What does it mean to be good at using a mobile device? An investigation of three levels of experience and skill

Antti Oulasvirta, Mikael Wahlström, K. Anders Ericsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)


An increasing number of computer users lack formal training in operating their devices. These daily users cannot be described as novices or experts within the predominant view of expertise. In order to describe and better understand this type of self-taught intermediate level of skill, 10 casual users of a high-end smartphone series were compared to 10 novices and 4 professionals (help desk personnel) in their learning histories, task performance, and cognitive outcomes. Our study suggests that this type of self-taught intermediate level of skill is device-specific. Experienced users (casual users and experts) exhibited superior performance for representative tasks. This is mainly attributable to faster navigation and better knowledge of interface terminology, not to deeper conceptual representation of the problems. Interviews suggest that this skill is the consequence of routine use and three recurring learning events: familiarization, following of media, and ad hoc problem-solving situations. We conclude by discussing why intermediate levels of skill deserve more attention in HCI research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-169
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Human Computer Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011
MoE publication typeNot Eligible



  • Casual users
  • Deliberate practice
  • Mobile devices
  • Skill

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