Research Projects:

Maximizing Skimmability

Anecdotal evidence suggests, and the research corroborates, that the lion’s share of the reading we do online is not sustained reading but skimming and scanning. What might we do to optimize the skimmability of online text? Other researchers have found that adding a line space after each sentence improves readers’ ability to skim the material. We are conducting a study, funded by Microsoft, to test a variety of other variables (e.g., slightly greying the letters in the middle of words, and rendering different parts of speech in different colors), in hopes of driving maximally skimmable presentation of text.

Which Usability Engineering Method When?

I stay chronically frustrated that there is so little empiricism driving the choice of which usability engineering method might yield the best bang for the dollar and hour invested. While I am pursuing funding to support more such research, recent relevant publications include:

  • Bias, R., Eisenschenk, T., Butler, S. (2017). Selecting a UX design method: Making small UX data big. User Experience Magazine, 17(4). Retrieved from
  • Bias, R. G., Lewis, C., & Gillan, D. J. (2014.) The tortoise and the (soft)ware: Moore’s Law, Amdahl’s Law, and performance trends for human-machine systems. Journal of Usability Studies, 9, 129-151.
  • Bias, R. G., Kortum, P., Sauro, J., & Gillan, D. (2013). Clothing the naked emperor. interactions, 20(6), November + December, New York: ACM.
  • Bias, R. G., and Hoffman, R. (2013). Where’s the rigor in the field of usability analysis? IEEE Intelligent Systems, 28(6), 66-72.
  • Liu, D., Bias, R. G., Lease, M., & Kuipers, R. (2012). Crowdsourcing for usability testing. Annual meeting of the American Society of Information Science and Technology, Baltimore, October.

Related to this, my colleagues Robert Hoffman (IHMC) and Brian Moon (Perigean Technologies) and I are developing a new UX method, “Concept Mapping Usability Evaluation.” see Bias, R. G., Moon, B. M., & Hoffman, R. R. (2015). Concept Mapping Usability Evaluation: An exploratory study of a new usability inspection method. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 31(9).

fMRI as an Information Studies Tool

We have published the dissertation work of my doctoral student, Hans Huang, wherein he discovered user interface icons to show the same pattern of brain activity as pictures, and not (as we had hypothesized) as Chinese logograms. Huang, S.-C., Bias, R.G., & Schnyer, D. (2015). How are icons processed by the brain? Neuroimaging measures of four types of visual stimuli used in information systems. Journal of the Association of Information Science and Technology, 66(4), 702-720.

Applied Usability Research

My students and I have been providing usability engineering support -- including requirements gathering, in-lab and remote usability testing from the Information eXperience Lab, and other applied methods -- for various companies and agencies, including OpenText, MicroEdge, and Emerson Process Management.

Fitts' Law Project

Perhaps the most well-known law in the field of human-computer interaction, Fitts' Law specifies the function for the time it takes to acquire a target (say, click on an icon) based on the size of the target and its distance from the current location of the cursor. With Doug Gillan, immediate-past chair of the Psychology Department of North Carolina State University, we are quantifying the role of cost of an error, within Fitts' Law. That is, Doug and I believe that the more costly an error (and the harder the recovery therefrom), the longer the time to acquire a target (ceteris paribus). See:

  • Bias, R., & Gillan D. (2015). Why widget design is giving us Fitts’: An empirical approach. interactions, 22(6), 66-68. New York: ACM.
  • Gillan, D., Sorge, J., & Bias, R. (2018). Fitting motivation to Fitts’ Law: Effect of a penalty contingency on controlled movement. Annual meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Philadelphia, October. (Nominated for the Computer Systems Technical Group Best Paper Award.)