Original Research

Engageability: a new sub-principle of the learnability principle in human-computer interaction

B Chimbo, J H Gelderblom, M R de Villiers
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 7, No 2 | a248 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v7i2.248 | © 2011 B Chimbo, J H Gelderblom, M R de Villiers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 March 2016 | Published: 31 December 2011

About the author(s)

B Chimbo, School of Computing, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
J H Gelderblom, School of Computing, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
M R de Villiers, School of Computing, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Full Text:



The learnability principle relates to improving the usability of software, as well as users’ performance and productivity. A gap has been identified as the current definition of the principle does not distinguish between users of different ages. To determine the extent of the gap, this article compares the ways in which two user groups, adults and children, learn how to use an unfamiliar software application. In doing this, we bring together the research areas of human-computer interaction (HCI), adult and child learning, learning theories and strategies, usability evaluation and interaction design. A literature survey conducted on learnability and learning processes considered the meaning of learnability of software applications across generations. In an empirical investigation, users aged from 9 to 12 and from 35 to 50 were observed in a usability laboratory while learning to use educational software applications. Insights that emerged from data analysis showed different tactics and approaches that children and adults use when learning unfamiliar software. Eye tracking data was also recorded. Findings indicated that subtle re- interpretation of the learnability principle and its associated sub-principles was required. An additional sub-principle, namely engageability was proposed to incorporate aspects of learnability that are not covered by the existing sub-principles. Our re-interpretation of the learnability principle and the resulting design recommendations should help designers to fulfill the varying needs of different-aged users, and improve the learnability of their designs.

Keywords: Child computer interaction, Design principles, Eye tracking, Generational differences, human-computer interaction, Learning theories, Learnability, Engageability, Software applications, Uasability

Disciplines: Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Studies, Computer science, Observational Studies


Child computer interaction; Design principles; Eye tracking; Generational differences; human-computer interaction; Learning theories; Learnability; Engageability; Software applications; Usability


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