Responsiveness to user expectations on ease of use, content, and style of presentation are paramount in gaining engineers' and materials scientists' acceptance and utilization of computerized numeric/factual databases and information networks. In this paper, the factors that influence both users' comfort and efficiency with such electronic data sources, whether single databases, clusters of databases, or networks of data from a variety of sources will be discussed.
Among the key subjects that will be covered are: 1. User-oriented interface. 2. Interactive thesaurus. 3. Options in search strategies. 4. Logical displays of data.
In addition, for online networks in particular, there are additional requirements that will be also discussed: 1. Compatibility with personal computer, compact disk, and other mainframe applications. 2. Diversity of database management systems. 3. Graphics; interactions with numeric databases.
In addressing these issues, the experience gained in building both the Pilot National Materials Property Data (MPD) Network, operating online from Stanford University, and in developing the production version of the MPD Network on STN International is called upon in this paper. Through the iterative process of gaining user feedback from trials of the developmental system, much has been learned and, to the degree practical, used in establishing the MPD Network system.
As the capability and ease of use of commercially available computerized materials data sources increase, we can expect to see a substantial increase in the utilization of such sources by the end users of the information for which searches are being carried out.