Virtual Meetup: "Improving the usability of graphical modelling tools: lessons learnt from Eclipse 4diac"

Hi Community,

I am happy to announce that this Thursday (the 17th of March), Bianca Wiesmayr will hold the discussion about “Improving the usability of graphical modelling tools: lessons learnt from Eclipse 4diac”.

Also, remember that we changed the link to join the Meetup!

How do users perceive the usability of a graphical modeling tool? Software engineers are accustomed to a variety of useful features in textual editing that also benefit graphical modeling tools, such as efficient auto-completion, automated formatters, and immediate feedback on the software. Developers of graphical modeling tools strive to assist users in creating high quality and scalable models, but need to consider difficult trade-offs when they modify the user interface of a modeling tool. Such trade-offs affect either usability aspects or user groups: For instance, adding a dedicated feature may support novice users in learning the tool, while slowing down experts.

Bianca Wiesmayr is part of the project team of Eclipse 4diac, an open source environment for graphically modeling industrial automation software. It allows building software based on IEC 61499, which standardizes a domain-specific language. The talk will provide an overview on ongoing research and development activities around both the language and the tool.

In her talk, she shares her experiences in dealing with such trade-offs in the context of the 4diac IDE. The presented multi-stage usability study supports software engineers, who do not have extensive knowledge of user interface design, using the framework “Cognitive Dimensions of Notations”. The dimensions represent usability criteria of modeling tools for discussing and assessing features and strategies. Based on the notation, Bianca Wiesmayr organized developer walk-throughs and user studies within the IEC 61499 community that revealed major usability flaws. Resolving these issues significantly increased the user satisfaction of 4diac IDE. Many lessons learnt may be applicable also to developers of other graphical modelling tools.

Bianca Wiesmayr is a researcher at the LIT Cyber-Physical Systems Lab at the Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria. Her research interests focus around the domain-specific modelling language IEC 61499 and the usability of the respective modelling tools. Bianca Wiesmayr received her Master’s degree in electronics and information technology from Johannes Kepler University in 2018. She currently pursues her PhD degree in computer science on the topic of using behavior models for developing distributed control software. She is a team member of the Eclipse 4diac project, where she contributes to the development of an open source IDE for IEC 61499. Her research is published at conferences from the modelling and the industrial automation community. In 2020, she received the Best Paper Award for Factory Automation at the 25th IEEE Conference for Factory Automation and Emerging Technologies (ETFA).

Registration for the Virtual Meetup

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. It will also permit you to add it to your calendar.

Time

It is hosted on Zoom at 6 PM GMT+1/CEST (you can use this link to figure out which time is in your timezone: Dateful Time Zone Converter).

Event hint

I am also happy to extend the invitation to the MDENet Annual Symposium online on the 26th and 27th of January 2022. The event is free to attend so reserve your place here. There will be tutorials, challenge talks, informal networking sessions, roundtables and ample opportunity to mix with other like-minded people from the MDE world. Also, there will be a wide range of sessions including keynote speakers: Tony Clark, Aston University; Balbir Barn, Middlesex University or Mohammadreza Mousavi, King’s College.

Cheers,
Elisa

P.S. We get a recurring question: “Are presentations recorded?”. The answer is not, and the reasons are explained here On recording Virtual Meetups - #7 by voelter

Here there is the chat transcript:

17:48:22 From Federico Tomassetti to Everyone:
Hello Rene!
17:54:19 From Rene to Everyone:
Hello Hello! I starting hearing scary voices
17:59:15 From Rene to Everyone:
Typical effect of booze
18:14:48 From Juha-Pekka Tolvanen to Everyone:
Slide 10: what is the name in italics?
18:15:34 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
Do others see Bianca’s mouse pointer?
18:15:47 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
:+1:
18:16:02 From Juha-Pekka Tolvanen to Everyone:
And the bold name is instance name?
18:19:20 From Peter Wasilko to Everyone:
Can we have a copy of the slide deck after the talk?
18:19:41 From Federico Tomassetti to Everyone:
Yes, we ask all the speakers for the slides and publish them in the forum
18:19:59 From Peter Wasilko to Everyone:
Thanks so much!
18:20:14 From Federico Tomassetti to Everyone:
Thank you for participating!
18:25:15 From Peter Wasilko to Everyone:
Nice taxonomy of tasks.
18:25:39 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
The event tracking need applies to any flow-based programming model. Very nice.
18:27:33 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
The visibility slide also highlights how useful the earlier slide was that showed locations and connections by color and line type.
18:27:38 From Lyle Johnson to Everyone:
I have to drop early unfortunately — but this was helpful and interesting. Thank you Bianca and Federico.
18:27:48 From Federico Tomassetti to Everyone:
Thank you Lyle!
18:30:27 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
Is there meaning to the position of the notch in the blocks?
18:30:31 From Sofia Meacham to Everyone:
Are the cognitive dimensions standard for graphical editors and you adapted them for this case study ? could you please provide the reference?
18:31:19 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
e.g. all pin above them are red in these slides.
18:31:26 From Markus Voelter to Everyone:
It’s a general approach for evaluating languages.
18:31:31 From Markus Voelter to Everyone:
There was a ref in the slides.
18:31:40 From Peter Wasilko to Everyone:
Is there any textual documentation one could pop up to explain the acronyms on the icons?
18:31:53 From Sofia Meacham to Everyone:
DSLs you mean or programming languages?
18:31:58 From Markus Voelter to Everyone:
https://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~afb21/CognitiveDimensions/papers/Green1989.pdf
18:32:11 From Markus Voelter to Everyone:
Both.
18:32:29 From Sofia Meacham to Everyone:
Thank you!
18:33:28 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
Colors for datatypes is interesting as a concise notation. Thank you.
18:34:10 From Peter Wasilko to Everyone:
How any types are represented with color values?
18:34:13 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
Effectively syntax highlighting for pins.
18:35:13 From Peter Wasilko to Everyone:
How many different datatypes are in the color coded taxonomy?
18:35:54 From Peter Wasilko to Everyone:
(of pin connector types that is)
18:36:13 From Juha-Pekka Tolvanen to Everyone:
Comment for those designing and evaluating visual notations; work by Moody (Physics of Notation could be of interest; IEEE Transactions on, vol. 35, 2009) would be relevant.
18:36:35 From Juha-Pekka Tolvanen to Everyone:
There are also evaluation frameworks for language usability are presented (e.g. Poltronieri, I., Zorzo, I., Bernardino, M., de Borba Campos, M., Usability evaluation framework for domain-specific language: a focus group study. SIGAPP Appl. Comput. Rev. 18, 3, 2018)
18:37:43 From Peter Wasilko to Everyone:
That covers my point, many thanks!
18:37:55 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
If needed (e.g. our language has a LOT of datatypes), you could use patterns/decals combined with colors, or a short text annotation or tooltip. In our case, for example, string would be a category, but email, url, and tag are sub-types within that category.
18:42:48 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
Narrating your internal dialog can be very helpful when working together with others.
18:43:08 From Peter Wasilko to Everyone:
Indeed!
18:46:32 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
Atronix Engineering took a WYSIWYG approach to navigating this type of environment.

https://www.atronixengineering.com/zoe

18:47:58 From Sofia Meacham to Everyone:
Have you compared or considered to compare in the usability study, the 4diac IDE with other corresponding IDEs ?
18:50:41 From Ian Ramsay to Everyone:
Is the Event “flow” and Data flow sync’d for release or messaging from each function block or are they independent?
18:51:28 From Federico Tomassetti to Everyone:
I noted the questions, and given we are near the end I would wait for the presentation to finish to ask all of them
18:53:57 From Juha-Pekka Tolvanen to Everyone:
Have you considered error/warning/info annotations, like pins not used, blocks not allocated to devices, etc.?
19:05:11 From Juha-Pekka Tolvanen to Everyone:
Languages that have ports/pins (or even port groups) in fixed location have always the challenge for layout. Have you considered sorting/moving the pins based on the connections they are applied? Perhaps this was already addressed but I missed it.
19:07:04 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
Juha, indeed.
19:10:08 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
You need to be able to “pin” pins. :^)
19:10:23 From Markus Voelter to Everyone:
We had that in an MPS-based DSL once :slight_smile:
19:12:22 From Juha-Pekka Tolvanen to Everyone:
Thank you. Usability studies are great, but since costly companies usually don’t do them for their modeling languages. All ways to support this are welcome, thank you again.
19:12:48 From Peter Wasilko to Everyone:
Thanks so much Bianca!
19:12:58 From Gregg Irwin to Everyone:
Thank you Bianca and Federico!
19:13:00 From Rene to Everyone:
Great talk
19:13:29 From Paul Spencer to Everyone:
thanks bianca!
19:13:39 From Peter Wasilko to Everyone:
Bye!