Tag Archives: user interface design

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Notes: Design of interfaces for information seeking

Marchionini, G., & Komllodi, A.  (1998). Design of interfaces for information seeking. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST), 21, 89-130.

In this chapter Marchionini and Komlodi examine the state of user interfaces for information seeking. Interfaces are defined as the conjunctions and boundaries where different physical and conceptual human constructs meet, and is at the center of information science in fields such as human-computer interaction (HCI and human factors. The chapter looks at advances in technology and research, summarizes the developments of the first two generations of user interfaces, and examines current (as of 1998) developments in the field. One way to look at the chapter is shown in figure 1, with technology, information seeking, and interface design research and development shifting from mainframes to PCs to the web, from professionals to literate end users to universal access, and from ASCII characters to graphics to multimedia respectively. Some early developments remain important today, such as the components of an interactive system – task, user, terminal and content (with context added later). Another milestone was the development of the GOMS (goals, operators, methods and selection) model, the first formal model of of HCI. Two themes throughout the chapter are the interdependent nature of research in this area and the importance of human-centered concepts and design.

This is a really good summary of the history of HCI with an eye specifically toward searching and information use. It’s not surprising the many of the names we have seen on articles this semester show up here as well. The only real regret I have is that there are no pictures. User interfaces often rely on visual display for interaction, so in addition to all the description it would be really interesting to see examples of the different generations of user interfaces. One other criticism is that little attention is paid the the interfaces of video games—I have read a lot of articles about interface design that ignore this field as well.

Although it is a little out of date, there’s a lot to be taken from this chapter’s historical perspective. I found three things in particular that were talked about in relationship to third-generation user interfaces that were particularly interesting. First was the move toward universal access or ubiquitous computing. It is in some ways a measure of success that researchers now worry about the lack of computers in Sub-Saharan Africa—this wouldn’t be a problem if information seeking computer interfaces were not so available, useful, and approachable. Second was the notion that the advance of the web in some ways slowed the advance of user interface design, although the apparent disadvantage quickly disappeared. This is something I’ve run into in a different form as a web designer—clients complaining that their web site did not look exactly like their brochure. Again, in some ways this was an embarrassment of riches—the web site cost nothing to distribute, could be found by search engines, acted as a storefront, but the lack of a particular font face was a step backward? Finally, the notion that the whole field is really interdisciplinary is important to always keep in mind.

Weekly listserv journal – Cross-cultural user interface design

A poster mentioned that they want to concentrate on cross-cultural user interface design in school, but hadn’t seen much about it.  No one seemed to think that there was enough research/work done on the issue, and I don’t think I’ve really seen anything about it.  There are some obvious things like language but the real problem is how different cultures assign different meaning to signs and symbols.

As part of a class project I’ve been reading the Online-News mailing list and responding to some of the issues and discussion brought up there.

Information visualizations and spatial maps on the web – Usability concerns

Visualizing the web

Although web technologies are constantly changing, most users still browse the web the same way they did back in 1995–typing keywords into search boxes, clicking from home page, to section, to subsection on a navigation bar, or following link, to link, to link. The fact that it is called a “web” suggests that there should be other ways of navigating websites, and there are a number of projects attempting to employ information visualizations and spatial maps to do so.

All web pages organize information visually, but “information visualization centers around helping people explore or explain data that is not inherently spatial, such as that from the domains of bioinformatics, data mining and databases, finance and commerce, telecommunications and networking, information retrieval from large text corpora, software, and computer-supported cooperative work.” (“InfoVis 2003 Symposium”) Spatial metaphors are used to communicate different levels of information. A simple, static example would be a personal homepage built to look like the designers home, with links to favorite movies in the living room and recipes in the kitchen. A more advanced example would be a customer relationship management system for a large company which instead of presenting a list of technical support problems and solutions, displays an interactive map of problems, with more common problems in a larger font size, and recent problems in red. In both cases, users get an immediate grasp of complex information.

Such visualizations are intended to help solve two current web usability problems: the lack of a wide view to web structure, and the lack of query refinement based on relationships of retrieved pages (Ohwada 548). But they must do so without creating additional usability barriers. This paper will describe three current information visualization projects and describe some of the usability issues these sorts of projects face.

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