How to assess whether new technology is necessarily better technology

in International Conference on Inclusive Design and Communications (INCLUDE 2001), The Royal College of Art, London, UK, 94

ergonomics, human factors, man-machine interaction

In the year 2002, 1000 million of the world population will have a noticeable degree of functional impairment [1]. It is also well established that impairments such as hearing, vision and reduced motor capability are of a degenerative nature and associated with increasing age. In response to these changes legislation has forced organisations to consider designing products for impaired users. In particular, the declarative stipulations from the USA and the UK have been instrumental in encouraging an upsurge of initiatives in "universal design" [2] and "design for all" [3]. However, in spite of all these changes, it is still necessary to encourage better design, informing organisations of the impact that their strategic decisions have on their product accessibility. The aim of this paper is to present a new approach to inclusive design that evaluates the scope of user capabilities in relation to the usability demands made by a particular product. The method links population data with a capability assessment, an anthropometric analysis and an ergonomic appraisal. The aim is to determine the number of people that have the functional capability to use any considered product. The method is illustrated by reference to the measurable changes in usability resulting from the continual development of television sets. The paper shall comprise three parts. First, a review of the information requirements for inclusive design, coupled with a review of the availability of user capability and anthropometric data. Second, a description of the development of a framework for usability evaluation. Finally, an evaluation of the new method by reference to its application to a redesign case study, that of television controls. Televisions are commonplace within many households. Over the years they have evolved from small black and white to large colour units, from using cathode-ray tube to flat-screen display technology and from communication via analogue to digital transmission. These changes have been accompanied by an ever-increasing number of channels and, in recent years, a move from set top controls to the use of remote controls for channel selection, volume control and a number of other features. The review, using the approach described above, shall compare the relative merits of typical examples of each control technology with a focus on the actions of switching the television on and selecting a channel.