International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, 25, 229-248.
HCIL-86-07, CS-TR-1498, CAR-TR-123
In order to make computers easier to use and more versatile many
system designers are exploring the use of multiple windows on a single
screen and multiple coordinated screens in a single work station displaying
linked or related information. The designers of such systems attempt to take
into account the characteristics of the human user and the structure of the
tasks to be performed. Central to this design issue is the way in which the
user views and cognitively processes information presented in the windows or
in multiple screens. This paper develops a theory of the "cognitive layout"
of information presented in multiple windows or screens. It is assumed that
users adopt a cognitive representation or layout of the type of information
to be presented and the relationships among the window of screens and the
information they contain. A number of cognitive layouts are derived from
theories in cognitive psychology and are discussed in terms of the intent of
the software driving the system and congruence with the cognitive processing
of the information. It is hypothesized that the particular layout adopted by
a user will drastically affect the user's understanding and expectation of
events at the human-computer interface and could either greatly facilitate or
frustrate the interaction. Ways of ensuring the former and avoiding the
latter are discussed in terms of implementations on existing multiple-window
and multiple-screen systems.