editing, documents, structure, xml, latex, interfaces, usability
This research investigates some of the reasons for the reported difficulties experienced by writers when using editing software designed for structured documents. The overall objective was to determine if there are aspects of the software interfaces which militate against optimal document construction by writers who are not computer experts, and to suggest possible remedies. Studies were undertaken to explore the nature and extent of the difficulties, and to identify which components of the software interfaces are involved. A model of a revised user interface was tested, and some possible adaptations to the interface are proposed which may help overcome the difficulties. The methodology comprised: 1. identification and description of the nature of a ‘structured document’ and what distinguishes it from other types of document used on computers; 2. isolation of the requirements of users of such documents, and the construction a set of personas which describe them; 3. evaluation of other work on the interaction between humans and computers, specifically in software for creating and editing structured documents; 4. estimation of the levels of adoption of the available software for editing structured documents and the reactions of existing users to it, with specific reference to difficulties encountered in using it; 5. examination of the software and identification of any mismatches between the expectations of users and the facilities provided by the software; 6. assessment of any physical or psychological factors in the reported difficulties experienced, and to determine what (if any) changes to the software might affect these. The conclusions are that seven of the twelve modifications tested could contribute to an improvement in usability, effectiveness, and efficiency when writing structured text (new document selection; adding new sections and new lists; identifying key information typographically; the creation of cross-references and bibliographic references; and the inclusion of parts of other documents). The remaining five were seen as more applicable to editing existing material than authoring new text (adding new elements; splitting and joining elements [before and after]; and moving block text).