Saturday, September 17, 2011

Reaction: A Review of Overview+Detail, Zooming, and Focus+Context Interfaces

The paper mainly deals with the theme of usability of zoom, focus + context (distortion as well as blending), overview + detail and cue and how their presence instead of plain and simple scrolling and panning helps to provide larger details on a screen still maintaining the focus on things to be pointed out from these details. 

I thought that the paper tried to describe few interface schemes and then compare them stating their pluses and minuses and ultimately trying to propose a combined approach that would suit most if not all requirements of usability and ease of access for information.

I tried to capture the pros and cons of each technique that were mentioned in the paper as follows -

Zooming and Panning
1. Easy to implement
2. Widely used
1. Desert Fog Problem (user losing track during navigation)
2. Need of cognitive effort in refocusing after zooming in
Focus + context
1. Larger Possible focus
2. Task dependent benefits
1. Some find distortion techniques to be distraction (either because they are new to eye or lack the taste)
2. Some have difficulty in special comprehension direction scale etc.
Overview + Details
1. Preferred over zooming and panning
2. Outshines panning, zooming and fisheye
1. Requires mental effort and time to absorb the overview and detail representation
2. Requires more space since both are presented in separate windows
1. Suppress larger details into smaller ones by modifying the data
1. Dependent on context or search criteria

I agree with the author that none of the above mentioned techniques are ideal but are overall better than panning/scrolling. While overview + detail and zooming are standard and their benefit overrides usability problems, fish eye on the other hand are occasional and are used only of aesthetic purpose(like MAC OS doc etc).

I feel that, though an honest attempt is made in this paper in providing an acting guide for suggesting an approach which can get best of these mentioned schemes, current researches in interface schemes are not upto the mark that can act as a guideline for – “what combination of techniques for what tasks are most effective”

I being in cult of mobile platform, wonders - Can any of these techniques be used for specific analytic tasks on mobile gadgets? (I know Iphone uses some of these technique but given non-Iphone users like me might one day be benefited by researches in this area and their application to mobile platforms)