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Title:Alternate Refactoring Paths Reveal Usability Problems
Author(s):Vakilian, Mohsen; Johnson, Ralph E.
critical incident
Abstract:Modern Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) support many refactorings. Yet, programmers greatly underuse automated refactorings. Recent studies have applied traditional usability testing methodologies such as surveys, lab studies, and interviews to find the usability problems of refactoring tools. However, these methodologies can identify only certain kinds of usability problems. The critical incident technique (CIT) is a general methodology that uncovers usability problems by analyzing troubling user interactions. We adapt CIT to refactoring tools and show that alternate refactoring paths are indicators of the usability problems of refactoring tools. We define an alternate refactoring path as a sequence of user interactions that contains cancellations, reported messages, or repeated invocations of the refactoring tool. We evaluated our method on a large corpus of refactoring usage data, which we collected during a field study on 36 programmers over three months. This method revealed 15 usability problems, 13 of which were previously unknown. We reported these problems and proposed design improvements to Eclipse developers. The developers acknowledged all of the problems and have already fixed four of them. This result suggests that analyzing alternate paths is effective at discovering the usability problems of interactive program transformation (IPT) tools.
Issue Date:2013-03-09
Date Updated:2014-03-20
Genre:Technical Report
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-03-10

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