A user-centred design framework for context-aware computing
Many exciting and promising application areas of mobile context-aware computing have emerged in recent years, such as tourist guides and navigation systems for visually impaired people. However, many researchers express grave concerns about the limited appreciation of human and social issues in design: usability issues remain unresolved particularly relating to mobile computer settings, and existing user-centred design approaches/frameworks are still in their infancy. This thesis proposes a framework to advance user-centred approaches to designing context-aware systems in order to help application developers (i) build richer descriptions or scenarios of mobile computer settings, and (ii) identify key human and social issues affecting the usability of their context-aware system. After a critical review of literature, a multidisciplinary model of context was developed in order to bring together theories, and proposed models, of context in Psychology, Linguistics, and Computer Science. This invaluable exercise illustrated the implications those theories have for context-aware computing. Three key perspectives of the multidisciplinary model were then used to investigate the issue of personalisation of context-aware services, focusing mainly on navigation services for visually impaired people. Firstly, the 'user's context' was investigated, where significant differences were found in the use of landmarks to navigate by people with a central vision loss, people with a peripheral vision loss, and registered blind people. Secondly, the 'application's context' involved designing context-aware services for transmission to participants within indoor and outdoor routes. Thirdly, the 'user-application's context', which brought together the first two perspectives, was investigated where it was found that certain groups were more effective at reaching landmarks when being given information that derived from people in the same visual impairment category. The multidisciplinary model, and the studies investigating its three key perspectives, were combined to form a user-centred framework for contextaware design. Key contributions included (i) richer modelling of user-interface interaction in mobile settings, and (ii) an augmentation to existing user-centred design approaches which includes not just meaningful activities of the user but also incidental and unpredictable activities that occur frequently in mobile settings.