Toward methods for supporting the anticipation-feedback loop in user interface design

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Windsor]On: 11 November 2014, At: 14:37Publisher: Taylor & FrancisInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number:1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street,London W1T 3JH, UK

    Theoretical Issues inErgonomics SciencePublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ttie20

    Toward methods forsupporting the anticipation-feedback loop in userinterface designMarcus Plach & Dieter WallachPublished online: 26 Nov 2010.

    To cite this article: Marcus Plach & Dieter Wallach (2002) Toward methods forsupporting the anticipation-feedback loop in user interface design, TheoreticalIssues in Ergonomics Science, 3:1, 26-46, DOI: 10.1080/14639220110110333

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14639220110110333

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Toward methods for supporting the anticipation-feedback loop inuser interface design

    MARCUS PLACH{ * and DIETERWALLACH{

    {Department of Psychology (FR 5.3), Saarland University, PO Box 151150, 66041Saarbru cken, Germany

    {Department of Digital Media, University of Applied Sciences, Kaiserslautern, Germany

    Keywords: Usability; Design problem solving; Cognitive walkthrough; Guidelines.

    Recent research has compared di erent usability evaluation methods with respectto their e ectiveness and e ciency. The paper analyses the impact of di erentusability evaluation methods on design problem-solving processes of individualdesigners and evaluators. It is proposed that usability evaluation methods have tobe divided into two categories according to their fundamentally di erent way ofsupporting the design for usability: (1) guideline-based methods and (2) methodsbased on the mental generation of scenarios and anticipation of user goals. Wepresent data from an experimental study that shows that these two types ofmethods entail di erences in the perspective-taking processes. Furthermore, theresults indicate that the methods have a di erential impact on the generalproblem-solving strategy, i.e. whether to use a top-down, breadth-rst or adepth-rst approach. Possible implications for the development of techniquesthat support the design of usable systems are discussed.

    1. IntroductionIt is now broadly recognized by developers and human factors specialists that`usability is deeply a ected by every decision in design and development (Dumasand Redish 1993: 8). Hence, it is not surprising that the last two decades witnessedthe emergence of user-centred engineering approaches to master the process of`building usability into interactive systems. Such approaches range from generalprinciples (e.g. Gould and Lewis 1985), guidelines (e.g. Mayhew 1992), and compre-hensive methodologies (e.g. Good 1988, Hackos and Redish 1998) to specializedmethods and techniques such as task analysis (e.g. Diaper 1989) or usability evalua-tion methods (e.g. Molich and Nielsen 1990, Nielsen 1994, Polson et al. 1992). Toemphasize the close correspondence to the process of software engineering, the con-glomerate of these approaches and methods has been coined usability engineering(Whiteside 1986, Good 1988). Notwithstanding the success of the usability engin-eering approach with its focus on the development and project level perspective, theproblem-solving process of the individual designer as the core component of anydevelopment process has in part been neglected. (The terms `designer and `devel-oper are used interchangeably in this paper.)

    There seems, however, a clear need to support designers more e ectively on anindividual level in their e orts to design usable systems. A necessary prerequisite forthe development of e ective methods is an understanding of the cognitive processes

    THEOR. ISSUES IN ERGON. SCI., 2002, VOL. 31, NO. 1, 2646

    Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science ISSN 1463922X print/ISSN 1464536X online # 2002 Taylor & Francis Ltdhttp://www.tandf.co.uk/journalsDOI 10.1080 /1463922011011033 3

    *Author for correspondence. e-mail: m.plach@mx.uni-saarland.de

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  • that underlie design problem solving and its relation to usability concerns (Carroll1996). In this paper, we propose a framework to investigate the role that di erentusability evaluation methods play in user interface design problem solving.

    Methods generally di er with regard to a couple of features such as their degreeof formality, their e ectiveness and the e ciency of nding or avoiding usabilityproblems (Gray and Salzman 1998). All of these aspects surely have to be taken careof in a general e ort to provide methods and technologies for supporting user-centred design. However, the development of such methods also needs to begrounded on empirical ndings about, for example, how compatible di erentapproaches are to typical problem-solving processes of designers, about the waythey inuence design cognition and problem solution strategies, about how wellthey help the designer in taking the role of the user of the to be designed interfaceand, last but not least, how much additional cognitive load they impose on designers.In sum, the cognitive support function of di erent methods needs to be carefullyconsidered. Consequently, we take the stance of Cognitive Ergonomics in thispaper and conceive of the designer or evaluator as the user of methods which aresupposed to help him or her to improve the usability of a product or design.

    When tackling the question about the e ects di erent usability evaluationmethods have on design cognition and which of these methods might be bettersuited from the perspective of the designer or evaluator, it should not be overlookedthat there are some general constrains which are crucial for the acceptance of anymethod. We assume that cognitive support methods have to full the followinggeneral requirements: (1) the method should be applicable quickly, that is, itshould not impose much additional cognitive load; (2) the method providedshould be easily integrated into natural occurring problem-solving processes (wedo not, however, go as far as May and Barnard 1995 who claim that the methodshould not require the adoption of any particular structured method or designnotation); (3) the method must not only deal with partially specied design, butprevent designers from early commitments which are consequently too deeplyembedded to be rejected later on (May and Barnard 1995).

    Within the limits dened by these general constraints, this paper provides antheoretical and empirical analysis of the cognitive support function of di erentmethods. The analysis is structured as follows. Section two will span the theoreticalframework of the approach presented. We will argue that although user interfacedesign is a rather typical design problem, certain characteristics of the problemstructure seem to dominate user interface design more than in other design domains.On the basis of these characteristics, hypotheses about reasoning processes and thecompatibility of di erent methods for supporting design will be derived. The thirdsection reviews results on mental simulation in design. Section four will then discussthe e ectiveness and cognitive support properties of di erent methods of usabilityevaluation. It will be argued that approaches based on stimulating usage on the basisof scenarios as, for example, Cognitive Walkthrough (Polson et al. 1992, Wharton,Rieman et al. 1994), which alert the designer to explicate probable user cognition inthe design process, help designers to model usersystem interaction more deeplycompared with guideline-oriented methods. In the fth section, we will then presentan empirical study that shows that di erent methods do have a measurable impacton perspective taking and usage modelling. Furthermore, the data indicate thatframing usability issues for the designer according to certain evaluation methodswill support them to adopt a more systematic top-