Mobile technologies have become very popular in our society. They grow to be very important tools that used by adult and children as well. There are estimated to be 1.5 billion mobile phones in the world today (Prensky, 2004). This is more than three times the number of personal computers (PCs). There are many different companies for mobile phones and each of them has some advantages and disadvantages about their products and their usability. Nokia is one of the world's top makers of mobile phones. Nokia manufacture produces thousand of mobile phones around the world. They differ in style, shape, size, and function but they all have high quality performance. Nokia phones are used amongst business people and the general public as well. From some research on the internet it shows that it is the most preferred and ideal mobile phone in the world.
I have chosen to write my essay on evaluating the usability of Nokia mobile phones and particularly Nokia N95. I chose Nokia phones because I used and changed many mobile phones and I think that Nokia products are accessible and usable. In this assignment I am going to focus on what, why, and how of usability. Also I am going to indicate the usability measures on Nokia N95 mobile phone, its positive and negative features, and the user-centred design process employed by the manufacturer, Nokia.
Nokia N95N95 is one of the Nokia N-series mobile phones produced in 2006/2007. The mobile has great features and functions that intended to help users to achieve certain goals. Nokia N95 has 5 mega pixel camera for capturing images in good quality and store them in the memory phone, FM radio, music player that supports many formats, number of games (additional games can be downloaded easily from the internet), range of connectivity includes GPRS, WI-FI, Bluetooth, and Infrared with excellent web browser, GPS functionality and this is one of the greatest function provided, and lots more.
Nokia N95 is designed for all existing and future users of mobile phones male and females with no particular experience needed.
What is Usability?
In simple words it is the degree to which a system or a product is easy to use. Usable products are those which help users to achieve their goal when interacting with the device or the product easily, quickly, clearly, and pleasantly. It refers to how well users can learn and use a system or a product to achieve their goals and how pleased they are with that system or product. The definition of Usability as defined by Dumas and Redish (1999, p4) "Usability means that the people who use the product can do so quickly and easily to accomplish their own tasks." (1). When evaluating the usability of a product we are in fact seeking or looking to determine if the user who use the product can do so quickly and easily to achieve his/her tasks. Usability applies to every aspect of the product in which a person interacts, such as hardware, software, menus, icons, messages, documentation, and help(2). It may also consider such factors as cost-effectiveness and usefulness. The international standards organisation defines usability as "the extent to which a product can be used by specific users to achieve specific goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specific context of use" (ISO DIS 9241-11). This definition indicates the three main important factors that must used in order to measure the usability of a certain product. The first factor is the effectiveness of the product which refers to the extent to which a goal is achieved by examining how far users success with the product. Nokia N95 was one of the successful products of Nokia mobile phones. My main goal from Nokia N95 rather than using it as mobile phone was to be able to have a GPS function on my mobile phone so that I do not need to buy any navigator device beside my mobile phone. This was defiantly achieved by using the phone Nokia N95. The second factor is the efficiency and that refers to the amount of effort needed to accomplish a goal. With Nokia N95, users can have less effort and higher efficiency when navigating or interacting with the mobile phone. From my point of view the phone is very easy to learn, easy to use, and easy to remember. It does not take much time to figure out its functions and features. Nokia N95 has a clear menu options that help the users to interact with the phone efficiently. Satisfaction, this is the third factor and the most important one. It refers to the degree of enjoy, comfort, and acceptability of using and interacting with the product. Satisfaction is very important factor in evaluating and assessing the success of a product. For example, some mobile phones are annoying when turning off or turning on the phone. Some are frustrated when looking or searching for specific option or function on the mobile like for example looking for the gallery, messaging, or the contacts. On the other hand, Nokia N95 is easy to use and easy to navigate through it menu which provide you a clear menu with images that help the user easily to select his/her option. Furthermore, the phone built in with lots of features that make Nokia N95 more than a mobile phone. The company Nokia always take care of planning and producing their products. They cantered their design process around the users and the way the users like. Personally I am satisfied with the performance of the mobile phone Nokia N95. Moreover, I am satisfied with the functions and features that are provided by the phone.
Why usability is important?
As it was mentioned above that the usability of a product is the degree to which a product is easy to use. According to the Usability Expert Jakob Nielsen he said "Usability is the measure of the quality of a user's experience when interacting with a product or system - whether a web site, software application, mobile technology, or any user-operated device." (4). Usability considered as a very important role that plays in the success or failure of the product. It is truly that good usability leads to satisfied, purchasing, and returning customers. Moreover, the company will benefit from good usability. Applying good usability for a product will reduce the need to go back to remove design flaws and therefore; reduce the effort and cost. People will tend to buy products that are more user-friendly and always products that are easy to use are easier to sell. Therefore, big companies like Nokia mobile phones always take care of producing stylish, fashionable, and useable products that work just the way users like them.
How to deign a usable product? (Usability products)
This section looks at the how of usability design and some of the important principles that need to be considered by the manufactures in order to design a usable product. Designing any product involves the consideration of many factors, including aesthetics, engineering options, environmental issues, safety concerns, industry standards, and cost. Typically, designers consider the average user (5). According to the Centre for Universal Design, universal design was defied as "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design" (http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/about_ud/about_ud.htm).
Some of the general principles in designing a product are listed below:
- Early focus on users and task. Designers must first understand and know who the user will be. For example, the types of users using mobile phone are different. Nowadays, everybody uses a mobile phone and in different ages. Nokia produces different kind of phones that suite different ages and different purpose. Nokia N95 suits users who like to use a phone with multi function it.
- Equitable use. This means that when designing a product, the design must be useful to people with different abilities.
- Simplicity in use. When designing products that have for example a communication function, usable design is simply better design, because it makes a product better at its job. In case of mobile phones, Nokia N95 was designed in easy way. Simply by arising the front cover above you can see the number keys to make your call. Also by pressing the middle button on the front cover, all the menu options will be displayed on the phone screen.
- Flexibility in use. The designers must bear in mind that the users prefer products that are more flexible in use rather than those complicated products that take long time to figure out their functions. In case of Nokia mobile phones, the user can assign or store the important contact numbers to each keypad in the phone in order to make fast and direct call without searching for the contact in the phone memory.
- Simple and intuitive. The Use of the design of the product must be easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.(6).
- Visual clarity. This is where information is displayed in such a way that it can be read quickly and easily without causing any confusion. The Nokia N95 excels in this compared to many other mobile phones and this is because its size that provide clear visual and display sharp text and bright, colourful images.
There are more principles considered in designing a product such as
- Consideration of user recourses.
As with any product there are some advantages and disadvantages. However; the negative features in Nokia N95 not that big concern. I have mentioned some of the advantages of Nokia N95 when describing the product above. Nokia N95 is more than a phone it has many advantages that attract people to buy it. First of all, its look and feel usually when mobile phones are manufactured they are either technically poor but attractively good looking or vice versa. However Nokia N95 is the first phone that truly combines these qualities, the phone looks very good and feels comfortable to hold. It has digital camera that enable the user to capture up to 5Mp still images. It has media player, access to the web, connectivity options, and above all this it has a navigation system right inside the phone. The down side with this phone is its short life battery. I will finish this part off by saying that I agree that Nokia N95 is the best phone with excellent features.
Finally, the design process employed by the manufacturer, Nokia centred on the user and its characteristics. Their products are well planned and suite different targets. They spend time with specific types of people around the world to understand how they behave and communicate. (7) This helps them to understand users' characteristics better and therefore; producing usable products with good and high qualities.
In summary, the objective of usability is to achieve quality of use. Usability requirements should be stated in terms of the effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in different context. I hope that I have given a good evaluation about the mobile phone Nokia N95 and its usability.
- Joseph S. Dumas and Janice C. Redish, A Practical Guide to Usability Testing (1999).