Accommodating Usability driven Changes in Existing Software Architecture

T. Rafla, R. Oketokoun, A. Wiklik, M. Desmarais, and P.-N. Robillard (Canada)


: usability scenarios, software architecture, interface redesign


Issues such as whether a product is easy to learn, to use, and whether the user can efficiently complete tasks using it, may greatly affect a product's acceptance in the marketplace. In software engineering, the support for usability is widely believed to be independent of software architecture design. This belief stems from the efforts to separate the user interface component from the application's internal logic, thus enabling changes to the interface without affecting the software architecture. This assumption has been recently challenged by Bass et al. [6] who argue that architectural patterns must be in place in order to support good usability design. We investigate the degree to which this revised belief is true with a case study on the redesign of an existing application for better supporting usability. The redesign is based on implementing a task-oriented interface and help system. Preliminary results show that much, though not all, of the required changes can be done without major changes to the software architecture of GIMP. The results do support the idea that the envisioned usability redesign could not easily be implemented without some powerful architectural features that do not necessarily correspond to the specific patterns identified by Bass et al.

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