Novice vs. Expert: user experience levels, and their influence on device design
Event Type
Oral Presentations
TimeWednesday, April 1412:50pm - 1:10pm EDT
LocationMedical and Drug Delivery Devices
What is the difference between the brain of an expert and the brain of a novice, and how do those differences affect their respective user experiences? Are some interfaces more intuitive to one or the other? Are particular instructional mediums easier to remember for a novice user? Do experts find certain workflows more intuitive?
The proposed lecture seeks to encourage audience members to consider and investigate these types of questions. We will providing an overview of the biological underpinnings of expertise, summarizing how differences in cognition manifest in decision making and behavior, and providing examples of research practices and design decisions that consider the different -between expert and novice users.
The psychological and neuroscientific literatures on expertise alone are vast, and much of the research conducted on judgement and decision-making is, in fact, an investigation into differences between novice and expert behavioral patterns. Though researchers have not yet found true consensus for a practical definition of expertise, the overarching theme seems to be “a high level of domain-specific knowledge” (Pan, 2013). And if you prefer to consider the process of becoming an expert, one could assert that when a person practices something regularly, deliberately, and for a substantial period of time, the skill they practice can become automatic (Chi, Glaser & Farr, 2009). As a person gains expertise, their knowledge becomes deeper, and their semantic networks become more connected (Ashby, Ennis, and Stiering, 2007). Automatic thoughts are born from these shorter, highly connected pathways are more robust, and automatic behaviors are therefore more difficult to change (Hoffman, 1998). Expert users are also better able to encode new information surrounding their domain, because the context into which new information will encoded is far richer than that of the context to which a novice has access (Feldon, 2007). Conversely, novices must exert effort for nearly all tasks involved in using a new device, and are therefore less able to allocate cognitive resources to other/secondary tasks while carrying out their (presumably) primary goal of device use (Beilock & Carr, 2001). These differences in cognitive patterning and ability, combined with the differential behaviors that result, suggest that expert and novice users perceive information and tasks differently, and interface with their environment in unique ways.
Different medical devices are often used by both experts and novices; even the most experienced physician is a novice when presented with a thoroughly unfamiliar device. As technology rapidly evolves, and medical device development teams push the boundaries of connectivity, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, imaging, and simulation, clinicians and patients alike are being asked to learn more and learn faster. As groundbreaking devices enter the market, we need to acknowledge that a user’s needs will be different at different stages of their experience (i.e., from beginner to expert). With infrequent use, some users may never become expert, while some products with highly similar predicates may rarely encounter novice users. As human factors and research practitioners, we should consider the potentially disparate needs of the expert and novice users of our devices, because an unmet need of one could lead to decreased usability, and thereby increased risk, for the other. By including both novice and expert users in our usability studies, we can understand when and how expert and novice cognition differs for our specific devices and systems. Armed with this knowledge, we can work with designers and engineer to implement design solutions that mitigate risks and maximize usability for a wider swath of our intended user populations.
Overview of Presentation
The presentation will begin with a short, digestible explanation of the ways in which expert brain structures and thought patterns differ from novices. It will then illustrate the benefits and pitfalls of controlled (i.e. novice) vs. automatic (i.e., expert) thought, as it relates to medical decision making, diagnosis, and device use. We will touch briefly upon the ways expertise are (or aren’t) considered within traditional user groups (e.g., orthopedists expert in robotic surgery and orthopedists who have never used robotics), and conclude with tangible design choices, feature sets, or approaches that may be better suited to novices or experts (and, of course, some that accommodate both).
Director of Design Research