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The influence of screen size on spatial task performance

Damlakhi, Razan (2013) The influence of screen size on spatial task performance.

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Abstract:Rapid and widespread developments in display technology have made spatial information available in more formats and from more sources than ever before. New applications enable more sophisticated tasks, which in turn prompt increased use of a wider diversity of display devices. Due to this diversity, users can access many spatial information resources and services across a range of contexts in time and space. They are increasingly attempting to perform tasks that are typically done at the desktop on a variety of portable and accessible handheld display devices like tablets and smartphones. Despite the big improvements and advanced technical characteristics of such devices, some constraints still remain, like input methods and screen sizes. Screen size sets a limit on how much data can be comfortably presented at one time. When dealing with limited screens, the entire amount of available information on the map cannot be shown in a useful way at once or with equal focus. Displaying a map in its entirety typically provides only an overview without sufficient detail, while zoomed-in views offer more detail, but cause loss the overall context. Hence, users are required to navigate the map virtually by using zoom and pan functionalities that allow them to select the desired portion of space to be viewed. Understanding how user interact with digital maps across several display platforms, and how the interaction varies with different tasks and situations would help presenting appropriate methods of displaying spatial information on different devices, and would contribute knowledge to the study of human-computer interaction and spatial behaviour, information visualization, and map use and usability. In order to explore how users’ behave in using maps differ across different sizes of displays, a controlled lab experiment was designed and conducted for the purpose of investigating the impact of screen size on spatial task performance. Investigation took place in terms of: amount of interaction, task execution time, mental effort and subjective satisfaction and preference. Ten test persons executed typical common map reading tasks (locating, searching, comparing, and route planning) using a desktop 22 inches, a tablet 9.7 inches and a smartphone 3.5 inches. Several quantitative and qualitative methods were used in combination to supplement each other to collect data on user behaviour and some additional information. Those methods were: thinking aloud (audio recording), video recording and screen logging, interviews, and eye-tracking. Additionally, several questionnaires were administered to gather data on the TP's characteristic, satisfaction, preference and workload. The findings indicate that screen size has impact on the presentation and exploration of spatial data. It has been noticed that different display devices do encourage different user behaviours when dealing with maps. Thus, screen size plays a role in spatial task performance. It can be concluded that desktop screens create the possibility for enhancing map interaction as increased display space allows for both greater context and detail in a single view. Overall, the TPs performed more effectively and efficiently on the larger displays, as evidenced by a reduction in virtual navigation (amount of interaction activities: zooming and panning) used to solve the tasks. Less zooming and panning on the desktop screen means that the TPs maintained a more stable sense of context and detail. Less zooming and panning also indicates less effort for manipulating the displayed map. That resulted in making the use of the larger display less stressful, and creates a better sense of confidence and satisfaction than the smaller ones. Eventually, the desktop was the favourite display for 6 TPs while the rest showed preference for the tablet. The touch screen in tablet was preferred over the smartphone because it is fairly easy to use, attractive and fulfils the TPs’ requirements. Overall, it was surprising to find that the tablet was considered to be relatively equivalent to the desktop despite a relatively smaller screen. Most TPs indicated that using desktop and tablet was nearly equal (with the tablet coming close behind the desktop). Performance on the tablet was better than expected, many TPs enjoyed using it; they were content to have a fairly commensurate experience between tablet and desktop. On the other hand, and with screen size being a limiting factor, the majority of the TPs felt that they worked harder, performed poorer and were more frustrated when using the smartphone compared to the desktop and tablet. Key words: Display size, interaction, mental effort, spatial tasks, overview, touch screen, details, performance, context
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ITC: Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation
Programme:Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation MSc (75014)
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