Case Study on Usability Evaluation in Costa Rica: A Dual Perspective

Several digitally emerging countries in Latin America are experiencing increases in user experience activities. This becomes evident when examining usability evaluations, which are relevant and strategic activities for software development organizations, as well as for software developers.

Usability evaluations are important for software development organizations because they provide benefits such as cost savings, increased sales, increased productivity, reduced training costs, and reduction of user technical support. Additionally, usability evaluations provide software developers with clear details about the usability issues in their software. This feedback is especially relevant for novice developers who normally are interested in cultivating their technical skills.

Perspectives on Usability Evaluation in Costa Rica

In this article, we merge the results of two survey studies developed in Costa Rica aimed at exploring the perspective of usability evaluation of software development organizations (35 organizations were invited; 26 completed the survey, with a response rate of 74%) and novice software developers (141 were invited; 72 completed the survey with a response rate of 51%).

The first aspect evaluated in both surveys was the understanding of the concept of usability evaluation. In order to achieve this, the surveys asked participants to define the concept of usability evaluation. The results showed a clear understanding about what usability evaluations are, especially in novice software developers. However, some answers appeared to be referring to another kind of testing. Figure 1 illustrates these results.

Chart (data is described in the following paragraph)

Figure 1. The dual perspective of understanding usability evaluation between novice developers and software development organizations.

This understanding is consistent with the level of experience with usability evaluations reported from the participants in the surveys. Once the participants provided their definitions of usability evaluation, we presented a definition based on the ISO-9241 standard. Considering this definition, most of the organizations reported two categories of strategy followed to conduct usability evaluations: internal (62%) and external (12%). Of the participants, 19% reported that they do not conduct usability evaluations according the ISO definition, and 8% did not respond. On the other hand, based on the ISO definition, most novice developers reported that they had participated in a usability evaluation (56% expressed a high level of agreement). Only 3% expressed a high level of disagreement.

Many of the advantages and disadvantages of usability evaluations are related to the methods used or organizational issues. However, the same users and software developers were cited in the surveys. Table 1 includes a summary of the results.

Table 1. Perspectives of advantages and disadvantages of usability evaluations. Results summary.

Related to… Advantages Disadvantages
Users / Customers
  • User acceptance
  • User satisfaction
  • User behavior
  • Test participants
Software developers
  • Increase developer’s competences
  • Software developer’s mindset
Method & organization
  • Product quality improvement
  • Competitiveness
  • Resource saving
  • Software design
  • Method (deficiency or absence)
  • Costs

The surveys show that for both organizations and novice developers, it is possible to find many similarities with other regions of the world in terms understanding the meaning of the usability evaluation concept, the advantages, and the disadvantages of such evaluations. In Latin America, those developing organizations that want to improve the application of usability evaluations should more consciously consider the role of users/clients and software developers; these are the main actors in these evaluations. Finally, in the case of Latin America, it is interesting to observe that novice software developers’ perspectives seem to contradict the general belief that the developer´s emphasis is in implementing efficient code. The surveys showed that both approaches of usability and efficient codification seem to be relevant for novice developers.

How Usability is Developing in Latin America

We think that it is possible to extend the results of these studies to other contexts in the Latin American region. The digitalization level and other human and economic indicators in Costa Rica are pretty similar to other countries (for example, Ecuador, Trinidad & Tobago, Panama, Peru, Brazil, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela). The average Networked Readiness Index (NRI) in these countries (including Costa Rica) is 3.71 (SD=0.32) and the mean value for the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP) (constant 2005 international $) is 12,051 (SD= 4,740). The average expected years of schooling is 9.05 (SD=2.21), and the mean value for life expectancy (years) is 74.81 (SD= 2.79). Key differences are related to population and territorial extension.

The dual perspective presented in this article becomes particularly useful in order to examine how usability evaluations are developing in the Latin American region. This helps identify common characteristics or behavioral patterns presented in the region, in order to compare them with digitally advanced countries. The idea is to obtain valuable feedback that could set the foundation for future enhancement activities that apply usability evaluation in digitally emerging countries.

Lizano, F., Sandoval, M., Bruun, A., Stage, J. (2014). Case Study on Usability Evaluation in Costa Rica: A Dual Perspective. User Experience Magazine, 14(4).
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