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Research Needs for Human Factors conclusion is that now is the time to make a strong research attack on computer-based documentation, including self-instructional programs, coherent system-wide help systems, documentation keyed to the behavior of programs (so that an error calls forth an explanation of what went wrong), and programming languages that write programs to explain themselves. Capturing the Intent of the Creators of the System As suggested earlier, documentation must be viewed as a part of the overall system that interacts with other parts of the overall system. The time dimension—the history—of the overall system is a very important base of the interaction. Most systems are developed through efforts to improve earlier systems, and those that do not are developed from some kind of design activity in the minds of system designers. (Programs are systems, of course, so the same can be said of programs). The intentions of the improvers and designers are crucially important to understanding what the systems do, how they work, and how they should be used—but intentions tend not to be captured in the plans and designs. A computer program, for example, usually tells how to do something, not what it is that is being done, and it is very difficult to reconstruct the programmer’s intentions from the program. Research on this topic may or may not improve the situation, but it clear that the situation needs to be improved. A broad view of documentation is important. The right approach may be to create computer-based design and upgrading metasystems, within which improvers and designers would work under constant monitoring, with as much emphasis on recording intentions and goals as on devising the means for achieving them. Note that this notion, if not developed with sensitivity to privacy issues, could lead to serious ethical problems. Dynamic Graphics and Documentation Although documentation was, in earlier days, primarily print on paper, some documentation has been available in other media, such as recorded speech and movies. The latter offered, at considerable cost, the advantages of kinematic graphics and moving gray-scale and color pictures. The computer promises to reduce the cost of
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Research Needs for Human Factors preparing kinematic graphics by having a single, static program create dynamic multidimensional patterns that develop over time. The video disk promises to reduce the cost of storing and playing back all kinds of information, especially pictorial information. Together the computer and the video disk may open up a new era for dynamic graphic documentation. At present the computer can select and present in a few milliseconds any one of the approximately 55,000 pictures on a video disk. It can run off sequences of continuous frames as a movie or skip around under program control and show fast slide sequences. What it selects can be conditioned, of course, by the responses of the viewer or viewers. These capabilities present an exciting opportunity to explore and develop new approaches to documentation. Another exciting opportunity is being studied under the rubric of program visualization. The computer is capable, of course, of displaying representations of its own internal operation. It can present sequences of symbols representing the program that is being executed and the data on which the program is operating. Alternatively, it can present graphs, diagrams, and pictures to tell the person at the console what the program should be doing and what it is in fact doing. This latter approach to documentation, which requires sophisticated graphic display not widely available in the past, is now economically as well as technically feasible. The hope is that iconic displays will prove superior to symbolic displays in presenting the broad picture of the behavior of computer programs and systems and in helping people deal with their intrinsic complexity. With the iconic approach, it may be possible to provide something analogous to a zoom lens, through which one would be able to monitor and control the broad picture as long as everything proceeds according to plan, then focus on the offending details as soon as trouble arises. Documentation in the Form of Knowledge Bases Conventional documentation takes the forms of natural language text, diagrams, sketches, pictures, and tables of data; it is designed exclusively to be read by eye. New forms of documentation are becoming essential: pointer structures, semantic networks, procedural networks, and production rules, documentation designed to be
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Research Needs for Human Factors interpreted by computer programs. Such documentation will probably be used first in interactive computer systems to help end users or programmers and maintenance workers, but in due course it will be used also in fully automatic systems sophisticated enough to read their own documentation and restructure themselves to overcome difficulties and maximize performance. Some work has already been done on such documentation in the field of artificial intelligence; much more needs to be done. It is essential to couple research on documentation closely with other research pertinent to the systems in which it will be used—for example, with work on interactive tutorial systems for end users, interactive maintenance systems, and robotic maufacturing systems. Computer Systems to Facilitate Conventional Documentation The foregoing emphasis on computer-based documentation expresses our conviction that it is the high-payoff area within the documentation field, but it should not be taken to imply that conventional documentation is dead. We think that two main foci have the greatest potential payoff for research in conventional documentation: (1) understanding the target group of people that the documentation is intended to help and the tasks in which they will be engaged when they use the documentation and (2) using computer systems, with good editors, formatters, and composers to facilitate creation and production of c onventional documentation. The theme of understanding the users is developed elsewhere in this chapter. Great advances have been made in the last few years in the design of computer-based systems for creating and producing conventional documents, and research in that area has much new technology to work on. Indeed, research is needed to develop the capability to make the new editors, formatters, and composers easy to use in order to facilitate the preparation of documentation that will make them and other systems easy to use. Kruesi, for example, supported by the Office of Naval Research (NR 196–160), is investigating the relationship between the types of documentation provided to programmers and their performance on a wide variety of software-related tasks. In summary, research should be emphasized in several areas pertinent to documentation: (1) techniques of
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Research Needs for Human Factors on-line documentation, (2) interactions and information flows between document subsystems and other subsystems, (3) efforts to capture the intent of designers and upgraders of systems, (4) dynamic graphics and the video disk, (5) dynamic graphics and program visualization, (6) knowledge bases, (7) understanding the uses and users of documentation, and (8) computer-based systems for the development of conventional documentation. Of these suggestions two primary research needs are to know how and when to use display documentation with graphics and what program visualization techniques are most helpful to users. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS The primary research recommendatons in the areas of users, tasks, hardware, software, and documentation include a major emphasis on developing new methodologies to evaluate what is meant by ease of use in human-computer interaction. Does ease of use mean the extent to which it is easy to learn to use a computer; does it imply good design of hardware and software for a variety of naive, casual, and professional users; does it mean that any task can be done quickly and without errors; does it encompass a component of judged satisfaction about use; or does it mean all of these? We need to know what user characteristics are important determinants of successful human-computer interaction for a specified set of tasks, such as data base inquiries, computation and accounting problems, and editor or word processing functions. In the area of hardware design, more research is needed to evaluate alternatives to keyboard input (including voice input), uses of color in displays, the best sizes of displays, and alternatives to CRT displays. Studies in evaluating software are barely beginning to provide data for design use. We don’t yet know how to conduct systematic research studies in software design, what independent variables are most important, and what dependent variables of human-computer interaction should be recorded. We don’t have data to support the design of a simulation facility to effectively evaluate commands in operating systems, editing systems, knowledge-based systems, and query systems. We need to understand users’ conceptual models in interacting with specific software systems, and we need more information about the advantages and disadvan-
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Research Needs for Human Factors tages of natural language software systems. Documentation may well become part of the available software for users; when and how to display documentation is an important area for research. Research is needed on how best to use graphics and special knowledge bases to facilitate uses of documentation either on line or in manuals. Current documentation is designer-oriented rather than user-oriented, and the perspectives should be changed so that documentation is used more effectively. Although the research needs outlined are numerous, a major emphasis in this chapter is on systematic studies that include all four substantive variables—user and task characteristics, hardware, software, and documentation—and the interaction of these components with a clear-cut set of studies to define ease of use. REFERENCES Addis, T. R. 1972 Human behaviour in an interactive environment using a simple spoken work recognizer. International Journal of Man-Machine Studies 4:255–284. Al-Awar, J., Chapanis, A., and Ford, W.R. 1981 Tutorials for the first-time computer user. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication PC-24:30–37. Alden, D.G., Daniels, R.W., and Kanarick, A.F. 1972 Keyboard design and operation: a review of the major issues. Human Factors 14:275–293. (A very similar paper by the same authors is Technical Report 12180-FRIA, Honeywell Systems and Research Center, St. Paul, Minn., March 1970). Apsey, R.S. 1976 Human factors of constrained handprint for OCR. Pp. 466–470 in Proceedings, IEEE International Conference on Cybernetics and Society. November 1976. New York: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. Barnard, P.J., Hammond, N.V., Morton, J., and Long, J. 1981 Consistency and compatability in human-computer dialogue. International Journal of Man-Machine Studies 15:87–123.
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