Ben Shneiderman

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Ben Shneiderman
Ben Shneiderman at UNCC.jpg
Born (1947-08-21) August 21, 1947 (age 68)
New York City, New York
Residence Bethesda, Maryland
Nationality American
Fields Computer science, human–computer interaction, information visualization social media
Institutions University of Maryland, College Park
Alma mater Stony Brook University
Doctoral advisor Jack Heller
Doctoral students Chris North, Andrew Sears, Brian Johnson, David Carr, Eser Kandogan, Richard Potter, Egemen Tanin, Hyunmo Kang, Adam Perer, Harry Hochheiser, Jinwook Seo, Haixia Zhao, William Kules, Aleks Aris, Taowei David Wang, Krist Wongsuphasawat, John Alexis Guerra Gómez, Sureyya Tarkan, Cody Dunne, Megan Monroe
Known for Nassi–Shneiderman diagram, treemap, Information Visualization, HyperLink, Touchscreen, Direct manipulation interface
Notable awards Member National Academy of Engineering, ACM Fellow, AAAS Fellow, IEEE Fellow, IEEE Visualization Career Award, SIGCHI LifeTime Achievement, Miles Conrad Award

Ben Shneiderman (born August 21, 1947) is an American computer scientist, and professor of computer science at the University of Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland, College Park. He conducted fundamental research in the field of human–computer interaction, developing new ideas, methods, and tools such as the direct manipulation interface, and his eight rules of design.[1]


Born in New York, Shneiderman, attended the Bronx High School of Science, and received a BS in Mathematics and Physics from the City College of New York in 1968. He then went on to study at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he received an MS in Computer Science in 1972 and graduated with a PhD in 1973.

Shneiderman started his academic career at the State University of New York at Farmingdale in 1968 as Instructor at the Department of Data Processing. In the last year before his graduation he was Instructor at the Department of Computer Science of Stony Brook University (then called State University of New York at Stony Brook). In 1973 he was appointed Assistant Professor at the Indiana University, Department of Computer Science. In 1976 he moved to the University of Maryland. He started out as Assistant Professor in its Department of Information Systems Management, and became Associate Professor in 1979. In 1983 he moved to its Department of Computer Science as Associate Professor, and was promoted to full professor in 1989. In 1983 he was the Founding Director of its Human-Computer Interaction Lab, which he directed until 2000.[2]

Shneiderman was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery in 1997, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2001, a Member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2010, and an IEEE Fellow in 2012.[3]

In 2002 his book Leonardo's Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies was Winner of an IEEE-USA Award for Distinguished Contributions Furthering Public Understanding of the Profession. He received the IEEE Visualization Career Award in 2012.

He received Honorary Doctorates from the University of Guelph (Canada) in 1995, the University of Castile-La Mancha (Spain) in 2010 ,[4] and the Stony Brook University in 2015.[5]


Nassi–Shneiderman diagram[edit]

Example of a Nassi–Shneiderman diagram

In the 1973 article "Flowchart techniques for structured programming" presented at a 1973 SIGPLAN meeting Isaac Nassi and Ben Shneiderman argued:

With the advent of structured programming and GOTO-less programming a method is needed to model computation in simply ordered structures, each representing a complete thought possibly defined in terms of other thoughts as yet undefined. A model is needed which prevents unrestricted transfers of control and has a control structure closer to languages amenable to structured programming. We present an attempt at such a model.[6]

The new model technique for structured programming they presented has become known as the Nassi–Shneiderman diagram; a graphical representation of the design of structured software.[7]

Flowchart research[edit]

In the 1970s Shneiderman continued to study programmers, and the use of flow charts. In the 1977 article "Experimental investigations of the utility of detailed flowcharts in programming" Shneiderman et al. summarized the origin and status quo of flowcharts in computer programming:

Flowcharts have been a part of computer programming since the introduction of computers in the 1940s. In 1947 Goldstein and von Neumann [7] presented a system of describing processes using operation, assertion, and alternative boxes. They felt that "coding begins with the drawing of flow diagram." Prior to coding, the algorithm had been identified and understood. The flowchart represented a high level definition of the solution to be implemented on a machine. Although they were working only with numerical algorithms, they proposed a programming methodology which has since become standard practice in the computer programming field. [8]

Furthermore, Shneiderman had conducted experiments which suggested that flowcharts were not helpful for writing, understanding, or modifying computer programs. At the end of their 1977 Shneiderman et al. concluded:

Although our original intention was to ascertain under which conditions detailed flowcharts were most helpful, our repeated negative results have led us to a more skeptical opinion of the utility of detailed flowcharts under modern programming conditions. We repeatedly selected problems and tried to create test conditions which would favor the flowchart groups, but found no statistically significant differences between the flowchart and non-flowchart groups. In some cases the mean scores for the non-flowchart groups even surpassed the means for the flowchart groups. We conjecture that detailed flowcharts are merely a redundant presentation of the information contained in the programming language statements. The flowcharts may even be at a disadvantage because they are not as complete (omitting declarations, statement labels, and input/output formats) and require many more pages than do the concise programming language statements.[9]

Direct manipulation interface[edit]

These insights led Shneiderman to the development of the principles of direct manipulation interface design in 1982. His cognitive analysis and detailed description of the (1) continuous representation of the objects and actions, (2) rapid, incremental, and reversible actions, and (3) physical actions and gestures to replace typed commands enabled others to design a wide array of novel graphical user interfaces. He applied those principles to develop the user interface for highlighted clickable phrases in text, that became the "hot spots" or hyperlinks of the Web. Direct manipulation concepts led to touchscreen interfaces, dynamic query slides, and information visualization designs, such as treemaps.

Designing the User Interface, 1986[edit]

In 1986, he published the first edition (now on its fifth edition) of his book "Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction." Included in this book is his most popular list of "Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design," which read:

  1. Strive for consistency. Consistent sequences of actions should be required in similar situations...
  2. Enable frequent users to use shortcuts. As the frequency of use increases, so do the user's desires to reduce the number of interactions...
  3. Offer informative feedback. For every operator action, there should be some system feedback...
  4. Design dialog to yield closure. Sequences of actions should be organized into groups with a beginning, middle, and end...
  5. Offer simple error handling. As much as possible, design the system so the user cannot make a serious error...
  6. Permit easy reversal of actions. This feature relieves anxiety, since the user knows that errors can be undone...
  7. Support internal locus of control. Experienced operators strongly desire the sense that they are in charge of the system and that the system responds to their actions. Design the system to make users the initiators of actions rather than the responders.
  8. Reduce short-term memory load. The limitation of human information processing in short-term memory requires that displays be kept simple, multiple page displays be consolidated, window-motion frequency be reduced, and sufficient training time be allotted for codes, mnemonics, and sequences of actions.[10]

These guidelines are frequently taught in courses on Human-Computer Interaction.

Information visualization[edit]

His major work in recent years has been on information visualization, originating the treemap concept for hierarchical data. Treemaps are implemented in most information visualization tools including Spotfire, Tableau Software, QlikView, SAS JMP, and Microsoft Excel. Treemaps are included in hard drive exploration tools, stock market data analysis, census systems, election data, gene expression, and data journalism. He also developed dynamic queries sliders with multiple coordinated displays that are a key component of Spotfire, which was acquired by TIBCO in 2007. His work continued on visual analysis tools for time series data, TimeSearcher, high dimensional data, Hierarchical Clustering Explorer, and social network data, SocialAction[11] plus NodeXL.

Current work deals with visualization of temporal event sequences, such as found in Electronic Health Records, in systems such as LifeLines2[12] and EventFlow.[13]

Universal usability[edit]

He also defined the research area of universal usability to encourage greater attention to diverse users, languages, cultures, screen sizes, network speeds, and technology platforms.


Shneiderman has been criticized by others for over-promoting technology beyond its effective use, including by David F. Noble.[14] Shneiderman said of Noble's criticisms, "His fear-filled rhetoric and whipping of the boogie-monster of entrepreneurial corruption of education is misleading, shallow and even counterproductive"[15]


  • Shneiderman, Ben. Software Psychology: Human Factors in Computer and Information Systems; Little, Brown and Co, 1980.
  • Shneiderman, Ben. Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human–Computer Interaction, 1st edition. Addison-Wesley, 1986; 2nd ed. 1992; 3rd ed. 1998; 4th ed. 2005; 5th ed. 2010.
  • Shneiderman, Ben. Software psychology. (1980).
  • Card, Stuart K., Jock D. Mackinlay, and Ben Shneiderman, eds. Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think. Morgan Kaufmann, 1999.
  • Shneiderman, Ben. Leonardo's Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies; MIT Press, 2002.
  • Hansen, Derek, Ben Shneiderman, and Marc A. Smith. Analyzing social media networks with NodeXL: Insights from a connected world. Morgan Kaufmann, 2010.

Articles, a selection:[16][17]


  1. ^ "Shneiderman's Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design". Retrieved 2011-09-20. 
  2. ^ CURRICULUM VITAE (June 20, 2014) at Accessed 14-04-2015.
  3. ^ 2012 Newly Elevated Fellows, IEEE, accessed 2011-12-10.
  4. ^ Doctorado Honoris Causa de Ben Shneiderman (in Spanish)
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Nassi, Isaac, and Ben Shneiderman. "Flowchart techniques for structured programming." ACM Sigplan Notices 8.8 (1973): 12-26.
  7. ^ Ben Shneiderman. "A short history of structured flowcharts (Nassi–Shneiderman diagram)," at May 27, 2003.
  8. ^ B. Shneiderman, R. Mayer, D. McKay, and P. Heller. "Experimental investigations of the utility of detailed flowcharts in programming," Communications of the ACM, Vol. 20, Iss. 6, June 1977.
  9. ^ Shneiderman et al. (1977, p. 380)
  10. ^ Shneiderman (1998, p. 75); as cited in: "Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design". at Accessed 15.04.2015.
  11. ^ "SocialAction". University of Maryland. December 30, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-30. 
  12. ^ "Lifelines2". Retrieved 2011-09-23. 
  13. ^ "EventFlow". Retrieved 2015-03-11. 
  14. ^ "David Noble's Battle to Defend the 'Sacred Space' of the Classroom". The Chronicle of Higher Education. March 31, 2000. 
  15. ^ "Technology in Education: The Fight for the Future". Educom Review. 
  16. ^ Ben Shneiderman's publications indexed by the DBLP Bibliography Server at the University of Trier
  17. ^ Ben Shneiderman's publications indexed by Google Scholar, a service provided by Google

External links[edit]