Data Basis of the VUM

One of the prerequisites for creating the Virtual User Model was to identify and record key usability issues. In order to support the above objective, an observational user study has been conducted in the first phase of the project with the aim of identifying and describing key usability issues for users with mild-to-moderate impairments. The observational study was not only meant to record the impairments per user, but moreover to understand the relevance regarding the performance of certain tasks in a specific environment. For instance, the impact of a mild to moderate vision impairment of a user will be strongly affected by e.g. light conditions in the environment. Keeping this in mind, it should indirectly impact the functionalities, design and capabilities of a product.

In this respect, a detailed ethnographic research was carried out on a group of 58 elderly people from the UK, Ireland and Germany who had a range of mild to medium impairments. Three types of WHO classified impairments were focused upon; hearing loss (B230), sight loss (B210) and manual dexterity (B710/730). The research comprised of a combination of interview and observational techniques and investigated the main usability problems which these specific users encountered when using their washing machine and mobile phone in a typical use environment. The main research methodology employed was detailed observational studies carried out in the participant’s own home environment. This methodology was used in the first phase of user testing as the participants will have already had sufficient time to use their own products. The research methodology involved detailed questioning and observation of a relatively small number of participants, 58 in total. The reason for this is that in order to identify the key usability issues a researcher will not only need to ask the opinion of the participant but also to observe where problems occur, record events and encourage greater feedback from the user.

The researcher directed the participant to carry out specific tasks related to the everyday use of the products, made objective observations and asked relevant questions. This procedure followed a standard questionnaire/methodology formulated before and during the pilot research. Furthermore users were asked how easy/difficult they found the task. This had to be explored in detail, including talking through the process, if there were particular problems or if it was deemed relevant. The observer needed to investigate how much each usability issue was down to the specific impairment/s of that user as opposed to being more specific to product design or environmental factors. Observations were recorded in written, abbreviated form.

Several papers1, 2, 3 were published in the course of the VICON project dealing with the user/beneficiary studies and surveys.

For further information please see the Dissemination page (1.3, 1.4, 1.10) or access the papers directly:
1 Dissemination 1.3[…]
2 Dissemination 1.4[…]
3 Dissemination 1.10[…]