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Theses

Interacting with signifier-less designs — the case of swhidgets

Nicole Ke Cheng Pong 1
1 LOKI - Technology and knowledge for interaction
Inria Lille - Nord Europe, CRIStAL - Centre de Recherche en Informatique, Signal et Automatique de Lille - UMR 9189
Abstract : At the heart of this thesis is a common but problematic situation that users of digital systems often face in their daily interactions: to interact with the system, they need some knowledge of an interaction possibility, some piece of information about the interface, but this information is not provided in the context in which they need it. I call such interaction possibilities non-signified, and signifier-less designs the interfaces and interaction techniques that rely on non-signified interaction possibilities. An example of modern signifier-less design is what I call "swhidgets" for "SWIpe-revealed HIDden WIDGETS": widgets that are hidden under the screen bezels or other interface elements, out of view and not advertised by any graphical mark, but that can be revealed by dragging them into view with a swipe gesture relying on a physical manipulation metaphor. Swhidgets are an important component of touch-based smartphone and tablets interfaces, and will be the principal signifier-less design studied in this thesis. When facing a signifier-less design, users may be confused about what they should do and how to achieve their goals; or they might have to use suboptimal ways of achieving their goals because they are unaware of the existence of more efficient options. It is thus usually advised to avoid signifier-less designs. Yet, despite designers’ awareness of the problems they may cause, signifier-less designs are common in user interfaces. They thus deserve a deeper analysis than simply advising to avoid them in interface design. Indeed, there might be good reasons to apply this design: maybe they provide some benefits that are hard to see with our current understanding of these designs, or maybe there is no way to avoid them. In this thesis, I study the question of why designers would create interfaces that do not clearly expose some of their interaction possibilities, taking the case of swhidgets as an example and focus of inquiry. As a preliminary work on swhidgets, I focus on the following questions: What are signifier-less designs and what aspects of swhidgets design make them unique? Do users know the swhidgets provided by their system? How did they get to know them despite their lack of signifiers? What are the benefits of not having signifiers in the design of swhidgets? My contributions to these questions are: - I define signifier-less designs and provide observations of this type of design in user interfaces. - I provide an analysis of the fundamental notions required to define signifier-less designs: affordances, signifiers and semiotics. - I propose a model of user discovery and adoption of interaction techniques in general, relying on three dimensions and their relationships: users’ current knowledge and skills, users’ motivations, and the design means of informing users provided by the interfaces. - I propose the notions of Degree of Knowledge and Source of Knowledge derived from this model, that can be used in experiments to evaluate how well the participants know an interaction technique and how they discovered it. - I present the design and results of two studies on iOS swhidgets that investigate how well users known them, how they discover them, their reasons for not using them, how they generally feel about them, and how they integrate them in the way they think about their interactions with the system. These studies revealed that swhidgets were globally appreciated and relatively well known by users, although there is still room for improvement, notably for some specific swhidgets. I conclude with perspective for future works regarding the transfer of knowledge about swhidgets from one application to another, the pertinence of considering all aspects of user experience to understand the design of swhidgets, and the possibility to increase the discoverability of swhidgets by using animated transitions between interface views.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, February 10, 2021 - 2:22:37 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 20, 2022 - 5:28:57 PM
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Nicole Ke Cheng Pong. Interacting with signifier-less designs — the case of swhidgets. Human-Computer Interaction [cs.HC]. Université de Lille (2018-..), 2020. English. ⟨tel-03133122⟩

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