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Barbara S. Isa


Publications by Barbara S. Isa (bibliography)

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Isa, Barbara S. and Krysiak, Deborah A. (1990): Usability Issues Related to Mapping a Command Language onto Interactive Software Panels. In ACM SIGCHI Bulletin, 21 (3) pp. 40-41.

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Isa, Barbara S., Evey, R. James, McVey, Bernard W. and Neal, Alan S. (1985): An Empirical Comparison of Two Metalanguages. In International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, 23 (3) pp. 215-229.

An important issue in the usability of software is the quality of the manuals that are provided with the product. Some manuals describe the rules of a programming language to the user, and the syntax notation or metalanguage used to describe these rules can take various forms. In this study, we tested a notation which uses brackets and braces (designated "Signs") against a method which uses syntax diagrams (designated "Maps"). A two-day experimental design was used in which the subjects were trained and tested on one metalanguage the first day, and then trained and tested on the second metalanguage the next day in a Latin square design. Four phases of this experiment were conducted, with 12 subjects in each phase. The procedure remained the same in each phase, but the subject population (programmers or non-programmers) or training material (full manual or one-page instruction) was changed from one phase to the next. No performance differences were found between Maps and Signs when the subjects were given extensive training on the metalanguage. However, when training was restricted to one page of instruction, performance was consistently superior with Maps for both programmers and non-programmers.

© All rights reserved Isa et al. and/or Academic Press

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Isa, Barbara S., Boyle, James M., Neal, Alan S. and Simons, Roger M. (1983): A Methodology for Objectively Evaluating Error Messages. In: Smith, Raoul N., Pew, Richard W. and Janda, Ann (eds.) Proceedings of the ACM CHI 83 Human Factors in Computing Systems Conferenc December 12-15, 1983, Boston, Massachusetts, United States. pp. 68-71.

Message quality is a critical factor in influencing user acceptance of a program product. Good error messages can reduce the time and cost to create and maintain software, as well as help users learn about the product. We have developed a methodology for conducting controlled usability evaluations of error messages. The Message Test Program is easily modified to adapt to different product situations, and messages can be evaluated even before working code exists. The Message Test Program can be used to test error messages for a batch product, as well as messages for an interactive product. It can also be used for stand-alone messages, for products that offer on-line help, or messages that provide additional information in a reference manual. Message testing enables us to objectively evaluate error messages and provide specific feedback about the difficulties users encounter and how error messages can be improved.

© All rights reserved Isa et al. and/or ACM Press

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