Do you want to improve the user experience of your graphical modeling tool? Users are accustomed to a variety of utile features in textual editing that also benefit graphical modeling tools, such as efficient auto-completion, automated formatters, and immediate feedback on the software. As developers of graphical modeling tools, we strive to assist users in creating high-quality and scalable models. Over the last years, we experienced that improving the user interface of our modeling tool involves difficult trade-offs that need to be discussed within the project's community. These trade-offs affect either usability aspects or user groups: For instance, adding a dedicated feature may support novice users in learning the tool, while slowing down experts.
We will share our experiences in dealing with those trade-offs as software engineers without extensive knowledge of user interface design, using the "Cognitive Dimensions of Notations". The dimensions represent usability criteria of modeling tools for discussing and assessing features and strategies. Based on the notation, we performed developer walk-throughs and user studies within our community that revealed major usability flaws. Resolving these issues significantly increased the user satisfaction of 4diac IDE, an Eclipse project for graphically modeling automation software.
In the talk, you will learn what are typical trade-offs, how to assess your tool, and how to resolve identified issues. We share our lessons learnt for developing modeling tools, such as:
- Why handling large graphical models is tedious
- How to visualize user interactions
- Why trees are not the best view for hierarchical models