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Behaviour and Information Technology 10

Editors:Tom Stewart
Publisher:Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Standard No:ISSN 0144-929X
Links:Table of Contents
  1. BIT 1991 Volume 10 Issue 1
  2. BIT 1991 Volume 10 Issue 2
  3. BIT 1991 Volume 10 Issue 3
  4. BIT 1991 Volume 10 Issue 4
  5. BIT 1991 Volume 10 Issue 5
  6. BIT 1991 Volume 10 Issue 6

BIT 1991 Volume 10 Issue 1

Editorial BIB 1
  Tom Stewart

Understanding Users' Understanding

A Descriptive Study of Mental Models BIBA 3-21
  Stephen J. Payne
A theoretical discussion of mental models is interwoven with conversational data from an interview study concerned with people's beliefs about the working of high-street bank machines. The data show that some users do spontaneously form explanatory models of bank machines, and further allow some insights into the ways in which models are constructed. The discussion focuses on the variety inherent in subjects' models; on the spontaneous analogies they invoke; on the use of cultural, linguistic metaphor and its relation to explanatory models; and on the observed preference for references to direct empirical experience.
Fuzzy Sets Based Knowledge Systems and Knowledge Elicitation BIBA 23-40
  C. Santamarina; G. Salvendy
Fuzzy sets are adequate forms of knowledge representation when the information is uncertain due to vagueness and imprecision. Knowledge structures using fuzzy sets are similar to those implemented in non-fuzzy systems. Classical knowledge elicitation methods can be used in combination with techniques to develop membership functions. The fuzzy set representation has several advantages, including flexibility in expressing uncertain knowledge during elicitation, representation of the knowledge and its uncertainty as a unique entity, easy interfacing with classical systems, and a more robust system in ill-defined domains. These advantages result in increased system reliability.
Flow Representation of Plant Processes for Fault Diagnosis BIBA 41-52
  N. Praetorius; K. D. Duncan
The paper describes the representation of a complex industrial plant consisting of a hierarchy of displays of mass and energy flow functions. The evidence so far available suggests that this representation supports the kind of reasoning and principles required in fault diagnosis and learning to understand plant dynamics.
Confidence and Accuracy in Judgements Using Computer Displayed Information BIBA 53-64
  Tarun Sen; Warren J. Boe
Confidence and accuracy in decision making are often unrelated, contrary to popular belief. In practice, confidence is often relied upon as evidence of good decision making, since the quality of a decision is difficult to determine at the time the decision is made. Information systems are increasingly used to assist decision making in organizations. Researchers believe that task, information system, and human characteristics affect the relationship between accuracy and confidence. In this research, manipulation of task, system, or human characteristics that led to an increase in confidence in decision making did not lead to an increase in decision accuracy and vice versa. In this study decision accuracy was judged by a decision process measure instead of a decision outcome measure. It was observed that subjects who had higher numerical skills than spatial skills expressed significantly more confidence in their decisions in a problem solving task; however, decision accuracy scores were not significantly better for subjects with higher numerical skills. Thus, these subjects expressed overconfidence in their decisions. Subjects using graphical displays (instead of tabular displays) also expressed similar overconfidence in their decisions. On the other hand, when subjects were given a less complex task, their decision accuracy scores were significantly better than subjects who had a more complex task. No significant difference was found in confidence expressed in their decisions, and therefore subjects performing a less complex task expressed underconfidence in their decisions. These results and others in the paper suggest that confidence is a poor surrogate for accuracy in decision making. Sophisticated software interfaces, like graphical information displays, could lead to increased confidence in decision making without significant improvement in the quality of decisions made.

Evaluating Interactive Computer Systems

A Framework for Human Factors Evaluation BIBA 65-79
  Andy Whitefield; Frank Wilson; John Dowell
Successful human factors evaluation of interactive computer systems has tended to rely heavily on the experience of the practitioner, who has had little explicit support on which to draw. This paper concerns support for evaluation in the form of a framework for describing and guiding the general activity. The paper starts with a critique of current approaches to evaluation, and particularly of evaluation within the 'design for usability' approach. Following a definition of evaluation, a framework is proposed that attempts to clarify what can be done towards which goals and how it can be done. This highlights and discusses notions of system performance, of assessment statements, and of assessment methods. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the framework for evaluation practice.
A Survey of the Training of Computer Users in Swedish Companies BIBA 81-90
  Tomas Kalen; Carl Martin Allwood
This study concerns how user training on newly introduced computer application programs is carried out. Questionnaire data from the computer managers of 265 Swedish companies were analysed. The results show that formal training, i.e., teacher-directed group instruction, and self-studies using instruction manuals represented nearly two-thirds of all reported training forms. For the most recently introduced program, classes (group instruction) with simultaneous computer exercises was the form of formal training that was nearly always used. When formal training was given it was compulsory in over half of the cases. However, substitutes for users attending a training course were only provided by the company in very few of these cases. The implications of these findings for effective user training are discussed.

BIT 1991 Volume 10 Issue 2

Editorial BIB i-iii
  Tom Stewart

Organizational Constraints on the Use of Informational Technology

Managerial Competence and New Technology: Don't Shoot the Piano Player -- He's Doing His Best BIBA 91-109
  Bernard Burnes
Much concern has been expressed over the last few years regarding the lack of success of British companies when introducing new technology. Though many explanations have been given for this, often there is one common factor: the competence of British managers. This article examines the relationship between managerial competence and the poor record of British companies in successfully introducing new technology. It argues that in examining these issues too much attention is paid to the final decisions taken by the managers, and their consequences, and not enough to the context -- the organizational circumstances -- in which the decisions are arrived at. It begins by examining the impact of organizational structures and practices (socio-structure) on managerial decision-making. Empirical evidence relating to the purchase of computer systems is presented which shows how socio-structure limits and shapes managerial behaviour and success with new technology. It then proceeds to discuss the relationship between socio-structure and culture, arguing that these need to be in harmony if organizations are to operate effectively. The article concludes by positing that many cases of poor decision-making owe more to inappropriate and conflicting socio-structures and cultures than to the competence of individual managers.

Research Issues in Object-Oriented Interfaces

The Learnability of HyperCard as an Object-Oriented Programming System BIBA 111-120
  Jakob Nielsen; Ida Frehr; Hans Olav Nymand
Computer science students are able to learn HyperCard programming in between to and three days using an incremental learning approach. They have several problems in understanding the layered object hierarchy in the system.
Object-Oriented versus Bit-Mapped Graphics Interfaces; Performance and Preference Differences for Typical Applications BIBA 121-147
  Michael F. Mohageg
This study used a standardized evaluation to compare two direct manipulation graphics interfaces. The interfaces investigated were: (1) object-oriented (vector) graphics; and (2) bit-mapped graphics (object-oriented graphics interfaces are not to be confused with object-oriented programming or object-oriented data bases). Experienced and novice subjects performed objectively derived benchmark tasks appropriate for two-dimensional graphics packages.
   Both performance and preference data were collected. Task completion time, aborted attempts, learning effects, and errors constituted the performance measures. For the preference data, subjects completed questionnaires to rate the interfaces on both an absolute and a relative basis. Results indicate that the object-oriented graphics interface is superior to bit-mapped interface for most tasks included in the benchmark set. The advantages of the object-oriented interface are especially pronounced for graphic manipulations such as rotation, resizing (scaling), and general editing.
Self-Describing Animated Icons for Human-Computer Interaction: A Research Note BIBA 149-152
  Sherman R. Alpert
Animated icons may offer substantial advantage over static icons for human-computer communication. Nonetheless, problems and challenges remain. For example, the constant motion of animated icons can be distracting or tedious for users. Another challenge relates to the ease of learning and use of iconic interfaces in general: how can icons provide more helpful information to users regarding their intended use? In this research note, we describe animated icons we have implemented which attempt to address these issues.

Case Study -- Assumptions in Electronic Mail Use

Rationalist Assumptions in Cross-Media Comparisons of Computer-Mediated Communication BIBA 153-172
  Martin Lea
Users' comparisons between computer-mediated communication (CMC) and other forms of communication are of theoretical interest and have important implications for system design and implementation. This paper outlines the prevalent systems-rationalist perspective on CMC, which sees the medium primarily as an efficient channel for information transfer in specific organizational tasks, and critically reviews the evidence that studies of users' perceptions and media preferences offer for this generalized view. In advocating a widening of our perspective on CMC, a field study is described in which electronic mail users within a large commercial telecommunications company were invited to compare eight different communication activities, using repertory grid technique. From a total of 91 user-generated constructs, five principal dimensions were identified that accounted for users' discrimination among the different activities. Electronic mailing was construed as being similar to written activities (such as note-writing) on some dimensions (e.g., 'asynchrony', 'emotional quality') but similar to spoken, face-to-face communication on other dimensions such as 'spontaneity'. The results suggest that the group of users construed CMC mainly in terms of its attributes as a medium for conversation and social interaction. There was no evidence of spontaneous task-related media comparisons. These results together with findings from other studies are discussed in terms of rationalist and symbolic interactionist perspectives on CMC. Implications for system design are also considered.

BIT 1991 Volume 10 Issue 3

Editorial BIB i-ii
  Tom Stewart

Experimental Studies in HCI

Characterizing the Program Design Activity: Neither Strictly Top-Down Nor Globally Opportunistic BIBA 173-190
  Simon P. Davies
Early studies of programming and of other more general planning and problem-solving activities emphasized the hierarchical nature of such tasks. For instance, the dominant approach to problem-solving and planning views such processes as top-down focused activities which start from high level goals that are in turn decomposed into achievable actions via a successive refinement process. Similarly, empirical studies of the programming activity have highlighted such top-down and breadth-first decomposition strategies. These processes are also clearly mirrored in prescriptive accounts of the programming task. More recent characterizations of the programming activity present an alternative view -- one which emphasizes the broadly opportunistic nature of the programming process. From this perspective, program design is seen to deviate from the top-down, breadth-first model proposed by previous studies. Here, program design is viewed as opportunistic in the sense that elements of the design can be created asynchronously at any level of abstraction within the solution space. Hence, the program design process is seen to be neither decompositionally nor hierarchically levelled, but mediated by the serendipitous and opportunistic discovery of new knowledge and design constraints and so on. The paper presents empirical support for a model of the program design activity which suggests that the programming process can neither be viewed as strictly top-down nor as globally opportunistic. Rather, it is shown that while opportunistic episodes may occur at any point in the evolution of a program, the programming activity itself is hierarchically structured and proceeds in a largely top-down fashion. Program design is seen as a hierarchical goal-directed task with random opportunistic excursions caused largely by simple cognitive failures.
Visual Discrimination of Colour VDTs at Two Viewing Distances BIBA 191-205
  Hew H. Young; James T. Miller
The paper describes a research study on visual discrimination of textual and graphic symbols on a visual display terminal (VDT) screen when viewed at eye-to-screen distances of 61 cm and 152 cm (24 and 60 ins). Conducted as part of a development programme at McDonnell Douglas Corporation's St. Louis Aircraft Company for an Integrated Manufacturing Composites Centre (ICC), the study investigated symbol shapes, symbol sizes, symbol colours and background colours at the two viewing distances. The longer distance is representative of required placements of the VDTs at some manufacturing workstations to avoid interference with process or control equipment. Knowledge gained from the study was incorporated in the selection of the manufacturing computer information system (CIS) terminals.
   All four treatments showed significant effects on visual discrimination at both viewing distances and, particularly at the 152 cm distance, the mix of symbol and background colours was highly significant. A black screen background colour with more luminous symbols such as orange, green, yellow provided much better visual discrimination at the extended viewing distance than less luminous symbols such as red and blue on a white background. Visual discrimination at the extended viewing distance, when compared with the shorter viewing distance and using symbols of equal size, was better than the loss in visual angle would suggest.
   Sex and age (to age 65) did not significantly affect visual discrimination mean scores, but the variance among individuals in the 51-65 years age group was greater than for the younger age groups.
   The visual discrimination scores for symbol sizes of 4 mm² were not significantly different from the 6 mm² symbols at the 61 cm viewing distance. The 4 mm² symbol size was therefore adequate for visual discrimination of standalone symbols at this distance. Although 8 mm symbols were not use in this study, projections from the data indicate that such symbol sizes at 152 cm would provide comparable discrimination scores to the 4 mm² at 61 cm.
   Improved visual discrimination of standalone symbols occurs with gaps or changes in the angles of symbols, such as sets 'C' versus 'O' and 'X' versus '+'.

Surveys of Computer Impact

Reciprocal Effects between Organizational Culture and the Implementation of an Office Communication System: A Case Study BIBA 207-218
  Gudela Grote; Christof Baitsch
As part of a study investigating the implementation of an office communication system and its effects on work and organizational processes in a large transportation company, reciprocal effects between organizational culture and the new technology were analysed. It was found that in one department which was characterized by a well established culture, the communication system was integrated fairly easily and thereby reinforced the culture. In a second department, which was in the middle of a strong internal cultural conflict, the new technology was used unsuccessfully by one subgroup to support cultural change. By refusing to use the communication system in the intended way, the other members of the department resisted that attempt. In both departments, the technology did not effect a change, rather it was integrated into pre-existing cultural patterns.
The Costs and Benefits of 'Computer Addiction' BIBA 219-230
  Margaret A. Shotton
The research was inspired by comments from the press and concerned academics who suggested that computer use could convert 'normal' people into antisocial, machine-code junkies. Contrary to such opinions, the computer-dependent individuals who took part in the study were intelligent, interesting, hospitable, but misunderstood people, who from experience had learned to mistrust humans. Instead from an early age, they had turned to the safe and predictable world of the inanimate, and by exploring their environments had become true scientists and philosophers. Their responses were far from neurotic, instead they were logical coping strategies which allowed them to make sense of the world within which they lived. They were pursuing an interest which not only provided intellectual challenge and excitement in infinite variety, but for most also enabled them to turn a fascinating hobby into a successful means of earning a living; an ideal to which most would aspire.

Models of Computer-Supported Work

The Roles of Computerized Support Systems: A Decision Subprocess-Based Analysis BIBA 231-252
  Varghese S. Jacob; Ramakrishnan Pakath
This paper analyses the potential roles of computerized systems in supporting the decision-making process. Toward this end, we propose an expository process model of decision-making and develop a framework that provides the infrastructure for the analysis. The proposed process model draws on two well-known models in the literature and enumerates eight distinct phases in decision-making. The framework developed is based on an integration of this process model with Simon's notion of 'decision-structuredness'. Unlike any of the existing frameworks, the suggested framework permits a micro-level analysis of support system roles. The analysis is intended as a pre-design guide, to help systems developers and users to identify support potential and possibilities, and to target their activities accordingly.
Note: An erratum for this article appears in volume 10, number 6, p. 545


Comments from the Sidelines: Some Thougths on Research Networks and Network Research BIB 253-256
  Liam J. Bannon

BIT 1991 Volume 10 Issue 4

Editorial BIB i-ii
  Tom Stewart

Simplifying Complex HCI Issues by Experiment

Reading and Skimming from Computer Screens and Books: The Paperless Office Revisited? BIBA 257-266
  Paul Muter; Paula Maurutto
Past research has demonstrated that reading efficiency is lower from the standard computer displays of the 1980s than from paper. In the present experiments, subjects read or skimmed stories, sometimes from a high-quality CRT (cathode ray tube) and sometimes from a book. Skimming was 41% slower from the CRTs than from the book. Possible reasons for this finding are discussed. Reading speed and comprehension were equivalent for the high-quality CRTs and the book. The paperless office may be imminent after all.
Human-Computer Interface Design and Implementation Details BIBA 267-280
  C. Ray Russell; Albert N. Badre
The paper presents a model of how the availability of implementation details affects performance in designing a human-computer interface. Two experiments have been used to test the validity of this model. The experiments involved varying the amount of implementation detail presented to interface designers and having the designers perform an interface design task. The amount of work performed and the quality of the resulting human-computer interface design are analysed.
   The results presented in this paper show that the quality of a human-computer interface design improves if the designer is presented with information about implementation details. However, presenting a designer with all implementation details of the system functions results in a lower quality design. The relevance of these results to human-computer interface design and future directions for research are discussed.
Group Processes in Face-to-Face and Computer Mediated Communication BIBA 281-296
  Lillemor Adrianson; Erland Hjelmquist
The study reports results from an experiment investigating aspects of communicative processes and outcome, using face-to-face, and computer-mediated communication. Degree of consensus, communication pattern, attitudes to media, and personality (extroversion-introversion) were studied. The subjects operated computer-mediated systems as a daily work-tool. There were two different problems to be discussed; a human relations problem and a problem involving judgement of important equipment for survival after an airplane-crash. The results showed no differences in problem-solving efficiency due to medium used, but difficulties to reach consensus in the inexperienced groups. There were no main effects of medium on equality and dominance, but several significant results in the survival problem, showing that face-to-face communication induces more conformity and opinion change as compared to computer-mediated communication. Face-to-face communication was preferred and there were only weak relationships between personality and other variables studied.
The Impact of Interface Customization on the Effect of Cognitive Style on Information System Success BIBA 297-310
  Boon Wan Tan; Tak Wah Lo
The paper investigates the impact that customizing the user interface has on the effect that the users' cognitive styles have on the success of an information system. The study was carried out on an office automation (OA) system, which was implemented in an institution of higher learning to support the top administrators in their work. Pearson and Bailey's user formation satisfaction (UIS) instrument was used to measure the success of the system, while the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was used to determine the cognitive style of the user. The results provided evidence that support the proposition that by customizing the interface to suit the idiosyncrasies of the user, the effect that the cognitive style of the user has on the success of the OA system can be reduced, if not removed. This result suggests that if the interface to OA system can be customized, then system designers do not need to consider the users' cognitive styles explicitly when they are designing the system.

Developing Promising HCI Research Approaches

Language, Communication, Social Interaction and the Design of Human-Computer Interfaces BIBA 311-324
  Peter J. Thomas
The importance of human sciences to the design of information technology is now generally recognized. As part of this recognition there is an interest in employing findings about language, communication and social interaction in design. In particular there has been a great deal of recent interest in the use of the methods and findings of conversation analysis, a sociological approach to the investigation of the structure of human conversation. The paper discusses the rationale for the use of such findings, outlines directions currently being pursued in this area, and provides a bibliography of recently-published and forthcoming research.
Measurement of Stress to Gauge User Satisfaction with Features of the Computer Interface BIBA 325-343
  Paul M. Mullins; Siegfried Treu
Human stress in a computer-related job situation can result from a variety of causes. A comprehensive cause-and-effect model is developed, using extensive confirmation from the literature. Then, the components of user satisfaction are defined and a conceptual measure of user satisfaction is constructed. These definitions use the same cause-and-effect relationships that were identified for user stress. Based on the conjecture that stress, or lack thereof, is an appropriate indicator of the user's level of (dis)satisfaction with a system, a measurement methodology is proposed. It is intended to determine both how satisfied a user is with an interface and what the causes of (dis)satisfaction might be. Techniques for obtaining objective indicators of the user's stress levels are surveyed. A general experimental procedure is outlined and its verification is described. The methodology is considered to be particularly important for application to critical, high-pressure jobs, such as those in air traffic control and in the nuclear and chemical industries.

BIT 1991 Volume 10 Issue 5

Editorial BIB i-ii
  Tom Stewart

Methodological Issues

A Methodological Note on Pitfalls in Usability Testing BIBA 345-357
  Patrick A. Holleran
Although usability testing may be a well accepted and widely practised component of the commercial software development process, improper application of testing techniques may lead to poorly designed software. The present paper discusses a number of potential problems which designers may face in the process of conducting usability tests on their products. These problems may include difficulties in sampling, methodological problems in planning and conducting tests, validity and reliability of obtained measures, and misinterpretation of results. A number of suggestions to avoid or lessen the impact of these problems are also discussed.
Three Approaches to the Input of Human Factors in IT Systems Design: DIADEM, The HUFIT Toolset and the MOD/DTI Human Factors Guidelines BIBA 359-371
  Bernard J. Catterall
Parameters for defining the applicability of a human factors input to IT systems design are outlined first. The paper then compares and contrasts three methodological approaches developed at the HUSAT Research Institute. Each approach is detailed in terms of its developmental domain, content, applicability and availability. Commonalities in the three approaches are then investigated and an outline of the uptake of each approach is given. In conclusion, summary advice is offered on selection criteria for the three techniques.

The Role of Knowledge in Human Computer Systems

Feedback as a Source of Control in Decision Support Systems: An Experiment with the Feedback Specificity BIBA 373-382
  Dov Te'eni
Well-designed feedback can improve decision-making, but to date, there has been no comprehensive study of feedback in decision support systems that could guide developers in its design. This work examines the opportunities and means to enhance the user's consistency in implementing a decision strategy (a plan for making the decision) by providing appropriate feedback. It concentrates on the specificity of feedback. Feedback is said to be specific if it provides details about the decision-making process that help correct the process; feedback is non-specific if it merely reports outcome without indicating what caused it. The paper builds on concepts from cognitive engineering, behavioural decision-making, and systems design to examine how computer-generated feedback enhances the user's decision consistency, and reports on a laboratory experiment. Specific feedback found to be effective in enhancing decision consistency, but its impact is compromised by the presence of additional non-specific feedback.
The Role of Domain Knowledge in Software Design BIBA 383-401
  Helen Sharp
If effective knowledge-based support is to be provided for software designers, the process of software design, and the classes of knowledge used by designers must be understood more clearly. It has been shown that software designer's experience of designing software in the current application domain has a significant effect on the production of a quality design. However, in gaining experience of designing software, a designer gains knowledge in various distinct areas, including software design and the application domain. It is currently unclear which elements of this experience are important. In particular, the role of application domain knowledge that is independent of software design is of great significance for builders of intelligent software design support systems, since the overheads involved in providing application domain knowledge for a variety of application domains in such systems would be huge. This paper reports on a study that has been carried out to gain insights into this question, based around the structured techniques of DeMarco (1979) and Yourdon and Constantine (1979). From this preliminary investigation it would appear that a designer's general knowledge of the application domain does not affect the quality of a design produced for a system in this domain; this runs contrary to current popular beliefs.
Cognitive Engineering Based Knowledge Representation in Neural Networks BIBA 403-418
  Nong Ye; Gavriel Salvendy
A model of a human neural knowledge processing system is presented that suggests the following. First, an entity in the outside world tends to be locally encoded in neural networks so that the conceptual information structure is mirrored in its physical implementation. Second, the knowledge of problem solving is implemented in a quite implicit way in the internal structure of the neural network (a functional group of associated hidden neurons and their connections to entity neurons) not in individual neurons or connections. Third, the knowledge system is organized and implemented in a modular fashion in neural networks according to the local specialization of problem solving where a module of neural network implements an inter-related group of knowledge such as a schema, and different modules have similar processing mechanisms, but differ in their input and output patterns. A neural network module can be tuned just as a schema structure can be adapted for changing environments. Three experiment were conducted to try to validate the suggested cognitive engineering based knowledge structure in neural networks through computer simulation. The experiments, which were based on a task of modulo arithmetic, provided some insights into the plausibility of the suggested model of a knowledge processing system.
Classifying Graphical Information BIBA 419-436
  Gerald Lohse; Neff Walker; Kevin Biolsi; Henry Rueter
The research lays the groundwork work or a taxonomy of visual representations by establishing a methodology for determining the kinds of knowledge conveyed by different graphical representations. In the first of two experiments, the basic categories and dimensions of a set of graphics were established using a sorting procedure. Five principal categories emerged: graphs/tables, maps, diagrams, networks, and icons. Furthermore, two principal dimensions characterize these groups: amount of spatial information and amount of cognitive processing effort. The second experiment validated and extended this understanding of the cognitive structure of visual representation. In that experiment, similarity among items was assessed using pairwise similarity judgments. The results confirmed the original categories and revealed distinct differences between subjects who did or did not have graphic arts training.

Classifying Users

Defining the Novice User BIBA 437-441
  James Fisher
There are many research reports directed at establishing the characteristics and needs of new or inexperienced computer users, and indeed these have been the topic of at least three substantial review articles in the last decade. Most of these studies, however, make little effort to report carefully the defining characteristics of their samples beyond the use of intuitive and tautologous labels such as 'expert' or 'naive' and so on. Inevitably this leads to difficulties in interpretation and generalization of findings. The paper outlines some conceptual considerations in separating out terms applied to computer user samples and suggests a basis for a fuller reporting of sample parameters which would aid comparison between reported studies.

BIT 1991 Volume 10 Issue 6

Editorial BIB i-ii
  Tom Stewart

HCI Myth 1 -- 'A Picture is Worth One Thousand Words'

Assessing the Usability of Icons in User Interfaces BIBA 443-457
  Charles J. Kacmar; Jane M. Carey
This paper presents a methodology and results of an experiment to assess the usability of menu items constructed of text, icons, and text-and-icons. Attributes of menu items are used to form a matrix which can be used to classify menu items for use in certain applications, tasks, or with users of particular experience levels. An experiment was conducted to validate a portion of the attribute matrix. Performance measures were accuracy of selection and time to make a selection. Results suggest that menus constructed of a mixed format (text and icons) result in the fewest number of incorrect selections by users. No significant differences in the time to make a selection were found.
Graphing in Depth: Perspectives on the Use of Three-Dimensional Graphs to Represent Lower-Dimensional Data BIBA 459-474
  C. Melody Carswell; Sylvia Frankenberger; Donald Bernhard
Embellishing simple graphs by adding perspective, 'the 3D look' has become increasingly commonplace with the ready availability of graphics software. However, the effect of adding such decorative depth on the comprehension and recall of the graph's message has received little attention. The present study evaluated performance on such common graphical formats as line graphs, bar charts and pie charts constructed with and without the 3D look. When subjects were asked to make relative magnitude estimations, only the 3D line graphs resulted in reliable performance decrements. Likewise, information presented in 3D line graphs was remembered less accurately than information presented in 2D line graphs. For the estimation of global trends, both 3D line graphs and bar charts were used more quickly than 2D formats, but this speed was obtained at the expense of accuracy. For a trend classification task involving more focused processing, 3D line graphs and bar charts were associated with an overall performance decrement when compared with their 2D counterparts. Finally, the use of 3D designs, in addition to modifying performance, may influence the attitudes formed by subjects toward the information presented in the graphs.

HCI Myth 2 -- 'Everyone Knows How to Use a Spreadsheet'

Measuring the Learnability of Spreadsheets in Inexperienced Users and Those with Previous Spreadsheet Experience BIBA 475-490
  Isobel Baxter; Keith Oatley
The issues of 'usability' and 'learnability' are assuming an increasingly important role for both the designers of software and their prospective customers. Objective measures of the interaction between system and user are important for the development of software that is both easy to learn and pleasurable to use. In this study, we apply a set of five measures to evaluate users' interactions with spreadsheet software, and to compare two spreadsheet packages. We tested 16 people with no previous experience of spreadsheets and 16 with experience of spreadsheets generally though not of the spreadsheet we gave them. Half were allocated to learn Excel and half to learn Wingz, running on Apple Macintosh computers. A standard task was constructed to assess understanding of the basic concepts involved in the use of spreadsheets. Users' previous experience of spreadsheet use was the most salient factor in the scores achieved on the task. The brand of spreadsheet had no significant effect on task performance. Implications for designers of software and users of spreadsheet packages are discussed.
Learning Spreadsheets: Human Instruction vs. Computer-Based Instruction BIBA 491-500
  James O., Jr. Hicks; Sam A. Hicks; Tarun K. Sen
The increasing need to instruct students in the use of personal computer software, especially electronics spreadsheets, is placing greater demands on the already full university curriculum. A potential help in meeting these demands is the readily available computer-based software tutorials. In order to explore the feasibility of computer-based instruction as an alternative to human instruction, this research compares two modes of instruction, computer-based and human. An experiment was conducted with groups of business student subjects. The research results indicate no difference in students' attitude towards computer-based instruction and human instruction of spreadsheets. Students' short-term recall of the software syntax being taught is as strong with computer-based instruction as with human instruction. These results were not affected by the level of personal computer experience that students had prior to the experiment. However, the ability to comprehend and immediately apply the software to a task is greater with human instruction than with computer-aided instruction. This advantage holds true for students instructed by experienced and inexperienced instructors.

HCI Myth 3 -- 'Office Automation'

Office Automation and Users' Need for Support BIBA 501-514
  Yvonne Wærn; Nils Malmsten; Lars Oestreicher; Ann Hjalmarsson; Anita Gidlof-Gunnarsson
We investigated a recently introduced office automation system at Swedish Telecom. In a first study, where 275 users answered an inventory, the users indicated that they found the system useful, but that they would like better user support. Paper and on-line support were most often used at the syntax level, but were not regarded to be very satisfactory. Human advisors were found to be consulted most often, as well as being reported the most satisfactory means of support at the task and conceptual levels. In an interview study concerning the electronic mail system, the results from 35 users showed that the users were satisfied with the system, but that they knew fairly little about it, particularly at the semantic level. A third study showed that the system support personnel knew their users rather well. When asked to describe the system, system support personnel mainly described the system in computer terms, whereas many other users described it non-informatively. It is concluded that knowledgeable human advisors are needed to support the efficient use of a system by illuminating task and semantic aspects. At the same time, easy-to-use manuals are needed to support the reminding about syntactic and interaction details.

HCI Myth 4 -- 'There's Nothing More to Say about VDUs'

Visual Display Units versus Visual Computation BIBA 515-523
  Arnold J. Wilkins
Vision is the result of complex neural computation. It is argued that cathode ray tube displays make the neural computation more complex than it needs to be because (1) they pulsate in brightness; (2) they present a visual image which is spatially periodic but which demands precise control of eye movement; and (3) the spectral power distribution of light emitted by the phosphor is uneven.
Legibility of Video Display Units: One More Look BIBAK 525-542
  Marius A. Janson; Stephen J. Morrissey
Linear regression is often used to analyse and summarize data, and to uncover, clarify, and simplify a data structure. The outcome of these activities depends of both the analyst's domain-specific knowledge and on the data. Analysing the data also affects the analyst's understanding about the data and, hence, the act of analysing data is inherently a recursive activity, with each new iteration potentially providing additional insights. This process calls for a strategy of exploratory data analysis that consists of techniques for flexibly analysing, summarizing, and re-expressing the data.
Keywords: Exploratory analysis, Data summarization, Data modelling, Linear regression, Residual analysis, End-user computing

Book Review

"Psychology of Programming," edited by J.-M. Hoc, T. R. G. Green, R. Samurcay and D. J. Gilmore BIB 543-544
  Kim Trans