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User-Lab usability study improves Group 3 Technology (G3T) NETeasyPhone VoIP product


User-Lab the user-centred design centre has successfully completed a usability testing programme for NETeasyPhone

NETeasyPhone is a new Internet Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Telephony Software developed by Group 3 Technology (G3T) User-Lab has been drafted in to provide user-testing for the new software, which lets its users make free phone calls on the Internet via VoIP.

The User-Lab tests helped improve every aspect of the product from installation and support tools through to the website. The early suggestions from the first group of testers included new instructions, menu prompts and help wizards, which were key to the second group expressing nearly three-times as many positive statements. The study measured a 20% in positive comments on installation; which is now a simple five minute task.

John Knight, Director of Interaction Design at User-Lab explains, “It’s a new experience for many consumers to use this soft of software and equipment, so their early feedback is vital to ensure that it is as user-friendly as possible in every aspect. Our aim was to test the software with a variety of different users and take the fear of technology out of using new product.”

During the G3Technology project, participants were recruited and task scenarios developed around installing the phone and making and receiving a call. A number of conditions were put in place to replicate real life usability issues, including using broadband and modem Internet connections. Two video cameras were used; one captured the lab environment and the other the participant.

User-Lab research has demonstrated the benefits of user-centred design and usability testing. On average nearly 25% of software development costs are involved in correcting errors that are most often caused by failing to understand users’ needs, and this is where user-centred design can make dramatic improvements to the user experience to a product such as NETeasyPhone.

The tests involved the participants receiving the NETeasyPhone phone box and then installing it on a PC and making and receiving a call. Videos of participants unpacking and assembling the phone led to changing the documentation and the order in which the product is packaged. The first five tests also led to a new quick installation guide, and simplified the installation process.

Having made these changes, the last five tests showed dramatic improvements in the speed and quality of the installation. This meant that all participants made the necessary checks and followed the critical path for installation.

Gerry Leighton, CEO of Group 3 Technology (G3T), comments, “It has been a great experience for both parties. The quality and depth of service that User-Lab has delivered is astonishing; they highlighted several areas for improvement and have been involved in all aspects of the design of the new range product. This has also been a great opportunity for User-Lab to become involved in a real, innovative working product, and influence the complete package.”

“It’s an extremely valuable exercise for any organisation to see their product analysed by ‘real’ users, especially through its development stages. Fortunately due to this planned testing; we are now are happy to continually incorporate many of the changes which will improve the product. In October 2004 the tests will be expanded to global field trials of the small office or home version of NETeasyPhone”, adds Leighton.

----Notes to editors----

This press release in available in PDF, plain text and Word formats. Photographs are available of the User-Lab team.

The media spokesperson for User-Lab is John Knight, Director of Interaction Design.

About Group 3 Technology:
Group 3 Technology (G3T) based in Aldridge, West Midlands is a developer, manufacturer and supplier of advanced communications-related software applications.

About NETeasyPhone

NETeasyPhone is amongst the most simple, and secure products available, costing from only £29.99 with no ongoing charges. NETeasyPhone is an alternative to 1st and 2nd generation Internet telephone service providers such as Skype and BT Communicator. Unlike these providers that host calls on busy public servers or virtual networks, NETeasyPhone’s direct PC to PC connection means users will never suffer privacy problems, reliability or quality issues when call volumes hit peak times.

With NETeasyPhone, users can choose and create their own ‘lifetime’ personal internet telephone number that identifies them to family and friends. There is no need to stay glued to the PC as the phone or speakers will ring to alert that someone is calling. For laptop users, NETeasyPhone can also be used in Internet cafés, hotel rooms or Wi-Fi hotspots.

About User-Lab:

User-Lab is a non-profit making organisation based at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design The lab is part of the Institute’s Research Department and is staffed by a multidisciplinary team with expertise in digital media design, human-computer interaction, psychology and software engineering.

The lab comprises three purpose built testing and design labs that are equipped with the latest technology for conducting behavioural, physiological and psychological research.
The lab has two related functions: to carry out research into the digital experience and, based on the results of this work, to develop an innovative commercial service.

In the two years since its inception, the lab has been involved in a number of collaborative projects with RDAs, FEs, charities and the public and private sector. The outcomes of these projects range from assisting start up businesses to training, as well as the lab’s core business of user-centred design services.

User-Lab runs Web Accessibility Training with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and ECOTEC an international research and consultancy organisation


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