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Method For Dynamic Generation of Software Application Navigation Flows For Usability

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000192684D
Original Publication Date: 2010-Jan-28
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2010-Jan-28
Document File: 7 page(s) / 368K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Abstract

Described is a method for automatically generating user interface assistance for GUI applications. This is done by associating all GUI controls and possible actions in the application with a directed graph that reflects all possible paths through the screens and controls. The information extracted from the graph can be used to provide on demand dynamic assistance to the application user on how to navigate through the user interface to accomplish a specific task.

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Disclosed is a method for automatically generating assistance to users who need help navigating graphical user interface (GUI) applications.

                                 such help instructions are painstakingly created by technical writers who know the application well enough to anticipate the type of assistance that the user needs. These writers create large amounts of static help panels to cover most of the situations that the users will encounter. However, besides being expensive, such methods require that the help material be manually changed whenever the application changes. It also assumes the writers can anticipate all the situations where the user will need assistance. How much better would it be if the application itself could generate useful navigational advice to the application user based on what the user wants to accomplish in each situation as it arises. That is what the method described herein does.

Normally,

           there is a heavy demand to integrate new features into software applications. Due to this demand, applications change frequently which often causes the user interface to change. Some applications have static navigation assistance that demonstrates how to go about accomplishing certain tasks. This assistance might contain information that includes acronym definition, panel description, input and output meanings, etc. This assistance text is usually created by an external team which has no prior knowledge of the tool. This team must then become sufficiently familiar with the application to write up a complete set of navigation assistance text. They also need to be involved with new requirements as they emerge. The requirements reviewed usually end up changing during the implementation phase and the team has to be notified of these changes or, otherwise, the help text will not correspond to the user interface. This task of an external team charged with creating and/or updating the help text for an application can become a maintenance challenge as it is very time consuming and there is always the danger that the help text ends up out of synch with the application. Also, not all features of a product necessarily contain navigation assistance text. This leaves the user at a loss if they can't find their way around to do a specific task that hasn't been included in the help text. For those users who are new to the application, it is sometimes difficult to do anything useful with the application without explicit and up-to-date text. On the other hand, users who are familiar with the tool might find it frustrating when new panels are added, buttons are moved around, or when labels are renamed. Figure 1 below is an example of navigation assistance for a particular panel in a GUI, one that deals with specifying the properties of widgets.

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