Toward principles for the design of navigation affordances in code editors: An empirical investigation


Design principles are a key tool for creators of interactive systems; however, a cohesive set of principles has yet to emerge for the design of code editors. In this paper, we conducted a between-subjects empirical study comparing the navigation behaviors of 32 professional LabVIEW programmers using two different code-editor interfaces: the ubiquitous tabbed editor and the experimental Patchworks editor. Our analysis focused on how the programmers arranged and navigated among open information patches (i.e., code modules and program output). Key findings of our study included that Patchworks users made significantly fewer click actions per navigation, juxtaposed patches side by side significantly more, and exhibited significantly fewer navigation mistakes than tabbed-editor users. Based on these findings and more, we propose five general principles for the design of effective navigation affordances in code editors.

Publication Title

Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings