Carl Farrell, Russell Alfonso, and Frank Tillman Hawaii Pacific University
The intent of this project is to show how the quality and success of human-tocomputer communication can be significantly improved by new uses of graphic dimensions. Our interest is in developing interfaces that are informative by the way they are visually structured. In the present paper, this type of visual enhancement will be applied to spreadsheet design. The idea of an "informed interface," which is referred to in this paper, was developed by Tillman and Farrell under a National Science Foundation grant entitled "The Hawaii Education and Research Network (HERN) Project."
Human interaction with a computer is, in an important respect, like human-tohuman communication. The success of human communication depends on the flow of inferences that one person makes on the basis of the verbal and bodily behavior of another person. The success of human communication is measured in terms of the fluidity of interpretive inferences. The same measure of success applies to computer-to-human communication. Like human communication, the ideal in computer-to-human communication depends upon a flow of inferences that is both powerful and free of misinterpretations. But there are serious weaknesses in the flow of inferences fostered by most computer systems.
The success of interface design can be measured according to a number of scales: power, clarity, ease of learning, and ease of use. One persistent problem that runs across all of these measures is the limited scope of two-dimensional display screens.
Decisions in a dynamic interactive environment must often be made quickly. However, those decisions must also be informed. This means that what appears on the screen must also be informed. But current graphic-supported interface design appears to be locked into a tight circle of limited possibilities that depend on icons and pictures. The conventional strategy of using picture-based tools is being replicated over and over with ever increasing difficulties and diminishing