This upcoming Computer Science Colloquium here on the Seattle UW campus looks really interesting:
Indrani Medhi (Microsoft Research India)
Designing a Text-Free User Interface for Illiterate Users
Friday, June 2, 2006
1:30 pm, CSE 403
*NOTE: THIS LECTURE WILL NOT BE VIDEOTAPED NOR WEBCAST*
Did you know, 26% of the world’s adult population is illiterate and 98% of all illiterates live in the developing countries! The world is experiencing a substantial ‘Digital Divide’ in terms of the gap in access to information and communication– illiteracy playing a significant role in widening this gap. Hence the need arises for a platform which enables free flow of information by surpassing the barriers of literacy and computer skills.
Text-free user interfaces for illiterate and semi-illiterate users is an application designed at Microsoft Research India such that even novice illiterate users require absolutely no intervention from anyone at all to use. It is based on many hours of ethnographic design conducted in collaboration with a community of illiterate domestic laborers in 3 slums in Bangalore, India to understand what kind of application subjects would be interested in, how they respond to computing technology and how they react to UI elements. The UI eliminates the need for text, uses unabstracted cartoons versus simplified graphics, provides voice feedback for all functional units and provides consistent help features and a movie dramatizing the purpose of the application. Results show that the text-free designs are strongly preferred over standard text –based interfaces by the communities which we address.
Prior to the usability tests, most subjects had never seen a computer and none of them had ever touched one. Because of the unique nature of the subject group, for me the user studies were very different from traditional user studies I had done earlier. My talk will describe the design process, the design principles which evolved out of the process, the final application design, and results from initial user testing.
Bio: Indrani Medhi is an Assistant Researcher in the Technology for Emerging Markets group at Microsoft Research India. She has a Master’s degree in Design from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, USA. She received her Bachelor’s in Architecture from Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur, India. Her research interests include using extensive ethnography methods in designing applications for emerging markets and the BOP; identifying social and cultural factors in UI design. She has done ethnography at a variety of places such as post offices, railway stations, nationalized banks, coffee cafés and urban slums.