Ease of Use and Maintenance: A Note on Software Design

By Plant, Richard; Rostron, Andrew | Information Technology and Disabilities, January 1996 | Go to article overview

Ease of Use and Maintenance: A Note on Software Design


Plant, Richard, Rostron, Andrew, Information Technology and Disabilities


Increasingly powerful hardware has prompted commercial software developers to concentrate not on highly efficient code but instead on usability. With much modern software sharing the same look and feel, a commercial edge can only be gained by increased usability leading to improved productivity. In the commercial world, usability ratings by NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) and similar institutions can affect sales significantly, in the same way that a poor review might prematurely end a play's run in the theatre.

In the field of voice output communication aids (VOCAs), client usability and high productivity (in terms of speech output rates) have always been priorities. However, much of this usability has typically centred around users themselves and not the rehabilitation worker, or health care professional, who might participate in developing the range of materials and experiences (maintenance) offered by such an aid. In fact, even in Beukelman and Ansel's (1995) enumeration of research priorities in augmentative and alternative communication, no direct mention is made about ease of maintenance of VOCAs by those who have to structure the contents of these devices. As VOCAs take account of new technologies and become increasingly advanced, they may remain highly accessible to users, but increasingly complex for typical maintainers who have to develop material for them. For example, a DECTalk/symbol based aid might require the writing and maintenance of scripts. This process can be complex, tedious, and, in time-pressured service environments, counter-productive.

A simple analogy illustrates the point. At Christmas, a child may receive a toy which needs to be assembled by an adult. The child sees only the completed toy with which they are very happy, but does not appreciate the effort expended by the adult. If the toy were constructed from fewer parts which were less complex it could be constructed more rapidly. This would enable the adult to have a better understanding of the toy's workings in case they needed to fix it, to play with the child for longer, and to reduce potential stress associated with the construction. In a similar way VOCA can be difficult to understand from a maintainer's prospective, which may mean that maintenance times are increased and frustrations raised. Naive maintainers are likely to suffer most in this respect.

Concentration on usability, although highly desirable, can mean that maintainers may easily become disillusioned about a specific VOCA. Negative perceptions regarding VOCA maintenance are usually to the detriment of the user. On the other hand with good design a VOCA can be made to be rewarding and productive for both users and maintainers. If a device enables maintainers to build complex materials easily, and offers instant rewards, ultimately this is likely to be of benefit to the user.

With modern philosophies of software design such as object orientation, the maintenance of VOCA can be made simple and rewarding if the maintainer interface is correctly designed. It is suggested that maintainers' attitudes and abilities to use a given VOCA should be incorporated into the development cycle as is currently the case with users. With the employment of standard user interface questionnaires, such as the QUIS (Shneiderman, 1992), failings can be addressed and strengths consolidated during the development phase. In our own research, by following the principle that users and maintainers share the same good design needs, such concerns have been addressed in parallel. In this instance the needs of users and maintainers are considered of equal importance.

This ethos has produced a software based VOCA known as "Easy Speaker" which, from a user's perspective, seamlessly integrates photorealistic symbols, digitised speech, video clips, animation, MIDI music and the like. By making use of dynamic displays, the user can communicate vocally, in addition to using the device as a learning and recreational environment in its own right. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ease of Use and Maintenance: A Note on Software Design
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.