Empirical Evaluation of a Popular Cellular Phone’s Menu System: Theory Meets Practice


A usability assessment entailing a paper prototype was conducted
to examine menu selection theories on a small screen device by determining
the effectiveness, efficiency, and user satisfaction of a popular cellular
phone’s menu system. Outcomes of this study suggest that users prefer
a less extensive menu structure on a small screen device. The investigation
also covered factors of category classification and item labeling influencing
user performance in menu selection. Research findings suggest that proper
modifications in these areas could significantly enhance the system’s
usability and demonstrate the validity of paper-prototyping which is capable
of detecting significant differences in usability measures among various
model designs.

Practitioner’s Take Away

  • The effect of breadth/depth tradeoffs in navigation is much more obvious
    and important in a small screen device. Findings suggest (1) reduce both
    breadth and depth of the menu and (2) display more menu items and options
    in one page so that users can avoid extra scrolling actions on a level.
  • Ill-categorized and ill-labeled menu items have strong impacts on user
    performance in menu selection. Findings support (1) Norman’s (1983)
    suggestion of using longer (and more complete) descriptions in naming
    is more useful to users learning the system; and (2) Shneiderman’s
    (1998) recommendation of forming distinctive menu categories based on
    users’ tasks.
  • This study demonstrates the efficacy of a paper prototyping variation
    as a way of testing the usability of an information architecture, which
    shows that an evaluation of a user’s path-finding activities in
    a map of menu hierarchy can detect significant differences in user performance
    among a variety of models.
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