Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Culture, Internationalisation and Usability - III

Third in a series on international usability ...

"3.3.2 Cross-Cultural Usability Engineering Process

The session allocated to discuss XUE process and methods continued with the same participants for the UE session since all of them have experienced different aspects product design and development for international markets.

All participants agreed that the general structure of the XUE process was very similar. However, key differences and issues for XUE were raised at the session.All participants agreed that access to end-users and context of use is the most important issue affecting all the methods presented in UE. This generated a discussion of more specific points, presented below.

Language barriers and local facilitators: an obvious but critical issue that needs to be overcome well in advance. The successful application of methods is normally subject to the use of facilitators local to the target market of the product.

Obtaining the right vision for a product: participants confirmed that it takes longer to understand the vision of a product to be used in a different culture. This is why accessing users is not only about achieving physical presence in the target context of use, but about accessing users’ interpretive frames in order to understand their assumptions, knowledge and expectations of technology.

Thinking aloud as a requirements elicitation technique: this technique was presented as definitely sensitive to cultural differences, which makes it not very useful for cultures where people may feel uncomfortable about disclosing their thoughts about the product being tested.

Cross site parallel testing: this type of testing was identified as really useful in all stages in projects in which the same product is about to be released simultaneously in different sites. The value of doing is the immediate identification of key cultural differences and unmet expectations that could lead to product rejection.

Remote UE Methods: these are methods that seek to overcome the physical distance between the evaluator and the users. Popular methods mentioned were the use of power point slides on mobile phones, which users can be sent prototypes easily, remote monitoring including performance and data logging, especially in the case of websites for e-commerce.

Diary studies, in which users cam be sent a diary to register their experience with a high fidelity prototype, were presented as cheap and easy to setup. However, they also have the problem of reliability and accuracy as users are unsupervised.

In addition to issues derived from access to and contact with users, there were other points made about characteristics and skills needed for XUE professionals.

Cultural competence of designers: how UE professionals and other members of the project team perceived the foreign culture was discussed as an important bias factor for designers, hence the increased need for field studies. Perception of foreign culture in the project team should be assessed as a reflective exercise to avoid flawed requirements and interpersonal misunderstandings. To avoid this, designers suggested the visit to the foreign culture if possible and the involvement of local experts.

For the above reasons, cognitive walkthrough should be avoided, unless it is done with end users from the target culture. This technique requires the evaluator to make a number of assumptions about the user’s perception and understanding of the interface and its behaviour. Cultural differences in, for example, the interpretation of icons can cause different interpretations and, hence, misleading results (Bourges-Waldegg and Scrivener, 1998).

Based on the experience of participants, the need for ‘cultural bonding’ between the client and the UE professional was discussed as fundamental and necessary to have the right vision for the product.

Interestingly, the use of Hofstede’s model of national culture (1991) and related research in HCI and internationalisation (e.g. El-Shinawy and Vinze, 1997, Calhoun et al., 2002, Smith and Dunckley, 1998) was reported to be as next to zero as these were seen as not meeting the practical needs and constraints of everyday work.

As a final point, all participants converged on the need for the clarification of legal and market differences from the outset as these exert an important influence on the UCD lifecycle and resulting product.

Table 5 illustrates the results of the Delphi exercise in which the most useful methods for the XUE process were ranked. Field studies remain the top method despite access difficulties. As expected, the involvement of local facilitators to overcome language barriers was considered the second most important activity, which confirms that direct access to end-users and their context is a critical objective for XUE.

Parallel testing and desk research about the target culture were ranked as useful methods for the XUE process. While desk research and watching shot video clips of foreign users are considered as the most useful remote methods on top of others mentioned such as diary studies."    (Continued via uiGarden)    [Usability Resources]

 Favourite Methods for XUE process. - Usability, User Interface Design

Favourite Methods for XUE process.

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