A Protocol for Evaluating Mobile Applications

A Protocol for Evaluating Mobile Applications

Clare Martin (Oxford Brookes University, UK), Derek Flood (Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland) and Rachel Harrison (Oxford Brookes University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2491-7.ch020
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The number of applications available for mobile phones is growing at a rate that makes it difficult for new application developers to establish the current state-of-the-art before embarking on new product development. This chapter is targeted towards such developers (who may not be familiar with traditional techniques for evaluating interaction design) and outlines a protocol for capturing a snapshot of the present state of the applications in existence for a given field in terms of both usability and functionality. The proposed methodology is versatile in the sense that it can be implemented for any domain across all mobile platforms, which is illustrated here by its application to two dissimilar domains on three platforms. The chapter concludes with a critical evaluation of the process that was undertaken and suggests a number of avenues for future research including further development of the keystroke level model for the current generation of smart phones.
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Mobile devices are hand-held tools, which typically have a graphical display with input via touch, stylus, miniature keyboard, or some combination of these methods. Examples include Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), traditional mobile phones, smart phones, music players such as the iPod Touch and tablet computers such as the iPad and Kindle Fire. The study of the usability and design issues associated with such devices is still in its infancy, since they are very different from desktop computers both in terms of interaction mechanisms and other attributes such as context, connectivity, screen size, display resolution and processing capability (Zhang, et al., 2005). The major platform providers (including Apple and Google) have produced extensive guidelines (Apple, 2012; Android, 2012) for developers of mobile applications, and there are also recent independent guidelines that focus specifically on improving the user experience (Nielsen, 2012). However, previous research suggests that current techniques for the evaluation of such technology lack structure and that there is a need for a systematic approach using a combination of methods, particularly because no single technique can give answers to all design questions (Streefkerk, et al., 2008).

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