The structure and development of human-computer interfaces

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The Dialogue Management System (DMS), the setting for this research, is a system for designing, implementing, testing, and modifying interactive human-computer systems. As in the early stages of software engineering development, current approaches to human-computer interface design are ad hoc, unstructured, and incomplete. The primary goal of this research has been to develop a structural, descriptive, language-oriented model of human-computer interaction, based on a theory of human-computer interaction. This model is a design and implementation model, serving as the framework for a dialogue engineering methodology for human-computer interface design and interactive tools for human-computer interface implementation.

This research has five general task areas, each building on the previous task. The theory of human-computer interaction is a characterization of the inherent properties of human-computer interaction. Based on observations of humans communicating with computers using a variety of interface types, it addresses the fundamental question of what happens when humans interact with computers. Formalization of the theory has led to a muIti-dimensional dialogue transaction model, which encompasses the set of dialogue components and relationships among them. The model is based on three traditional levels of language: semantic, syntactic, and lexical. Its dimensions allow tailoring of an interface to specific states of the dialogue, based on the sequence of events that might occur during human-computer interaction.

This model has two major manifestations: a dialogue engineering methodology and a set of interactive dialogue implementation tools. The dialogue engineering methodology consists of a set of procedures and a specification notation for the design of human-computer interfaces. The interactive dialogue implementation tools of AIDE provide automated support for implementing human-computer interfaces. The AIDE interface is based on a "what you see is what you get" concept, allowing the dialogue author to implement interfaces without writing programs.

Finally, an evaluation of work has been conducted to determine its efficacy and usefulness in developing human-computer interfaces. A group of subject dialogue authors using AIDE created and modified a prespecified interface in a mean time of just over one hour, while a group of subject application programmers averaged nearly four hours to program the identical interface. Theories, models, methodologies, and tools such as those addressed by this research promise to contribute greatly to the ease of production and evaluation of human-computer interfaces.