Recent trends in human computer interaction have focused on representations based on physical reality 4, 5, 6, 8]. The idea is to provide richer, more intuitive handles for control and manipulation compared to traditional graphical user interfaces (GUIs) using a mouse. This trend underscores the need to examine the concept of manipulation and to further understand what we want to manipulate versus what we can easily manipulate. Implicit in this is the notion that the bias of the UI is often incompatible with user needs.
The main goal of UI design is to reduce complexity while augmenting the ability of users to get their work done. A fundamental belief underlying our research is that complexity lies not only in what is purchased from the software and hardware manufacturers, but also in what the user creates with it. It is not just a question of making buttons and menus easier to learn and more efficient to use. It is also a question of “Given that I’ve created this surface in this way, how can it now be modified to achieve my current design objective?” (The observation is that how the user created the surface in the first place will affect the answer to the question.) Our thesis is that appropriate design of the system can minimize both kinds of complexity: that inherent in accessing the functionality provided by the vendor, and that created by the user. The literature focuses on the former. In what follows, we investigate some of the issues in achieving the latter. In so doing, we structure our discussion around questions of compatibility.