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A diversity-sensitive evaluation method

Abstract

This paper presents an evaluation method, along with the underlying theory, for assessing interactive systems and specifying their quality in terms of universal access. The method is an adaptation of traditional walkthroughs and is aimed to incorporate user diversity, for example in terms of individual abilities, skills, background, levels of expertise, equipment used, etc., as key input to evaluation. The method aims at addressing as many as possible of the qualities of a system that might affect diverse users throughout their usage of the system and which, ultimately, have an impact on the system’s wide acceptance. The proposed method, described here, extends the cognitive walkthrough method by introducing a simulation of the users’ reasoned action process in order to assess whether users can, and will be, in favour of accessing, exploring, utilising and, ultimately, adopting a system. Additionally, the method allows considering in the assessment process various aspects of diversity among target users and use conditions, rather than assessing for the so-called average user, aiming at incorporating accessibility, usability and acceptance as intrinsic measurements. Finally, the paper presents ORIENT, a prototype inspection tool developed as a means to further facilitate experts in conducting such walkthroughs in practice, and which offers step-by-step guidance throughout the process until final reporting. Preliminary experiences with the application of the method in the domain of e-Services are also discussed.

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Notes

  1. e-Accessibility means ensuring that ICT products and services are useable by as many people as possible, and in particular by people with special needs due to disabilities [9].

  2. e-Inclusion (‘e’ standing for electronic) means ensuring that digital technologies are both open to everyone, without barriers, and are used to overcome social and economic exclusion [9].

  3. “It is not the utility, but the usability of a thing which is in question” [7].

  4. Forming the goal; forming the intention; specifying an action; executing the action; perceiving the state of the world; interpreting the state of the world; and evaluating the outcome.

  5. The term “system” is used to refer to various types of interactive artifacts including services, software or hardware products, user interface components and their underlying functionality or any combination of these.

  6. The term “individual” user refers to individual conditions of use (user characteristics, context of use and behavioural situations).

  7. The factor “competitiveness” has not been implemented in the ORIENT tool described in later sections.

  8. Publish: the user simply accesses (searches and retrieves) information; there is no other communication between the user and the system.

  9. Interact: the user accesses dynamic information but does not act upon it (i.e., cannot modify the system’s data).

  10. Transact: the user accesses dynamic information and has rights for changes.

  11. Collaboration: can be asynchronous (e.g., track changes facilities, shared documents area) or synchronous (collaborative virtual environments).

  12. Human–human communication: can be asynchronous (emails, message boards, annotations, etc.) or synchronous (chat, webcams, etc.).

  13. Social interaction and navigation: can be real or virtual (i.e., through the system).

  14. That is between (a) the ways employed to promote the system and to provide potential/target users with information about its existence and utility and (b) the sources of information actually used by the users.

  15. As these are averred by the dissemination materials of the system and implied by the physical platform of the system.

  16. Exploration in width.

  17. Occasional use.

  18. Exploitation in depth.

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Acknowledgments

Part of this work has been carried out in the framework of the European Commission funded project eUSER (“Evidence-based support for the design and delivery of user-centred on-line public services”, Contract no. 507180).

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Correspondence to Constantine Stephandis.

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Alexandros Mourouzis is currently affiliated with the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH), Thessaloniki, Greece. The work reported in this paper was conducted while he was affiliated with the Institute of Computer Science of FORTH.

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Mourouzis, A., Antona, M. & Stephandis, C. A diversity-sensitive evaluation method. Univ Access Inf Soc 10, 337–356 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10209-010-0211-y

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Keywords

  • Evaluation
  • Universal access
  • System acceptance
  • Design for all