Monday, October 27, 2008

Heuristic Evaluation of Ambient Displays

In this paper, the authors present a method for evaluating ambient displays using a technique similar to Nielsen's Heuristic Evaluation. A set of heuristics are created, by modifying the Nielsen heuristics, specifically tuned for ambient displays, hereafter referred to as the Ambient Heuristics. Two evaluation groups are then formed to apply heuristic evaluation to two novel ambient displays, both developed by the authors: busMobile and daylight display. BusMobile is a simple ambient display which shows the locations of campus buses, relative to the building in which the display is placed. Daylight display uses a lamp to convey the brightness level outside to users in a lab with no windows. The use of Ambient Heuristics showed an increased ability to find severe usability issues over the Nielsen heuristics.

The authors have presented an insightful tool for evaluating the usability issues of ambient displays. This revised set of heuristics provide a cheap, effective way for researchers to evaluate the usability of their ambient display products.

I feel that this study would be more valid if the Ambient Heuristics were applied to more than just the two displays created by the authors. There are a number of existing products/projects that could have been used as samples in this study. This would both fulfill one avenue of future work, and reduce cost on the authors because they would not have to develop their own displays simply for the purpose of testing the evaluation scheme (that is, unless the display devices were existing projects). In addition to this, it would be interesting to see if the margin of difference between the number of issues found with Ambient Heuristics and the Nielsen Heuristics scales to larger sets of data (ie. More than 30 possible issues). If the gap were to widen, it would imply the Ambient Heuristics are at an advantage for finding issues in this domain. However, it seems then counter intuitive that the Nielsen Heuristics would be capable of finding issues that the Ambient Heuristics are not. Perhaps the heuristics need to be adjusted so that they find a superset of all issues found with the Nielsen set.

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