Task-specific visual cues for improving process model understanding

Razvan Petrusel*, Jan Mendling, Hajo A. Reijers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Context Business process models support various stakeholders in managing business processes and designing process-aware information systems. In order to make effective use of these models, they have to be readily understandable. Objective Prior research has emphasized the potential of visual cues to highlight relevant matters in models such that stakeholders can use them more efficiently. What prior research does not explain is in how far visual cues can be customized to specific understanding tasks and how this influences cognition. Method In this paper, we address these questions with an experimental research design, in which we use eye-tracking equipment to capture how process experts use models to answer comprehension questions. As a treatment, we designed two manipulations of the secondary notation, namely coloring and layout, to direct attention to the elements relevant for the specific tasks. Results Our results indicate that both manipulations improve both eye-tracking-based measures and performance measures such as duration and efficiency, with color having the stronger effect. Conclusions Our findings lay the foundation for novel features of process modeling tools that provide modifications of secondary notation in response to specific user queries. More generally, our research emphasizes the importance of the relevant region associated with a particular model understanding task.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-78
Number of pages16
JournalInformation and Software Technology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Business process model understanding
  • Color process model elements
  • Process model relevant region
  • Scoping task specific model elements
  • Visual cues


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