“The problem even with new, high-performance user interfaces is that the user must learn something new, and this is time-consuming. Especially in the beginning, searching for important functionalities may take so much time that the user will not change to a more powerful user interface, but gets frustrated. In our study, we examined how much time users at different stages of learning need in order to find the functionalities, and how learning progresses,” explains Postdoctoral Researcher Jussi Jokinen from the Aalto University Department of Communications and Networking.
Researchers combined mathematical models and the basic psychological phenomena of learning and measured participants' gaze and the time they spent searching for user interface functionalities. This way they monitored changes in the paths of users' gaze, as learning progressed, and how searching for the functionalities speeded up as users gained more experience.
"Based on the observations, we modelled the way people learn to use different types of user interfaces. We considered long-term memory, visual short-term memory, and eye movements and showed that it is possible to optimise user interfaces for learnability. Therefore, making the user interface as efficient as possible is not the sole objective of design, but the designer has to strike a balance between efficiency and learnability," says Jokinen.