The Smartphone naive user (or lack thereof)

PUBLISHED 31st August 2018

Recently we were asked to conduct a formative usability study testing a mobile companion app. We started by recruiting smartphone and smartphone naïve users in a ratio of 1:1. After beginning recruitment we found it exceptionally difficult to find smartphone naïve users and after screening 107 people we had only found one who did not use a smartphone.

This problem required us to change our thinking in how we approach the smartphone naïve user group. Our solution was to create instead, a sample of smartphone users with a wide range of experience. The sample ranged from very little (only uses core functions such as messaging and calling when required, on an older model phone that is unable to run the most up to date operating system), to a heavy smartphone user (latest generation phone, running the most up to date operating system and on a daily basis uses over 10 apps regularly throughout the day).

This was achieved by first merging the two user groups and going back and examining the profiling data that was taken from the 107 screened participants.

The high number of participants screened gave us a wealth of choice in the types of smartphone user we could place into our sample. Being very specific we chose each participant based on criteria such as;

  • Frequency of app use and types of apps used daily
  • Total number of apps used
  • Make and model of smartphone used.

This methodology gave the sample a broad range of experience in the above factors and through this the chosen participants were able to deliver valuable insights and high quality qualitative and quantitative data that could be effectively used to inform future app development.

Therefore, it could be argued up until the last couple of years including a group of smartphone naïve users would have been appropriate and would have provided valuable data. As it is appropriate to test new medical devices with users who are naïve to the device type. For example, when we test autoinjectors we often include patients who have never used one before. However, nowadays the use of smartphones and mobile apps is so widespread and fundamental within our daily lives, a smartphone naïve user is now an anomaly.