Book Reviews

Review by Marcin Sikorski, Gdansk University of Technology (PL)
Journal Software and Systems Modeling, vol. 4, no. 3, July 2005, pp. 346 - 347

In spite of the widespread use of Graphical User Interfaces (GUI), form-based user interfaces still prevail in professional software applications, especially in the business management area. Ordinary internet shopping also makes users navigate through a series of online forms while placing an order and specifying payment details. When working with online forms, users often encounter fatigue and frustration caused by poor design of the form.
Form-based interaction is specific, because it preserves the unfashionable submit-response style interface, revitalized nowadays on the web in countless form-based applications. In principle, they should be operated on a self-service assumption, enabling users to complete their tasks without external help, without frustration and in a minimal number of necessary steps.
The usability of form-based applications is critically dependent on appropriate modeling of user-system interaction, not only on the internet, but also in other applications; the techniques presented in this book offer a substantial help for interaction designers and system developers and are also relevant in analysis and in modeling users' tasks.
With the help of the novel methodology introduced by the authors, improved quality of user experience can be obtained by more convenient modelling form-based user interfaces, especially in such areas as: The methodology presented in the Draheim and Weber's book enables improved models of user interaction in form-based dialogues to be developed. Thus it may be applicable to usability studies and may significantly contribute to the business success of specific e-commerce solutions.
Using a familiar example of an online internet bookshop, the authors explain the principles of their modelling approach, based on formcharts and dialogue specifications, extensively using graphical notations for modelling the behavior of form-based applications.
In subsequent chapters the authors address three distinctive areas: the description of form modelling artifacts, the available tool support, and the semantics applicable for modeling form-based interaction in web applications.
Additionally, the final section of the book relates the concepts discussed to classical modeling approaches applied in software engineering and business informatics. This final part seems to be especially useful for intermediate-level readers, like students, who might be familiar only with a few of the modeling techniques referenced in the text.
The authors target the book at practitioners, researchers and students, offering different reading tracks for each of the three target groups.
Because the book aims to be application-oriented, its Tool Support Part presents a very valuable extension, to be integrated in development projects by its readers - professionals.
The website supporting the book,, contains a concise description of the proposed modeling techniques, accompanied by excerpts from relevant chapters. Moreover, the website facilitates downloading not only of the tools described in the book, but also of most of the figures available in the text - this presents significant support for anyone intending to use these for instruction with the coursebook.
In general, the book seems to be particularly well-suited for modelling the interaction aspects of form-based applications, aiming to improve their usability and functionality, and finally, to enhance the quality of user experience. Therefore not only system developers, but also interaction designers and HCI students may find it useful, both as an educational aid and as a practitioner's handbook.
It is likely that the form-based interaction style will continue to present a significant portion of user interfaces in the future. For this reason the contents of this book may expect a long lifetime: the demand for techniques offering convenient support for modeling user-system interaction is still high. And as long as forms remain a popular interaction style, the book will be surely appreciated by software development practitioners and user interface researchers.

Customer Review by Kyriakos Anastasakis and Behzad Bordbar (UK)
March 8, 2005
appeared on:

Prevailing e-commerce and e-business applications are form-based, i.e., the user interaction with the systems is via a set of forms. This book presents a formal yet practical integrated solution to the design, analysis and specification of such applications. The formalism presented in the book draws on intuitive understanding of form-based systems in which the form allows interaction via message passing. The formalism allows abstraction from unnecessary details and focusing on the design and analysis of the business logic and its effect on the form.
On the practical side, the book presents a host of diagrams such as formcharts, page diagrams and screen diagrams to deal with different aspects of form-oriented design. Considering the limitations of diagrams, the authors also present a domain specific language called Dialogue Constraint Language that extends the Object Constraint Language (OCL) to accommodate the specification of dialogues in form-based applications. Relying on such a wealth of modeling artifacts, the book proposes a set of methods for the modeling of the data and communications between the different components of a form-based system.
This is a must have book for the professional analyst, modeler and programmer involved in the design, specification or development of form-based projects. The book provides the methods and the artifacts to better model form-oriented systems.

Customer Review by John Matlock, Winnemucca (USA)
March 8, 2005
appeared on:

This is a book that has been needed for a long time. There have been studies in the past, indeed a body of knowledge even, on the design of paper based forms. The problem with computer based forms such as those for ordering a book from Amazon is that the forms tend to be generated by programmers, not forms specialists. In fact in this book the examples being used are from a hypothetical on line book store.
At one point the authors are giving an example of a book page of an online bookshop. On it they give an abstract of their own (that is this) book. It reads: "What is the business logic of n enterprise system? How do I specify it in such a way that I know how to transform it into a running system, by skill and by automated tool support? This book gives a self-contained introduction to the modeling and development of business logic for enterprise systems."
In practice, the authors develop a couple of new technologies for the modelling of such forms. Page Diagrams are analagous to flow charts that show what a page does in terms of its interactions. From the home or Welcome page you can go register, go login, look at suggested books, do a search, etc. What links to what? What logic applies (bad password for instance, or is this user logged in). The page diagram is a way for the non-technical manager and the programmer to define exactly what a page or screen is supposed to do. It can become part of the specification that the programmer uses to produce what management wants.
The next concept the authors develop is the Form Storyboard. The storyboard shows pages with respect to the actions they cause in the server.
Other models such as information pages, and data interchange complete the description of the forms related system. For the most part, HTML based web sites are used as examples in this book. But the same kind of modelling is equally applicable to form/database related system such as accounting, payroll or other business applications.
Using the approach developed by these authors is the best way I've seen to document/specify/design a forms based interactive system.