Spider Controls: A New GUI Paradigm

Thursday May 8, 2008

Farmington Hills, MI


Stan Driskell presents Spider Controls, a new paradigm for the design of graphic user interfaces (GUIs) based on a universal graphic that displays menu, list/combo box, toolbar, palette, and dialog box options in a common format. This universal graphic makes it easy to embed any type of control, including list boxes, spin buttons, radio buttons, and check boxes.

Of the many innovations introduced by Spider Controls, the most consequential are:

  • The ability to make menu and toolbar selections with less than 0.5 inch of total cursor travel.
  • The ability to display any item from a list of up to 98 items with less than 0.3 inch of total cursor travel.
  • The display of all options in easy to scan, vertical columns.
  • The ability to frequently make two selections with a single cursor traverse.
  • The ability to toggle a Spider display between single and multiple selection modes.
  • A display that pops-up at a predictable location abutting but not obscuring the screen area of user interest.
  • The availability of the unique “Navigation Center” to manage control manipulation.

A prototype version of Spider Controls imposed onto Microsoft Word has definitively shown that these features significantly increase user productivity. Spider Controls also promises to make extended periods of computer usage less painful and potentially less physically damaging. Although the simulation was unable to appraise user comfort, secretaries who participated in the focus groups overwhelmingly commented on reduced tension and strain.


Stan started professional life with six years as an economist in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Sierra Leone lecturing and researching. After a year at the University of Durham in England he then spent six more years as Research Economist with USAID-funded projects in Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. Between teaching assignments he designed, managed, and analyzed five separate questionnaire surveys of rural households and developed software that generated questionnaires and subsequently detected error in resulting survey data. His experiences convinced him that the design of materials used by modestly skilled people must maximize comprehension while achieving low error rates.

To better understand challenges faced by computer users caused by complex computer technology, Stan returned to graduate school (University of Michigan – GO BLUE!). His UMich studies encompassed human factors with focus on applying minimizing calculus to Fitts’ Law. This led to what Stan calls the Physical Effort Metric (PEM), which he validated via two formal experiments. Extending his work in quantifying the computer-human interface, Stan utilized the Hick-Hyman Law, Shannon’s Information Theory, and additional work of Paul Fitts to formulate the Mental Effort Metric (MEM). After completing his PhD, Stan wanted to utilize the PEM to improve computer usability. He hit upon a graphic configuration of intriguing possibilities that eventually morphed into Spider Controls (SC). To make SC easily and inexpensively available Stan spent the past year designing the Spider Controls Toolkit (SC/Tk), which, aside from other employments, will be used to “Spiderize” major applications of Microsoft Office.


Thursday May 8, 2008
6:00-8:30PM (Food and networking at 6, program begins at 7)


27500 Drake Rd.
Farmington Hills, MI 48331-3535

Cost (includes food and beverage):

$5 Students, $10 UPA members, $20 all others


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