Studies of Intuitive Use Employing Observation and Concurrent Protocol

Blackler, Alethea L., Popovic, Vesna, & Mahar, Douglas P. (2004) Studies of Intuitive Use Employing Observation and Concurrent Protocol. In Marjanovic, Dorian (Ed.) Design 2004 8th International Design Conference, May 17th-20th 2004, Dubrovnik, Croatia.


This paper explores the study of intuitive use or interaction with products from a methodological standpoint. Intuition is a type of cognitive processing that is often unconscious and utilises stored experiential knowledge. Intuitive use of products involves utilising knowledge gained through other products or experience(s). So, things that people use intuitively are those that employ features they have encountered before. In a previous study {Blackler, 2002 #2}, these authors found through experimentation that prior knowledge of features or functions of a digital camera allowed participants to use those features intuitively, whereas unfamiliar features or functions had to be worked out, which was more time consuming and effortful.

The nature of intuition presents certain problems with its study. Few experiments have been conducted specifically targeting intuition (Bastick, 1982), so there is no established method to follow. When looking at intuitive use of products, the study of the use of individual product features rather than the product as a whole is important because it is the features that users have relevant past experience with rather than a whole product. This is especially relevant therefore when so many new products and product types are appearing on the market. Often the most advanced products draw most of their functionality and interface from computers and software rather than more traditional, concrete products.

As product features are the focus of this research, looking at each feature use individually is the only way that this issue can be studied. Therefore, users need to be observed in great detail. The challenge was to find ways of recording and coding the observations so that this level of detail could be extracted from user tests. These issues were addressed by using the Noldus Observer VideoPro software to analyse video data of observations in conjunction with a concurrent protocol. The Noldus Observer VideoPro is a complete manual event recorder for collecting, managing and analysing observational data (Technology, 2002). It captures a level of detail not possible in live situations and that cannot be analysed easily without an automated system.

A new set of experiments was conducted using a largely software-based universal remote control. Users were observed and video recorded doing set tasks with the remote while delivering concurrent verbal protocol. After completing the tasks, users were interviewed. They were asked to show the experimenter which of the features of the remote were already familiar to them from other products. Data coding and analysis of the video footage and verbal protocol was performed using the specialist observation software. The results from this were compared with the answers given during the interviews. Details of the methods used and the implications of the results gained will be discussed.

The results support the findings of Blackler et al., (2002). People seem to use their previous experience with similar features in order to use new features intuitively. Product features that are less familiar to users have less intuitive uses, more mistaken uses, more unsuccessful attempts and more incorrect uses. So using familiar features in new products should be the key to intuitive use. The detailed data on the features obtained from this experiment and its analysis using the mnethods described have enabled the re-design of the remote control in a systematic way that is aimed at increasing the intuitiveness of the product. The new design is currently being re-tested and the results compared with those from the present experiment to determine whether or not the new design has made the remote control more intuitive.

The methods used were very successful in getting the detail out of a lot of complex data and extracting the results. These methods have twice proved to be successful in studying this complex topic and gaining reliable results. The software particularly contributes to this, as it allows organisation and thorough analysis of very rich and complex raw data. Therefore, verbal protocol coupled with observation through this sort of software is a successful method for studying complex and multi-faceted usability-based issues.

Impact and interest:

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

525 since deposited on 01 Mar 2006
20 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 3639
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Intuitive use, Human Factors, Interface design, Observational analysis, Product design
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 (please consult author)
Deposited On: 01 Mar 2006 00:00
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 13:06

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page