Cell Phone Interface General Evaluation

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Product Design

Designing products to fit the target user population has always been a challenge for product designers. The more complex the device, the greater is the design challenge to make the full range of facilities accessible and usable to the widest possible user base (Benyon et al., 2001). Human factors issues within product design are being taken increasingly seriously in the industry (Jordon, 2000). When users and customers are considered to be an integral part of the product design process, different techniques such as user-centered design and participatory design have been developed.

 User-Centered Design

The User-Centered Design methodology enables product/interface developers to focus on the users as the heart of the design process (Newell & Gregor, 2001). User involvement in the design process results in products that are more likely to provide what the users need and want (Oshlyyansky et al., 2004). This approach has been extensively used by usability engineers and human factors engineers, and they emphasize the participation of the end users in the design process. According to Smith-Jackson et al. (2003), to design for usability, accessibility and to apply universal design designers must capture user-centered requirements to ensure that the product is designed for the target group.

Accessibility and Usability

Accessibility is an umbrella term for all parameters that influence human functioning in the environment, thus defining accessibility as an environmental quantity (Iwarsson & Stahl, 2003). Providing accessibility means removing barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating in substantial life activities, including the use of services, products, and information.
With increasing attention to accessibility issues extensive research is focused on providing more on accessible environments and products. The accessibility dimension in technology is concerned with building information technology hardware, software and services in such a way that they do not create barriers and exclude people from their use. A word often used in parallel with accessibility is Usability (Iwarsson & Stahl, 2003). The concept of usability implies that a person should be able to use (i.e. to move around), be in and use the environment on equal terms with other people. Accessibility can be approached as a subset of usability. In the context of user interfaces, Usability means designing an interface that is effective, efficient, and satisfying. According to Nielson (1992), usability of a product is the extent to which a product is intuitive and easy to use. The five main features of usability are:

  • Learnability (ease-of learning)
  • Efficiency (high productivity)
  • Memorability (easy to remember procedures)
  • Errors (low error rates)
  • Satisfaction (Subjective satisfaction or pleasantness of product)

In this context of usability, accessibility means designing a user interface to be effective, efficient, and satisfying for more people in more situations. However, satisfaction is much less an issue with accessibility. Accessibility is more concerned with making interfaces perceivable, operable, and understandable (Henry, 2002).
Accessibility is a necessary precondition for usability. However, usability is not based only on compliance with official norms and standards; it is mainly subjective in nature taking into account user evaluations and subjective expressions of the degree of usability (Henry, 2002).
Compliance with accessibility guidelines sometimes sidelines usability. Regulations have contributed to improving accessibility of technology, and regulation compliance is becoming the objective in designing products and interfaces for users with disabilities, even though usability must be the most important objective for accessibility technologies (Takagi et al., 2004). Instead of focusing only on the technical aspects of accessibility, it is important to recognize that usability is also an important aspect of accessibility. If ‘usable accessibility’ is consciously addressed by designers, it will help to clarify the difference between what meets minimum accessibility standards and what is usable by people with disabilities (Henry, 2002).

Design for All

Design for All1, Design for Diversity (Gregor & Newell, 2001), Universal Design2 and Inclusive Design are terms that are used interchangeably for designing to cater to the broadest possible range of abilities, skills, requirements and preferences. This brings to mind user populations that belong to different cultures, genders, language and disabilities. The scope of Universal Design is broad and complex mainly due to the issues pertaining to diverse user requirements. The Design for All movement has been very valuable in raising the profile of disabled users of products, and has laid down some important principles. The Universal Design Center at NC State University is the premier institute that developed the seven principles of Universal Design, which are listed as follows:

  1. Equitable Use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  2. Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  3. Simple and Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  4. Perceptible Information The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
  5. Tolerance for Error The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions
  6. Low Physical Effort The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  7. Size and Space for Approach and Use Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

The use of the term universal design, however has some inherent risks (Newell & Gregor, 2001). This is due to the fact that designing a product that fits all possible users is a near impossible task, due to the variability in user preferences.
Providing access to people with a certain type of disability can make the product significantly more easy to use by people without disabilities, however sometimes impossible to use by people with a different type of disability. For example a cell phone with a audio display allows the Blind to use this technology, an audio display can be useful for people without disabilities while driving. A large print cell phone will be useful for users with low vision, however of no use for the totally blind. Moreover, according to Benyon et al., (2001), poor design can disable even an abled user, therefore some design implications for people with disabilities could also be applicable to users without disabilities. It is the role of the designer to ensure that the concept of universal design enhances, not hinders the usability and accessibility of the product. Universal design principles are also considered as guidelines to develop interfaces for a global audience.


In an increasingly global marketplace product designers are faced with the challenge to offer usable products and services to an enormous variety of users. With companies seeking to diversify into the global market, product designers need to have an insight about the numerous factors that contribute to the differences in users’ requirements. Localization of a product to the target market is the customization of a product to suit its target market. This is sometimes just a superficial process such as translation of the language on the interface (Oshlyyansky et al., 2004). This can lead to frustration, increased training time and sometimes the rejection of the product (Oshlyyansky et al., 2004). Translation is a necessary, but not sufficient step in the design of a culture specific product, and culture is more than just a language and it must be taken into consideration in creating globally used products or product that are localized to suit a specific culture (Nelsien, 1996). The following section describes some of the many ways in which culture is defined.

Culture and its Dimensions

Before talking about how culture influences interface design, it is important to identify what culture actually means. Traditionally, the term culture has been used to describe a group of people who have certain aspects of life in common. Many definitions of culture have been formulated by cultural anthropologists. However there is no agreement on a specific definition for culture. Contemporary anthropologists define culture as “an ideational system referring to what humans learn, not what they do and make” (Keesing, 1981, p.68). Culture can also be defined as “the fabric of meaning in terms of which human beings interpret their experiences and guide their action” (Geertz, 1973, p.145). Cultural differences in values and beliefs distinguish societies’ behavior and attitude from one another.
Hall (1973, 1976) emphasized that non-verbal language is important for intercultural communication. Hall (1973, 1976) introduced the concepts of chronemics, proxemics and context in intercultural communication theory (Gould, 2005). Chronemics are explained on the basis of two ways of how time is organized. The first is the subjective division of time into technical, formal and informal systems and the second is the connection of time with activity. Technical time is the underlying physical context of time, which is used to divide time into units (Gould, 2005). For example the phases of the moon, sunrise or solstices can all be used to divide time into units. Formal time is the conventional system of time, which is based on technical time. The formal time system of measurement helps people plan, schedule and manage time. Informal time involves culturally different perceptions of the rate at with time passes. For example, “I will see you in 5 minutes” will have a different meaning in South Asia and a different meaning in the United States. For a person from South Asia this would mean that it is reasonable to show up within an hour, and for a person from the United States it means that they need to hurry to show up (Gould, 2005). The second way in which time is organized is based on the connection of time and activity. This leads to the aspects of monochronic and polychromic time. In monochronic societies, people do only one  thing at a time whereas in polychronic societies, people do several things at once. Proxemics, which means the social use of space and which is used to determine status and group orientation is the other construct determined by Hall (1973) for intercultural communication theory. Proxemics are analyzed in different cultures in terms of technical, formal and informal systems. Technical systems are bound by physical constraints, formal systems arise from the process of architecture, and informal systems are interpreted from informal patterns for proximity and arrangement (Gould, 2005). The third construct developed by Hall (1976) was context. This construct emphasizes the importance of non-verbal communication in social systems. In a low-context society a message is conveyed through non-verbal behaviors and actual text is secondary. In a high context society a message must be conveyed explicitly through text and non-verbal behavior may not be interpreted appropriately. Table 2 summarizes Hall’s constructs for intercultural communication.

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1.1 Background Information
1.2 Problem Statement
1.2 Research Purpose
1.3 Research Questions
1.4 Document Overview
2.1 Product Design
2.2 User-Centered Design
2.3 Design for All
2.4 Globalization
2.5 Disability Culture
2.6 Culture-Oriented Interface Design
2.7 Choice of National Cultures
4.1 Research Design
4.2 Independent Variables
4.3 Cell Phone Interface General Evaluation
4.4 Dependent Variables
4.5 Participants
4.6 Equipment and Apparatus
4.7 Procedure for Data Collection
4.8 Summarizing Independent and Dependent Variables.
4.9 Revisiting Research Questions
4.10 Cross-Cultural Research Methods and Data Analysis
4.11 Qualitative Data Analysis
5.1 Participant Demographics
5.2 Primary Data Analysis and Results
5.3 Comparison of Cell Phone Hardware Ratings
5.4 Comparison of Software Usability Ratings
5.5 Data Analysis of Cell Phone Interface Feature Ratings
5.6 Qualitative Data Analysis Results
6.1 Research Questions Answered
6.2 Differences across the Legally Blind Disability Groups
6.3 Differences between India and United States
6.4 Disability Culture Revisited
6.5 Limitations of the Current Study
6.6 Guidelines for Cross-National Studies
6.7 Guidelines for Studies including People with Disabilities
6.8 Future Work
6.9 Proposed Research Model
A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Cell Phone Interface Design Preferences from the Perspective of Nationality and Disability

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