The Evaluation Of User Interface Notations

  • Chris Johnson
Part of the Eurographics book series (EUROGRAPH)


Over the last decade a wide range of graphical, tabular and textual notations have been proposed to support the design of human-computer interfaces. These notations are intended to strip away the clutter of implementation details that frequently obscure interaction properties. Unfortunately, relatively little work has been done to evaluate the usability of these notations for ‘real-world’ interfaces. We have, therefore, conducted an empirical evaluation of the User Action Notation (UAN), State Transition Networks (STN) and temporal logic ‘in the wild’. By this we mean that our subjects were drawn from realistic samples of users and designers. We also presented our subjects with realistic descriptions of two user interfaces. This avoids a weakness of previous investigations that have used ‘toy examples’. The results of our investigation show a strong preference amongst our subjects for the use of natural language descriptions. More surprisingly, our results also suggest a link between the frequency of comprehension errors and positive attitude statements towards particular notations. In other words, our subjects made most errors with the notations that they liked the best. This suggests that while graphical notations, such as state transition networks, have a strong intuitive appeal they may also create significant problems for real-world development tasks.


Temporal Logic Comprehension Question Graphical Notation Natural Language Description Window Manager 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    R. Bastide and P. Palanque. Petri net objects for the design, validation and prototyping of user-driven interfaces. In D. Diaper, D. Gilmore, G. Cockton, and B. Shackel, editors, Human-Computer Interaction—INTERACT’90, pages 625–631. Elsevier Science Publications, North Holland, Netherlands, 1990.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. Campion. Interfacing the laboratory with the real world. In J. Long and A. Whitefield, editors, Cognitive Ergonomics And H.C.I., pages 35-65. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1989.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    P.D. Gray and C.W. Johnson. A critical analysis of interface specification notations. In The Design, Specification and Verification of Interactive Systems, pages 113–133. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Germany, 1995.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    M. Green. Design notations and user interface management systems. In G.E. Pfaff, editor, User Interface Management Systems, pages 89–107. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, FDR, 1985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    T.R. Green. Cognitive dimensions of notations. In A. Sutcliffe and L. Macaulay, editors, People And Computers IV, pages 443–460. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1989.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    D. Harel. On visual formalisms. Communications Of The ACM, 31(5):514–530, 1988.CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    D. Hix and H.R. Hartson. Developing User Interfaces. John Wiley and Sons, London, 1993.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    A. Jack. It’s hard to explain but Z is much clearer than English. The Financial Times, page 22, 12 April 1992.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    C.W. Johnson. A formal approach to the presentation of CSCW systems. In J.L. Alty, D. Diaper, and S. Guest, editors, People And Computers VIII, pages 335–352. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1993.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    C.W. Johnson. A probabilistic logic for the development of safety-critical interactive systems. International Journal Of Man-Machine Studies, 39(2):333–351, 1993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    C.W. Johnson. The challenge of time. In P. Palanque and R. Bastide, editors, The Second Eurographics Workshop On The Design, Specification And Verification of Interactive Systems, pages 345–357. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Germany, 1995.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    C.W. Johnson. The economics of interface design. In K. Nordby, P.H. Helmersen, D. Gilmore, and S.A. Arnesen, editors, Human Computer Interaction — Interact’ 95, pages 19–25, London, United Kingdom, 1995. Chapman And Hall.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    C.W. Johnson. Literate specification. IEE/BCS Software Engineering Journal, 1996. Accepted and to appear early in 1996.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    C.W. Johnson and M.D. Harrison. Software engineering for human computer interaction. SIGCHI Bulletin, 26(2):46–48, 1994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    C.W. Johnson, J.C. McCarthy, and P.C. Wright. Using a formal language to support natural language in accident reports. Ergonomics, 38(6):1265–1283, 1995.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    W. Kuhmann. Stress inducing properties of system response times. Ergonomics, 32(3):271–280, 1989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Ministry Of Defence. Requirements for the Procurement of Safety Critical Software, MOD DEF-STAN 00-55, London, United Kingdom, 1991.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    National Aeronautic and Space Administration. Advanced Orbiting Systems — Architectural Specification For The CCSDS Secretariat, Washington DC, United States of America, 1989.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    D.R. Olsen. Presentational syntactic and semantic components of interactive dialogue specification. In G.E. Pfaff, editor, User Interface Management Systems, pages 125–133. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, FDR, 1985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    J. Scholtz and S. Wiedenbeck. Learning to program in another language. In D. Diaper, D. Gilmore, G. Cockton, and B. Shackel, editors, Interact’90. Elsevier Science, North Holland, 1990.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    S. Buckin gham Shum. Cognitive dimensions of design rationale. In D. Diaper and N. Hammond, editors, People And Computers VI: Proceedings Of HCI’91. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1991.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    P.C. Wright and A.F. Monk. A cost-effective evaluation method for use by designers. International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, 35(6):891–912, 1991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag/Wien 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.Glasgow Interactive Systems Group (GIST), Department of Computing ScienceUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

Personalised recommendations