Supporting Novice Multimedia Authoring with An Interactive Task-Viewer
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Many novice users struggle with multimedia authoring (MMA) tasks. MMA tools often have extensive feature sets and correspondingly complex user interfaces that impede these users’ creative pursuits. My goal was to provide support for novice users so they can more effectively utilize MMA systems. First, I conducted User Study 1 to observe both novice and advanced users, and from this group of users, I identified approaches that experts often employed but novices did not. Drawing on an analysis of MMA systems and theory of general problem-solving, I hypothesised that these approaches were related to what I call meta-tasks. A meta-task involves the generalized work of both constructing and maintaining an appropriate representation of a task. Advanced users execute meta- tasks effectively while novice users find them significantly more difficult. Based on this assumption that the issues experienced by this set of novice users could largely be explained by considering meta-tasks, I identified potential challenges underlying novice difficulties and developed a set of relevant design guidelines to address them. Next, I followed an iterative approach to design a prototype MMA environment that is conducive to effectively satisfying the design guidelines. The overall design process consisted of several cycles of development, evaluation, and refinement. In User Study 2, I explored and compared different possible design configurations in order to establish a set of support features. This MMA environment consists of a standard MMA system together with a new support tool called the Interactive Task-Viewer (ITV). The ITV allows novice users to view and explore the complex task structure of MMA effectively. Finally, I conducted a usability study (User Study 3) to evaluate a prototype of this new environment. The results revealed that, compared to the traditional MMA environment, (1) users were able to complete specific MMA tasks faster in this new environment, (2) users found the new environment easier to use, and (3) the new environment positively addressed the challenge of meta-task difficulties for novice users, thus this new environment effectively supported this set of novice users.