Actively and continuously engaging users is essential to drive a living lab that supports research projects. When a project identifies the need for users, whether it is to conduct user research or usability tests of innovative health and well-being mobile apps, COLABORAR should promptly provide users. Often we recruit the same user multiple times, if he/she fits in the inclusion criteria. Our statistics show that each participant have participated in 2.7 activities in average since the project started in November 2011. This implies that we are able to maintain the users in the network and it is one of the biggest challenges of managing a living lab.Throughout the last 8 years we tried and enhanced some strategies. Here are some of the lessons that have helped us being able to maintain volunteers “actives”, that is, willing to be invited to take part in research.
1 – Show appreciation of the importance of their contribution to research
2 – Maintain contact
3 – Building trust
We are pretty sure these tips will help you to successfully manage a living lab.
We congratulate all professionals in the field and all volunteer participants in usability studies.Whether they work on objects such as tables or cars, or they work on software for computer, TV, smartphone or tablet, they are very important as their study methods enable users having good experiences on using a device.
At Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS, there is an entire team dedicated to these issues. They are engineers, designers, and other professionals working together within the Human Centred-Design team.
We are sharing the steps we follow when it comes to preparing for the recruitment of research participants for a usability session. Participant recruitment can be difficult, especially for a researcher just getting into Human Centered-Design, so we are sharing a few things that we always do to make the recruitment effective and easier.
These are the 4 steps:
1 – Define target users
The participants’ characteristics depends on the context of the study and the target users of the technology in study. For example, you may need active older adults who still are engaged in many physical or social activities and are technology proficients. Or it could be useful for you to gain insights from older adults who not usually engage with technology.
2 – Plan the test materials
The materials you are planing to use in a usability session for users to interact with should be taken into account when you recruit participants. paper prototypes are a good option to use with non-proficient users, because they eliminate the barrier of using a smartphone or a tablet. Thus, participants will be able to concentrate on understanding the workflow and focus on the tasks. On the other hand, when you are planning to conduct a usability test in the validation phase of the technology and therefore more functional and interactive prototypes should be used, proficient users are required.
3 – Provide context
Explaining the aim of the project briefly, as well as the materials to be used, day, time and duration of the session is very important when approaching a potential participant. This information allow participants to have an overall understanding of what the research is about, why you are doing it and what you expect from him/her. Bear in mind that you should emphasize that there are not good and bad answers, you just need him/her opinion.
4 – Pay attention to national holidays and festive seasons
Older adults often take mini-holidays and city breaks, usually close to a national holiday, weekend or festive season so to they can spend time with family relatives who still work. Therefore, it is not a good idea scheduling test sessions in this periods. Adapt your schedule to the participants’ availability, providing several options in the calendar.
These are practical tips that you can use in your next recruitment for a usability session. Let us know if you find it useful by contacting us (use the contact form).
Whether you are 18 or 80 years old, be part of innovation.
COLABORAR promotes a research approach that brings together scientists and stakeholders that have knowledge about a particular issue. It could be in the area of social assistance, healthcare services, public transportation or urban planning. Accordingly, social workers, healthcare professionals, ageing specialists and citizens are encouraged to engage in science. This is as simple as share their needs, priorities and preferences.
International organizations reccomend this collaborative model of research with the aim of improving outcomes. We are certain that our research is more valuable when it addresses the concerns of patients, professionals and users.
Be part of this initiative and influence the research we do. Shape technologies and technological services you will use. Your oppinion is important. To voluntarily engage in research, fill in the contact form.
We are happy to have achieved the milestone of 3000 user research and testing sessions!
In the last 7 and a half years, COLABORAR supported 3000 user research activities. Requirements gathering, user interviews, diary studies, prototype testing, card sorting, focus groups, in-person usability studies, surveys and pilot studies are the activities carried out.
The COLABORAR team could not be more glad. We learned many things during this time regarding the recruitment of people for research and testing, as well as about carrying research with users. For the next years, we expect to double this milestone!
A new pilot study led by researchers at Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS has just began, in Porto.
GoLivePhone is a mobile app that acts as a real companion for older people. GoliveClip is a wearable that captures body movements and communicates with the GoLivePhone app. After several lab tests conducted at Fraunhofer AICOS, researchers want to get real world data about the use of these technologies. This study will enable researchers to understand the role of technology in assisting older people in their daily routines, for example, in terms of maintaining social relationship and helping them monitoring their physical activity.
The first group of participants from the user network COLABORAR initiated the study, by answearing questionnaires and performing some motor-physical tests. Then, they will participate in a workshop to get acquainted with the app and the wearable that then they will get home.
The study will run during a year and will bring important information about the use of technology by older people in the real world.
At Fraunhofer AICOS, many projects require validation and usability tests with real end-users, which must follow procedures related to organizational, ethical and legal issues in research involving human participants.
COLABORAR and the Fraunhofer AICOS’s Legal Department created a checklist to guide researchers and students. This checklist comprises ethics and legal procedures that must be followed, as well as aspects related to the organization of research activities involving users. This guide was based in good practices from the previous experience of COLABORAR of 7 years with tests with users. It aims to help Fraunhofer AICOS‘ researchers in conducting studies with participants, as it establishes standards of behaviour and standardizes procedures. Additionally, this guide will be useful to regulate the tests carried out by scientific partner institutions.
In this conference, insights of the area of research that results from the intersection between design and health were presented. The research of the hD student Martina Caic’s focuses on customer experiences in value networks, with a main interest in robotic and ambient assisted living technologies. Martina has been at Fraunhofer AICOS as a visiting researcher and she made several observations of the sessions of physical exercise at a Portuguese day-care centre for older adults that is part of the user network COLABORAR over a period of three months. COLABORAR organized the field work for the student.
The article is entitled “Exergames for healthy ageing: Inclusion through design” and explores the technology appropriateness of the Fraunhofer AICOSs platform of physical exercise games for seniors designated Exergames. Martina’s work demonstrates the key factors for improving the chance of user uptake and acceptance of technology in this particular case study. The evolution of participants’ willingness to engage with the platform is documented as well. Martina also hilights the importance of engaging the elderly in their own care, since the exergame platform is intended to promote physical activity to older adults through entertaining video games. The full research paper is part of the proceedings of the conference and can be accessed here.
A longitudinal study on smartphone use by older adults in Porto, coordinated by Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS‘ Human-Centered Design team, is being set-up. Participants were recruited by COLABORAR and are ready to begin this longitudinal study.
Using a qualitative research approach, researchers of the Human-Centered Design team of Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS are starting a longitudinal study of over a one-year. This study aims to better understand how people use their smartphone and the possible changes in the patterns of its use over the time.
Participants will use a costumized senior-friendly smartphone app that enables them to perform common mobile tasks such as sending messages, make calls and taking photos. Emergency calls and help requests are also available. They can use the medication reminder app, as well as a navigational application. Smartphone-based monitoring of older adults is part of this study; for this purpose, activity level monitoring and fall detection apps are included. This monitoring is made possible through the use of a wearable device — the GoLiveClip. In addition, users can receive remote help from a caregiver who will use a web application.
The modules of the app won several prizes: Google, Vodafone, Zon and World Summit Award Mobile. All modules of the app were developed according to the needs of older adults and were tested by COLABORAR volunteers. Data collection will be made remotely in natural settings and every three months through in-person evaluations at Fraunhofer AICOS. This study will enable to understand how older adults use tools to prevent isolation, promote their autonomy, safety and quality of life.
COLABORAR recruited more than 50 older adults interested in participating in this study. They are enthusiasts about technology, although not all of them own a smartphone. This enables us to have individuals with different digital skills in the sample, making the sample more representative of the population of older adults.
Promotion of physical activity at home and fall prevention are the aims of the Active@Home project.
Active@Home is under development at Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS, along with Unie KBO, Comfort Keepers Portugal, ETH Zurich and MIRALab SARL. Interactive games for motor-cognitive training were developed. These games enable older adults to do exercises in a joyful and entertaining manner.
A session of tests took place at Fraunhofer. COLABORAR organised the session and counted with the participation of older adults in the network. They executed exercises of dance and Tai-chi while using motion sensors in the body to monitor their movements.
Participants had fun and gave valuable insights that we used for technology assessment.
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