Interface Evaluation Assignment One CSC 5855

Interface Evaluation

Student:   C. M. George 					 Date: May 31, 95. 
Software Package: WordPerfect 6.0a

Task: To reproduce a page from a given sample document. The sample page has six objects. Ten minutes were given to reproduce each objects using the WordPerfect's environment with all the icons are visible. My aim is to know how efficient is the user interface provided by the WordPerfect Corporation or any Corporation.

My subject of observation was Judy who is familiar with computers for a numbers of years; but she was introduced to menu driven computer environment systems only recently. She was working with WordPerfect for the last four weeks twenty hours a week and she knows basic operations in the WordPerfect. Basic operation means the operations associated with a typewriter using icons.

All the necessary information for reproducing the sample are given to Judy, such as where are clip arts, the need of using the icons, etc.

Total Time Spent observing: 60 minutes.

Narrative Description of the Subject's activities:

List times spent on subactivites and the various focus changes.

TIME IN MINUTES ACTION PROBLEM / COMMENT

1
Judy tries to reproduce the first object. Uses "Figure" icon and tries load the clip art. When "Figure" icon is clicked a new window is opened with a default file name *\WPG not as a wild card *\*. So unless the format of the picture is not known it is not easy to load it. The problem can be over come by typing the wild card.
3
Moves the clip art to its position. Now she has to type text over the clip art. Goes to "Caption" icon. It opens a new window. She tries different options given by that window and fails to find out what is the proper way putting a text over a picture. She goes "HELP" menu and click "How I do That" submenu. There she found no solution. The amount help is not enough for a novice, the first time user. On Line help was not written in the way the user wants or expects. In either case the Help file become useless.
6
She types the text and tries to drag that text over the picture. But the software does not allow that. Tries the cut and paste method; but the software does not recognize that action. If the user is making same mistakes again and again the software is unable to give any feed back.
9
Browse through the icons present on the monitor. The agreeable one, she found was caption. Click on it and a new window is opened up. She totally confused by the caption icon and its submenu. Some child windows are Greek to user unless there is somebody explains it to the user.
11
She was asked to go to the next object. Goes to A: drive, gets the picture as she did in the case of the first object. Positions the picture in the proper position. Here she was able to do the task without any difficulty because she was familiar with the procedure.
13
Tries to resize the picture using the handles. To lock on the resizing handles seems to be very difficult. Make wrong click on the picture and another windows comes up and that makes her confused. Able to resize it but size was so small and again she has to size it again. Handles associated with picture are notoriously inefficient in WordPerfect. To lock on the handles take a long time, while moving the picture is relatively simple.
17
Tries to type the text around the picture. Get the top line correct. Tries to type rotated text. Goes to Help menu to find out how to rotate a text. But did not understand what it was telling. Goes to "How Do I Do" submenu and there she finds no help. Though there are number of ways to get help, in real situation these helps fail to help.
21
She was asked to go to the third object. Types the text. Resize the type face. She was not able to get right size. Now she tries to invert the text. Browses through the number of icons and help files. There is nothing mentioned about inverting the text. When Help file use some terminology other than the user there can be some problem. Invert text is not seen in the help; but there is help to choose color of text. If Judy tried to choose the white color of the text things could have been better.
26
Tries another icon. Text art. Does not know really what she is doing. There she changes the color of the text. Fails to enter text where text is to be entered. Gets out of the child window. Here she was able to choose color because the pattern of color given in the window. Entering the text in a box is a way some of the softwares utilizing to manipulate a text. This often confuses the user because the user types the text not in the document..
31
Asked to go to the next object. She knew that it is the Bullet icon is to be used. She click the bullet icon and follow the direction given by the child window. Types the text. For the third line she was able to use hot-keys. Finishes that object within five minutes. Once the icons are familiar and what we can expect from them then using those icons are easy. Then it is use them and time will be saved. For experts icons are handy.
36
Goes to the next object. Tries to type the text. Thinks how can she move the text right position of the page. She was familiar with making columns. So she divide the page into two columns. But finds it very difficult to go to the second column from the first column. Uses enter key for a few times and that did not help her. Moving a text when there are columns present seems to be difficult. To manipulate text between columns seems to be very difficult in this software.
40
Tries to draw the vertical line. Easily draws the line but to define its length and style needs more experience. Uses the handlers to size the line. Able to size the line and brings it in the position she wanted to place it. Fails to recognize the style of the line. Here also the handlers are not efficient. When a small change is made in work space the whole layout together with lines and figures are dislocated.
45
Asked to go to the next object. She finds that object is to be reproduced using Text art. But she confuses Text art with Text Box. So Text box was clicked. When the child window is opened she realized her mistake. Close that window and click Text Art icon. This time she was able to enter the appropriate text in the box provided for it. Here she was unable to define the dimension of the box in which the Art is to be made. So when she returned main window the box was placed in another page. Sometimes even the labeled icons are confusing. In the child window unless you are trained it is not easy fill out all the necessary information. When OK button is clicked the software will not warn the user about unfilled information.
55
Tries to resize the box so as to get the same shape as in the sample. She was able to place in the required page but the size of the object was smaller than that of the sample. Tries to size again using the handlers but handlers are expanded but the picture keep its proportionality. Plays with handlers again and again without any significant result. When there are a number icons are bars they take a lot of space on the screen. So working are is highly reduced. This prohibit the user to get overall view of the workspace. Constant zooming in/out becomes necessary to have a clear idea that is happening in workspace.
60
Time was over and her production is printed out.

Modes of Interaction used by the subject:

  1. Subject interacts with Help file, icons.
  2. When it is familiar the subject uses Hot-keys.
  3. Subject is not afraid to start a process which is not familiar but afraid to complete it for the fear of messing up everything.

Question the subject about their perceptions of the system:

 
Which features of the product are found convenient, which annoying etc.
 
The icons in top bars (see page  9) are easy to do.
The icons in the side bar are difficult to understand and manipulate.
Submenus that are coming up after clicking buttons of the side bar are very difficult to read and understand. The usefulness is very much doubtful for a novice.
 

Summary:

WordPerfect is one best wordprocessing and desktop publishing software in the market. For an ordinary use of the wordprocessing it is very well suited; but when it is used for some complicated and custom made application it is not easy to use. All the features for a desktop publishing are built in the package. How to use them, that is the problem. In other words, the learning curve for the advanced features is very steep. This is the reason there are a number of self-tutoring material are coming up in the market, such as video tapes, audio tapes, CD Roms etc. To get a set of video tapes that will help the user to work around the software s/he has to spend double the amount the money in buying the software package.

Package Features Used by the Subject:
Help File, How I Do That, Icon Bars
Unused Package features (why not?):
Hot keys, Macros; because subject does not know about them.
Actions facilitated by the package:
Icons on the top bars.
Actions that appeared awkward:
Icons on the side bar.

Recommend Improvements, give reasons.

There are two ways in looking at the improvements.
  1. To improve the situation in which we are now. This is the one we are doing for the last few years; but the more we try to improve the more the problems come up. These problems may solved by considering the following the points.
    1. Feed Back. If the software has capacity to communicate with the user in real time, the online help will be real helpful.
      1. When the user closes an option window the software has to show total option system before it modifies the document. This will remind the user what all things s/he has missed.
      2. When the user commits the same mistake again and again the software must come up and inform why it is not able to do that task or warn the user that task is not possible.
    2. Help Files, On Line Help, etc. must written in such a way that it also accommodate different terminologies that may used by different users. Many people may use many words to denote one and the same operation.
  2. I think this the time we look at the user interface in radical way. Is there a better and natural way to communicate with computer other than keyboard and mouse? A poem goes:
    	In the beginning when computer was created 
    		it was created with a keyboard. 
    	Then keyboard gave birth to a mouse. 
    	Now the mouse assumes a number of incarnation 
    		like Track Ball, Touch Pad, Pointing Stick. 
    	And they with their mother stand in between 
    		Man and Machine ever since.
    
    For this, the first thing we have to consider the user in not another machine; but a person with a brain which can perceive more possibilities in a given than a machine. Give back the power to man rather machine controlling man. Then redraw the whole user interface based upon this philosophy.

Two diagrams are omitted.


Author: C. M. GEORGE June 1, 1995

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Last Changed: 21 June 1995