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Chapter 10. From Desktops to Handhelds > The Usability of Wireless Devices

The Usability of Wireless Devices

The bulk of wireless research has concerned the improvement of wireless technology, including transmission quality, bandwidth issues, browser compatibility, and standardization of a common format (Buyukkokten 2000a, 2000b; Herstad, et al., 1998). In fact, much of the usability research deals with these ever-changing technological problems. For example, a paper by Chris Johnson (1997) addresses the need for designers to create interfaces that help users compensate for electromagnetic interference, poor interaction, and transmission delays.

Another part of the wireless usability literature exists simply to explain why usability is so important in wireless devices. Peter Johnson (1998) points out that while general human-computer interaction methodology works well in a single, consistent context of use, the wireless world throws out traditional ideas of context. With the increased use of cellular phones and PDAs, we simply do not know who the users are, where they are going to be, or what they are going to want to do. We will not know what types of devices they'll be using or what type of interaction style they prefer. To keep up with this shift in technology, Peter Johnson argues that we need to pay careful attention not only to the context of tasks and the physical context of the user but also to the multitude of choices that users have in terms of wireless device, service, and application.


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