Accessing networked services : a user interface design problem
This research investigates the general user interface problems in using networked services. Some of the problems are: users have to recall machine names and procedures to. invoke networked services; interactions with some of the services are by means of menu-based interfaces which are quite cumbersome to use; inconsistencies exist between the interfaces for different services because they were developed independently. These problems have to be removed so that users can use the services effectively. A prototype system has been developed to help users interact with networked services. This consists of software which gives the user an easy and consistent interface with the various services. The prototype is based on a graphical user interface and it includes the following appJications: Bath Information & Data Services; electronic mail; file editor. The prototype incorporates an online help facility to assist users using the system. The prototype can be divided into two parts: the user interface part that manages interactlon with the user; the communicatIon part that enables the communication with networked services to take place. The implementation is carried out using an object-oriented approach where both the user interface part and communication part are objects. The essential characteristics of object-orientation, - abstraction, encapsulation, inheritance and polymorphism - can all contribute to the better design and implementation of the prototype. The Smalltalk Model-View-Controller (MVC) methodology has been the framework for the construction of the prototype user interface. The purpose of the development was to study the effectiveness of users interaction to networked services. Having completed the prototype, tests users were requested to use the system to evaluate its effectiveness. The evaluation of the prototype is based on observation, i.e. observing the way users use the system and the opinion rating given by the users. Recommendations to improve further the prototype are given based on the results of the evaluation.