Database systems: different interfaces for different users

Jennings, Frances (1991). Database systems: different interfaces for different users. MPhil thesis The Open University.

Abstract

Users of database systems, especially public information systems, can vary widely in their aptitudes and experience with using computer systems. This study investigates whether users with different aptitudes and experience are suited to database system interfaces with different dialogue styles.
Experiments were conducted to examine the performance of users on interfaces with different dialogue styles. The results suggested that dialogue styles which aid navigation through the database, and which constrain the dialogue, are suitable for users with both a low spatial ability and a low experience of using command language style interfaces. However dialogue styles which offer little assistance with navigation, and which allow an open and flexible dialogue, are suitable for users with a high spatial ability whatever their experience, and for users with a low spatial ability but high experience of using command language style interfaces.
The suggestion that different users of a database system are suited to interfaces with different dialogue styles, raises the issue of how to present different users with different interfaces. The study investigates the possibility of producing an adaptive database system, which automatically provides each user with the interface which suits them.
A demonstration adaptive version of one of the databases used in the experimental work was developed. The system was designed to present an interface which aided navigation, and constrained the dialogue, to users with low spatial ability and low actual and potential experience of using command style interfaces. The system was designed to present an interface allowing an open and flexible dialogue to users with high spatial ability, or low spatial ability but high actual or potential experience of using command style interfaces. The adaptive system was constructed with the aid of a prototype 'adaptive system shell", designed to provide a generic architecture for the mechanisms necessary for an adaptive system.

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