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Cognitive Constraints in Navigational Design: From Psychology to Software

April 1, 2004

Date: Thursday, April 1st, 2004
 Woodward 149

Computer Science and Engineering, University of Michigan

Abstract: Identifying which design constraints -- limitations on what constitutes an acceptable solution to a design problem -- do or do not apply to a particular design situation is key to how quickly and how well the design problem is solved. In this talk, I present a case study that derives a set of design constraints for navigational design from existing empirical evidence surrounding navigational and spatial cognition. (I use "navigation" to mean the task of determining where places and things are, how to get to them and actually getting there, and my focus is on support for human navigation within the environment under design.) The study yielded a set of design elements that are key to navigational cognition along with a set of design principles describing how manipulations of these elements affect navigational performance. During the talk, I will demonstrate a navigational design for a spatial multiscale environment (Jazz) that is based on the derived principles. I will also present results from user testing of this design that show significant increases in navigational performance, along with significant decreases in effort, on a directed search task. The immediate value of identifying design elements and constraints upon them lies in their explicit use in design. However, I anticipate that the greater benefit will lie in embedding them in software development tools, such as application frameworks, so that they are used implicitly by both developers and designers (future work).