Ms Amanda Adams is a PhD Candidate in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences investigating the role of evaluation of usability and accessibility undertaken during development of online information resources. In this article, she explains how her research can help improve end-of-life care, and what she loves about being a RePaDD RHD member.
What is your main research area, and how did you first get interested in it?
I am really interested in how people find, use, and understand online health information, whether it is in websites, apps, or devices improving health outcomes.
At the interface between people and technology is an ‘health information experience’ created by researchers, content writers, builders, and creatives who together, design resources for everyone to use. One of the keys is to check to make sure what is designed can be successfully used, accessed, and understood by intended users. This seemingly simple but crucial step is typically overlooked by developers placing health interfaces at risk of being unusable.
My interest in evaluation of usability and accessibility is driven by a need to understand developer’s hesitancy to undertake what should be considered a non-discretionary activity.
How do you envision it to help improve end-of-life care?
Being able to confidently use health interfaces is influenced by our age, life experiences, sociocultural background, and socioeconomic status. These characteristics are individualised and impact everyone differently.
Part of my research investigates how developers can improve universally designed health interfaces by considering individuals’ varying levels of technical ability, English proficiency, and adoption to technology.
For many people seeking palliative or end-of-life care information they do not meet what is described as a developer’s typical end-user: being male, Caucasian, young, tech-savvy, digitally native and wealthy.
By investigating how diversity of end-user characteristics influence online interactions through usability evaluations, we can balance information needs with interface designs to improve access, use and understandability of palliative care information for everyone when and where it is needed – providing support, reassurance and to inform decision-making.
What are the next steps in terms of rolling out and further collaboration?
I am in the process of completing my PhD thesis. My area of research is emerging having wide ranging implications for how we reach, engage and support people with varying abilities and attitudes to using digital technologies.
I am looking forward to convincing funders of the need to address ‘it’s online, everyone can use it’ assumptions driving interface development across health messaging, health information and access to health services.
What was your most recent/most important publication and why did it excite you?
I am currently in the process of writing a series of articles, one of the more ‘left field’ articles that we have submitted for publication describes potential roles Learning Designers (LD) can play in evaluations of health information resources when developed by multidisciplinary teams in academic settings.
The study explored the differences in feedback generated by LD and healthcare professionals when conducting ‘expert’ usability evaluations with the view to support developers in multidisciplinary teams with limited evaluation experience. This becomes important for developers of health resources whose end-users are difficult to reach or engage, belong to patient or carer groups who are unable or reluctant to be involved in usability evaluations.
What’s good about being a RePaDD RHD?
Over the past three years I have really enjoyed the support of the RePADD research group. It has been great to learn new skills from my colleagues and I am appreciative of the generous sharing of knowledge that is always offered.
The RePADD research group is a great place to grow as a researcher, and I look forward to continuing my research with this group after my PhD.