PRESENTATION OF OUTPUT
There are many ways to present information in computer output.
- Tabular Format
End-users are more accustomed to receiving information in tabular format. Common examples of tabular reports are inventory control, accounts payable, general ledger, sales analysis, and production scheduling reports.
The tabular format should be used under the following conditions :
- Details dominate and few narrative comments or explanations are needed.
- Details are .presented in discrete categories.
- Each category must be labelled.
- Totals must be drawn or comparisons made between components.
The first concern in designing output should be to ensure that un-necessary details. are avoided. Next, should be to select features that will further enhance reliability.
- Graphic Format
Graphic systems are available across a wide range of prices and capabilities and foi personal computers up to mainframes.
Graphics are used for several reasons :
- To improve the effectiveness of output reporting for the targeted recipients.
- To manage information volume.
- To suit personal preferences.
- Using Icons
Icons are pictorial representations of entities described by the data. Icons are now commonly used in computer interfaces to represent documents.
Icons offer many advantages over written description. Properly selected icons communicate information immediately’, since they duplicate images that users are already familiar with. Icons eliminate the necessity for users to learn abbreviations, notations, or special nomenclature.
- Colour Piesentation
Colour facilities are also increasing in both large and small computer systems. Colour should enhance, not replace, good output design. In fact, a good practice for analysts is to first design the output in the best form possible. In general, using four or fewer colours on the screen or report is recommended.
Output Design Consideration
Output to be produced depends upon the following consideration :
Type of user and purpose : Generally different levels of users will have different requirements from the system. Some want exception reports (e.g., when sales fall below a certain level), some want.summary reports (e.g., sales quantity and value for each region) while some want details (e.g., list of invoices for a period)
- Volume : Often sheer volume of the output deters one from using the output. The sheer bulk of the report may also create problems for handling, filing or printing time.
- Format : This refers to the arrangement of data on the report, size of the paper, titles, headlines, colour of the paper etc.
- Content : The data that are needed to be included in the output. These will be rested to the purpose of the output.
- Quality : This relates to the content, appearance and accuracy of the output. Outputs generated for external users should be given special attention in respect to its get up, quality of paper etc.
- Sequence : The usefulness of an output very often depends on the sequence of data printed. A proper sequence will also help distribution of outputs to different users (e.g., pay-slips printed department-wish facilitates easier payment).
- Frequency and timing : At what frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, annually ) and when (after annual closing of accounts, after the end of the fiscal year, before the last day of every month to)
- Type of Stationery : Reports can be generated on ordinary blank stationery or on specially printed stationery which is useful when most of the contents of the output (e.g, Invoice, Pay-slips etc.) are constant.
Design of Output Reports
A report normally has the following structure.
- A Report heading which generally appears only on the first page of the report.
- A Page heading and Subheading are given at the top of each page of the report.
- A set of records containing some common features may be grouped together. Such a group is named a Control group. Control heading can be named as for this group.
Factors to be Considered in Form Design
Form design plays an important role in data processing. Form must have the appearance of a well conceived and attractive design. Some of the important factors which should be taken care of are given below :
- The form title must clearly identify its purpose. Columns and rows should be labelled to avoid confusion.
- Arrange the material in a logical order so that it becomes easy to fill
- Special features like security and control are to be considered.
- Size and shape of the form should be such that it is convenient for handling, filling, sorting etc.
- The form designer should design the form in such a way as to cover the specific needs of the purpose for which it is designed.
- Introduce emphasis by shading columns, heavy lines, etc. If the form is to be used for specific clerical operation, for example copying or checking, see that the detail is arranged and spaced to provide maximum help to the operation.
- Precise contents should be recorded. Adequate and compact space should be provided for items to be recorded. Pre-printed, entries should be taken care of.
Controlling the number as well as the quality of forms in an organisation can be a substantial work. Forms have a tendency to multiply and unless they are checked, it can be costly affair in many organisation. To control this, most large organisations establish a formal forms control program :
- Forms should be titled, numbered and contain the data of the most recent It is quite helpful to have the form numbers organised so that all forms in a given system can easily be located when that system is under study.
- The objective of this is to establish standards. Different departments using different forms to accomplish the same task is an unnecessary expense. The job of forms control specialist is to eliminate redundancies among forms to reduce electrical cost.
- Normally, a form is designed originally by a systems analyst working with the When the original supply of the form is reduced to a reorder level, a forms control specialist is generally responsible for its reorder and possible revision. The form is routed to the users for comments and suggest changes. The forms controller coordinates these suggestions and orders the most economical list. For routine office forms which are not likely to change frequently a reorder of one year’s supply is normal.
- The forms control specialist also seeks to reduce the number of copies of each form used. Routing one copy of a form through several departments is probably the best way to achieve this.
When designing an information system, it should be considered carefully about how the output can best be presented. It is mostly in the form of text output. When it is not desired to present volumes of textual data but only summary of data is required, the data are often best presented in graphical form. It saves time also.
Presentation of data in graphic form has increased tremendously with the advent of end-user computing, DBMS, electronic spreadsheets, sophisticated graphics software and high-resolution output devices. It has the following benefits :
- Easier recognition of relationships and trends.
- Better presentation of output.
- More effective conversion of data into information.
- Capability of presenting ideas in an attractive format that may readily receive
- Quick Decisions can be taken to make decisions.
- Ability to focus attention on important issues.
Computer graphics bridge the gap between computer data and the human mind. It is because they can absorb information more rapidly from an effective picture than it can from words or numbers.
Computer graphics software can be divided into two categories :
- Presentation Graphics : Presentation graphics are used to communicate ideas to those who might by unfamiliar with a situation or who need a simple but highly effective overview of a topic, e.g., It can be used by a sales person to show a customer how several insurance policies compare, by a marketing manager at a long range planning session to show the change in market share between competitive products, or by manufacturing management at a budget session to give an overview of the expected workload in the.next quarter.
- Those who used presentation graphics need a system that can
- Produce a range of colour.
- Reduce and enlarge illustrations.
- Produce high-quality illustrations.
- Allow the user to choose among a variety of print styles or “fonts”. The data used in presentation graphics may come from different databases in the organisation, from. non-computer sources the organisation, and from outside sources.
- Decision Support Graphics : This is used as a vehicle for understanding patterns, trends or relationships in data. Therefore, the quality of the graphics, the type of presentation, and the source of data are quite different from those of presentation graphics.
The colour and special graphical effects are not usually necessary.
The data usually come from spreadsheets, local databases, or the firm’s central database. if the data is stored centrally, then the graphics system must be able to access the data and use them to produce graphs with a minimum of user involvement.
The hardware used in graphics system falls into several categories, including graphic terminals, graphic boards, graphic printers, and interface devices.
In addition to hardware, a graphics system needs software. It is the software that provides the capabilities of using different fonts, adjusting size of the fonts, selecting colours, moving the image from one location on the screen to another, incorporating graphics into the text, and supporting the use of interface devices.
Once the analysis and design of the system has been done, it would be necessary to identify the data that are required to be processed to produce the output. Input is one of the most expensive phases of the operation of a computerised system and creates sometimes a major problem. Different types of problems with a system can usually be traced back to faulty input design method. Needless to say, therefore, that the input data are the lifeblood of a system and have to be analysed and designed. Input design features can ensure the reliability of the system and generate correct reports from the accurate data.
Elements of Input Data
Inaccurate input data are the most common cause of errors in data processing. Errors entered by data entry operators can be controlled by input design. Input data are collected and organized into groups of similar data. Once identified, appropriate input media are selected for processing.
(a) Input Data : The goal of designing input data is to make data entry an easy, logical and error free from errors as far as possible. In entering data, operators need to know the following :
- The allocated space for each field.
- Field sequence, which must match that in the source document.
- The format in which data fields are entered; for example, filling out the data field is required through the edited format mm/dd/yy.
(b) Source Documents : Source data are captured initially on original paper or a source document. Source documents initiate a processing cycle as soon as they are entered into the system. Source documents may be entered into the system from punch cards, from diskettes, or even directly through the keyboard. A source document may or may not be retained in the proposed system. Thus, each source document may be evaluated in terms of :
- its continued use in the proposed system,
- the extent of modification for the proposed system and
- replacement by an alternative source document.
A source document should be logical and easy to understand. Each are in the form should be clearly identified and should specify for the user what to write and where to write it.
Input Media and Devices
Some data are input into the system in a variety of ways. The following media and devices are suitable for operations :
- Punch cards are either 80 or 96 columns wide. Data are arranged in a sequential and logical order. Operators use a keypunch to copy data from source documents onto cards. This means that the source documents onto cards. This means that the source document and card design must be considered simultaneously.
- Key-to-diskette is modelled after the keypunch process data on diskettes are stored in sequence and in batches. The approach to source document and diskette design is similar to that of the punch card. Data must be in sequence and logically cohesive.
- MICR translates the special fonts printed in magnetic ink on checks into direct computer input.
- Mark-sensing readers automatically converts pencil marks in predetermined locations on a card to punched holes on the same card.
- Optical character recognition (OCR) readers are similar to MICR readers, except that they recognize pencil, ink or characters by their configuration (shape) rather than their magnetic pattern. They are often used in remote locations as free-standing input preparation devices or direct input media to the system.
- Optical bar code readers detect combination of marks that represent The most widely known system is the Universal Product Code (UPC), which codes retail items in stores. Automatic tag reading is the ideal way to collect unit inventory information fast, accurately and economically.
- Cathode-ray tube (CRT) screens are used for on-line data entry. CRT screen generally display 80 characters simultaneously on a television-like screen. They show as many as 24 lines of data.
In addition to determining record media, the analyst must decide on the method of input and the speed of capturing and entering the data into the system. Processing may be batched (a group of records handled as a unit), on-line (records processed directly), sequential (sorted records), or random (unsorted). For example, magnetic tape may be suitable for batch sequential processing, whereas diskettes are ideal for on line processing and random enquiries.
Input Design Guidelines
The design of input play very significant role in getting the correct output. In covers all phases of input from creation of initial data (original recording) to actual entering the data to the system for processing. The input design is the link that ties the information system into the world of its users.
The Objectives of input design are as follows :
- Controlling amount of input
- Avoiding delay
- Avoiding errors in data
- Avoiding extra steps
- Keeping the process simple
Each of the five objectives of input design is briefly discussed below :
(a) Controlling Amount of Data : An effective design controls the quantity of data for input for the following reasons :
First, data preparation and data entry operations depend on people. Since labour costs are high, the cost of preparing and entering data is also high. It is quite evident, then, that reducing data requirements mean lowering costs through reduced labour expense. Second, the input phase or computing can be a slow process and take many times longer time than the needed by computers to carry out their tasks. By reducing input requirements, the analyst will speed the entire process from data capture to processing to provide results to users.
(b) Avoiding Delay : When processing is delayed owing to data preparation or data entry, the cause is called a bottleneck. Avoid bottlenecks when designing input should always be one of the objectives of the analyst.
(c) Avoiding Errors in Data : The third objective deals with errors the rate at which errors occur is dependent on the quantity of data. Since the lower the amount of data is input, there are fewer opportunities for the error to occur.
- The analyst can reduce this number by reducing the volume of data that must be entered for each transaction.
- The analyst can also affect error rates of an operation through design. The manner in which data must be entered can reduce the change of errors.
- The need to detect errors when they do occur. Checks and balances in the data entry programs, called input validation techniques, also detect errors in input.
(d) Avoiding Extra Steps : Sometimes the volume for transactions and the amount of data preparation or data entry jobs resulting from them cannot be controlled.
When the volume cannot be reduced, the analyst must be sure that the process is efficient. The experienced analyst will also avoid input designs that cause extra steps. So is the addition of a single step.
(e) Keeping the Process Simple : The best-designed system suits the people who will use it in the way that is comfortable for them, and at the same time it provides the error control methods, management acceptable to the users. In contrast, one will have to work to get users to accept complex or confusing input designs, and there is no guarantee he will succeed in installing and running complex system. So it is advisable to avoid complexity when there are simple alternatives.
(I) Major Concerns Regarding Input : Important points to be considered here are as follows :
- What input is needed ?
- How and where is the input created ?
- What format should be used for the input records ?
- What medium should be used for recording the input ?
We will discuss each of the major input concerns briefly which are as follows :
The Inputs Needed
The input needed for any program is determined by the output desired. The analyst must ask the following questions. What information is already in the master file or database ? What constant data is required that can be entered from some type of control record ? What information must be supplied by using some type of transaction file ? What data should be stored in and accessed from tables ? What information can be calculated by the program ?
Any time the use of a transaction file is being considered, or the data is to be entered from a terminal, the analyst must check each field to determine whether the data is already in a master file or might be included in a table. The analyst must be concerned that all the data required to produce that output is entered into the program in the most efficient and most-effective manner.
How and where data is generated
How the data is generated, and where it is generated, has a direct impact. The analyst should attempt to provide a reliable means of entering data directly into the system. Data collection devices or special terminals can be used to enter some of the data.
In a retail sales system, a type of scanner device—Bar Code Readers may be used to read price tickets. When large sales are made, special readers are available that make it possible to use the data stored on the customer’s charge card. Whenever possible, the manual keeping of data should be eliminated. In a retail sales application, the only variable data that a clerk might need to key in on a Point of Sale (POS) Terminal having special key for various item categories is the quantity of a given item that is purchased.
Railways Reservation System presents an input screen simply on entering the Train code, Travel Class and Date of travel wherein if reservation is asked, the clerk has to enter passenger’s details almost in same way as given by him in the reservation slip.
Designing the source documents and the Input Format
The forms for the input records and the source documents should be determined simultaneously.
The source document can be designed as soon as it is determined what data is needed and where and how it is to be entered into the system. The design of the documents should permit the personnel recording the data to do so as easily and rapidly as possible. Check boxes can be used. Which reduce the time needed to fill out documents and minimize recording errors. Take the case of Electricity bills. It has two parts. The first is called ‘MAIN’ on which cash/cheque receiving clerk enters the amount received with details including the date and hands over to the customer as a payment made by him. The second is called ‘STUB’ which are bundled together on day end and sent to Computer centre for data updating of payments received from the customers for future accounting for case in transcribing data into a machine-processable form, the locations for each field with the record should be specified on the documents. Identical design of source document and related Data Entry Input screen facilitates Data Entry Operators to enter data at high speed since locations of data to be read are easily identified.
The input record should be designed so that the flow of data on it is the same as on the source document. This decreases the time needed to record data and also reduces errors. The input format must be designed concurrently with the source document. The factors that must be considered are record length, field size, use of codes, and the relationship of the source document to the input record. When a terminal is used to make the changes or to add new customers to the file, a formatted screen should be designed that looks very much like the source document.
The analyst must understand the characteristics of the data entering the system and determine the field size that should be used. For example, if each customer is assigned a number and the firm now has 994 customers, the analyst should allow four positions for the field. If four positions are not reserved for the field, as soon as more records are added, the field will not be large enough to handle the account number. Field sizes are usually determined by studying historical data, projecting future needs, and providing for growth.
An input method that requires a minimal amount of data conversion should be selected. If punched-card recorders (keypunches), diskette recorders, key-to-key tape recorders, or terminals are used, the data is usually recorded on a source document and then transferred to the machine-processable medium (cards, diskettes, tape, disk,’ or directly into a transaction file). In case of process control, however, these media based programs directly control the target machines.
Input Verification and Control
If incorrect data enters the system, it is usually very costly to make the necessary corrections.
There are many methods which are commonly used to verity data entering the system as input. Some of the them are :
- Key Verification : A second operator rekeys the data already recorded. This method is used for verifying data recorded in punched cards or on diskettes and magnetic Then two floppies are compared to correct record by record which mismatched during comparison after verifying from the original documents. This is most effective method used by Computer Service bureaus for data validation.
- Use of Self-checking Number : The computer can be programmed to reject numbers that have been transposed or have one or more wrong digits. Check digits and self-checking number routines can be effectively used for numbers in a series,. such as student roll numbers, account numbers, part numbers, or invoice numbers,are popular for such jobs.
- Visually Displaying an Identifying Characteristic : When using a terminal, a part number is entered. Displayed in the VDT is description of the part, which is then visually confirmed by the operator.
- Hash Totals : Sometimes numbers are added to produce a meaningless total called a hash total. For example, totalling is made of the quantity of all items purchased. When the records are entered and processed, the hash total is compared to the original If the two totals agree, it is an indication that all quantities were entered correctly and all records were processed.
- Checking between a Range of numbers : The numbers on the orders being processed on a given day should fall between, say 4999 (the last number from the previous day) and 6001 (the next order number that will be on all of the orders processed by the next (day). If the order number recorded on the input record does not fall within that range, an error message will be generated.
- Reasonableness Test : Based upon past history, some input can be checked to see if it is reasonable. For example, because of long-standing company policy, it is unlikely that any employee will have more than 20 hours of overtime. If more than 20 hours of overtime are recorded in an employee’s current transaction record, an error message will be generated as the data is being edited. Similarly in ‘Date of Birth’ field, it is checked that no date is more that 31, month number is not more than 12 and the year is not more that the current year or current year minus minimum age prescribed.
- Verification of Codes : The pay and fringe benefits are calculated for employees based upon their payroll status. Assuming that the valid status code must be either an H (hourly), S (salaried), T (trainee), or a P (part-time), an error message would be generated if the code used was not an H, S, T, or P.
- Verification of Data Type : Some input fields should contain only numeric data while others should contain only alphabetic data. The fields can be edited to make sure that only the right type of data is recorded in each field.
- Verification that certain combinations of data exist
For example, all students may be coded with either a W or a V. The V denotes a non-work-study student while the W indicates that the student is on work-study. The only valid account numbers for a work-study student are 2155 and 2156. Any other account number for a W-coded student is invalid.
- Sequence Check : If the numbers in the source documents are serial and the documents are in order, the input records will also be in numerical sequence. A check can be made by the program to determine whether the records are in either ascending or descending order.
How to Layout Terminal Screen
Software is available that makes it easy to layout screens. The programmer keys in the required format on the screen, gives the format a name and then stores the format in a file. Whenever the format is to be used as a display in a program, it can be called into the program by using its. name A programmer can also create display screens within a program.
- Designing of CRT-Input Display Screen : Special considerations are needed for input designs in on-line environments. The analyst must design CRT screens that tell the user what to do and what steps to take next that is easy to understand. Menus are often used to present options to users and data fields are marked to show their length while telling the user where to enter the data. Data entry in on-line systems also includes the ability to edit data. In each of these cases, valid entries must be identified and communicated to programmers so that they develop the software to accept correct entries and reject those that are invalid.
- Basic Rules for CRT-Input Display Screens : There are a few basic rules that must be followed in displaying information on a screened. The important points to remember are :
- Format the output so that it is easy to read. For example, don’t clutter up the screen with un-necessary information. Always display directions or error messages in the same place on the screen, and leave space between items so that the information is easy to read.
- Don’t overuse colour. Often monitors that display information is colour are used for terminals or for microcomputers. Carefully controlled use of colour can make the information more understandable; uncontrolled use of colour adds confusion.
- Clear the entire screen between formats. There is usually a “clear screen” command that can be used.
- Test all screens. Have someone totally unfamiliar with the program to load the program and enter the required data without using the help option before same is released commercially.
- Develop and use simple conventions such as having an operator enter a ‘1’ or ‘Y’ for a positive response to a question or a statement.
- Make certain that all directions are clearly stated.
- Prevent scrolling. Unless delays are coded into programs, information is displayed on a VDT faster than most people can read. One screen of information should be displayed at a time, When the operator. is ready, specified key is depressed and a new screen of information is displayed.
Data dictionary stores description of data items and structures as well as systems processes. It is intended to be used to understand the system by analyst who retrieves the details and descriptions it stores. He takes the help of data dictionary during system design, when information about such concerns as data length, alternate names and data use in particular processes must be available. The data dictionaries have also validation information in storage to help of the analysts in specifying controls for the system’s acceptance of data. The dictionary also contains definitions of data flows, data stores and processes. Data dictionaries can be developed manually or using automated systems. Automated systems offer the advantage of automatically producing data element, data structure and process listings. They also perform cross-reference checking and error detection. Automated dictionary systems are becoming the norm in the development of computer information systems.
Major Concerns Regarding CRT-Input Screen Design
Major concerns regarding CRT-input screen designs are as follows :
- Improved processing speed
- Menu driven screens
- Emphasizing information on display screens
- Colour use in screen design
- Colour selection
- Editing through display screens
We will discuss each of them below :
- Ease of Use : One of the most common approaches in designing easy-to-use CRT screen displays is the fill-in-the-blank approach. The analyst simply formats the initial input display so that all the required data elements are clearly labelled and a space is provided for data entry. The display should be designed and all descriptions and error messages should be meaningful in clear statements. In other words, care should be taken to avoid symbols and over abbreviations.
- Improved Processing Speed : Some of the ways to reduce data entry requirements include :
- Designing the screen display so that responses can be abbreviated (for example, entering “Y” instead of “Yes”).
- Designing the screen format so that the order of data entry is consistent with the business transaction. This feature eliminates unnecessary “tabbing” around the screen
- Designing the screen format so that data can be changed are “unprotected” and data that cannot be or should not be changed are protected.
- Using terminals that have additional application-specific features (for example, a number pad be helpful for accounting systems, Point of Sale Terminals in Hotels, Super bazaars etc.)
- Menu Driven Screens : Since on-line systems provide several input and processing options to users, a method of showing the options the user can choose from them which is needed. Menus serve this purpose. A menu, is a screen of information displayed on the CRT that shows the user what functions can be performed and how to select them.
Menus that provide selection to users in a top-down fashion ensure that systems are easy to use, while making the choice of what to do next should be a simple procedure. The system leads the user through a series of decisions until the correct procedure is selected.
Analysts and users alike prefer them to write instructions or the display of narrative information on the screen.
- Emphasizing Information on Display Screens : Often the analyst will use features built into hardware and software to call information or messages to the attention of users. For example, error messages or reports of unacceptable actions (such as submitting invalid data or asking the system to perform a function now expected by the program) are best displayed by using one of the emphasis techniques listed below. Likewise, when the user enters data for processing, the analyst may display a message informing the user the data has been accepted and processing has begun.The methods of emphasis that many systems offer are :
—Increased/reduced light intensity
—Inverse video (black letters on light screen)
(E) Colour Use in Screen Design : When large amounts of information must be presented on a display screen, the analyst may use colour to provide between structure and meaning to the.information. Related items can be tied together by colour so the user can spot them more quickly.