The Effect of Delocalized Plans on Spreadsheet Comprehension: A Controlled Experiment

Bas Jansen, Felienne Hermans

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Spreadsheets are widely used in industry. Spreadsheets also suffer from typical software engineering issues. Previous research shows that they contain code smells, lack documentation and tests, and have a long live span during which they are transferred multiple times among users. These transfers highlight the importance of spreadsheet comprehension. Therefore, in this paper, we analyze the effect of the organization of formulas on spreadsheet comprehension. To that end, we conduct a controlled experiment with 107 spreadsheet users, divided into two groups. One group receives a model where the formulas are organized such that all related components are grouped closely together, while the other group receives a model where the components are spread far and wide across the spreadsheet. All subjects perform the same set of comprehension tasks on their spreadsheet. The results indicate that the way formulas are located relative to each other in a spreadsheet, influences the performance of the subjects in their ability to comprehend and adapt the spreadsheet. Especially for the comprehension tasks, the subjects perform better on the model where the formulas were grouped closely together. For the adaptation tasks, we found that the length of the calculation chain influences the performance of the subjects more than the location of the formulas itself.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2017 IEEE 25th International Conference on Program Comprehension, ICPC 2017
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Pages286-296
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781538605356
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event25th IEEE International Conference on Program Comprehension, ICPC 2017 - Buenos Aires, Argentina
Duration: 22 May 201723 May 2017

Publication series

NameIEEE International Conference on Program Comprehension

Conference

Conference25th IEEE International Conference on Program Comprehension, ICPC 2017
CountryArgentina
CityBuenos Aires
Period22/05/1723/05/17

Keywords

  • comprehension
  • controlled experiment
  • delocalized plans
  • end user programming
  • Feature Envy
  • locality
  • maintenance
  • spreadsheets

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