Today, software ergonomics on the one hand, and interface and media design on the other, are two separate schools that have few common goals in the area of designing user interfaces, and, naturally they come up with different solutions. Whereas ergonomics place the accent on the most effective operation, interface and media design put the artistic, creative aspect in the foreground, at best ignoring efficient methods of program handling, sometimes even deliberately avoiding them. This article describes the practical attempt to combine both schools.
As a working example we created a user interface for a document retrieval system. The Boolean query, so popular in document retrieval, causes great problems for users. Various approaches to the elimination of these problems by means of visualisation create new problems. Not so convincing metaphors, and the inadequate and hard-to-interpret forms of representation, impair the usability of these visualisation techniques. This paper discusses the critical aspects of visualisation in document retrieval systems, and represents a new approach to the solution. The general design strategy employed are findings from software ergonomics and aspects of interface and media design.
® GESIS, Maximilian Eibl, 17.09.1998