University faculty and staff take charge of involving Indiana in World Usability Day.

November 03, 2005.
Ball State Daily News, Indiana.

Ball State University faculty and staff have taken charge of involving Indiana in the first ever World Usability Day.

World Usability Day was started by the Usability Professionals' Association (UPA), an association for people who work in design-related fields. During this day, more than 70 cities in about 35 countries will participate, Kirsten Smith, technology officer and labs manager at the Center for Information and Communication Sciences, said. Smith is also vice president of the Indiana UPA.

"World Usability Day was created to help bring attention to ways we can help people use things," Smith said.

UPA wanted to promote using engineering and design for the purpose of making people's lives better, she said.

"It was Ball State that really sort of took up the flag and said, 'We'll do it,'" Smith said. "We sort of took on the leadership role of getting it done for Indiana."

World Usability Day will actually last 36 hours because of the time zones around the world. It started in New Zealand on Wednesday and will continue until tonight in San Francisco.

"We think it's important because everyday people are frustrated by things," Smith said. "And everyday we accept that we are going to be frustrated by technology, and it doesn't have to be that way."

Two Ball State faculty members - Richard Bellaver and Carlos Taylor - will be speaking at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, and Michael Bloxham will speak in Ball Communications Building room 212.

Registration and refreshments will take place at noon before the presentation from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Smith said she expected an audience of about 16 to 20 people.

Bloxham, director of testing and assessment, will discuss new advances in television user interface technology and its affect on consumers.

"The issue of design and usability has become much more relevant to television than it has in the past, and it will only become more relevant in the future," he said. "It's simply a matter of efficiency as much as anything else - both for the viewer and the owner of the interface."

Bellaver, associate director of the Center for Information and Communication Sciences, will focus on designing products to help older people get into the Web.

"They can use the Web, and it's an advantage to them," Bellaver said. "We need to think about the more old population."

Taylor, adaptive computer technology specialist, will discuss ways in which Ball State accommodates people with disabilities.

"It's important to design Web sites and products in such a way that people with disabilities can access them," Taylor said.

Ball State's Robert Bell building computer lab has various software and hardware devices for students with disabilities, and such accommodations can be provided in other labs on campus upon request, he said. Accommodations include programs that can magnify screens for the visually impaired, programs that can read screens for people who are blind, software that helps with reading for students who have learning disabilities, and methods for inputting information into the computer for students who are mobility impaired.

Focusing on usability today is important because technology can be effective only if people can access it, Bellaver said.

"The fact that designers need to think about usability, and if they do, their products will be more advantageous to the population," he said.

Smith said a number of classes are taught at Ball State that are either directly about usability or human factors - how humans react with the world.

"You start thinking about usability," Smith said. "And you see it everywhere - or the lack of it depending on the product."

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