UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Anchored customization : anchoring settings to the application interface to afford customization Ponsard, Antoine


The HCI community has identified the need to let users adapt their software to their own tasks and preferences. Yet, many users do not customize, or only do so rarely. The de facto standard customization mechanism is the settings panel, which has undergone minimal design improvements since it was introduced along with the graphical user interface in the 1980s. Entirely disconnected from the application UI, these panels afford only very indirect manipulation, as users must rely on often cryptic text labels to identify the settings they want to change. From a developer’s point of view these panels make sense: they are simple graphical representations of traditional UNIX config files. In this thesis, we propose a novel customization approach, designed from the user’s point of view. In Anchored Customization, settings are anchored to conceptually related elements of the application UI. Our Customization Layer instantiates this approach: users can see which UI elements are customizable, and access their associated settings. We designed three variants of customization layer based on multi-layered interfaces, and implemented these variants on top of a popular web application for task management, Wunderlist. A remote experiment conducted on Mechanical Turk, complemented with a face-to-face lab experiment (for a total of 60 participants) showed that the two minimalist variants were 35% faster than Wunderlist’s settings panel. This new approach provides significant benefits for users while requiring little extra work from designers and developers of applications.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada