Designing The User Interface By Schneiderman And Plaisant

Shneiderman, B., & Plaisant, C. (2005). Designing the User Interface. Chapter 14.5: Information Visualization (pp. 580–603). Boston: Pearson

Shneiderman and Plaisant discuss an aspect of user interface design called Information Visualization. Information visualization can be defined as the use of interactive visual representations of abstract data to amplify cognition (Card, Mackinlay, and Shneiderman, 1999; Spence, 2001; Bederson and Shneiderman, 2003; Ware, 2004). When it comes to information visualization, typical questions involve more categorical variables and the discovery of patterns, trends, clusters, outliers, and gaps in data such as stock prices, patient records, or social relationships. Improved user interfaces to digital libraries and multimedia databases have spawned appealing new products/interfaces that allow for flexible queries against complex text, sound, graphics, image, and video databases.

Although the computer contributes to the information explosion, it is potentially also the magic lens for finding, sorting, filtering, and presenting the relevant items. The need to search in complex structured documents, graphics, images, and sound or video files presents grand opportunities for the design of advanced user interfaces. Powerful search engines will be able to find the needles in the haystacks and the forests beyond the trees. The novel information-exploration tools—such as dynamic queries, treemaps, zoomable user interfaces, hierarchical faceted metadata interfaces, and parallel coordinates—are but a few of the inventions that will have to be tamed and validated by user-interface researchers. A better integration with perceptual psychology (understanding preattentive processes and the impact of varied coding or highlighting techniques) and with business decision making (identifying tasks and procedures that occur in realistic situations) is needed, as are theoretical foundations and practical benchmarks for choosing among the diverse emerging visualization techniques. Information exploration can result in complex interfaces that might he overwhelming for novice users, and novel demonstration or training methods might be useful. Empirical studies will help to sort out the specific situations in which visualization is most helpful. Finally, software toolkits for building visualizations will facilitate the exploration process.

This article really provides a good introduction to the rationale behind proper information design. The examples used in this article clearly provide the need for consideration of how information can and should be visualized to the target end user population. In my opinion, the article provides the reader with an opportunity to consider how interfaces can be designed in the ever evolving world of knowledge and information representation. This is an important consideration for students in this course to consider since these are aspects that may need to be addressed in our upcoming final projects.

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