Touch-Based Access to Mobile Internet: User Experience Findings

Touch-Based Access to Mobile Internet: User Experience Findings

Minna Isomursu, Mari Ervasti
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/jmhci.2009062605
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This article reports user experience findings from two field trials where Mobile Internet access was supported through Near Field Communication (NFC)-based tag infrastructure. The authors’ results show that touch-based interaction can provide enhancement to the Mobile Internet user experience in: (1) content and service discovery, (2) Mobile Internet access, and (3) integrated situated and embodied experience. The problems related to service discovery can be solved by providing location-based access, and by using visual cues embedded into the environment for discovering content and services. Mobile Internet access through touch solves the problem of memorizing complicated URLs and the challenge of typing with a mobile device keypad. As touch-based access builds a semantic bridge between the physical context of use and the Mobile Internet experience, the user experience converges seamlessly into one where both the physical and digital worlds play a role.
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Internet content and services are becoming increasingly versatile and soon will integrate with practically all the imaginable and yet unimagined areas of our lives. It seems likely that internet use will not be limited to the boundaries set by desktop use, but rather will be needed and sought after also in mobile situations. The fast technological development of wireless networks and wireless communication devices seems to offer solutions that can make that happen. Modern urban environments are evolving towards Mark Weiser’s (Weiser, 1991) vision of Ubiquitous Computing, where all objects are computerized and networked.

The Mobile Internet has shown that technological advances and service availability alone do not result in widespread adoption and use (Constantiou et al., 2007). There are still challenges in the Mobile Internet hindering usage and slowing down adoption rates. An example of such a challenge is our limited understanding of how the Mobile Internet differs from the traditional internet experienced through a fixed desktop environment (Isomursu et al., 2007).

Research on mixed reality user interfaces (Milgram et al., 1994) has explored how our physical environment could be enhanced with digital content and services by mixing digital information and affordances with our physical world. NFC (Near Field Communication) technology provides one alternative for adding a link between an object in the physical world and digital content and services associated with that object. This link can be used by direct physical manipulation to provide digital services through a physical interface. These kinds of physical mobile interactions make it possible to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual world in an intuitive way (Falke et al., 2007).

Touch to Access Mobile Internet

Accessing internet content through objects in the physical world is called physical browsing (Ailisto et al., 2006). In physical browsing, the links are embedded in physical objects, and the user can select and use them to access internet content and services.

The technology used in the research presented in this article, NFC, is one technology for implementing physical browsing user interfaces. Other possible solutions include, for example, visual codes that are read through the camera of a mobile device (Rekimoto & Ayatsuka, 2000; Hansen & Grønbæk, 2008), infrared transceivers and tags (Swindells et al., 2002) or infrared beacons (Debaty et al., 2005; Want et al., 1999), and various other RFID variations (Want et al., 1999).

The user experience of NFC-supported service and content access has been studied in controlled settings. Touch-based service and content access have been found to be easy to learn and use, and users value the simplicity of the technology (Isomursu et al., 2008; Riekki et al., 2006; Välkkynen et al., 2006a). The research presented in this article contributes to the prevailing knowledge by exploring the user experience related especially to Mobile Internet access and providing results from the use of technology in field settings in various contexts.

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