Design context: the nature of the activity
The example of the running app reveals that the capabilities of users should not be seen in isolation but should be understood within the wider design context. In particular, the capabilities should be viewed in the context of the actual activity carried out during this interaction. For example, vision is not a big problem for Jane, who only seems to require reading glasses – something which is very common for people of her age. However, she doesn’t wear her reading glasses while she is running, which means that her vision is limited during the activity. This affects both usability and her user experience.
Furthermore, neither user appears to have problems interacting with mobile devices in general. However, they both confess that during or after running they can struggle to interact with the controls. At these moments they can be sweaty, thirsty, out of breath, etc., and selecting the right controls under these circumstances can be more challenging than usual. This seems to affect both their vision and their dexterity – Jane mentioned that she feels clumsy having to use the touchscreen, and Craig mentioned erratic interaction with the conductive touch screen due to sweatiness or cold fingers. Again, these are effects of the activity.
The activity also has a social setting, and runners may approach the activity of running in quite different ways. Jane appears to run mostly on her own and for her it is a more private activity, during which she prefers to be aware of nature; whereas Craig likes to run with other people and running is a highly social activity, during which he wants to be able to chat. For both it is their particular ‘take’ on the activity that influences whether or not they want to use music tracks through headphones. Craig mentions that there is some interference between the audio feedback coming from the app and his ability to chat with fellow runners. Jane doesn’t want to share her data, but Craig does – being able to compare his performance to others’ is part of the value of the app. This highlights the importance of the wider social setting of the activity, and also how user characteristics such as preferences contribute to the interpretation of the activity.