The purpose of this study was twofold: firstly to determine whether there were substantive differences between the experiences of elderly mobile phone users in two very different locations; and secondly, to determine whether student researchers gained new insights into the needs of diverse users. Universities train user interface designers who need to be made aware of the diversity of users and their differing needs. Students seldom have the opportunity to observe usability difficulties first hand.
By contrasting these countries: one developed and one developing, it was felt that differences that exist would be accentuated. Cities in Scotland and South Africa were chosen to support this comparison. These cities were particularly apt because they are very different in terms of economic development, life expectancy and literacy, but they do share a common language, attitudes towards equality and liberty and both have excellent educational institutions. Thus, students from Glasgow and Cape Town carried out an identical research project, where they had to identify, interview and teach suitable older participants a new mobile phone function. Students collected data using a predesigned questionnaire and wrote a report on their findings, which were analysed quantitatively and qualitatively.
It was found that the student researchers did indeed gain a new perspective and, rather surprisingly, that the participants in the two countries did not differ very much in their experiences of, and difficulties with, using mobile phones.
The comparison of mobile phone usage by the elderly in a developed and developing country was studied. The impact of this situated learning experience contributes to new knowledge.
The research committee of the University of the Western Cape supported this paper with research funding.
M. Venter, I., J. Blignaut, R. and Renaud, K. (2014), "Uniformity in the midst of diversity", Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 550-562. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEDT-08-2013-0060Download as .RIS
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