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Interface apparency refers to the degree to which the user interface enables a user to understand hidden contingencies within a computer system; in other words, how easy it is for a person coming upon an interface (a website, a computer program, or a kiosk) to understand the sequence of steps to perform a complex action using that interface.
Spatial visualization ability helps to predict which users will be bothered by low levels of apparency in an interface; the higher a person’s spatial visualization ability, the less trouble he or she will have with an interface with hidden dependencies.
Alonso and Norman (1998) define interface apparency as visually showing hidden relationships in the interface. In situations where certain options are unavailable or greyed-out, it may be unclear what circumstances would allow those options to be available. For instance, if one is using a text editor, the “Delete” option may be unavailable because no text is selected, or if no text is on the clipboard, “Paste” may be greyed-out.
Having hidden dependencies between actions in an application is generally a bad idea; increasing the apparency of a website or piece of application software should improve performance for all users.
- Alonso, D.L. (1998). The effects of individual differences in spatial visualization ability on dual-task performance (Dissertation). (HTML) URL accessed on 2006-05-14.
- Alonso, D.L. and Norman, K.L. (1998). Apparency of contingencies in single panel and pull-down menus. Int. J. Human-Computer Studies 49 (1): 59 – 78.
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