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Modelling Mobile Interactions: Exploring in-Context interaction to improve interface design (Advert Reference: RDF19/EE/CIS/POINTON)

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  • Full or part time
    Prof M Pointon
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Considerable Human Computer Interaction (HCI) work involves capturing user behaviour when interacting with devices to understand this interaction, permitting identification of usability problems and improvements in interface design. The ever-increasing use of mobile devices in various situational contexts away from a desk and for complex tasks (such as web search) presents a range of novel challenges and possibilities for interface improvements, however, there is a lack of work that evaluates interaction in such contexts.
The recent increase in use of mobile devices in preference to more frequently studied (and thus better understood) desktop machines in situations where we need to move with the device introduces a range of relatively unexplored challenges for users. Research suggests that these situations increase cognitive load and, therefore, may have an impact on performance, increasing the likelihood of interaction errors, increasing users’ perceived stress levels and inducing a feeling that tasks must be completed quickly.

This PHD in the joint fields of Information Retrieval and HCI will investigate interaction behaviours within everyday situations with the aim of improving search interface design across a range of devices. Based on insights from user studies, novel interfaces will be designed and developed that adapt to context of use by responding to situational changes. These new ‘adaptive’ interfaces will improve user experience, reducing interaction errors and induced stress. A successful candidate will have experience with rapid prototyping (i.e. Paper prototyping, InVision, Axure) and web programming skills (both mobile and desktop). Existing knowledge of both qualitative and quantitative research methods and experience in conducting user studies would be beneficial.
The principal supervisor for this project is Matthew Pointon.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF19/EE/CIS/POINTON) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 25 January 2019
Start Date: 1 October 2019

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students Worldwide, and covers full fees and a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2018/19, this is £14,777 pa).


Harvey, M., & Pointon, M. (2017, March). Perceptions of the effect of fragmented attention on mobile web search tasks. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Conference Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (pp. 293-296). ACM.

Harvey, M., & Pointon, M. (2017, August). Searching on the go: the effects of fragmented attention on mobile web search tasks. In Proceedings of the 40th International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval (pp. 155-164). ACM.

Harvey, M., & Pointon, M. (2018, March). Noisy Signals: Understanding the Impact of Auditory Distraction on Web Search Tasks. In Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Human Information Interaction&Retrieval (pp. 241-244). ACM.

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