Usability Evaluation in Virtual Environments: Classification and Comparison of Methods

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Department of Computer Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

Virtual environments (VEs) are a relatively new type of human-computer interface in which users perceive and act in a three-dimensional world. The designers of such systems cannot rely solely on design guidelines for traditional two-dimensional interfaces, so usability evaluation is crucial for VEs. We present an overview of VE usability evaluation. First, we discuss some of the issues that differentiate VE usability evaluation from evaluation of traditional user interfaces such as GUIs. We also present a review of VE evaluation methods currently in use, and discuss a simple classification space for VE usability evaluation methods. This classification space provides a structured means for comparing evaluation methods according to three key characteristics: involvement of representative users, context of evaluation, and types of results produced. To illustrate these concepts, we compare two existing evaluation approaches: testbed evaluation [Bowman, Johnson, & Hodges, 1999], and sequential evaluation [Gabbard, Hix, & Swan, 1999]. We conclude by presenting novel ways to effectively link these two approaches to VE usability evaluation.

Usability engineering