Usability takes a hike!
Computer power that formerly only was available in offices and homes have now moved out on the roads, seas and beyond. Everything that can be mobile will be, and today only our fantasies are the limit as to what mobile devices can and will do. Mobile devices can be used for anything from taking notes in a business meeting to track down giraffes in a field study in Africa. When we do traditional usability tests on applications using stationary computers the context is controlled and not especially relevant. The computers in the labs are more or less in the same context as when they are used in offices and homes. But for mobile devices, testing might make the result irrelevant since it fails to take the context of its use into consideration. The purpose of this thesis is to evaluate the usability testing methods and theories from a mobile perspective. This is to find out if and where the conventional usability methods fail and what they fail to detect when applied to mobile devices. How can the usability methods of today be extended to facilitate the testing of mobile devices in its right context? We have done empirical tests of usability methods in usability laboratories and conducted expert interviews with researchers from the mobile as well as the usability field. Together with literature studies and informal interviews we analyze and discuss around rigour vs. relevance in laboratory and mobile settings. We used triangulation on the usability methods we tested and combined these results with the results from the expert interviews. First of all we found that there is indeed a need for a way to conduct mobile usability testing. The conventional usability tests take little or no consideration to the context of its use. All it measures is how good the gadget is in an office-like environment like in for example a usability lab. We propose a new tactic for usability test mobile gadgets. The tactic consists of conventional usability methods combined with an ethnographical study of the use of the gadget in the real world and a role-playing part where made up tasks are conducted in real life. This is to combine both rigour and relevance in the testing and introduce contextual aspects.
Göteborg University. School of Business, Economics and Law