Users and styles

I am glad to see that there are more and more approaches considering the relationship between cognitive styles and software user interfaces.

  • M. J. Mullony (PDF) studied two basic types of human problem-solver, adaptor and innovator, their relationship to the introduction of new systems, and even the relationship to the styles of the system developers.
  • E. Brown et al. applied visualizer vs. verbalizer styles to an “Adaptive web-based educational system”.

The results don’t give cause to enthusiasm yet, but I think the studies were too ambitious with a different focus than just the impact of styles on users’ ease.

  • Mullony’s study focussed on problem-solving styles and system life-cycle. I think that immediate problem-solving is just too special within the large complex of long-term knowledge work, it is soon biased towards abilities rather than genuine styles, and it does, in a way, already favor the analyst over the wholist.
  • The Brown study did not even confirm the hope for a better learning performance with matching styles. I think it is very difficult to design content versions that equally favor their respective user types. And it is probably too difficult when there is just one author. Unlike the other study, this one does not consider the author’s own style, at least it is not disclosed and so it was probably not made aware.

Some are very skeptical whether a styles-adapted system can be designed. One prerequisite condition is IMO that it should be designed by at least two authors in tandem, belonging to the two complementary styles. This, in turn, requires that they are aware of their own styles and disclose them, and therefore, it must be about true styles rather than hidden abilities where one has hidden inferiority connotations. A long way to go.

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