World Usability Day 2005 Philadelphia

Usability and the Evolution of Technology

Or, You Shouldn't Have to Read a User Manual to Ride an Elevator!

Tom Tullis
Senior Vice President, Human Interface Design
Fidelity Investments

This talk focuses on the way in which technologies evolve and what the implications of that for usability are. One example that's followed through a series of evolutions is the elevator, starting with its invention in the 1850's, through the decades of use by elevator operators, the introduction of "autotronic" elevators in the 1950's, to today's new (and strange) "destination-based" elevators. As technologies evolve, they often move toward use by a larger and more diverse population, as computers have evolved from use only by the "high priests" of computing to anyone who can access the web. The changes that technologies go through as they evolve don't necessarily bring improvements in usability. People who are advocates for usability need to make sure those changes are in the right direction, and that they are accommodating the increasingly diverse population that the technology should serve. A concrete illustration of the diversity of web users is included (e.g., gender, age, education level, disability status, language) as are examples of some recent research we've done in our Human Interface Design group at Fidelity to learn more about how to design websites that work well for these diverse users.

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