Inclusive user modelling – a new system for user interface designers

Contact: Dr. Pradipta Biswas, Engineering Design Centre
Mentor: Simon Pullman-Jones & Marge Eldridge
For more information: Dr. Biswas’ publications page

Dr. Biswas has developed and released a simulator for user interface designers which models how people with various impairments will interact with any electronic interface, including computers, smartphones, digital TVs and more. The system models the effects of visual, hearing, motor and cognitive impairments, either separately or in combination, so that designers can better understand how to support a wider range of users. The aim is to bridge the gap between measurable human performance indicators and user interface design.

The system is based on highly validated models using statistical testing and testing with real users. The models have been published in peer-reviewed journals. The system is highly configurable, and can be set to model specific medical conditions as well as more detailed parameters of an individual user.

For example, in the motor impairment section, the system can be set to mimic a condition such as Parkinsons disease, or can simulate the effect of measurable parameters such as hand grip strength, pinch strength and tremor. Extensive user trials have linked the impact of these different features which are easily measured with the ability to use a mouse, trackpad or touchscreen. Similarly in the visual impairment section, conditions such as wet or dry macular degeneration can be modelled, or specific limitations such as visual field and colour blindness represented.

The software (which is already available free of charge from the inventor’s website) shows a user interface designer how the screen will look to a user and how they are likely to move the mouse to achieve a particular task, as well as how long it is likely to take them to do so successfully. This allows them to take account of this information in designing accessible software.

A further enhancement allows the dynamic customisation of the user interface parameters depending on an individual user’s capabilities. For example, button size and spacing, and colour schemes can all be easily varied, and the system suggests what these variations should be, allowing the application to be personalised.

The challenge for the i-Team is to investigate and recommend who the inventor should work with to gain widespread adoption of his methods and approach, and who might help him to develop the system further through additional research and more sophisticated implementation approaches.