation of the usability of mobile spreadsheet applications. Through a controlled study they examined the performance of users using a mobile spreadsheet application to perform a series of simple tasks, such as finding data and altering values in the spreadsheet. The authors found that although mobile spreadsheet applications can be effective, they are highly inefficient due to a large number of usability issues.
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1. Introduction

The spreadsheet application has become an integral part of the financial sector (Croll, 2005). The nature of this environment means that those working in this sector desire almost constant access to data contained within spreadsheets. This need cannot always be met with desktop or laptop applications because these devices are too large and cumbersome to be used in some environments. Advances in mobile phone technology mean that spreadsheet applications can be run on a mobile phone and this allows users to access spreadsheets virtually anywhere and at any time.

There are a number of known limitations to mobile devices in terms of screen size, processing power and connectivity and these limitations impact the way in which spreadsheets are used on these devices. These limitations have also introduced a number of usability issues which can affect the effectiveness and efficiency with which users can complete their work. The efficiency of mobile spreadsheet applications can vary by as much as 90% (Flood, 2011a).

This paper presents a pilot study on the use of spreadsheets on a mobile device and is structured as follows: Section 2 outlines some of the usability issues associated with mobile devices and describes how these issues can impact the spreadsheet application; Section 3 outlines the objectives of the study and the research questions it addresses. Section 4 of the paper describes the design of our study which compares using spreadsheets on a mobile device with using them on a desktop computer. Section 5 presents the results that were obtained. A number of limitations to this study are presented in Section 6. The study identified a number of issues that could be addressed through alterations to the mobile spreadsheet application. Section 7 of this paper outlines these changes and how they can address the issues identified by the study. The paper is then concluded in Section 8.

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