Personal Technologies

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 241–254 | Cite as

Specification-led design for interface simulation. Collecting use-data, interactive help, writing manuals, analysis, comparing alternative designs, etc.

  • Harold Thimbleby


This paper shows how to combine a substantial part of the product development cycle of interactive devices into a single, coordinated approach. Much can be derived automatically from a suitable specification of the interactive device. Normal product development has a device specified and built, then has its manuals written, then it is used and tested. At this late stage design problems may be identified, but it is now too late: usability studies become academic in so far as the particular product is concerned, since it is already effectively in production. It would be better if the testing and manual writing could rapidly be obtained from the initial specification, before any investment has been made in fabrication. This paper offers a design approach that achieves this, and it shows how the various views of the design can be used to help improve each other; for instance, the automatically generated user manual can be fed back to suggest improvements in the design. A microwave cooker is used as a real example. This paper provides full and unabridged details of everything it discusses by usingMathematica as a rapid prototyping environment. Any similar device can be analysed in the same way, directly from the paper (which is available on the World Wide Web).


Interactive help Product development User interface design User manuals 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Wolfram S. The Mathematica book, 3rd edn. Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass., 1996Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Sharp J. Interaction design for electronic products using virtual simulations PhD thesis, Brunel University, 1998Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cairns P, Jones M, Thimbleby HW. Usability analysis with markov models. Working paper (available from the authors), 1998Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Thimbleby HW, Witten IH. User modelling as machine identification: new design methods for HCI. In: Hix D, Hartson R (eds) Advances in human computer interaction IV. Ablex, Norwood, N.J., 1993: 58–86Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Thimbleby HW. Formulating usability. ACM SIGCHI Bulletin 1994; 26(2): 59–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Thimbleby HW. Design for a fax. Personal Technologies 1997; 1(2): 101–117Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Thimbleby HW, Addison MA. Manuals as structured programs. In: Cockton G, Draper SW, Weir GRS (eds) BCS Conference HCI'94, People and Computers, IX. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994: 67–79Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Stanton N (ed) Human factors in consumer products. Taylor & Francis, London, 1998Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Thimbleby HW, Addison MA. Intelligent adaptive assistance and its automatic generation. Interacting with Computers 1996; 8(1):51–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Thimbleby HW, Ladkin PB. A proper explanation when you need one. In: Kirby MAR, Dix AJ, Finlay, JE (eds) BCS Conference HCI'95, People and Computers, X. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995: 107–118Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Thimbleby HW, Ladkin PB. From logic to manuals again. IEE Proceedings on Software Engineering 1997; 144(3): 185–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Computing ScienceMiddlesex UniversityLondonUK

Personalised recommendations