What Are We About?
The adoption of human factors techniques and expertise, widely practised in larger user interface groups can lead to highly usable interfaces. However, the required expertise is often in short supply, and furthermore barriers may exist between the human factors groups and the development groups because of the different skills and backgrounds involved.
A common language for the development of user interfaces is missing. Although many attempts have been made to create rapid development environments, these frequently focus on the reuse of components at a low level, such as buttons, menus and so on.
Very little effort has been expended on bringing together the object development communities (in which are included the pattern community) with the human factors communities. In short, a good deal of effort is made developing 'easy to use' development environments, but little on ensuring that the results of these tools are tuned to the requirements of the end user of the resulting interface. User interface development tools and methods frequently focus on one environment to the exclusion of others, for example on graphical user interfaces excluding command line, audio based or tactile interfaces.
The concept of a pattern language describing the operation of user interface elements offers the hope that a reasonably standard and systematic set of observed phenomena in user interfaces may be catalogued for future reference. This will allow user interface developers and human factors experts to commuicate in a common, non-technical language and for toolkit developers to build user interface toolkits based around macroscopic concepts as well as microscopic details.
Pattern languages of this form offer a number of interesting opportunities to those of us working in user interface development. Firstly, they offer a language by which team members can communicate with each other - whether human factors or programmers and other developers. This may sound trivial, but in practice is a significant benefit. Secondly, the development of interaction patterns offers the possibility of developing toolkits based not upon low level constructs such as buttons, windows and menus, but upon far higher level constructs described by a pattern. My group, AT&T Labs UK, has been developing just such a toolkit since January 1998.
What Will We Do?
How Will We Do It?
As Eugene Wallingford commented last year, without knowing who has proposed what in response to a call for participation, it is difficult to get too specific about the workshop plan. No doubt, therefore that the following plan will not survive contact with the enemy, as the saying goes! For what its worth, I propose the following outline structure:
Who Should Participate?
Object Patterns folks with an existing interest or track record in interactions patterns who can focus the group and avoid repetition of existing work
Object Patterns folks new to interactions patterns, but keen to participate
Human factors experts with a desire to learn more regarding object patterns within the context of their field - joining the hot-topic on the last day, but hopefully contributing more after the event .
I suspect and hope that a balance between industry and academia and between human factors and 'hard core' develop folks can be achieved in the interests of balance.
What Are The Important Dates?
How Do I Find Out More?
Please contact me by email at [email protected]
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