New Approaches to Help Users Get Started with Visual Interfaces: Multi-Layered Interfaces and Integrated Initial Guidance (2003)
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We are investigating new ways to help users learn to use public access interactive tools, in particular for the visual exploration of government statistics. Our work led to a series of interfaces using multi-layered design and a new help method called Integrated Initial Guidance. Multi-layer designs structure an interface so that a simpler interface is available for users to get started and more complex features are accessed as users move through the more advanced layers. Integrated Initial Guidance provides help within the working interface, right at the start of the application. Using the metaphor of ticky notes overlaid on top of the functional interface locates the main widgets, demonstrates their manipulation, and explains the resulting actions using preset animation of the interface. Additional sticky notes lead to example tasks, also being executed step by step within the interface itself. Usability testing with 12 participants led to refined designs and guidelines for the design of Integrated Initial Guidance interfaces.