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PIC-UP Mobile: For mobile by mobile

September 14, 2011 1 comment

Much of the ongoing research in my group focuses on usability tools for application developers, centered on knowledge transfer and decision-making among teams of designers. At the heart of my approach is the notion of a claim as a unit for knowledge capture, sharing, and negotiation–claims provide a falsifiable, designer-digestible chunk of knowledge that encapsulates an interface feature, its upsides, and its downsides. The small, hypothetical nature of a claim provides designers with opportunities to debate and evolve ideas to meet the needs of novel problems. Recently, Shahtab Wahid led a quality series of papers at Interact, DIS, and CHI (available from my pubs page) that summarizes our progress and describes PIC-UP for those interested in learning more about it.

An emerging focus is on tools for diverse teams, particularly teams of domain experts with little or no expertise in usability engineering. Since it’s tough for many companies to hire a large team of usability professionals to oversee interface development efforts, a suite of tools has promise to assist with the capture, sharing, and deliberation that must happen when addressing the needs of large stakeholder groups. It certainly doesn’t remove the need for a usability expert, but it can help magnify the power of experts, allowing a smaller number of experts to contribute to a larger number of projects.

As a next step, we are working to transition PIC-UP to a tool we call PIC-UP Mobile that will be useful in industrial and educational settings–specifically, to assist in the early-project development of mobile interface designs. We want the tool to be embedded with a small but high-quality set of claims that can be used in design activities. Designers will be able to browse, rate, group, and evolve claims during the design process. Design sessions can create scenarios or storyboards that incorporate key claims, with This will enable a large and diverse set of designers to have meaningful roles in the design of appropriate user interfaces for human experts–particularly domain experts with little or no knowledge about user interface design whose opinions all too often are often ignored.

Based on an established context, PIC-UP Mobile should help to answer questions like these:
– How can an interface best show multimodal information to a user within a unique context?
– How can an interface enable appropriate interaction.
– What are the tradeoffs in choosing one design technique over another?
– Where is more research needed to determine an appropriate interface approach?

There are tons of application domains where this seems well-suited: medicine, education/training, command-and-control, gas-and-oil discovery and processing. All of these domains integrate diverse situations in which stakeholders with differing backgrounds must reach decisions about acceptable (if not optimal!) approaches to addressing a problem. We expect that PIC-UP Mobile will help in reaching these decisions toward defining appropriate user interfaces.

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