Menu selection is a popular way of accessing databases and command sets.
When the database can be categorized on a semantic basis, each menu
entry usually reflects a "field of knowledge". However, some information -
such as the ordered sequential lists found in telephone directories -
cannot be easily categorized, and must use a presentation scheme
which divides entries into ranges using lexical ordering.
This paper reports a human factors investigation of six possible menu
displays for alphabetically-ordered lists. It offers clear guidance as to
which menu format provides the best human performance in terms of scanning
speed and error rate. Novice and expert computer users are also compared,
with results indicating that novices have slower scanning speeds and
greater sensitivity to menu displays than experts. Differences between
human performance in scanning root menus and menus buried deep in
hierarchies are also studied. The results suggest that the traversal of
alphabetic menu hierarchies should avoid, as much as possible, descending
deep into the tree, for user efficiency deteriorates with depth.
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