Testing the robustness and performance of spatially consistent interfaces
Relative spatial consistency - that is, the stable arrangement of objects in a 2D presentation - provides several benefits for interactive interfaces. Spatial consistency allows users to develop memory of object locations, reducing the time needed for visual search, and because spatial memory is long lasting and has a large capacity these performance benefits are enduring and scalable. This suggests that spatial consistency could be used as a fundamental principle for the design of interfaces. However, there are many display situations where the standard presentation is altered in some way: e.g., a window is moved to a new location, scaled, or rotated on a mobile or tabletop display. It is not known whether the benefits of spatial organization are robust to these common kinds of view transformation. To assess these effects, we tested user performance with a spatial interface that had been transformed in several ways, including different degrees of translation, rotation, scaling, and perspective change. We found that performance was not strongly affected by the changes, except in the case of large rotations. To demonstrate the value of spatial consistency over existing mechanisms for dealing with view changes, we compared user performance with a spatially-stable presentation (using scaling) with that of a 'reflowing' presentation (widely used in current interfaces). This study showed that spatial stability with scaling dramatically outperforms reflowing. This research provides new evidence of spatial consistency's value in interface design: it is robust to the view transformations that occur in typical environments, and it provides substantial performance advantages over traditional methods.