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A Comparison of Two Peripheral Displays for Monitoring Email: Measuring Usability, Awareness, and Distraction

Hsieh, Gary
Mankoff, Jennifer
Technical Report Identifier: CSD-03-1286

Abstract: Email overloading is an ongoing problem for information workers. One critical phase of email management involves deciding whether to respond to the arrival of a new message. We present the design and evaluation of two displays intended to support this activity (a Ticker and a physically-based colored Orb). Both are peripheral displays, designed to sit at the periphery of a user's attention. Unlike previous displays, our most successful display was easily visible even off the desktop, and both our displays limit notifications to emails that pass through a filter, thus limiting notifications about spam and other less useful emails. Surprisingly, our animated Ticker was not distracting. Both displays were well liked and supported awareness. We also present a comparison of the relative merits of different methods for measuring usability, awareness, and distraction in the lab and the field. Our results suggest that a combination of techniques is most informative for peripheral display design.