University of Konstanz
Graduiertenkolleg / PhD Program
Computer and Information Science

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Author(s) B├╝ring, T., Gerken, J., Reiterer, H.
Title Usability of overview-supported zooming on small screens with regard to individual differences in spatial ability
Abstract While zoomable user interfaces can improve the usability of applications by easing data access, a drawback is that some users tend to become lost after they have zoomed in. Previous studies indicate that this effect could be related to individual differences in spatial ability. To overcome such orientation problems, many desktop applications feature an additional overview window showing a miniature of the entire information space. Small devices, however, have a very limited screen real estate and incorporating an overview window often means pruning the size of the detail view considerably. Given this context, we report the results of a user study in which 24 participants solved search tasks by using two zoomable scatterplot applications on a PDA - one of the applications featured an overview, the other relied solely on the detail view. In contrast to similar studies for desktop applications, there was no significant difference in user preference between the interfaces. On the other hand, participants solved search tasks faster without the overview. This indicates that, on small screens, a larger detail view can outweigh the benefits gained from an overview window. Individual differences in spatial ability did not have a significant effect on task-completion times although results suggest that participants with higher spatial ability were slowed down by the overview more than low spatial-ability users.
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