End-User Development of Mashups Using Live Natural Language Programming

TitleEnd-User Development of Mashups Using Live Natural Language Programming
Publication TypePhDThesis
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsSaeed Aghaee
Academic DepartmentFaculty of Informatics
UniversityUniversity of Lugano
CityLugano, Switzerland
Keywordsend-user software engineering, live programming, natural language programming, NaturalMash, Web mashups

The emergence of the long-tail in the market of software applications is shifting the role of end-users from mere consumers to becoming developers of applications addressing their unique, personal, and transient needs. On the Web, a popular form of such applications is called mashup, built out of the lightweight composition of Web APIs (reusable software components delivered as a service through the Web). To enable end-users to build mashups, there is a key problem that must be overcome: End-users lack programming knowledge as well as the interest to learn how to master the complex set of Web technologies required to develop mashups. End-User Development (EUD) is an emerging research field dealing with this type of problems. Its main goal is to design tools and techniques facilitating the development of software applications by non-programmers.

In this dissertation, we designed and implemented NaturalMash, an EUD system that empowers end-users to develop mashups. NaturalMash adopts a novel hybrid end-user programming technique combining natural language programming with a what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface in a live programming environment. We followed an iterative user-centered design process, in which three formative evaluations drove the incremental design of our system. At the end of the process, we conducted a summative usability evaluation, whose results suggest that the system is highly usable by non-programmers. Also, we proposed a novel benchmarking framework to evaluate mashup tools against each other. Using the framework, we conducted a comparative evaluation of 28 state-of-the-art mashup tools (NaturalMash included) against their expressive power. According to the results, our proposed system has a moderate yet competitive level of expressiveness. All in all, NaturalMash contributes a novel design featuring a unique combination of end-user programming techniques, a suitable metaphor, and the ability to enable an optimal learning experience. Our extensive evaluation results indicate that NaturalMash is located at a sweet spot along the classical trade-off between expressiveness and usability/learnability.

Citation Keyphd:2014:saeed.aghaee