Mobile Usability: State of the Art and Implications

Mobile Usability: State of the Art and Implications

Linda M. Gallant (Emerson College, USA), Gloria M. Boone (Suffolk University, USA) and Christopher S. LaRoche (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9845-1.ch038
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Context and the pervasive environment play a much greater role in mobile technology usage than stationary technology for which usability standards and methods were traditionally developed. The examination of mobile usability shows complex issues due to the ubiquitous and portable nature of mobile devices. This chapter presents the current state of mobile usability testing. More specially, topics covered are various usability testing methods, contextual complexity, audio interfaces, eye and hands-free interactions, augmented reality, and recommendation systems.
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Despite a decade of mobile device usability testing, technical challenges such as bandwidth, physical features, and financial issues slowed the progress of mobile communication (Zhang & Adipat, 2005). With recent advances in technology infrastructures, mobile communication is now faster and geographically more flexible. The removal of technological challenges such as network reliability, bandwidth, device in-puts and screen resolution necessitates the need for analyzing the multi-layered complexities of mobile usability. These include contextual factors, multimodal input and output choices, geographic locality, physical movement, and social interaction. Studies on mobile usability can be divided between studies of mobile phones with tiny screens, the arrival of smartphones such as the early Black Berry phones and the more recent full screen phones like iPhones, Android and Windows Phones (Nielsen & Budiu, 2013). Kjeldskov and Graham (2003) in a review of 42 mobile evaluations found that only 19 percent employ field studies and that 71 percent employ lab-based experiments. Kaikkonen, A., et. el. (2005) and Kjeldskov (2004) found few differences between a usability test in the lab or a usability tests in the field. Garzonis (2005) stated that field evaluation provide insights with the everyday use of technology, divided attention spans, and the dynamic context of use. Coursaris & Kim (2006) offer a review of 45 empirical mobile usability studies based on variables like user, task, environment and technology. The majority of these studies were done in a lab-setting. Only eleven studies were done in the field or in the lab and the field. These early studies examined effectiveness (62%) or the accuracy or completeness of achieving a goal; efficiency (33%) of task performance using a particular device; or the degree of satisfaction (20%) a product gives a user (Coursaris & Kim, 2007). “Less than 7 percent of studies explored dynamic factors, i.e. lighting and noise levels. Hence there is a lack of research on physical, psychosocial, and other environment-specific factors (Coursaris & Kim, 2007, p. 2343). Kjeldskov & Paay (2010) provide evidence of using indexicality, specific contexts, to understanding mobile human-computer interaction in different contexts. Indexes help users to interpret their environment or the interaction potential with other people in the spatial context, the physical context, or the social context.

Rahmadi & Zhong (2013) offer a study of teens mobile usage evolution based on initial opinion, knowledge and skills, context dependence, boredom, and personalization. They believe a field study is needed to observe change in usage after people become familiar with their mobile device. Another approach is to conduct a longitudinal study testing interaction with users during a prolonged period of time. This could be repeated several times until redundancy is reached or no new patterns emerge.

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