Interface Evaluation
Paper by Raju Rajesh                                             Date: Aug 29, 2002

Software Package: Microsoft PowerPoint            Subject:Kuldeep Naik


Task: To create presentation slides for a software development project in MS PowerPoint. The aim of this exercise is to test the efficiency of the interface provided by Microsoft Corporation.


About the Subject: My subject of observation was Kuldeep who is a Master's student in Information Systems and is well versed with most of Microsoft's products. 

Total Time Spent Observing: 28 minutes


Narrative Description of Subjects Activities:

Min 1

Chooses the MS PowerPoint icon from the desktop and double clicks the same. Chooses “New Presentation “from the File menu. A popup window with all available templates pops up and the subject analyses each of them, which one to choose. He does not use the shortcut given in toolbar to create a new presentation. 

Min 3

He finally makes a decision and chooses one which has space for heading and some text below it. Double clicks on the heading and types the heading. He chooses to change the font since he is not satisfied with the present one. 

Min 5

He then aligns the same; he can do the aligning with ease since he is using the toolbars given on top of the screen.He types characters in the text space and he makes some errors, a red line appears across those errors. He then assumes those are errors and tries correcting them. This is a good feature MS PowerPoint offers. The software on the other hand fails to recognize grammatical errors, which are found in MS Word, another application of the same family. If the user types the words MS Word or MS PowerPoint in lower cases, the software generates error. This is a feature not called for.

Min 8

The subject now wants to change the background color for his slide, he searches for a special key or a picture that would represent that in the toolbar, he is unable to find one, continues searching in the menu options given above. He even tries double clicking the slide hoping a popup window would open up and solve his problem, but all in vain. Finally he finds it in a place that one would not expect that to be.

Min 12

He then chooses to create a new slide; he again fails to use the small pictures given on top of the screen and uses the dropdown menu from the top of the screen. He chooses a template with a chart and text beside it. He types the heading and then thinks for a minute or so to decide on the chart, he then asks me how to import chart from MS Excel and then I help him to show that double clicking on the picture opens a new window from where he can choose to import the file, but I am wrong the double clicking enables to change the font or the background color of the chart, this is in sharp contrast where the user was unable to make the same thing when he tried to change the color of the template. (Refer MIN 8 for the same).

Min 16

He now makes his third slide; he creates a template with a picture and a place to enter text. He chooses the MSN library for pictures. He does that with ease. He takes most of his time to choose a picture. He tells me that he is searching for a call center picture and is unable to find the same. He then uses the button to go online on MSN web page to get pictures from there. He finds a picture of a man speaking on the phone and uses that.

Min 21

He now goes back to the second slide he created and copies it, he pasts it four times, he takes his material and changes the newly pasted slides. Now he has seven slides. He then moves the slides in desired order.


Modes of Interaction Used by the Subject:

He uses his mouse, to interact with the system and uses the keyboard to type.

No shortcuts or hot keys used by the user, he is not familiar using the same.

He also does not use the icons; he wishes to use the drop down menu instead.

He uses templates for all his slides.

User does not use Help given by the software nor does he use the “Office Assistant”, a program that runs trying to help the user.

Question the subject about their perceptions of the system: 

Which features of the product are found convenient, which annoying etc.

The icons on the top are difficult to understand and manipulate.

The background picture was difficult to change.

Spell check is a brilliant feature.

The clip art gallery makes life easier.

The slide show feature is also good.

Interaction with MS Excel makes it easy to import or export charts.


Summary

PowerPoint can be used to prepare slides for printing onto OHP ( Over Head Projector) transparencies or for direct projection. Microsoft Power Point is one of the best software for presentations in today's market. It has a lot of advantages and some disadvantages. The software can interact very well with Microsoft products. Some of the ways to improve its interface for being more user friendly are discussed below.

Package Features Used by the Subject:

Clipart, Drop-Down Menus, slide show 

Unused Package features (why not?): 

Help file (Very difficult to find the right answer)

“Office assistant” (This program was designed to help novice users, but it does not solve the purpose)

Shortcuts (Maybe too hard to remember, and the icons must be more self explanatory)

Actions facilitated by the package:
A small preview on the side

Spell check

Automatic Formatting of Text

Slide Show

Actions that appeared awkward:
A useless program called office assistant, on the top right of the screen, doing nothing except wasting computational memory time.


The help provided by the package was also not useful, it does not help a novice user.



Recommended Improvements

Current software systems are rather complex, offering the user many choices, configurations and options; but they often leave the users to handle this complexity on their own.MS Power Point is no exception. We believe the system should be relatively simple to use and the complexity hidden from the user. One way of achieving this is by effective user interfaces. MS PowerPoint has 7 toolbars, and most of the time users do not know to use them and it just clutter the screen.

 
 

 Recommendation 1

Some common problems are:

The number of different menus and toolbars with various options and icons may clutter the workspace, and it appears that considerable learning is required before someone is ready to use a specific system. Even if users are trained to use the system, it still remains complicated and requires the user to have comprehensive knowledge of the application for it to be used efficiently.

The majority of users do not know all the possible options that the system can support. This may be due to presentation of the options, users limited short-term memory, infrequent use of certain functions or options, or a combination of these factors. Users tend to limit themselves to a few basic options or functions that are familiar to them.

Often it is not easy to understand the function provided by a button simply from its icon. This may lead to a wrong choice of button, and may have an adverse effect on the user, resulting in them preferring menus rather than toolbars.

There is a feature to customize the toolbars and icons, the user will have to spend extra time on this and also have knowledge of how to customize, instead if there was a feature where the software would recognize the repeated usage of the user and adjust its toolbars and icons accordingly, it would help the user a lot and make the user more comfortable.
Recommendation 2
The development of a speech based interface would also be helpful. For example, when the user is giving his lecture and instead of him being near the computer or OHP, a simple command like “ Next Slide please” would make the computer go to the next slide.

Recommendation 3

Development of a better Help feature that would be more user friendly, and answer to specific questions by the user, instead of making a search with related keywords on the database.

Recommendation 4

When an error is made, and the computer is asked to Ignore that it does so at that moment but eventually, when we type the same word again, it fails to recognize that and shows an error. This feature can be modified to make it to update the existing database.

Recommendation 5

When we type something in PowerPoint, this also applies to Microsoft Word, and we want to change the font, we get a window that is shown in the picture, we can only choose in between “Shadow” and “Emboss”, but you can see that the other option does not fade or show anything to warn the user of the same. Same is the case with Super and Sub script.

 
 
Once again, we have to thank the boys and girls in Redmond for conceiving of more completely useless features that can only serve to impress each other during recess. For those users that prefer to play with their software, the dockable menu in Office '97 is undoubtedly cool. We on the other hand, prefer to work with our software. With gimmicks like this, is it any wonder that PowerPoint now consumes nearly 120 Megabytes of disk space? Another example in Office 2000 when we click on any menu item, it slides down slowly, instead of just a plain old drop down, I have no clue what purpose that serves and personally, it is wastage of developers time. This is not a serious problem, but it does illustrate that programmers view rather than the users.