Why It’s Worth the Hassle: The Value of In-Situ Studies When Designing UbiComp.

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Source

UbiComp 2007: Ubiquitous Computing: 9th International Conference, UbiComp 2007, Innsbruck, Austria, September 16-19, 2007. Proceedings.

Inclusive pages





Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg


Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 4717


978-3-540-74852-6 (print); 978-3-540-74853-3 (online)

Peer Reviewed



How should Ubicomp technologies be evaluated? While lab studies are good at sensing aspects of human behavior and revealing usability problems, they are poor at capturing context of use. In-situ studies are good at demonstrating how people appropriate technologies in their intended setting, but are expensive and difficult to conduct. Here, we show how they can be used more productively in the design process. A mobile learning device was developed to support teams of students carrying out scientific inquiry in the field. An initial in-situ study showed it was not used in the way envisioned. A contextualized analysis led to a comprehensive understanding of the user experience, usability and context of use, leading to a substantial redesign. A second in-situ study showed a big improvement in device usability and collaborative learning. We discuss the findings and conclude how in-situ studies can play an important role in the design and evaluation of Ubicomp applications and user experiences.


computer communication networks, software engineering, systems and data security, information systems applications, user interfaces and human computer interaction, computers and society


Science and Technology Studies