Flexible Artifact Visualization

Overview

Requirements engineers produce numerous artifacts to model their system of interest. The convenience of manipulating these artifacts is highly significant since the artifacts are created once, but are reviewed, compared and improved recurrently.
To update, juxtapose and comprehend these artifacts requirements engineers have to open multiple windows and move back and forth between them.
Today’s display devices come in various sizes, from small displays on mobile devices to poster-sized screens or electronic whiteboards. However, they all share a common feature: the available screen space is limited.
Consequently, the amount of information that can be displayed at a given moment is limited and users have to scroll long distances and zoom in and out a lot.
In this project we are designing, developing and evaluating a technique called FlexiView to alter the traditional way of visualizing information embedded in RE artifacts. We intend to create a view specifically for the needs of the user at a given point of time. This view includes the required information and excludes what is closely related to the required information but is not actually needed at that point of time.
 

Our approach

Focus+context visualization techniques display the focus within its context in a single continuous view. FlexiView is based on the focus+context concept. It changes the size, position and amount of detail of the objects in order to accommodate more needed information on the screen. Although shrinking the less important objects on the screen, enlarging the more important objects and hiding the unnecessary details seem promising, but it causes distortion.
To minimize the unwanted distortion caused as a side effect, FlexiView employs physical metaphors of magnet and spring. A simple magnet-and-spring structure is shown in Figure 1.
Fig.1: A sample structure of magnets and springs
It partitions the working space into regions. In this approach, unlike other related approaches, the regions are the subjects of manipulation instead of the objects. We propose to model the regions with springs, as depicted in Figure 2.a. Changing the size or location of the regions will be possible by creating virtual magnets as can be seen in Figure 2.b. The virtual magnets apply forces to the springs. The structure made of springs resists change and propagates the forces applied to the neighboring springs. In this way the distortion is distributed gradually and naturally.
Fig.2: (a) A partitioned network of artifacts: The regions are modeled by springs and magnets. (b) A virtual magnet added by the user resulting in the enlargement of the top right region and shrinkage of other regions

Publication

P. Ghazi, N. Seyff, and M. Glinz, “FlexiView: a magnet-based approach for visualizing requirements artifacts,” in Requirements Engineering: Foundation for Software Quality, Lecture notes in Computer Science, S. A. Fricker and K. Schneider, Eds. Springer International Publishing Switzerland, vol. 9013, pp. 262-269, 2015.