Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium
*Institut d'Administration et de Gestion - **Labo. de Télécommunications
Position Paper for the W3C Workshop on Delivery Context
The goal of the SALAMANDRE project  is to devise and implement a set of techniques that will aid UI designers who are working in the domain of mobile computing. These techniques  will allow designers to build UIs across several platforms, while respecting the unique constraints posed by each platform. As W3C Composite Capabilities Preferences Profile (CC/PP) Protocol  seems to be the most promising Device Independence supporting technology , we want to investigate how it can be exploited to produce multiple UIs for different context of use from a task model and more generally from Model-based tools.
Mobile computing poses a series of unique challenges for user interface design and development: user interfaces must now run on many different computing platforms, ranging from the powerful workstation to the tiny cellular phone. Accordingly they must accommodate the capabilities of various access devices and be suitable for different context of use, while preserving consistency and usability.
To meet these challenges, the most frequent adopted practice consists in developing unique Uis for each case. This poses further problems. Foremost is the unnecessary repetition involved in implementing a UI again and again, for each platform and usage case. In addition a consistent UI design must be implemented across several platforms, even though many different designers will likely implement that design, each with unique skills, experiences, and preferences. Revisions to the proposed design must be implemented multiple times, and the introduction of a new device requires a re-implementation of the UI.
Clearly, current practices of UI design for mobile computers need significant improvement. User-interface modeling involves the creation of knowledge bases that describe various components of the user interface, such as the presentation, the dialog, the platform, the task structure, and the context. These knowledge bases can be further exploited to automatically produce a usable UI matching the requirements of each context of use. This can be accomplished by applying a set of model-based techniques to abstract, platform-neutral user interface descriptions and creating mappings between the various UI model components.
The goal of the SALAMANDRE project is to investigate on such techniques by designing and implementing a design-time or run-time modulator which will intelligently transform a given interface from one context to another, thus giving birth to multiple user interfaces simultaneously. The context is hereby defined as any set of contextual parameters that may influence the utility and/or the usability of a user interface accessed by a user population. This context may include parameters describing the user, the computing platform, the network, the available interaction resources, the environment etc. At present the best way for a web service application, such as our modulator would be, to learn about some of these parameters, i.e. the ones pertaining to the user preferences and the access mechanism capabilities, is to get them from a CC/PP delivery context profile, as CC/PP protocol developed by W3C seems the to be the most promising Device Independence enabling technology. Further investigations will be undertaken to devise the role of CC/PP profiles in constraining the UI components mappings.