QUANTUM: Quick User Action Notation Tool for User interface Management

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Virginia Tech


The UAN (User Action Notation) is a task- and user-oriented behavioral representation technique for specifying interface designs that is used to communicate interface designs, support task analysis, and facilitate usability evaluation. A UAN interface description is made up of several linked sheets of paper containing task descriptions, notes, and sketches. UAN users have reported that writing and reading these designs is difficult. It is our hypothesis that these problems in usability are not inherent in the notation itself, but rather that effective use of UAN is hampered by the manual manipulation necessitated by pencil and paper. QUANTUM (Quick User Action Notation Tool for User interface Management), a software tool to facilitate writing and reading of UAN for user interface design, was developed through an iterative process based on formative evaluation by expert UAN users. QUANTUM supports development of a graph-based representation of a task abstraction hierarchy for a user interface design, with each node representing a user task. Task description windows for each task node allow entry of UAN in a tabular, spreadsheet-like format. Task libraries enable designers to build archives of task descriptions, enabling their reuse in other interface design projects. Note addenda containing explanatory text, screen sketches, design questions, and/or audio/video can be placed anywhere within a design description. These features, not afforded by pencil and paper, give QUANTUM a functional advantage over such media. Expert evaluators used in qualitative formative evaluation of the QUANTUM prototype indicated a strong preference over pencil and paper for using QUANTUM to produce UAN task descriptions. As a result of this work, we claim that QUANTUM improves usability of the UAN.