WED JUL 04 2018


In developing an interactive system, the developer should be able to construct a respective conceptual model.  This topic will teach us the methods of delivering the conceptual model to the users.  Upon designing this conceptual model, you would then need to select an appropriate method or interaction style that is suitable for this system.  This topic will also expose you to a number of interaction styles that are normally used as well as all issues related to these styles, to ensure the suitability of the interaction style for the conceptual model of the system.


A model that provides users with a brief and simple explanation about the system that has been proposed, in the form of ideas and concepts related to the abilities and characteristics of the system, and how users interact with the system.  This kind of representation cannot be documented; rather, it is a conceptual illustration in the minds of system users, designers, and developers.  For an example, imagine a normal VCR.  To record any program, you know that pressing the "REC" button will start the recording and pressing the "STOP" button will stop the recording.  This case also applies to cassette players, where you need to press the "PLAY" button to play the cassette, and it would only stop when you press the "STOP" button.  From this experience, you will understand that you need to give some specific instruction to the player.  In this case, the instruction is pressing the appropriate button on the VCR to enable it to fulfill the task required.  This is the concept known as the conceptual model of the system.  In this case, the conceptual model has been used to give instructions to the machine.  The conceptual model of a system is determined by the designers and developers of the system.  An effective conceptual model can be utilised by users to understand the characteristics and abilities of the system, and ensure appropriate user interaction with the system.  Thus, it is the developers' task to think of a suitable conceptual model that is able to fulfill the needs of users.

There are two general conceptual model categories that are used:

  • the activity-based conceptual model

  • the object-based conceptual model

Activity-Based Conceptual Model

This model is based on the communication activity between users and the system. The communication activity mentioned can be classified into four types:

  1. Giving Instructions

  2. Conversation

  3. Manipulation and navigation

  4. Exploration

This means that the product or system may use a combination of different communication activities when interacting with users.

Giving Instructions

A system that uses the "Giving Instructions" conceptual model will only respond when users input instructions.  For example:  The VCR, a product that uses the conceptual model discussed above.  The UNIX and DOS operating systems and software, as well as systems that use selection menus.  Although the examples above use different approaches when giving instructions, the concept used remains the same, where users give task-based instructions to systems, and in return, the system completes these tasks.  In the UNIX and DOS operating systems, users need to type an instruction or a set of instructions on the prompt for a task to be completed.  For example, the instruction "dir" is used to list down all files and folders that exist in the hard disk directory.

In most Windows-based software, there is a list of options on a menu, located at the top of the screen display.  In the category of "File" under that menu, there are a number of choices - create a new document, open an existing document, and store a document as a file, among others.  To perform a task, users need to select an appropriate instruction to be implemented by the system.

One of the benefits of using the "Giving Instructions" conceptual model is the level of efficiency provided in the process of interaction.  It is most suitable for repetitive actions, when using more than one object as well as for diversity in instructions.

All systems that utilise the conceptual models are designed to function in a similar manner to how humans communicate with other individuals via conversations.  Thus, the systems would function as a conversation partner to users by answering all the questions, and prompt users with some necessary questions to guide them in obtaining more information from their questions.  These conceptual models have been found to be most useful in applications that function to search for specific information, or applications that support discussions on important issues.  Some examples of such applications include advisory systems, help facilities and search engines.

There are many types of conversations supported by the systems.  Some systems use voice recognition to select an item from a menu, such as systems used by operators of automatic telephones, sophisticated systems that involve the processing of natural languages, as well as systems that respond to user queries.  Some examples include ticket reservation systems, banking systems, search engines and aid systems.

Navigation and Manipulation
The manipulation and navigation oriented conceptual model elaborates on object manipulation and virtual space exploration by using the users' knowledge to perform these tasks in the real world.  For example, virtual objects can be manipulated through moving, selecting, opening and closing them.  The Windows Operating System is an example of a system that uses this conceptual model.  One of the important branches of this approach is the direct manipulation approach.

The exploration oriented conceptual model is based on enabling users to explore and search for information by using their knowledge of exploring existing media such as books, magazines, TV, radio, libraries and pamphlets.  When an individual visits the tourism office, book shop, or dentist, he/she is able to look for necessary information of pamphlets.  These individuals would only continue reading if they find a piece of information that captures their interest.  Some of the applications that use this conceptual model are CD-ROMs, web pages, portals, and e-commerce pages.

Object Oriented Model
This model uses a special object to illustrate the characteristics and methods of using the system.  An example of the object oriented conceptual model is the spreadsheet.  Spreadsheets use ledger papers to illustrate their characteristics and actions.  Thus, users who are familiar with ledger books would be able to use the spreadsheet.


Interaction styles that are extensively used in the current software interfaces include:

Instruction Language


Natural Language

Question and Answer Dialogue

WIMP Interface


A screen layout and design may consist of many different types of interaction styles.  In this subtopic, we will learn about the different interaction styles that are combined and used on the screen displays.  The use of these interaction styles depends on the functions that are required.

Conceptual Model                                              Interaction Styles                                    Screen Layout and Design