PORTLAND, Ore. User interfaces should adapt to individual skills and style, rather than forcing users to adapt to the size, location and layout of buttons and menus in computer application software, University of Washington researchers told the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.
In response, the team developed the "Supple" user-interface technique. They claim the new tool would allow user interfaces to adapt to screen size, input devices and skill level of individual users. Supple works by offering a configuration option that tests users' dexterity in basic operations, then replicates the appropriate size, location and layout of buttons and menus.
Computer application and Web designers expend much effort designing user interfaces. But new features that are useful to some users often confound others, according to professors Dan Weld and Jacob Wobbrock at the University of Washington in Seattle. This "one-size-fits-all" approach to user interfaces would be turned on its head by Supple, which allows users to personalize the location and layout of buttons and menus, said doctoral candidate Krzysztof Gajos, who presented a paper on Supple at the AAAI conference.
Supple could be especially useful to the disabled and the elderly, said Gajos. Some Web sites offer a "large text" option for magnifying text in menus and buttons, but Supple goes beyond such quick fixes to measure individual mouse (or other cursor-control device) skills and adapt the user interface to match.
Supple also would allow users to enter a configuration routine that tests their skills at the various configurable options, then generates an interface in real time. For menu configuration, the tool asks users to click and drag items, select from a list and click repeatedly on one spot. According to the researchers, the dexterity test takes about 20 minutes, and can be accessed later by Supple-compatible applications for instant personalization of user interfaces for new programs, Web sites or when using a mobile device.