PPIG 2003 - 15th Annual Workshop
Using the Cognitive Dimensions Framework to evaluate the usability of a class library
Steven Clarke, Curtis Becker
Abstract: In this paper we describe our attempts at using the Cognitive Dimensions framework to evaluate the usability of an object oriented (OO) application programming interface (API). The Cognitive Dimensions framework was originally designed as a tool to evaluate and describe the usability of a programming language but to our knowledge, no reports of it being used to evaluate an API are publicly available. Since many popular OO languages come with an existing set of APIs in the form of OO class libraries, it is important to ensure that the APIs developers use are usable, just as it is to ensure that a programming language is usable also. Thus, in order to measure the usability of an API, we have adapted the Cognitive Dimensions framework so that it better measures those aspects of an API that we feel have an impact on its usability. This paper describes these modifications and the reasons we chose to make them. In addition, using the framework in an industrial setting has presented some interesting challenges, and so we describe those challenges here and our attempts to address them.