Human Computer Interaction Project

Evaluation of Olympus C1400l Digital Camera

Group Members:

Lorna Brodbin 9838635

Jean Cronin 9838856

Gillian O'Sullivan 9840435

. Introduction

"Every picture tells a story"

An old saying that holds true. A picture can tell us more in an instant than a thousand words ever could. A picture records emotions, expressions, feelings and conveys them easily to the onlooker. Photographs capture hundreds of years of history be it on a world scale or at a personal level. We capture our weddings, births, birthdays and other occasions dear to us on camera because we want to hold on to that moment forever. Every time we look at a photograph we remember that day and relive that moment. The camera never lies. It takes a moment in time and freezes it. We rely on photographs as a tool to help us to understand and to remember the history of the world. Most of the worlds great historical events have been captured on film. A photograph of an innocent victim of war makes the victim real, like someone we knew rather than a name in a paper, and touches us far more deeply than stories in a book. Peoples descriptions of events are often tainted by exaggeration, imperfect memories and personal opinions but there is no denying the evidence of a photograph.

The camera has come along way since the days of Niepcei. The first cameras were big and bulky, slow and inconvenient. Modern cameras incorporate a wide variety of functions. They are compact and you no longer require any special expertise in order to use one. One of the most revolutionary developments in recent years has been the onset of the digital camera. The digital camera has many advantages over standard cameras. No more messing about loading films or having to finish off a film so you can get it developed. No more waiting for them to be developed only to find out that most of the photographs were ruined or are unrecognizable. No more paying for films or developing. The digital camera allows you to view the pictures you have taken, to select which ones you actually want to keep and to print them off in your own time and in your own home.

2. Description of the device.

Retailers of digital cameras claim that they are every bit as straightforward and easy to use as conventional cameras. That even the most novice user could look like an expert within a short period of time. Our research aimed at putting these claims to the test. We wanted to determine whether or not the digital camera is as accessible as it sounds. To discover if anyone can use it or only those from technical backgrounds. To answer questions such as have the manufactures made the design too advanced? Has the camera now got so many functions that it confuses people?

When using a camera you are often trying to capture a moment in time that is of some special meaning to you. Is the digital camera simple enough to use so that you do not miss this moment because you couldn't figure out which button did what? We wanted to find out what functions are available to the user and what functions the user is likely to actually make use of. We were interested in obtaining feedback on how easy or hard the camera is to use and to understand whether it's buttons and other functions are unnecessarily confusing. In a world that is becoming increasing technology based, is the digital camera the next logical step in art of photography?

"Olympus is renowned for high image quality on all its digital cameras. Advanced technology and the fundamental expert know-how brought over from analog photography put Olympus digital cameras into world-leaders-position in image quality [1]".

Our camera is the Olympus Camedia C-1400L. The resolution of the C-1400L's digital photos is extremely high. Each digital image is made up of 1.4 million pixels! The photos taken with the digital SLR cameras are stored on tiny replaceable Smart Media Cards which can be reused over and over again. The camera is shaped so that it is comfortable to hold, with a grip on the right hand side. Further details of the camera as well as copies of the two main diagrams which name all of the buttons and switches and levers on the camera can be found in Appendices E and G.

3. The Thinking Aloud Method for Usability Testing

"Talking to users is not a luxury; it is a necessity. [2]"

The thinking aloud method is generally used in cooperative evaluation studies. These studies test out products on the target users. The aim of the studies, according to Monk et al [3], is to pinpoint the problems that users experience when they use software products and to suggest changes that could be made to improve the products usability. The basic principle behind the thinking aloud method is that users are asked to think aloud as they perform a task. The users are asked to voice their thoughts about the system they are working with and the tasks they have been assigned. They verbalize their understanding of what is happening in the system, the reasons why they have chosen certain options over others and what feedback they expect to receive from the system in response to the actions they have taken. The user is required to comment on any problems they encounter as they go along and on any aspects of a system which have caused them confusion. They are also encouraged to suggest any possible improvements to the system which would increase its usability. To summarize, this method requires the user to provides a running commentary of everything that occurs during a testing session.

The thinking aloud method is very effective for pinpointing problems. If the user is given tasks to perform and is then interrogated on their performance afterwards it is often difficult for the user to recall everything that happened during the testing session. Users often experience difficulties articulating why they found a particular aspect of a system confusing, especially if this aspect has subsequently become clear to them. With the thinking aloud method these difficulties are recorded in the users comments and it becomes easier to determine why a particular problem occurred from these comments rather than from subsequent debriefings. Lewis [4] highlighted some disadvantages associated with this approach such as the fact that people may perform better when they are being observed, thinking-aloud throws off measurements such as how long it takes to perform each task and that it can be quite a time consuming process to analyse the information collected during testing sessions and to summarize the main problems encountered. Preece [5] also mentions the fact that verbal protocols can place added strain on users as they are required to do two things at once, perform a task and talk about their actions. It is often the case that during test sessions users forget that they are expected to talk out loud and must be continually prompted by the evaluator. However despite these disadvantages the thinking aloud method is a highly effective means of identifying the problems in a design and suggesting solutions.

4. Users and Context

In selecting our test users we first took into consideration the target market of digital cameras. When they first appeared on the market digital cameras were fairly expensive and appealed mainly to people who worked with computers or those who love obtaining the latest techincal 'gagets'. However these days digital cameras are being used by a much larger spectrum of the population. The cameras are growing quickly in popularity among young people who generally tend to be more familiar with, and more comfortable using, new technologies than the older generations. As people come to recognise the advantages of the digital camera, such as never having to develop photographs or purchase new rolls of film, more and more digital cameras are being purchased by families to replace their old standard cameras. The only requirement for owning a digital camera is a computer to download the photographs so we focused on users who owned their own computers. As the menu on the camera is somewhat similar to the menus on a computer we looked for users with varying levels of computer experience. Another factor that was taken into account was the users previous experience with digital cameras. We wanted to carry out the evaluation both on users who had never seen a digital camera before and on those who have experience using other models of digital cameras. As a lot of the functions on a digital camera are similar to those on normal cameras we also looked at the users history of using normal cameras and again we attempted to pick users with various levels of experience. We gave out a short questionaire (see Appendix A) to a number of potential users which addressed these factors and choose our four users from an examination of the anwers supplied.

User 1 - Elizabeth

Elizabeth is our novice user. She is a middle aged housewife from Kerry who has never used or even seen a digital camera before and who knew very little about them. Elizabeth has a little experience using ordinary cameras and has a PC in the family home which she uses occasionally for surfing the internet.

User 2 - Justin

Mark is a twenty-three year old computer science student in his final year of study at the University of Limerick. Justin has no previous experience using digital cameras although he does own a normal camera. Justin is our most experienced computer user.

User 3 - Robert

Robert is a nineteen year old science student from Missouri in the United States who is spending the year in Ireland studying in the University of Limerick. Robert has used a friend's digital camera once or twice in the past but has far more experience using ordinary cameras. During the seven months that Robert has been in Europe, as well as touring around Ireland he has travelled to Paris, Rome, Florence, Prague, Munich, Venice and Budapest. Robert brings his camera everywhere with him and goes through several rolls of film in every city he visits. Robert has his own lab top which he uses for word processing, surfing the internet and listening to music.

User 4 - Evan

Evan is a twenty year old business student and is our most experienced user. Evan has his own digital camera, a different model of the Olympus Comedia, which he uses on a regular basis. He also owns his own computer which he uses mainly for playing games and for basic word processing, as well as for downloading the pictures from his digital camera.

5. Test Session Setup

The testing environment chosen was the home of one of the team members. This environment was chosen because it was quiet and we were able to guarantee that there would be no interruptions while the testing was taking place. We also believed that the users would feel less self conscious in a private environment rather than in a lab or a public area and would therefore be more inclined to talk freely. The only other equipment which was required for our testing, apart from the camera, was a tape recorder which was used to record everything the user said during the course of the evaluation.

Before the users arrived the evaluators made sure that the tape recorder was operating correctly and could pick up voices clearly. We also made sure that the cameras batteries weren't flat, that the manual was available, that the camera was initially in play mode and standard quality (as super high quality only allows us to to take four photographs) and that each evaluator had paper to take down notes during the session. The intial briefing, the task list, and a list of debriefing questions were prepared and printed out. Monk et al [3] recommended that every effort should be made to keep the session informal so instead of reading out the initial briefing to the user the evaluator talked to the user and merely used the printed document as a prompt. The briefing, which is included in Appendix B, provided a background to the study and stressed the fact that the focus of the study was to evaluate the camera and not the user. The thinking aloud method was explained to the user and a brief introduction to the camera was given. The user was told that the manual was available to them if they needed it and that if they got really stuck the evaluators would be able to help them out. The task list is explained in the next section. The debriefing questions included broad general questions about the best and worst features of the camera, how the user had found the tasks and the users suggestions on areas of possible improvement. It also contained more specific questions about the buttons, the menu, the manual and any particular usability problems that had come to light during the course of the evaluation. The four debriefing transcripts are included in Appendix D.

6. The Task-List

Initially we carried out a type of heuristic evaluation [7] where two of the team members individually looked at the camera and attempted to pick out as many usability problems as possible using their own intuition and commonsense. The two members then compared their results and compiled a list of tasks that they believed would bring the main problems to light. Another factor which was taken into account when creating the task list was that we wanted to test the functions of the camera that a typical user would find most interesting and would be most inclined to make use of rather than testing the more obscure, less useful functions. We then carried out a pilot test with the third team member who had no previous experience with digital cameras. The purpose of this test was to see if the all the tasks could be completed within a reasonable period of time, to try and pinpoint some of the areas where the users were likely to run into problems as well as to gain experience for ourselves on how to conduct a cooperative evaluation session before we began testing the real users. While we have not documented the pilot study we will make reference to it later on in the recommendations section. A few minor changes were made to the task list as a result of this study. The final list which was used for the actual tests is included in Appendix C. Our list of tasks can be divided into three main categories, the record mode tasks which involve taking pictures, the play mode tasks which tested functions which operate on the pictures that are stored on the smart card and menu tasks which involve selecting options from the cameras main menu Each of these problems is listed on the next page along with the anticipated problems (if any) that might arise in the completion of these tasks.

Task Anticipated Problems

Record Mode Tasks

Turning on the camera The cameras play/record switch surrounds the on/off switch so there is a possibility that users may become confused about which switch needs to be activated in order to turn on the camera.

Putting the camera in record mode There were no anticipated problems.

Checking the number of remaining The number of remaining pictures is displayed

Pictures on the control panel however there is no accompanying indication of what exactly this number is - if it represents the number remaining, the number taken or some other unrelated value.

Taking a picture The camera refuses to take a picture unless it is focused properly so it was anticipated that either during this task or one of the other tasks which involve taking pictures this problem would occur.

Taking a picture using the flash Most cameras do not require that the flash be opened up before it is used so some of the users may experience difficulties completing this task.

Taking a picture with the red-eye It was anticipated that this task might also pose a

Reducing function. few problems for most users as there is no specific button to turn on red eye mode, it is one of the options that can be selected using the auto flash mode button.

Taking a picture using the zoom. It was believed that any users who had prior experience using zoom on digital or normal cameras would have no problem with this task, however other users might not know where to locate the zoom lever.

Taking a picture using the selftimer. This task may prove to be a problem for users who fail to recognise that the symbol above the selftimer button is a little clock face.

Play mode tasks:

Viewing the slide show. Again users may encounter difficulties with this function due to the fact that the button to activiate the slide show is not very clearly marked.

Viewing the index mode, selecting The symbol under the index mode button is also

a picture from the display and a bit obscure. Navigating through the pictures that

enlargening this picture. are displayed is an relatively easy task which should pose no problem to the user however it is not immediately obvious that to enlarge a particular picture that has been selected simply requires pressing the index mode button again.

Deleting a picture Some of the users may have difficulty with this task due to the fact that the symbol for erase is very unclear.

Menu tasks:

Changing the picture resolution. It was explained to the users in the initial briefing that this camera has 3 quality levels, super high quality, high quality and standard quality. If the user recognises the fact that SHQ, HQ and SQ are abbreviations for these three options then this should prove relatively easily, otherwise they may have difficulty recognising the menu option that needs to be selected.

Changing the data. The only problem that was anticipated with this task was that it is necessary to select the 'next' option in the main menu in order to find the date function.

Erasing all the pictures. The erase all function is clearly marked in the main menu so the users should have no difficulty carrying out this task.

7. Results

User 1, Elizabeth

Evaluation took 45 minutes.

Turning on the camera:

The first thing the user did was to find her reading glasses as she couldn't read the text on the camera. She then located the on/off button without much delay though she wasn't completely confident that it was the button she required or if there were a number of on/off buttons on the camera.

"Is this the on button?.....wait till I see if there is another on/off button anywhere else and then I'll know".

Once she had satisfied herself that she had found the power button she got mixed up between the this button and the record/play switch which surrounds it. She attempted to turn this switch instead of pushing down the button.
Join now!

"Push on/off, but it doesn't say which direction......push where?".

After fiddling with the switch for a while she was unsure about whether or not she had already succeeded in turning on the camera (she hadn't yet).

"Should there be a light?".

She then succeeded in turning on the camera, however she remained concerned about the effects her previous actions might have had.

"But what about the button I pushed down this way, I wonder what that has done?"

Putting the camera in record mode:

The user recognized immediately that ...

This is a preview of the whole essay