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Improving User Experience for Passenger Information Systems. Prototypes and Reference Objects

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2 Author(s)
Simone Wirtz ; Textlinguistics/Technical Communication, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen ; Eva-Maria Jakobs

Research problem: This study explores how established patterns, means, and services influence the users' first experience when encountering a novel self-service application. The application (DB Cairo) is a passenger information system for public transportation running on mobile phones. Research questions: Is the users' first experience with the application influenced by established communicative patterns, means, and services? Are they used as reference objects? Which attributes of the application are relevant? Is there a leading reference object (prototype)? Do reference objects vary depending on the personal factors age and gender? Literature review: Little is known about user experience in first contact situations regarding passenger information systems. For our investigations, we used a theoretical framework combining Linguistic Evaluation Theory, Prototype Theory, and Linguistic Genre Theory: Evaluations are regarded as an integral part of user experience. Evaluation is conceptualized as an act where a subject evaluates an object with a certain purpose at a certain time by comparing it with other objects. Every object has various attributes-some are relevant for the evaluation, and others are not. Communication quality is seen as a crucial complex attribute for the evaluation of communicative applications. Methodology: We conducted a qualitative study: Data from two user test series (n = 12)with thinking-aloud protocols and retrospective interviews were analyzed with qualitative content analysis procedures. The participants were male and female, age 25-35 or 55-65, mobile-phone users, and multimodal travellers. The tests were conducted in a laboratory with a computer-based mobile-phone emulator. Results and conclusions: Results show that the participants explore the application by comparing its attributes with attributes of reference objects. Reference objects vary depending on attributes of the application. Regarding topic-related attributes, participants re- y on established artifacts, which form a topic-related multimedia network. Within this network, the website of German Railways functions as prototype. Age- and gender-specific differences were not detected. The findings indicate that research into user experience and development practice could benefit from reconstructing and analyzing topic-related artifacts. Limitations of the study were a small sample size, the test location, and environment. Future challenges are the investigation of influencing factors and the development of new methods/tools for data collection infield studies.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication  (Volume:56 ,  Issue: 2 )