Investigating Layout Complexity

This paper presents work-in-progress in assessing the usefulness of a layout complexity metric in evaluating the usability of different screen designs. The metric is based on the Shannon formula from communication theory. Initially the metric was applied to thirteen Windows applications where thirty subjects were asked to rank screens on the basis of “good” design. A significant negative correlation was found between the subjects' rankings and the complexity ratings, indicating that users do not like “simple” screens. For the next stage a pilot application, “Launcher”, was developed in Visual Basic to calculate complexity and collected usability data. Seven subjects provided some evidence that a layout complexity metric could be of benefit to the screen designer. However, though Launcher proved useful in collecting data, some problems need to be overcome, namely more concise data collection and a better method for building screens, before more data can be collected. The final version of “Launcher” should provide conclusive evidence of the worth of the layout complexity metric as well as showing that usability metrics can be built into the design environment.
Computer-Aided Design of User Interfaces I, Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Computer-Aided Design of User Interfaces (CADUI'1996), June 5-7, 1996, Namur, Belgium
Presses Universitaires de Namur