Comments required on user interface design

Paul Barker <> Thu, 30 April 1992 14:44 UTC

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Subject: Comments required on user interface design
Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1992 14:00:10 +0100
From: Paul Barker <>
Message-ID: <9204301049.aa17757@NRI.Reston.VA.US>

    I have sent the following message to a couple of other lists recently
(apologies to those who have already seen it before) soliciting comments on 
possible improvements to a directory user interface I have developed.
The interface in question is de (it's available as part of ISODE-7.0) and is
also used as the PARADISE project's public access interface.

For those of you who haven't tried it before, you can try it:

by telnet to: (login as dua)
by PSS X.29:  23421920014853 (no login req'd)
by IXI X.29:  20433450400253 (no login req'd)

If you'd like to help me (and others, as I'll circulate the results) to
design interfaces with the features that are genuinely required, please read


Paul Barker

========================Original message follows=======================

    At various recent meetings I have spoken about possible enhancements to
the PARADISE directory user interface, also known as de (for Directory
Enquiries).  I have selected some of what I believe to be useful
enhancements, along with a very brief rationale, if it is other than "I have 
been asked by several people to consider it".  There is effort available 
to do some, but probably not all, of
these improvements.  I would like to canvass opinion as to which of these
people would like to see implemented.  I have provided a proforma at the
end.  You might like to indicate preferences for each suggestion on a scale
of 0-10 (no indication equates to a mark of zero).

I'll report on, and hopefully implement, any consensus.


                Possible enhancements to de

1. Full screen version (as well as scrolling mode):

   Users expect interfaces to network services to have this style of
   interface.  It probably makes presentation of information (including
   help info) easier.

2. Produce a version for PCs (which would use the lightweight DIXIE protocol
   to talk to a DUA server, and thus to the Directory)

   Urgently needed because there is a dearth of interfaces which people can
   run on the equipment they typically have on their desks.

3. Increase searching functionality to allow the searching of localities or
   states within countries.

   The US in particular is starting to put information about smaller
   organisations under state entries - de can't find this information.

4. Provide an option to be able to see all the attributes for an entry,
   possibly even photos.

5. Provide the ability to modify entries (by escaping into a simple data
   management tool)

6. Optionally allow users to enter comments on the interface / service.

7. Allow users to enter names in the user-friendly naming style.  This would,
   for example, allow you to find my entry by typing a single string of
   "p barker, ucl, gb" at the person prompt.

8. A power search feature.  This would allow searches of the type "find
   me all the people called Fred Bloggs in UK universities".  I would
   suggest that this should only be invoked deliberately, and wouldn't be
   as a default feature.

   Perfectly rational people say that the
   hierarchical data structure might be understandable from a management
   point of view, but it doesn't help you make the sort of searches you want.

9. Look out for patterns of behaviour whcih suggest that a user may be
   "stuck" - offer a very clearly guided path out or back to sanity.

   I guess you will answer yes if this has happened to you!  

10. Better support for international character sets.

11. A multi-lingual version.

    Translations already exist into at least 3 other languages. The question
    remains whether to make language a compile-time or run-time decision.

Answers please:

1. Full screen                      ...
2. PC version                       ...
3. Searching localities/states      ...
4. All attributes                   ...
5. Modify capability                ...
6. Allow comments                   ...
7. User-friendly naming             ...
8. Power search                     ...
9. Pathological behaviour detection ...
10. Character sets                  ...
11. Multi-lingual                   ...
12. Other (state what)              ...      

You are:                            ...

a) A Directory implementor
b) A Directory user interface implementor
c) A Directory administrator
d) A computer scientist / seervice provider
e) An ordinary mortal