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Activity-based User Interfaces. Rachel Jones and Chris Khalil. Objectives. Opportunities Multi-Function Devices (MFDs) are digital devices offering the capability to print, copy, fax and scan in one box MFDs are networked devices making accessible facilities at remote locations Problem

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activity based user interfaces

Activity-based User Interfaces

Rachel Jones and Chris Khalil



  • Multi-Function Devices (MFDs) are digital devices offering the capability to print, copy, fax and scan in one box
  • MFDs are networked devices making accessible facilities at remote locations


  • User interface is focussed on device capabilities
  • MFDs have the potential to support complex functionality


  • To develop strategies for making MFD services more accessible
  • To improve the user interface of MFDs
  • To extend the services offered by MFDs
  • The way things are: Current user interface of Hodaka
  • A typical work setting: The Mortgage Application Process
  • The way things could be: ActivitySets
  • System Architecture
  • Issues
  • Futures
  • Demo
problem with hodaka user interface take scan to file
Problem with Hodaka User Interface- take Scan-to-File
  • “What do I have to do to scan this document?”
    • A template must be set-up from the desktop
  • “What do all these parameters mean?”
    • Parameters that change often, such as file location, are mixed with default parameters, such as the IP address of MFD
  • “Which is the right template?”
    • Difficult to navigate a long list of up to 500 templates
  • “Where is my file?”
    • Files are stored on ftp server using an obscure naming convention

The Mortgage Application Process

Document intensive knowledge work distributed across intra and inter-organisational boundaries

  • Locations studied
    • High street branch offices
    • Regional Centres
    • Central Headquarters
  • Rich source of examples of work practices involving document capture, document distribution and document assembly
  • Similar examples of case assembly in other domains - e.g. legal, insurance, government.
fieldwork results
Fieldwork Results

From studying the co-ordination of work in a distributed setting, we obtained:

  • An understanding of a work setting
  • Descriptions of typical work patterns
  • Scenarios illustrating opportunities for MFD services
design strategy
Design strategy
  • Carried out a work process analysis to identify activities
  • Adopted different views of MFDs
    • Document portal
    • Document repository
  • Examined activities to identify document transfer and document access regularities
  • Used views and regularities to structure UIs
  • Focussed particularly on Scan-to-File
different views of mfds
Different views of MFDs

Process Activities

e.g. Request references

Document Repository

A service for accessing a file store

Document Portal

A service for transferring information to a different location or medium

Document Services

e.g. scan, fax, copy, print

  • Document portal set
  • Document repository set
  • File set
  • User set
document portal activityset
Document Portal ActivitySet
  • Interaction steps derived from field-work
  • Direct interaction with the templates affords the possibility to control the interaction
  • Semantic clustering of templates set the work context
    • from Case to Activity to Document
document repository activityset
Document Repository ActivitySet
  • Support basic document management system functionality
    • Storage: Add to case
    • Distribution: To multiple parties
    • Retrieval: Use information in case
    • Archive
file activityset
File ActivitySet
  • Navigate document repository to file a scanned document
  • No direct interaction with templates
  • Coherent document collections set the work context
user activityset
User ActivitySet
  • Separation of user-specific settings from device settings in templates
system architecture
System Architecture

Our software is running on PC

Touch screen connected to PC

touch screen

User interacts with touch screen

Data fetched by our software and actions taken corresponding to the user interaction

Then, user presses the green button


ftp server

platform for connecting to hodaka
Platform for connecting to Hodaka
  • Adopt a low-coupling approach between platform and UIs
  • Use DAE as underlying software
  • Develop a set of services to support existing Hodaka functionality
  • Develop notification and awareness services
services for existing functionality
Services for existing functionality
  • Scan to file
    • plus the ability to re-locate a file
    • plus the conversion of a file into a readable format
  • Print
    • conversion of a file into a printable format
  • Copy
  • (Fax)
notification and awareness services
Notification and Awareness services
  • E-mail confirmation of scan to file completion
  • Logging document activities
    • user information
    • file information
    • document monitor information
  • Reminders
    • daily log
    • e-mail
working demonstrator
Working Demonstrator
  • Shown in Rochester and PARC in November 1998
  • Demonstrated the potential of a customizable UI
  • Operation takes place at MFD rather than from desktop
  • Organized interaction steps
  • Selection of values from fields rather than field entry
  • Specification of additional services at job entry
  • Extended functionality of MFD
  • Usefulness of going to higher levels of activity?
  • What do we customize and what can we make generic?
  • How do we know this strategy makes MFD services more accessible?
  • Capture regularities as a set of services to be customized to the work setting
  • Develop notification and awareness services
  • Support interaction dependencies to develop a primitive workflow system
  • Test generality of strategy by applying it to another work setting