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Drag-and-Drop vs. Point-and-Click

Mouse Interaction for Children

Kori Inkpen, Kellogg S. Booth, Maria Klawe

Department of Computer Science

The University of British Columbia

Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1Z4, Canada

+1 604 822 8990

[email protected]

This paper presents the results of a study on girls? and boys? usage of two common mouse interaction techniques. The two techniques, drag-and-drop and point-and-click, were compared to determine whether one method was superior to the other in terms of speed, error rate, and preference. For girls, significant differences between the two methods were found for speed, error rate and preference. Point-and-click was faster, fewer errors were committed, and it was preferred over drag-and-drop. For boys, a significant difference was found for speed but not for error rate or preference. Point-and-click was faster than drag-and-drop, the errors rates were comparable and, although more boys preferred point-and-click, the difference was not significant.

Interface design, input techniques, computers in education, drag and drop, children, gender.

Today?s children will be the adult computer users of tomorrow and their interactions with computers today will shape their future relationship with technology. As pointed out by Fulton Suri [2], ?with the rapid growth of computer systems in home environments we need to expand our focus to ensure that interactions with computers have a positive impact on child development?. But how can we ensure that computers have a positive impact on child development? An important first step is research in human-computer interaction focusing specifically on children.

Children are now exposed to computers from a very early age. The types of interaction techniques used in children?s software are quite varied. In general, children appear to adapt to whatever interaction style is present, but leaving this adaptation to chance is not the best approach. In order to design effective interaction techniques, ?we need to use a deeper understanding of task, device, and the interrelationship between task and device from the perspective of the user[italics added]? [9]. There has been significant research on interaction styles for adults, but until

recently very little research has focused on children?s interactions with computers. Adapting to the perspective of children as users means that we cannot just assume that children are young adults. It is important to investigate a variety of issues, through empirical methods, with children as users. Indeed, researchers have begun to notice that some of the prominent user-interface styles designed for adults may not be appropriate for children [1,14].

It is true that many children are computer whizzes, able to perform amazing feats that their parents can only envy. But what about the child who is not comfortable with a computer? What about the children who are timid, unsure, or insecure about their computer abilities? Giving these children an interface style that is inefficient, awkward, or frustrating could have a detrimental effect on their computer experience. Children could be inhibited by the interaction style a particular programmer decided to implement in some software, simply because there are ?no ergonomic standards available regarding children?s specific user-interface needs? [2].

In 1990, Shneiderman, in a paper titled ?Future Directions for Human-Computer Interaction?, listed some common goals for interactive systems: increased productivity, reduced error rates, easier learning, and more consistency in performance [13]. He went on to state that these goals are easily measured. If this is true, why have these goals not been evaluated for systems designed for children to use in educational environments? Shneiderman also listed several broader goals, two of which have particular relevance in the context of children: improved user satisfaction, and increased sense of self-worth [13]. Our study compared two common interaction styles to determine which mightresult in increased productivity, reduced error rates, more consistency in performance, and improved user satisfaction.

Our research was motivated by a previous study we performed that showed a significant difference in achievement and motivation between girls playing two