SIL Electronic Working Papers
SILEWP 1998-004

Author: Gary F. Simons
Title: In search of task-centered software: building single-purpose tools from multipurpose components
Source: First presented at the Joint International Conference of the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing and the Association for Computers and the Humanities, Debrecen, Hungary, 5-10 July 1998
Keywords: computing, humanities computing, software development, concordance, lexicography, dictionary
The humanities computing community has developed some great tools but they seem to be underused. A large segment of their target audience finds them too difficult to learn and use. This paper suggests that a significant contributing factor is the semantic gap between the specific task the user wants to do and the general functionality that the tool provides. It proposes a solution in which the developer begins with a task analysis of the work users do, and then pieces together reusable multipurpose components to construct single-purpose tools to support the various subtasks. An example is used throughout of tasks for which a lexicographer might use a concordance. The appendix gives a working demonstration of a prototype in which interactive Web documents use forms and components to implement single-purpose tools and use hypertext links to informational pages that provide integrated performance support.
Paper: Text