Usability Test and Cognitive Analyses During the Task of Using Wireless Earphones

Usability Test and Cognitive Analyses During the Task of Using Wireless Earphones

Nora G. Bustamante (Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico), Aide Aracely Maldonado Macías (Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico), Adrian A. Durán (Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico), Juan Carlos Ortiz Nicolás (Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico) and Andres R. Quiñones (University of Texas at El Paso, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5234-5.ch014


The use of novel technologies can be complicated for some people; even products designed for everyday use can present problems. If a product is difficult to use, it causes frustration and prevents usage. The objectives of this study are to conduct a usability test, assess the mental workload, and identify potential human errors during the process of listening to music using wireless earphones from a mobile phone device to detect which operations were the hardest in order to suggest modifications to the design and to bring a better experience to the user. During the usability test some difficulties among users were detected and a hierarchical task analysis (HTA) was developed. NASA-TLX and SHERPA methods were applied. The use of these earphones resulted in an intermediate mental workload, and four types of human errors were identified. The methods used in this study helped to detect those difficult tasks and subtasks for the users.
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Novel technologies introduce products that at first sight might seem appealing because people think that they will enhance the experience they were designed for. When an electronic product is purchased, the explicit properties that are stated in the package are what attracts the consumers’ attention. Nevertheless, once the product is used at home or work, it can become a different and unpleasant situation. When these situations appear, issues such as usability become more important (Van Kuijk, 2008). Sometimes using a product can be more demanding than expected in the first place. A product that is difficult to use or takes too much time to figure out how to use it can lead to frustration. Evidence of this fact can be found in the work of Meuter, Ostrom, Bitner, & Roundtree, (2003), their studies have shown that computer anxiety is, in fact, a common occurrence. Moreover, one study found that 55% of Americans suffer from some degree of technophobia (Williams, 1994, cited by Meuter et al., 2003). Additionally, one-third of college students suffer from computer-related anxiety, yet technology anxiety can be extended in relation to technological tools in general (DeLoughry, 1993, cited by Meuter et al, 2003)).

Another issue equally important related with the design for the easiness of use of products is that initially, it must be stated what design is before an approach in error design is made. A purpose of design is to develop products that would respond to a person’s needs in a satisfactory manner. The design is concerned with how things work, how they are controlled, and with the nature of the interaction between people and technology (D. A. Norman, 2003). On the latter basis, it can be understood that good designs will contribute to enhancing peoples’ interaction with the products or systems; on the contrary, bad designs will affect peoples’ lives and may cause frustration and errors; sometimes they can be subtle, but at other times, they can be fatal.

It is clear that the role of human error in the occurrence of accidents is obvious, and the consequences of not studying human errors as a risk factor can be catastrophic. Unfortunately, these errors are not always studied and classified to create safety parameters. All types of human errors, from the design phase to the poor interaction, result of using improper techniques, should be considered. The need for safety principles, and safe designs to prevent accidents and errors is more important due to the increasing development of modern technology (Ghasemi, Nasleseraji, Hoseinabadi, and Zare, 2013)

The solution to the challenges that new technologies represent is referred to as Human Centered Design. HCD is an approach that prioritizes human needs, limitations, capabilities, and behavior (D. Norman, 2013). User experience (UX) is not a property of the product, but the outcome of the human-product interaction, and therefore, it is dependent on the user (Desmet, 2007 in Ortíz Nicolas and Aurisicchio, 2011). The user brings to the interaction with the product a set of systems. These are studied to understand their effect on the assessment of UX. Accordingly, designs must satisfy them in the most complete manner, in order to become a successful design. Some scholars argue that good design starts with an understanding of Psychology and Technology, indicating what actions are possible, what is happening, and what is about to happen (D. Norman, 2013). In this process, task analysis carefully observes how the tasks are performed in order to design a product that would be usable. In the field of UX, it is also acknowledge the role of usability (Nicolas, Carlos, & Aurisicchio, 2011). An important tool to evaluate the usability of a product is usability test, which aims to improve the usability of the product that is being tested; another goal is to improve the process by which products are designed and developed, to avoid the recurrence of problems in similar products. These assessments should be done in the earlier design stages and through all the development process of a product (Dumas & Redish, 1999).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Hierarchical Task Analysis: The classification of every action into tasks and subtasks needed to accomplish the goal task.

Interaction: The relationship between the user and the product or system.

Mental Workload: The sum of mental demands experienced by a person at the same time.

NASA-TLX: A method used to assess the mental workload that a person is exposed to when they use a product or perform an activity in which the person will rate each dimension.

SHERPA: A method used to detect a human error; it is linked to an error mode taxonomy of each and every action, as well as the consequences if the task is not achieved.

Performance: Level of success in executing or accomplishing a task.

Human Error: Those occasions when something planned fails to reach the expected outcome.

Think Aloud: A process where the person is asked to verbalize their thoughts, actions, and feelings that are experienced during the performance of the task.

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