SUNConferences, COMA '13

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Usability and Learnability of Graphical Notation Systems in Process Modeling Languages
Katrin Arning, Martina Ziefle, Eva-Maria Jakobs

Last modified: 2013-08-21


Modern working systems require a high amount of knowledge, communication and cooperation between workers and organizations. In order to capture, analyze and communicate internal knowledge, process-modeling methods (PMM) are applied, which visualize processes in diagrams by using specific graphical notation systems. Though PMMs are widely used in many industrial contexts, their general usefulness and effectiveness is hampered by two major factors. One is that the transfer of visually encoded diagrams (e.g. process models) in verbal or written codes (e.g. for job descriptions) is susceptible to errors, as highly abstract visual information has to be enriched by additional and contextualized information, which is difficult to standardize. Second, the workforce in high-wage countries is increasingly characterized by diversity. The learnability of PMMs largely depend on the individual knowledge of the worker, their knowledge about the specific process-modeling method and its related notation system but also process-specific knowledge about task elements, process routines and required resources. Especially workers with restricted domain knowledge might not be able to properly interpret process models. Apart from this, further individual variables such as differing mental models, cognitive abilities or variances in the sociocultural background might hamper a correct understanding of process models. This paper reports on an empirical-experimental procedure, which was carried out to assess the comprehensibility of graphical notation systems and the learnability of the PMM notation elements. In addition, the impact of individual variables (e.g. PMM-expertise, information processing, spatial visualization ability) on the understandability of notation elements was assessed. The finding shows that the efficiency and the effectiveness of graphical notation systems largely depend on the degree to which user-centered design principles. Also it could be shown that the application of icon usability evaluation methods from the Human-Computer Interaction research field can be successfully applied for industrial contexts, increasing the working productivity.

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