Non-programmers composing software services: A confirmatory study of the mental models and design challenges

Abdallah Namoun, Ali Owrak, Nikolay Mehandjiev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ordinary web users can now create and publish online content. They even venture into "mashups," integrating information from different sources into a composite information-providing web service. This is a non-trivial design task, which falls into the area of end-user development when the ordinary users who perform it do not have programming education. In this article, we investigate the service design strategies of 12 such ordinary users and compare them against the baseline of 12 programmers. In our think-aloud study, users completed two contrasting types of tasks involved in developing service-based applications: (a) manual service composition and (b) parametric design using templates with a high degree of software support (or assisted composition). These service composition tasks were chosen to differ in respect to the level of user support provided by the tool. Our findings show that non-programmers liked, more than programmers, the template-based parametric design and did not find the tool assistance as constraining as the programmers did. The difficulty of design involved in manual service composition and the absence of user guidance hindered non-programmers in expressing and implementing accurate design solutions. The differences in the mental models and needs of non-programmers are established to be in stark contrast to those of programmers. We used the details of our findings to propose specialized design recommendations for service composition tools aligned with the profiles of their target users.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5558
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number24
Early online date19 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Design challenges
  • Design strategies
  • End-user development
  • Mashups
  • Mental model
  • Non-programmers
  • Programmers
  • Recommendations
  • Service composition
  • Service-orientedarchitecture


Dive into the research topics of 'Non-programmers composing software services: A confirmatory study of the mental models and design challenges'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this