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Book Contents

Ch. 5
Designing and Evaluating DSS User Interfaces

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Discussion and Commentary

The user interface is a major component of all Decision Support Systems. It facilitates communication between a system and its users. The user interface is a critical component of a DSS that creates unique design and development problems. This chapter briefly examined and evaluated the current status of our knowledge about user interface design for computer-aided Decision Support Systems. Managers are rarely comfortable with command line or simple menu interfaces. It appears that a sophisticated graphical interface can increase a manager's use of computerized decision aids and management support software.

In general, Decision Support Systems users seem to prefer easy to use, functional interfaces that use meaningful design conventions and standards. "Cute" user interfaces with funny graphics lose their appeal quickly and complex interfaces increase training costs and increase the burden to recall commands and conventions for the user.

A good DSS user interface can be built using a number of development environments. A Web-Based "thin client" interface can be as powerful and as easy to use as a more traditional client/server interface with a "thick client" installed on each userís computer. But, in any development environment extensive time and energy needs to be spent on designing and evaluating the interface. A good interface needs to be planned and designed.

Use a checklist for evaluating a prototype or proposed DSS interface. The user centered design guidelines in Appendix 5.1 provide a starting point for creating a checklist. Check the transparency of the DSS, the resiliency, the orientation and navigation, the impact on productivity, the impact on data integrity, and the control capabilities. Also, the design guidelines and factors influencing user interface design success discussed in this chapter should be incorporated in an evaluation checklist

The use of graphics and other visual information displays seems to appeal to many managers. GUI seems here to stay. Overall, if DSS builders improve user interfaces, then the usability of a new DSS and its value to decision-makers should increase.


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