Mobile product testing

This paper by Linda Gallant, (Bentley College) "Ethnography of Communication & Mobile Product Testing" is going to be published in the Personal and Ubiquitous Computing journal.

Abstract: The ethnography of communication approach is employed to enhance the mobile user-centered design process. Mobile product testing has employed the same research methodologies used for stationary technology. The main data collection method for user-centered design and proof-of-concept in mobile computing has followed the traditional ethnography method of field observation. The crux of this paper is to apply a user experience research approach to mobile computing that does not primarily rely on physical location. In mobile technology, physical space is not primary or stable: but, human communication is always present. The ethnography of communication places talk as the primary and essential unit of measurement thereby making the stationary physical location secondary. This allows design teams to enter a user "speech community" anywhere, even in a usability lab setting, through talk. Users articulate their "local" speech community meaning systems and become "co-designers" in the user centered design process. Users' understandings of a product use in their local environments become part of the design process. The meaning a technology presents in people's everyday lives becomes an add-on section of a usability testing session. After each participant has completed a usability testing task, he or she is asked direct questions about the tasks and possible uses for the product. During these conversations, test participants can create performance scenarios (i.e., interaction scenarios) for an artifact. The users' concept scenarios produce understandings, meanings, and practices that are utilized by product design teams. This paper develops this technique by examining how salespeople (i.e., a speech community) interpret and construct the potential usage of mobile workplace communication with particular communication features on wireless Internet-enabled personal digital assistant. Participants operate a mobile version of a customer relationship management software for sales. Using a live wireless connection to the company database, participants can update customer files, send and receive email, and search the World Wide Web. The findings show that proof-of concept testing mobile versions of desk-top software can be done in conjunction with the usability testing of software for stationary technology. Research outputs include user concept scenarios that guide product design.

Why do I blog this? it's an interesting and relevant methodology (design oriented rather than evaluation oriented).