Week 3 – The State of the Union

This week was mostly spent on further research into UI.  I thought I’d take this opportunity to present a screenshot of where the VISTAS UI is at today.  It is currently a “bare metal” design; functionality has been kept at a minimum while the rendering engine has been worked on.

Vistas Screenshot

The Vistas UI, as it stands today.

Upon recommendation from Judy, I took a look at another visualization program called VisIt.  VisIt has been under development for many years by the Department of Energy, and in that time has become very feature-rich.  As you can see from the following screenshot, it is anything BUT “bare metal”:

VisIt Screenshot

A screenshot of VisIt, another visualization program.

As the scope of VisIt is presently much larger than VISTAS, I highly doubt VISTAS will ever need anything close to that many UI elements.  Nonetheless, I thought VisIt had some interesting features.  Namely:

  • Separate windows for loading/project management & visualization
  • Axis locking and zoom controls
  • Ability to change colors used dynamically via color table
  • Camera views – ability to lock, save & load
  • Save/Print Window for easy export of imagery

I also read an interesting paper: Current practice in measuring usability: Challenges to usability studies and research, Kasper Hornbaek, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Int. J. Human-Computer Studies 64 (2006) 79–102.  In it, Hornbaek acknowledges and evaluates the efficiency of various metrics for usability.  Particularly, he identifies the following measures of usability which can prove useful to my work on VISTAS:

  • Binary Task Completion — did the user finish their task?
  • Accuracy — how many errors did the user make while working towards their task?
  • Recall — how much information can the user remember after using the program?
  • Completeness — how complete of a solution did the user achieve?
  • Quality of Outcome — the user’s subjective satisfaction with the end result of program use

The differences between Accuracy, Completeness, and Quality of Outcome are subtle but very important.

In other project news, we are having a VISTAS teem meeting in Corvallis next week.  I am excited to visit with everyone, and am looking forward to the opportunity to talk to Margaret Burnett, an OSU professor who is an expert on UI and does some really cool research into machine learning techniques applied to UI.

About the Author: Justin
A 34 year old Software Engineer in Seattle, WA with a love for coding, music, video games, and the great outdoors.
Author Website: http://www.justinmangue.com

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