journal of biomedical informatics
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NASA RTLX as a Novel Assessment Tool for Determining Cognitive Load and User Acceptance of Expert and User-based Usability Evaluation Methods

Author(s): M Georgsson*

Background: Mobile health applications are frequently used to manage different health conditions. Diabetes is one disease where these are used in patients’ personalized disease self-management, but where the usability is often deficient. Two methods to assess usability are the cognitive walkthrough (CW), which is expert-based and the think aloud (TA) which is userbased. Both offer advantages and disadvantages and detect many types of usability problems affecting the user. There is a lack of research, however, on how the usability evaluators themselves experience performing these methods and the method impact. This can be an important aspect to include due to its possible implications for the evaluation.

Objectives: In this article the focus was particularly on assessing the evaluators’ cognitive load and method acceptance while performing the described methods.

Methods: In addition to the number of usability problems, and the system usability scores (SUS), the NASA RTLX instrument, novel for this purpose, was used together with in-depth interviews to assess the usability methods’ cognitive impact. Results: A total of 12 evaluators, six per method, detected 18 usability problems with the CW. Twenty were found with the TA. The SUS scores were 23.75 and 59.58 respectively. For both methods, users experienced a similarly high cognitive load with a RTLX score of 56.11 for CW and 53.47 for TA. According to the evaluators, both methods were cognitively demanding.

Conclusion: The results highlight the potential significance of these dimensions for inclusion in the usability evaluation and in decision-making purposes between different usability evaluation methods.

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