Improving Task Switching Interfaces
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Most interfaces for switching between tasks require slow, visual searches of candidates, where each candidate must be scanned in turn. We developed a logging tool for task switching actions and undertook a log-based study with eleven participants to empirically characterise task-switching behaviour, finding Zipfian distributions for window and application switching, and significant differences in interface use between single and dual monitor users. We then used this data to assist in designing a new interface (Spatially COnsistent Thumbnail Zones or SCOTZ) to allow rapid task-switching performance by utilising spatial memory. In a formal evaluation against three mainstream interfaces under four workspace conditions, SCOTZ attained the lowest mean times for all conditions and scaled better with workspace load, obtaining a significant difference under high workspace load. We conclude with a recommendation for using SCOTZ at all workspace loads, and suggest it be implemented and tested in a real-world environment.