University of Limerick
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Human-centered design study: enhancing the usability of a mobile phone app in an integrated falls risk detection system for use by older adult users

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posted on 2020-09-09, 13:19 authored by Richard P. Harte, Leo R. Quinlan, Liam G. Glynn, Alejandro Rodríguez-Molinero, Paul M.A. Baker, Thomas Scharf, Gearóid ÓLaighin
Background: Design processes such as human-centered design (HCD), which involve the end user throughout the product development and testing process, can be crucial in ensuring that the product meets the needs and capabilities of the user, particularly in terms of safety and user experience. The structured and iterative nature of HCD can often conflict with the necessary rapid product development life-cycles associated with the competitive connected health industry. Objective: The aim of this study was to apply a structured HCD methodology to the development of a smartphone app that was to be used within a connected health fall risk detection system. Our methodology utilizes so called discount usability engineering techniques to minimize the burden on resources during development and maintain a rapid pace of development. This study will provide prospective designers a detailed description of the application of a HCD methodology. Methods: A 3-phase methodology was applied. In the first phase, a descriptive “use case” was developed by the system designers and analyzed by both expert stakeholders and end users. The use case described the use of the app and how various actors would interact with it and in what context. A working app prototype and a user manual were then developed based on this feedback and were subjected to a rigorous usability inspection. Further changes were made both to the interface and support documentation. The now advanced prototype was exposed to user testing by end users where further design recommendations were made. Results: With combined expert and end-user analysis of a comprehensive use case having originally identified 21 problems with the system interface, we have only seen and observed 3 of these problems in user testing, implying that 18 problems were eliminated between phase 1 and 3. Satisfactory ratings were obtained during validation testing by both experts and end users, and final testing by users shows the system requires low mental, physical, and temporal demands according to the NASA Task Load Index (NASA-TLX). Conclusions: From our observation of older adults’ interactions with smartphone interfaces, there were some recurring themes. Clear and relevant feedback as the user attempts to complete a task is critical. Feedback should include pop-ups, sound tones, color or texture changes, or icon changes to indicate that a function has been completed successfully, such as for the connection sequence. For text feedback, clear and unambiguous language should be used so as not to create anxiety, particularly when it comes to saving data. Warning tones or symbols, such as caution symbols or shrill tones, should only be used if absolutely necessary. Our HCD methodology, designed and implemented based on the principles of the International Standard Organizaton (ISO) 9241-210 standard, produced a functional app interface within a short production cycle, which is now suitable for use by older adults in long term clinical trials.


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