1 March 2010

Internet on mobiles: evolution of usability and user experience

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Internet on Mobiles
Anne Kaikkonen, a UI product manager at Nokia, recently presented her doctoral dissertation on the usability and user experience of the mobile internet.

Internet on Mobiles: Evolution of Usability and User Experience (pdf)
Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy presented at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on 11 December 2009.

The mobile Internet is no longer a new phenomenon; the first mobile devices supporting web access were introduced over 10 years ago. During the past ten years technology and business infrastructure have evolved and the number of mobile Internet users has increased all over the world. Service user interface, technology and business infrastructure have built a framework for service adaptation: they can act as enablers or as barriers. Users evaluate how the new technology adds value to their life based on multiple factors.

This dissertation has its focus in the area of human-computer interaction research and practices. The overall goal of my research has been to improve the usability and the user experience of mobile Internet services. My research has sought answers to questions relevant in service development process. Questions have varied during the years, the main question being: How to design and create mobile Internet services that people can use and want to use? I have sought answers mostly from a human factors perspective, but have also taken the elements form technology and business infrastructure into consideration. In order to answer the questions raised in service development projects, we have investigated the mobile Internet services in the laboratory and in the field. My research has been conducted in various countries in 3 continents: Asia, Europe and North America. These studies revealed differences in mobile Internet use in different countries and between user groups. Studies in this dissertation were conducted between years 1998 and 2007 and show how questions and research methods have evolved during the time.

Good service creation requires that all three factors: technology, business infrastructure and users are taken in consideration. When using knowledge on users in decision making, it is important to understand that the different phases of the service development cycle require the different kind of information on users. It is not enough to know about the users, the knowledge about users has to be transferred into decisions.

The service has to be easy to use so that people can use it. This is related to usability. Usability is a very important factor in service adoption, but it is not enough. The service has to have relevant content from user perspective. The content is the reason why people want to use the service. In addition to the content and the ease of use, people evaluate the goodness of the service based on many other aspects: the cost, the availability and the reliability of the system for example. A good service is worth trying and after the first experience, is it worth using. These aspects are considered to influence the ‘user experience’ of the system. In this work I use lexical analysis to evaluate how the words “usability” and “user experience” are used in mobile HCI conference papers during the past 10 years. The use of both words has increased during the period and reflects the evolution of research questions and methodology over time.

Related to her thesis, is her article “Mobile internet: Past, Present, and the future“.

The Mobile Internet is no longer a new phenomenon; the first mobile devices supporting Web access were introduced over 10 years ago. During the past 10 years many user studies have been conducted that have generated insights into mobile Internet use. The number of mobile Internet users has increased and the focus of the studies has switched from the user interface to user experiences. Mobile phones are regarded as personal devices: the current possibility of gathering more contextual information and linking that to the Internet cre- ates totally new challenges for user experience and design.

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