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Visualizing References to Off-Screen Content on Mobile Devices: a Comparison of Arrows, Wedge, and Overview+Detail
Authors:Burigat S., Chittaro L.
Published in:Interacting with Computers, March 2011, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp. 156-166.
Abstract:When navigating large information spaces on mobile devices, the small size of the display often causes relevant content to shift off-screen, greatly increasing the difficulty of spatial tasks such as planning routes or finding points of interest on a map. Two possible approaches to mitigate the problem are Contextual Cues, i.e., visualizing abstract shapes in the border region of the view area to function as visual references to off-screen objects of interest, and Overview+Detail, i.e. simultaneously displaying a detail view and a small-scale overview of the information space. In this paper, we compare the effectiveness of two different Contextual Cues techniques, Wedge (Gustafson et al., 2008) and Scaled Arrows (Burigat et al., 2006), and a classical Overview+Detail visualization that highlights the location of objects of interest in the overview. The study involved different spatial tasks and investigated the scalability of the considered visualizations, testing them with two different numbers of off-screen objects. Results were multifaceted. With simple spatial tasks, no differences emerged among the visualizations. With more complex spatial tasks, Wedge had advantages when the task required to order off-screen objects with respect to their distance from the display window, while Overview+Detail was the best solution when users needed to find those off-screen objects that were closest to each other. Finally, we found that even a small increase in the number of off-screen objects negatively affected user performance in terms of accuracy, especially in the case of Scaled Arrows, while it had a negligible effect in terms of task completion times.