Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Contextual testing of interactive prototypes at the early stages of the design process

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posted on 2022-10-14, 10:40 authored by Alex Woolley


Information appliances combine bespoke hardware with custom interfaces. This

presents a challenge when prototyping early in the design process, as it can be

difficult to combine both the digital and physical elements of the product to create

a viable prototype for user testing. Although a number of prototyping kits have

been developed that attempt to address this issue, these have previously only be

trialled using "laboratory" based approaches. This thesis demonstrates that

although laboratory testing can be beneficial, the use of a contextual testing

approach provides better information for the early stages of design.

The research comprises an extensive user study comparing data gathered using

laboratory and in-context testing approaches, supported by a case study of a

usability team working within a multinational mobile phone manufacturer. The case

study provides grounding for the research, and was used both to set the user study

findings in-context and also to inform the user study method design. The thesis

concludes by proposing a workflow for contextual testing in the design process, and

identifies areas of future development for prototyping toolkits to better support

contextual testing.

The contribution of this work to knowledge is a clear demonstration that contextual

testing can be conducted early in the information appliance design process; and

that this approach delivers better design information, particularly in regard to the

physical elements of the design.



  • School of Art and Design

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD

Publication year


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