Extracting usability information from user interface events

Abstract

Modern window-based user interface systems generate user interface events as natural products of their normal operation. Because such events can be automatically captured and because they indicate user behavior with respect to an application’s user interface, they have long been regarded as a potentially fruitful source of information regarding application usage and usability. However, because user interface events are typically voluminos and rich in detail, automated support is generally required to extract information at a level of abstraction that is useful to investigators interested in analyzing application usage or evaluating usability. This survey examines computer-aided techniques used by HCI practitioners and researchers to extract usability-related information from user interface events. A framework is presented to help HCI practitioners and researchers categorize and compare the approaches that have been, or might fruitfully be, applied to this problem. Because many of the techniques in the research literature have not been evaluated in practice, this survey provides a conceptual evaluation to help identify some of the relative merits and drawbacks of the various classes of approaches. Ideas for future research in this area are also presented. This survey addresses the following questions: How might user interface events be used in evaluating usability? How are user interface events related to other forms of usability data? What are the key challenges faced by investigators wishing to exploit this data? What approaches have been brought to bear on this problem and how do they compare to one another? What are some of the important open research questions in this area?