Researching Usability

Posts Tagged ‘ITF

My second round-up of the new year and already my last one for January. It seems that this month has flown by quite quickly!

Technology Acceptance Model (TAM)

Returning my attention to the evaluation of the Interactive Triptych Framework which I first blogged about in November has included the investigation of other evaluation concepts. One such concept which is discussed by Tsakonas and Papatheodorou (2006) is the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM). This model, which seeks to understand acceptance of computers systems, was first put forward by Fred D. Davis in 1989 with his paper- ‘Perceived Usefulness, Perceived Ease of Use, and User Acceptance of Information Technology‘. It was later used by Thong, Hong and Tam in 2002 to understand user acceptance of digital libraries in their paper- ‘Understanding user acceptance of digital libraries: what the roles of interface characteristics, organisational context, and individual differences?

Thong, Hong and Tam state that TAM has been used frequently by researchers to explain and predict user acceptance in information technology. It is predominantly based on the belief that a person’s intention to adopt an information system is affected by two beliefs; the perceived ease of use and the perceived usefulness. Ease of use is commonly described as the ease with which people can employ a particular tool or other human-made object in order to achieve a particular goal. Usefulness is defined as the extent to which a person believes using the tool or system will benefit their task performance.

It feels that the TAM system provides a manageable framework which can evaluate the main barriers to user acceptance; ease of use and usefulness.  One difference between TAM and ITF is the absence of a performance attribute. The role of the evaluation period of the project will be to identify the most suitable framework to use when assessing the technological outcomes. Historically performance has been missing from similar research and would be required if a holistic approach was being sought. If the ITF is selected for ux2, one of the challenges will be to design a data gathering system (or systems) that can accurately and thoroughly investigate the performance aspect of digital libraries. This could include questionnaires, interviews, observation and web metrics.

One thing that the Thong et al. paper considered was the influence of individual differences and organisational context on user acceptance of digital libraries. External factors such as these are more difficult to control or change as they deal with the experience and knowledge of users and the accessibility/visibility of the system within the organisation. These factors can affect the perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness of a system and are therefore worthwhile investigating. Methodologies such as contextual enquiry have the potential to address these factors by understanding typical user groups to generate appropriate personas. This strengthens the argument for using this data gathering method in the project.


Well everyone has been talking about it for weeks (apparently) so as a curious non-apple user I thought I would tune in to see what the fuss was about. Turns out Apple went with one of my least favourite names for their new device but that aside the new device certainly looks interesting. I guess time will tell how successful it is but marketing it at the lower than expected price will certainly help. A lot of disappointment and scepticism (me included at times) was the general reaction to the new product but I’m told the reaction was similar for the iPhone and look at it now! If you want to read why the iPad will succeed from a usability perspective, check out the blog by Econsultancy.

Fun Apple tablet created for a local iPad event, hosted by Moo Cafeteria

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Interactive Triptych Framework (ITF)

This week has been largely spent reading papers as I try to review the Interactive Triptych Framework as a possible framework for evaluating library@nesc later in the project. I still feel like I’m at the beginning of a long journey on this subject and often find that Twitter can be a massive distraction when trying to concentrate for longer than 20 minutes! That being said, I wanted to summarise the framework below from the paper which proposed it. Other papers of relevance will be documented in subsequent blogs.

Analysing and evaluating usefulness and usability in electronic information services, Tsakonas & Papatheodorou, Journal of Information Science, 2006;32

This paper presents the ITF model and suggests that interaction is effected equally by content and system characteristics. It also states that usefulness and usability are interconnected from the user’s point of view. ITF is a holistic picture of user interaction and other approaches to Electronic Information Services (EIS) evaluation. The proposed framework illustrates the interactions taking place between the three components: system, content and users. Each component interacts with each other and it is these interactions which define three evaluation approaches: usefulness, usability and performance.

An important observation of the research paper was the identification of a correlation between usefulness and usability from the users point of view. In addition to this is that fact that all attributes (usefulness, usability and performance) were equally preferred by users and considered important for their interaction. However, the research also reported that usefulness precedes usability when users are asked to state a preference suggesting that content quality is paramount for EISs.

An integrated approach which evaluates usefulness and usability is recommended in order to provide a holistic image of user interaction. If the ITF were to be adopted for the planned evaluation of library@nesc then such an approach would need to be designed. This is something which I intend to give some thought to.

Social Media event from NESTA

In addition to reading this week I also watched a streamed event on social media organised by NESTA entitled ‘Social media – a force for good?’. This well organised and interesting event invited three people with something to say on the subject to answer questions: Stephen Fry, Biz Stone (founder of Twitter) and Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn). If you missed the live stream you can watch on the NESTA website. Although it was a talk on social media, Twitter inevitably dominated the questions. I’ve summarised a couple of points raised which I thought were topical and of interest:

  • Biz stated that his prediction for Twitter in years to come is that it won’t be triumph of technology, more a triumph of humanity. It seemed like there has been recent debate about social media and whether or not it is a saviour or slayer of humanity. I think scientific research will play a great role in attempting to answer this question. Twitter is relatively young and very little (if any) solid research has been done on its effects on individuals and society. There seems to be a huge amount of potential for researchers on this subject and this makes it an exciting subject.
  • Another similar question asked if things like Twitter are increasing isolation amongst people. Biz refuted this when he pointed to the many Tweetups that happen around the world. As an attendee of a weekly Twitter related meet-up- Edinburgh Coffee Morning I tend to agree. Although I am relatively new to the group it seems that many friendships have been formed through face-to-face conversation which has continued on into Twitter and more recently Facebook. The Guardian wrote this week  ‘Is local the new social now?’ and when thinking about the popularity and regularity of local Tweetups then it is fair to say that it is.
  • Finally a topic which cropped up a few times was the power of the masses on Twitter. Reid Hoffman put it as “The wisdom of the crowd or the madness of the masses.” This refers not only to the information which influences us on an individual basis but also the potential of Twitter (and all forms of mass communication) to whip people up into a frenzy with (possible) catastrophic consequences. One could argue that the masses are not on Twitter which is equally correct but I wonder how long it will be before this changes and we see more extremists using Twitter to communicate their message (if not already)? Something to be aware of at least.


I thought I would post another Dilbert strip which I saw this week. Its on the theme of cloud computing and made me laugh. Have a great weekend! bookmarks

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