Graphic Design and Media, B.S., University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)
Research group: Doanh Ly, Sohee Park, Raenna Mae Aldabe
Research accomplishment: 17th Annual International Conference on Design Principles & Practices (Conference Proceedings Presentation)​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Title: A Comparison Study Between Direct and Indirect Inputs in Adobe Illustrator​​​​​​​
Introduction: Over the years in the digital space, computers have continuously evolved in order to fit the needs of available users who are actively in search of a solution where computers would be beneficial in their workspace and lifestyle. Recent advances in technology have begun to implement the use of touchscreen interaction and various tools that would complement the new way of navigating a certain product or service. Today, there are a variety of applications that use different inputs that would be fitting for a specific task a targeted user may want to achieve. One of these applications, popularly used by users who are in search of creative solutions, called Adobe Illustrator. Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based software that is used by a wide variety of users who are creatives and designers to craft high-quality work such as logos, typography, and graphic posters. Adobe continuously improves the software by implementing their products into compatible devices other than desktops and computers when Adobe launched the Apple Ipad version of Adobe Illustrator in 2020. By releasing a touch-based version of the product, it would allow users to create using the Apple Pencil as a direct interaction, unlike the desktop where mouse and keyboard interaction has been a popular choice before then. While Adobe Illustrator is now widely used across different devices, the usability of Illustrator is made different between conventional computer use and the new implementation on tablet/touchscreen versions. The devices that are offered along with these products each have their unique features and functionality for a user to navigate: Apple Pencil which would be a direct input and the mouse/keyboard as an indirect input. In order to fully understand the differences and intentions of these two input control systems before the implementation of Adobe Illustrator, two existing researchers have found significant results of how different inputs greatly affect the workflow of a user. A 2017 study done in COMSATS Institute of Information Technology on the usage of touchscreen vs mouse interaction by Hussain and his team has concluded that the selection between direct and indirect interactions varies with the requirement of the task. Mouse interaction (indirect) would be suitable for users who are well-versed in computer technology whereas touchscreen interaction requires less cognitive effort. (Hussain, Ibrar, et al, 2017). In a comparative study done at the University of Salford, the researchers have sought to investigate the efficiency and user satisfaction of screen-based interfaces with touch interaction over computer-mouse interaction. As a result of the usability testing, their statistics have found that computer-mouse interaction was faster, more accurate, and was a preference for the participants during the testing. (Travis, C. and Murano, P, 2014). 
Method: Our testing included a total of eight (8) participants who are currently enrolled in UNLV as graphic design students in the spring semester of 2023. Each participant was provided three (3) tasks to complete in both the desktop and tablet interface versions of Adobe Illustrator. The figure below shows the three tasks all participants would complete on the artboard of Adobe Illustrator. Task A instructed participants to trace the shape given with the pen tool, Task B instructed participants to build the given shape using the shape builder tool with the shape provided, and in Task C, students are to trace the given shape with the brush tool. This selection of tasks that required each participant to use these tools within the software allowed our team to measure and investigate rates of accuracy, misclicks, and usability satisfaction from our participants. Our pilot study was done under the observation of our team and our principal investigator (PI) Professor Sang-Duck Seo when our participants were recruited voluntarily. In order to record the study, each participant in their respective session was provided the instructions and the expectations of the study. The recording had also taken place where participants remained visually anonymous and only took record of the gestural interaction of their hands and the devices. Any means of facial recording was not done for the protection of the participants, however, changes in behavior or expressions were recorded in written form. 
Analysis and Results: The result of our testing revealed significant differences in the usability between input devices and the software interface when completion time was measured crucially. In the first set of tasks that required the participants to interact with Adobe Illustrator using the laptop and mouse input, participants performed ten seconds less than when they had interacted with the touch input on the iPad (Task A, D=1:44; Task A, I=1:54). 
The next task showed an even more significant difference when they were asked to build the shape that was presented to them. This part of the testing showed at least three minutes of difference where they had performed faster with the mouse input in the desktop version (Task B, D=2:11; Task B, I=5:06). However, for Task C when participants were asked to trace as the final part of the usability test, participants performed quicker than the touch input than the mouse input (Task C, D=2:16; Task C, I=1:47). When it came to analyzing the results of the clicks (taps for touch input) and errors, we found significant differences between the desktop and Ipad versions. For Task A and B, participants made more errors on the Ipad and touch input than on the desktop with the mouse input.  However, for Task C when participants were asked to trace the given object, there were more errors made in the desktop version than on the Ipad. The statistical results showed that the tasks that involved pointer-based accuracy revealed to have fewer clicks and errors compared to the Apple Pencil whereas the tasks that involved tracing accuracy revealed to have fewer errors and taps. 
Post-Test: Each tool that is featured on Adobe Illustrator comes with its own unique task for a user to manipulate and create on the artboard. How these digital features are being manipulated greatly affects the functionality and comfort of the user. For instance, Task B featured a shape builder tool where users were tasked to create a specific object out of the shapes that have already been provided on the task sheet. Executing the shape builder tool requires a keyboard shortcut and a mouse in which clicks and movements are done simultaneously. 
Traditionally, participants expressed ease using this tool with the mouse input because the mouse input was their introduction to using these tools. Similarly to the pen tool, it also required the user to manipulate points and lines with the mouse and button. While these features are also within the Ipad version, the differences in navigating the tools through haptic responses were challe
nging for the participants. They had also expressed expecting feedback from the touchscreen and pulling in prior knowledge with standard or known gestures despite being their first time on Adobe Illustrator on the Ipad. In addition to the differences in functionality of the provided inputs, participants have mentioned a drastic difference in the visual interface between the devices the software was made available. In the desktop version of Adobe Illustrator, tools are organized in a vertical manner on the left side of the screen and users are able to customize and manipulate the toolbars to better fit their workspace individually. However, on the Ipad version, tools are also organized vertically where tools are separated into two sections shown on both sides of the screens; an interface all participants were new to. While participants have expressed the difference in comfort level with how the software was visually organized, they mentioned how the touch input would still be deemed useful for tracing accuracy if the interface remained as close to the desktop version.
Conclusion: In order to ensure products are accessible across different platforms of devices, Adobe has made definite improvements when it came to implementing their products to touch interactable devices for the benefit of their uses for numerous functions. The effectiveness of the way this new input is integrated into existing software and devices is an integral process that would impact the workflow of a user, or in this case, a creative. 
The results of our pilot study show that the functionality of tools within Adobe Illustrator would depend on the provided input device. Users who are well versed with computer devices found a preference for using a keyboard and the mouse to be more useful to manipulate tools that feature pointer and pixel-based accuracy while trace accuracy required tools that mimicked the practicality of a direct use of a pen would be functional with the touch input. Our pilot study seeks to become a resource for future development and innovation of products where dynamic features would be implemented to better fit the needs of potential users, especially for emerging designers. As designers ourselves who use these products to produce our own creative work for various purposes, we strive to have our research be a significant contribution to the field of human-computer interaction.