Electronic mail: case study in task-oriented restructuring of application domain

S. T. Fleming, A. C. Kilgour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Most electronic mail (e-mail) software consists of a mail delivery system and a user interface. One problem with current e-mail systems is that the user interface represents only a very thin layer on top of the delivery system. Studies have shown a wide level of diversity in the ways people work with e-mail systems and a wide range of tasks for which it is used. This work shows the need for powerful tools to facilitate the restructuring of the e-mail domain to support users. In particular, the tools must be suitable for use by a variety of users who are not computer specialists. Perspectives on electronic mail are briefly reviewed and an empirical study described which provides a basis for derivation of the higher-level concepts invoked and tasks undertaken by a range of users. The notion of a conceptual workspace is introduced as a framework for user-driven restructuring and processing of components of an application domain. An instance of the framework is described in the form of a tool for dynamic restructuring of canonical e-mail components to form higher-level task-oriented constructs identified in the empirical study. The power and generality of this approach is illustrated by the ability of the tool to support other subsequently identified electronic communication tasks, in particular, the design, administration and analysis of online questionnaires for a large-scale usability evaluation study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-71
Number of pages7
JournalIEE Proceedings - Computers and Digital Techniques
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1994


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