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Title: Understanding and evaluating user interface visibility
Author: Hosking, Ian
ISNI:       0000 0004 9360 0450
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2021
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Technology dominates our lives, mobile technology in particular. In 2016 Apple sold their billionth iPhone. By 2018 they had sold their 2 billionth device based on the same underlying operating system. We access such technology through the user interface (UI) and concerns have been raised about the usability of such devices. The situation has been described by some as a “usability crisis”. One of the key issues raised is the lack of visibility of user interface elements, which is deemed to be a critical component of an effective UI. An initial investigation highlighted that UI visibility can be broken down into three key aspects: Firstly; some user interface elements are effectively ‘missing’; Secondly, they are ‘missed’ because they are not seen by the user; and thirdly, they are seen but ‘misunderstood’. Further analysis of the home screen of an iPhone revealed that only 8% of the available functions were visible at the top level, in other words, 92% were effectively ‘missing’. This raises key questions about how UI visibility can be evaluated, and such evaluation adopted into design practice. This research took a psychophysical perspective to better understand UI visibility. This led to the development of an evaluation framework and associated tool called vis-UI-lise. The tool represents UI visibility as a series of 5 hurdles between the user and the interface that have to be overcome for a successful interaction. This tool was applied to an everyday task on a mobile phone which resulted in highlighting a range of possible usability problems. Comparison of the predicted versus observed problems showed that the vis-UI-lise tool had predicted 74% of them, a score that compares well with other usability evaluation tools. A training and support package was also developed for the vis-UI-lise tool and evaluated with four different organisations. This provided key insights into how the tool could be improved to fit in with typical design practice. This thesis brings a new perspective to the understanding and evaluation of UI visibility that could have a real impact on the design of everyday user interfaces.
Supervisor: Clarkson, P. John Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Usability ; Interface ; Visibility ; Design ; Evaluation ; Inclusive