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Ease of Use Roundtable

 

The Ease of Use / PC Quality Roundtable

By Paul Sorenson

Editor's Note: Additional details regarding the EOU Roundtable's Initial Experience Predictor will be published in Issue 2 of the UPA's User Experience journal. ~ GR

For some years, consumers have viewed the PC as a powerful, general-purpose computing device that is also overly complex and unreliable. Intel has been working with Microsoft and key computing industry leaders to address these concerns and expedite adoption of "humane" (consumer-friendly) technologies. The ultimate goal of these alliances is to deliver tangible ease of use improvements to the consumer and business environments

History of the Roundtables

The Ease of Use / PC Quality Roundtables have been hosted by Intel for over 3 years now, and forms an integral part of Intel's Ease of Use Initiative. The roundtables cover both commercial and consumer issues and have focused recently on simplifying the PC and making it easier to use. In the past year, the group has widened its focus to assist the PC industry in enhancing overall PC robustness. In all of these efforts, representatives from high-technology companies work to provide industry guidance, tools and design-guidelines for improving PC ease of use, reliability, interoperability, and the complex issue of "no defect found."

When the forum began, only the major PC Manufacturers were participants, but as the team took on additional topics, we added companies with product and expertise in the new technology areas. From our beginnings looking at consumer PC ease of use, we have expanded to include networking, peripherals, internet communications and wireless networking, culminating in a new effort focused on commercial and IT issues in December of 2000. The participating companies now include representatives from the following:
- Desktop PC, Mobile PC and Server OEMs
- IT-solutions providers
- Peripherals and component manufacturers
- Networking and ISP companies
The Roundtable meets once a month for 3 days of informal working sessions. As an informal, results-oriented group, the Roundtable has no nondisclosure agreements, no bylaws, and no membership fees. The group is "data-driven" so participants must share data about their products' quality and usability issues (call data, usability testing results, and post-sales surveys, etc.). Because our primary goal is to influence the computing technology industry, all of the final output is published in the public domain. More information and all of our published collateral, tools and guidelines can be found at http://www.eouroundtable.com.

How is Roundtable Data Used?

Data collected and shared during the roundtable is used to support our analysis of key quality and usability issues and to allow us to generate descriptions of the desired end-user and IT experiences (the experience these users would ideally have with PC and other technology products). The figure below summarizes our data-sharing and development process at a high level.

 

The data and findings shared at the roundtable meetings provide an overview of existing problems and represent a snapshot of current ease of use issues in the computing industry. Participating companies share data twice yearly (in order to capture new product releases) and demonstrate where improvements are occurring, where ease of use remains constant, and where more effort is needed because user satisfaction remains below acceptable levels. This is a notable accomplishment, in that competitor companies are sharing data with each other and collaborating on efforts that improve the environment for the business as a whole.

Roundtable Deliverables you can use now to improve ease of use

Where appropriate, the Roundtable generates additional publications (white papers, predictive tools, design guidelines, etc.) that provide more detailed data and causal analysis based on roundtable technical subteams' efforts. These deliverables are intended to help development teams consider relevant ease of use and quality issues when making design tradeoffs during production. For example, the initial experience predictor tools (IEPs) are checklists that allow engineers to generate a score profile that predicts the quality of user interaction with PC products in the home and business environments. The consumer IEP is a key element of the Innovative PC competition that occurs yearly at Intel's Developer's Forum (IDF).

Wireless Networking, Migration, and PC Robustness

As noted above, the Ease of Use / PC Quality Roundtable has widened its scope to encompass new technical areas as it became clear that participating companies had data showing significant negative impact on user satisfaction. Accordingly, the Roundtable is now widening its focus to help developers optimize their products and drivers to be efficient and compatible in order to ensure that PC's robustness equals or exceeds that of other consumer electronics devices (which the roundtable holds is an important element of optimizing the user-experience). Along with companies like Intel and Microsoft, the Roundtable defines the ultimate goal for its robustness effort as assisting with the development of a PC that never crashes, is always available, and is therefore capable of remaining at the center of the user's digital world.

In addition to addressing the Robustness of computing devices and environments, the industry roundtable is also collecting and analyzing data from call centers, point-of-sale, usability testing, and other sources on the use and security of wireless networks and the impact (on end-users, IT and small business) of migrating from one PC to another. Both of these areas hold promise of further removing barriers to PC use and enhancing users' computing experience in years to come.

Call to Action:

1. Use the tools developed by the roundtable in your companies as appropriate
   a. Consumer & Business Initial Experience Predictors (IEP)
   b. Peripherals IEP
2. Download and use the white papers to evangelize Ease of Use & check out the new publications as they are posted. Soon to come:
   a. Interoperability white paper
   b. Internet connectivity Design Guideline
   c. IT Issues White Paper
3. Follow the roundtable's data sharing to track the industry's progress. Please provide feedback on our efforts:
   a. Watch the website (www.eouroundtable.com)
   b. Feedback to paul.Sorenson@intel.com

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