Layout Structures of Network Diagrams in Project Management Software: An Age-Differentiated Empirical Investigation Concerning Symmetry and Space
Authors: Jennifer Bützler, Romy Brömme, Christina Bröhl, Nicole Jochems, Christopher M. Schlick
Abstract: The use of network diagrams in project management software is a useful tool when planning projects. However, working with these diagrams can quickly become confusing when dealing with complex project plans. This effect is even more pronounced for older persons as they have to deal with age-related changes in perception, cognition and motor control. Nevertheless, project planning is often accomplished by older employees due to their knowledge and experience. There are certain aspects of layout structures that can support perception and decision making when working with complex diagrams. This paper describes an age-differentiated study in which the factors symmetry and spatial distance between activities were investigated. In order to gain practical relevance, the study combined different tasks and different complexities of visualization. In addition to reaction times and errors, eye tracking data was analyzed to acquire additional information. The results of this study reveal that the work with network diagrams can benefit from a proper designed layout structure regarding symmetry and distance. A symmetrical structure and narrow distances led to improvements in performance for all age groups.
Keywords: project management software, layout structures, network diagrams, space, symmetry, visual search
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