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What’s News: Make it Easy

In a case of “doing well by doing good,” the Arthritis Foundation’s Ease-of-Use Commendation program rewards companies for developing products that are easy to use by people with arthritis. At the same time, the companies pay $25,000 per year for three years to participate in the program. This may sound like a scenario ripe for bias, but the Arthritis Foundation contracts out the actual usability testing to the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), which runs a highly regarded independent product testing lab.

The Arthritis Foundation set up the pro-gram after being asked by Procter & Gamble to test a new flip-top lid on its Tide detergent box. Realizing the benefits that this sort of vis-ibility and positive profile could provide, the foundation seized the opportunity to encour-age more companies to make their products friendly to people with arthritis.

So far, 30 products have been approved by the program. They range from “finger friendly” EasyOpen® binders to Bionic Golf Gloves designed by an hand surgeon to reduce fatigue and help maintain grip strength.

The GTRI testers start with an arthritis-specific ation. If the product passes stage, the lab pulls together group of eight testers with moderate-to-severe arthritis. They evaluate both product and packaging.

To design the lab tests, the researchers first probe how such products are used and handled by the target market. During the test-ing, the scientists use tools such as torque meters while observing arthritic testers. They assess the grip, torque and muscle strength, endurance, pinch force, and range of motion required for successful interaction.

Finally, after the testers have used the product for a while, they are interviewed for their subjective reactions on ease-of-use. At least five of the testers must be able to use the more than one tester can experience great difficulty using it.

Products that represent a significant improvement in accessibility or ease-of-use are considered “favorably reviewed.” The manufacturer may then apply for inclusion in the Ease-of-Use Commendation program.

The cost of the three-year agreement helps fund the product testing program. (Companies do not pay separately for testing.) In exchange, the Ease-of-Use Commendation winners have the right to advertise their products as having been tested and endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation.


Not a Usable Magazine?

I finally had a chance to organize my desk and was happy to find Volume 5, Issue 2, of User Experience waiting for me in its shrink wrap. Since I had some time to spare, I sat back in my chair with the magazine in my lap and started reading. It didn’t take long before I realized it was really hard to read and the type is set so small! I’m twenty-nine years old and I found myself wondering why the type in a usability professionals’ magazine would be so small. Please make the type bigger so I can read your magazine without holding it six inches from my face.


Jessyca Frederick

Editors’ Response:

Good point, Jessyca. We’ll see what we can do about the type size. We’d also like to invite readers to send us information on making publications usable (not just readable). Send links, research results, or testable hypotheses to

If It’s Invisible, Is It a User Experience?

I am disappointed with the articles lately. There is an article about “Radio Frequency Identification” in Volume 5, Issue 2, which, to me, is not appropriate to this publication. I don’t see it as a user experience-related article. RFID is almost invisible and almost no interaction is necessary on the part of the user, as compared to other instruments like checkout kiosks, etc. If you’d take out the words “user experience” sprinkled here and there in the article, you would know what I mean.

I hope you pay more attention to the quality of the articles that go into the magazine. We do wait for the magazine to come in the mail to read quality content. Please don’t disappoint us.

Ravindra Papineni Clear Channel Communications

Tom Holzman Replies:

I’m sorry that the article’s theme did not come across as intended. Its purpose was to highlight how UX professionals might expand their influence by developing visions for user experiences that can be supported by emerging technologies. RFID was an example of just such an approach. I chose it because RFID technology can benefit from user experience professionals’ contributions on several levels, only some of which are typically addressed by people in our field:

  • Conceptualize applications ourselves, rather than waiting for others to come up with ideas for which we provide usable interfaces
  • Consider how technologies like RFID could improve user performance by reducing or eliminating user interfaces
  • Anticipate and mitigate possibly disruptive technology by finding the best ways to introduce it.