Home » Exploring the PACMAD Model: Enhancing Usability in Mobile App Development

Exploring the PACMAD Model: Enhancing Usability in Mobile App Development

by Laurentiu Lazar
14 minutes read
PACMAD (People At the Centre of Mobile Application Development) usability models

Mobile devices have seamlessly integrated into our daily routines, and in the current dynamic world of mobile applications, it is crucial to stay relevant to your end-users. Whether it is related to finances and communication with other people, fitness and health goals, or exploring unknown territories, mobile applications have changed the approach to using technology. However, their relatively limited screen space, limited input capabilities, and various use cases create serious challenges for designing usable and effective mobile applications. Most of the usability models are developed for desktop application usage and do not adequately address these issues; hence, there is a need to go a notch higher.

Navigating through over 3.5 million apps available across platforms, you need to stay ahead by focusing on your client’s interaction patterns.

The PACMAD considers the users’ needs when using their mobile devices. Aiming at user-oriented design or/ and using cyclic testing and context of use, this model guarantees the creation of functional and, at the same time, engaging mobile applications. This article describes the PACMAD model and its advantages to reveal

Understanding the PACMAD Usability Model

The PACMAD, which stands for People At the Centre of Mobile Application Development usability model, aims to achieve the goal that mobile applications should fulfill the users’ expectations. This model stresses the users and utilizes usability as a key component in its implementation. By including user feedback and iteration testing by emphasizing factors like cognitive load, task efficiency, and context awareness,  the PACMAD model assists developers in designing applications that are not only efficient but also fun to use. 

Why the PACMAD model?

Other usability models, such as Nielsen’s model and ISO 9241, are general usability models commonly used in human-computer interaction (HCI) to assess various factors, including effectiveness, efficiency, and user satisfaction. Yet, these models are not sufficient to address the specific issues of mobile application development.

Mobile devices bring new aspects influencing usability: different conditions of use. For example, when a person is commuting or in other public places, she or he may not focus on the application. The interfaces of mobile devices are distinctive from the input aspects of stationary computers, where touch screens and voice commands are often used instead of keyboards and mice. Also, the working memory capacity is lower because mobile devices have restricted screen sizes and inputs, and interruptions could occur.

To overcome these challenges, the PACMAD usability model was developed based on  Harisson, Flood, and Duce’s seven usability attributes. This model provides a clear structure suited to mobile interactions while considering the characteristics of those interactions to create effective and efficient mobile applications. It allows PACMAD to meet the high usability standards required from today’s mobile applications, given that the design of its products is guided by the principles of user-oriented design, iterative testing, and considering the context of use.

The PACMAD Model

The PACMAD model emphasizes three critical factors:

  • User: These include the end consumers’ needs, wants, and/or demands. Integrating this approach guarantees that the application meets the users’ expectations and objectives.
  • Task: Looking at the particular activity the users will be involved in when utilizing the application. Bear in mind that the app will be used for browsing, shopping, or managing one’s personal finances; the design must cater to these functions.
  • Context of Use: Mobile applications are employed in various situations—during rides, while stuck in a queue, or even in a meeting. Context influences usability in a rather important manner, so designers cannot ignore it.
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PACMAD Key Attributes

This model is designed to address the unique challenges of mobile application development by focusing on three key factors: the user, the tool, and the environment within which it is being used. This user-oriented approach guarantees that mobile applications are being designed and built based on a client’s preferences and habits, as well as the expectations and requirements of the target audience. Further, seven attributes are specified in the model to assess a mobile application’s usability.


This attribute determines the users’ efficiency in terms of their capability to perform the tasks within the application in the right manner. It assesses whether, through the use of the application, the user is able to achieve what they want without encountering difficulties that are not warranted by the work being performed. Expressing ideas in an active voice improves the flow of work and makes it easy to read. Users prefer clear and simple language since messages that are short and to the point are easier to understand.


Efficiency compares the effort and time users spend executing tasks carried out within the application. A good application allows users to accomplish a task in the shortest time possible and with little strain, thus improving efficacy.


User satisfaction can be described as a quantitative assessment of the user’s comfort, pleasantness, and general feeling when using the application. High satisfaction levels show that users feel a sense of purpose and fun while using the application.


An application’s learnability is the degree to which a user can easily acquire knowledge about how to use it. Incorporating high learnability implies that the application should be easy for users to understand and learn how to use without difficulties.


Memorability evaluates the extent to which users are able to recall how to use the application after they have had a break from using it. Perceived ease of use is when the application is designed so that users can remember how to use it even after they have not used it for a long time.


This attribute defines the number of times and the extent of the errors that a user experiences while using the application. Errors and, in particular, their avoidance, as well as the availability of reconciliation strategies, are important for satisfying user experience.

Cognitive Load

Cognitive load assesses the extent of intellectual demand and effort users undergo when using the application. This is especially true given that mobile devices are usually used in multitasking environments, so the issue of cognitive load cannot be overemphasized. Therefore, reducing the level of mental burden entails that the application can be easily used, and the user does not have to spend most of his or her time trying to understand how the application works.

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Significance and Applications

The PACMAD (People At the Centre of Mobile Application Development) usability model has become quite popular in the field of mobile human-computer interaction (HCI) due to the specificities of developing mobile applications. Unlike conventional usability models, PACMAD considers parameters like cognitive load, learnability, and memorability and is more suitable for evaluating usability in the context of the constraints and necessities of mobile interactions.

Mobile Application Development

Thus, the PACMAD model may be viewed as an excellent guideline for constructing a usable mobile application by considering the evaluation of usability at each stage of the design and development process. Hence, through predefined attributes such as effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction, developers can apply changes and enhancements in gradual steps with references to the actual feedback from the users. This ensures that only functional, easy-to-use, and fun products are delivered to the market. This is particularly evident in relation to the iterative testing of the model since this is important in helping the developers to notice usability problems that may result in costly redesigns, hence enhancing development efficiency.

User Experience (UX) Research

The PACMAD model is highly effective for the UX researcher since it creates the basis for a wide range of research that indicates all possible aspects that may impact the usability of the mobile application. Considering contextual factors like the context of use and input methods provides researchers with extended knowledge of people’s behaviors and preferences. This results in more relevant decisions that positively impact the user experience and increase efficiency. The model can accommodate broad classes of UX research, including usability testing, user interviews, online surveys, and field research, so that the final application can meet the users’ requirements and expectations.

Accessibility and Inclusive Design

Perhaps the most important factor that can be mentioned about the PACMAD model is that it always takes the cognitive load and learnability into account, due to which the model is effective in creating applications for mobile devices that are as accessible for as many users as possible. Through such factors, the developers can design applications in a way that will suit users with different abilities, including disabled users. The model’s rich conceptual map assists in the detection of possible access barriers and offers recommendations for the development of applications worldwide that are accessible and understandable.

PACMAD Model implementation Advantages

Adopting the PACMAD usability model offers numerous benefits for both developers and end-users:

  • Enhanced User Satisfaction: As highlighted in this paper, when organizations adhere to the PACMAD model, the final product is applications that are easy to use and fun for the user. Retaining users and getting positive comments from viewers add to this satisfaction.
  • Reduced Development Costs: Early detection of usability problems decreases the number of redesigns and bug-solving, making it cost-efficient.
  • Competitive Advantage: Customers can find what they are looking for quickly because of the usability of applications developed using the PACMAD model. This can be essential in determining firms’ ability to gain and maintain customers.
  • Increased Accessibility: Accessibility is a way to guarantee that the application will be more available to many people, including persons with disabilities. It increases the target group and popularity of the application.

PACMAD Model Examples

There are many examples of mobile applications that apply the PACMAD model to ensure excellent usability of their interface. For instance, let’s think of a mobile application that would be used to track and assist users in enhancing their health. When the users are engaged in the design process, the developers can design interfaces that are simple to use and can be understood by anyone, regardless of their knowledge of computers. This way, testing guarantees that the given features match the needs of the end-users, whereas usability metrics offer constant feedback on the application’s enhancement.

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Another is a banking mobile application that has a secure interface and customers’ convenience as its goals. The PACMAD model aids the developers in designing an interface that is easy to understand and use by mimicking financial transactions, which does not make a difference to the app’s usability if a user is young or old or has little or extensive experience in handling finance. That is why, when deciding on the context of use, the developers will be able to fine-tune the application to work on different devices and in different environments.

Using the PACMAD Model in Your Projects

Applying the identified PACMAD model can greatly improve the success rate of your mobile applications. Here are some practical steps to implement this model in your projects:

  • Engage Users Early and Often: Engage the users right from the beginning, especially through questionnaires, interviews, and even testing. Their feedback will help you understand the kind of information they require and want.
  • Embrace Iterative Development: Employ an iterative approach to developing the solution that entails frequent testing and improvement. This approach helps ensure that usability problems are detected and solved as they arise.
  • Focus on Context of Use: Determine the different scenarios that users will encounter while using the application. Make the interface and its actions correspond to the device used, the circumstances in which the application is operated, and the users’ behavior.
  • Measure Usability: Use usability measures to determine the application’s outcomes, productivity, and satisfaction levels. This data can be used to make planning and design decisions, as well as monitor progress.
  • Prioritize Accessibility: Make your application friendly to all users’ experiences, especially to disabled users. Such an approach will improve the usability of your products and services and expand the circle of your customers.
  • Collaborate with Experts: Choose skilled software development companies with many user-oriented design projects and understand how to use the PACMAD model. Their knowledge will be of great benefit to you as far as your usability objectives are concerned.


The PACMAD (People At the Centre of Mobile Application Development) usability model is an approach that focuses on customers’ requirements and choices during the mobile application design process. This model is a structured way of developing software for customers that improves user satisfaction, reduces development costs, provides customer differentiation, and enhances accessibility.

The PACMAD model offers a solid foundation for user-oriented mobile application solutions as the environment changes. Let’s discuss and identify how we can support your application’s success and sustainability in the face of competition.

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