The consistent underperformance of information systems developments (ISD) projects over the last 30 to 40 years has lead researchers and practitioners to recognize that there is significant room for improvement in the development process. Tools used for ISD have evolved in the continuous search for improved project success rates. The introduction of structured methodologies, object oriented methods, the unified modeling language (UML), and agile development have resulted in incremental advances. However, it is believed that problems persist because of the difficulties of understanding systems requirements. ISD research has traditionally focused on introducing tools that better represent the system under development but has largely ignored the user’s cognitive abilities to understand the representation. This results in miscommunication between analysts and users. This study takes a user-centric approach to investigate presentation techniques of conceptual models that can facilitate users’ understanding of complex representations. The research extends theories from cognitive psychology to the field of Information Systems Development. The cognitive load theory describes sources of cognitive load that either impede learning and understanding (extraneous or intrinsic cognitive load) or promotes understanding such as germane cognitive load.The Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTML) introduces presentation techniques that can reduce extraneous cognitive load. Two experimental studies were conducted to measure the effectiveness of applying CTML principles to the requirement gathering phase of ISD projects. The experiments manipulated popular modeling methods (entity-relationship diagrams and the UML diagrams) to show that applying design principles to reduce extraneous cognitive load can lead to better understanding. Contributions include the introduction of a user-centric approach to ISD research, extending cognitive theories to systems analysis, and proposing design updates to CASE tools to take advantage of presentation techniques uncovered during the experiments.
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