Interpretation of a cross-cultural usability evaluation: A case study based on a hypermedia system for rare species management in Namibia
Interacting with Computers
Animal Demography Unit, Zoology Department, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa; School of IT, Polytechnic of Namibia, Private Bag 13388, Windhoek, Namibia; Department of Statistical Science, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa; Abteilung Modellbildung und Soziale Folgen, Institut für Informatik und Gesellschaft, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Friedrichstr. 50, 79098 Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany; Marine Research (Ma-Re) Institute and Zoology Department, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3 Rondebosch, 7701 Cape Town, South Africa
We present the results of a usability evaluation of a locally developed hypermedia information system aiming at conservation biologists and wildlife managers in Namibia. Developer and end user come from different ethnic backgrounds, as is common to software development in Namibia and many developing countries. To overcome both the cultural and the authoritarian gap between usability evaluator and user, the evaluation was held as a workshop with usability evaluators who shared the target users' ethnic and social backgrounds. Different data collection methods were used and results as well as specific incidences recorded. Results suggest that it is difficult for Namibian computer users to evaluate functionality independently from content. Users displayed evidence of a passive search strategy and an expectation that structure is provided rather than self generated. The comparison of data collection methods suggests that questionnaires are inappropriate in Namibia because they do not elicit a truthful response from participants who tend to provide answers they think are "expected". The paper concludes that usability goals and methods have to be determined and defined within the target users' cultural context. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Dialogical usability methods; International usability evaluation; Participation; Usability evaluation; Usability methods; Conservation; Data acquisition; Developing countries; Hypermedia systems; Information management; Software design; Surveys; Usability engineering