Symbols: An International Study
Piamonte, D. P. T.1, Ohlsson, K.2, and Abeysekera, J. D. A.1.
1Division of Industrial Ergonomics, 2Division of Engineering Psychology,
Department of Human Work Sciences, Luleå University of Technology, Sweden
The widespread use of graphical symbols in the light of the current economic globalisation is undeniable. Symbols such as icons or pictograms as interfaces in modern technological devices have become very common. Although generally designed in western countries, their use can be found worldwide from computers to audio-visual appliances and other similar devices. Their use offers several potential advantages. They require minimum space, are easy and quick to recognise, and are non-text dependent. The use of graphical symbols, however, is not devoid of problems. Foremost among these is that some symbols are simply not understood well ( Brelsford, Wogalter and Scoggins, 1994). The above advantages were cited as evident when the concepts being represented were well understood or concrete, and not when ideas become more abstract. Regarding older people, Davis, Haines, Norris and Wilson ( 1998) cited the studies of Easterby and Hakiel ( 1981) showing that although symbols are easily recognizable, understanding their meaning are generally poorer compared to younger people. One basic principle of effective Ul design is to involve the potential users in the design and evaluation stages especially when the user groups are quite diverse. Thus, empirical tests are important to properly evaluate the symbols on their usability especially across different cultures.
This study was part of an international project on evaluating telecommunication symbols ( Piamonte, Ohlsson and Abeysekera, 1999b). One of the major objectives was to test different graphical symbols (in this case, those of the videophone), designed and tested in Western Europe using subjects from different subject groups from Asia and the United States. The elderly as a special group was also included. The previous paper dealt with the study using subjects from five Southeast Asian countries ( Piamonte, Abeysekera, and