How Experienced Users Avoid Getting Lost in Large Display Networks

The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, United States
International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction (Impact Factor: 0.85). 12/1999; 11(4):269-299. DOI: 10.1207/S15327590IJHC1104_1
Source: DBLP


This article provides a cognitive analysis of how people navigate in the computer medium. As the complexity of computerized information systems increases, interface designers face the formidable challenge of supporting navigation within these systems to allow users to quickly obtain relevant information. Instead of focusing on the comparison of a small subset of proposed techniques for aiding navigation, this study investigates how people handle navigation within the natural context of a familiar computer environment and reveals cognitive processes that can be better supported to aid navigation. The results of a field study and a field experiment converge to support previous navigation-related theories and contribute to a pattern of navigation behavior that has been noticed in domains like anesthesiology and nuclear power. This article describes the characteristics of the computer medium that influence people's ability to navigate, discusses typical navigation problems that arise in this medium, and describes how designers can aid navigation, based on an analysis of how computer users change their behavior and adapt to computer systems to overcome navigation-related problems.

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Available from: David D Woods, Dec 22, 2013
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    • "Since the original goals are then placed aside, the workers are forced to figure out where information is located and how to access it in the system. Therefore poorly constructed interfaces place demands on resources such as memory and attention[4]. "

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    • "Developers complained about not being able to see more of the surrounding context of the source code being viewed, and P2,P3,E1 customized their Eclipse window layouts to increase available screen space for source code. But given the sizes of these large systems, developers are effectively limited examining the system as a whole through a limited keyhole view [15]. As a result, developers must frequently switch between displays, maintaining relevant information in their working memory. "
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    ABSTRACT: We report on a field study about how software developers experience disorientation when using the Eclipse Java integrated development environment. We analyzed the data using the theory of visual momentum, identifying three factors that may lead to disorientation: the absence of connecting navigation context during program exploration, thrashing between displays to view necessary pieces of code, and the pursuit of sometimes unrelated subtasks
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    • "Interfaces with low momentum are essentially serial displays, where each display is perceptually independent of both its prior and subsequent displays, thus requiring the user to carry the mental burden of transitioning and reorienting between each display. There are several techniques that increase the visual momentum for an interface [32] [33], which we list here. We will see instances of these in the study. "
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    ABSTRACT: Humans have been observed to become disoriented when using menu or hypertext systems. Similar phenomena have been reported by software developers, often manifesting as a feeling of lostness while exploring a software system. To investi-gate this phenomena in the context of software development, we undertook a field study, observing eight developers of the open-source Eclipse project for two hours each as they conducted their normal development work. We also interviewed two other developers using the same tools but who were working on a closed-source system. The developers did report some instances of disorientation, but it was a rare occurrence; rather we observed strategies the developers used to remain ori-ented. Based on the study results, we hypothesize factors that contribute to disori-entation during programming tasks as well as factors that contribute to remaining oriented. Our results can help encode best practices for code navigation, can help inform the development of tools, and can help in the further study of orientation and disorientation in software development.
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