User Characteristics and Behaviour in Operating Annoying Electronic Products
Despite the enormous progress in technology and design over the last decades, consumer dissatisfaction is increasing, mainly because of soft usability problems: problems that have nothing to do with technical failure. In earlier studies, types of soft usability problems have been influenced on the one hand by product properties and on the other hand by user characteristics. These studies are all based on retrospective data. However, common practice in the manufacturing industry is to test their prototypes through user trials, which means testing products in actual use. Therefore, this paper discusses an experiment investigating the effects of the relationship between product properties and user characteristics by way of a user trial with two products whose usability is known to be problematic. Overall, 84 participants, between the ages of 20 to 74, participated in this study. The experiment was conducted in the USA, South Korea and the Netherlands. In this way we were able to compare this actual use situation with our previous retrospective studies in relation to different cultures. The study concludes that there are differences in soft usability problems between actual use and retrospective evaluation. The kind of soft usability problems experienced is partly dependent on both user characteristics and product properties. The role of users’ expectations as well as their follow-up behaviour in relation to soft usability problems is discussed.
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