A peek behind the scenes: Improving Proloquo4Text by collaborating with users

You may often be using really useful products, but find yourself frustrated because they are not as usable as they should be.
As the User Experience Designer at AssistiveWare, my goal is to uncover the needs of our users, and try to provide the best solutions. There are many steps to this job, but I find that the best information comes from talking to the users of our products.

Expert analysis

When looking at how to improve the editing area of Proloquo4Text version 3.0, I first started by using the product myself. This can pull out any immediate issues, such as problems with consistency or confusing controls. This is known as a heuristic walkthrough, or an expert analysis.
By going through the app myself I discovered a potential issue with the edit screen. The user can perform a number of things immediately, but many of these tasks were not clear on first glance or could lead to errors. To give an example: how to open a folder and how to select a phrase or category to edit were very similar.
Screenshot of the previous Edit Mode Screenshot of the new Edit Mode
Screenshot of the previous Edit Mode Screenshot of the new Edit Mode
I sketched out a couple of alternate layouts, and discussed these internally to ensure that the suggestions were in scope, and technically feasible. After that it was time to move on to the most important step.

Collecting valuable user feedback 

An important component of AssistiveWare's mission is to continue to improve our products based on user feedback, and this is something I like to get as early as possible. As Proloquo4Text users are based all around the globe, it is difficult to perform in-person usability tests and interviews. This means we have to find other ways to test out design ideas, to validate their usefulness, and their usability.
I created a number of sample screens through my favorite design tool, Sketch. This app allows me to simulate the editing area, to make the experience as life-like as possible. The Proloquo4Text test group could now test the design through the simulation, ensuring that it was intuitive for everyone. They were asked to perform some tasks on the designs, such as editing the ‘About me’ folder, and selecting multiple items. 
The feedback gathered was wholly positive. After testing the full-screen design, one of the users commented: “This would have helped me greatly yesterday when I was conversing with a guy in a noisy environment. He had to keep getting up from his chair and twist around to see what I had typed.”

From feedback to new features

Some users even shared their stories, explaining what potential features could help them further. These comments were a springboard for staff to explore new ideas to further improve the app.
An exciting new feature is the ability to show the text full screen, and flip the text around. From the user feedback we learned that many of our users don’t speak their text in Proloquo4Text, but show the screen to their communication partner. This new feature makes that significantly easier, both for the user as for the communication partner.
Sketch of the flip screen feature Screenshot of the flip screen feature
Sketch of the flip screen feature Screenshot of the final feature
Many thanks to our test group for providing all the valuable information! If you are interested in helping us improve our apps further, then please drop us an email at support@assistiveware.com.
~ Dean Birkett
Dean is a senior user experience designer. Originally from Blackpool, England, he now calls Amsterdam his home. A passionate advocate for creating universal accessible design solutions, which he enjoys putting into practice at AssistiveWare.

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Comments on
"A peek behind the scenes: Improving Proloquo4Text by collaborating with users"

TrishP1961's picture

Does this mean a student using two switches, would be able to click past all the word predictons to the keyboard in one click of a switch and use the other switch to click through the possibilities if his word is there?

Enrique Ballesteros's picture

Hi Trish,

Please know that we have answered your support request.

Please let us know if you have additional questions on your support request.

With kind regards,


AssistiveWare Team

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