Human-Computer Interaction

So, as I said in a previous post, I am taking a course on Human-Computer Interaction, a subject that deals with almost everything that involves our everyday lives. Who has not used a mobile phone? a computer? a vending machine? Even a simple elevator, that would seem to most people unrelated to computers, has to do with HCI, the interaction between a person and the thing in question.

The textbook on which the course is based is Interaction Design, beyond human-computer interaction by Rogers, Sharp and Preece, on which most of these notes are taken.

Human-Computer Interaction

So, back to computer-enabled gadgets such as mobile phones, mp3 players, PDAs and, obviously computers, it is a relly really important topic. How many times have you felt awkward using a mobile phone or a program or web application? Why are some applications that make you feel easy while some others annoys you?

That’s Human-Computer Interaction and it is a topic that could be defined as

The study of interaction between people and computer-based systems

and usually concerns with the physical, psychological and theoretical aspects of this process, as Rogers defines in his book Interaction Design.

So, we should use HCI to develop usable products:

  • Easy to learn

  • Effective to use

  • That provide an enjoyable experience

and avoid bad designs that causes problems.

How to design products properly?

Any good design involves understanding how users interact with computers and enabling them to do so effectively. Failing to do this leads to awkward designs.

There are a number of methods and techniques to make this happen. One of them is User-centered design (UCD) in which all design depends ultimately on the user’s needs, made in an iteratively way.

What to take into account

We would need to take into account:

  • Who the users are

  • What activities are being carried out

  • Where the interaction is taling place

There are a number of usability goals that we would like to achieve:

  • Effectiveness: How good a system is at doing what it is supposed to do.

  • Efficiency: The way a system supports its users in carrying out their tasks.

  • Safety:Protecting the user from dangerous conditions and undesirable situations.

  • Utility: The extent to which the system provides the right kind of functionality so that users can do what they need or want to.

  • Learnability: How easy a system is to learn to use.

  • Memorability: How easy a system is to remember how to use, once learned.

So now, if you have ever developed a program, web application, think about these usability goals. To what extent were they supported in your application? Did you find it easy to use? Did other people, even non technical, find it easy to use? How would you improve it?


Think about all this. I’ll think about it too ;-) and post some more info about User Centered Design and other related stuff in the near future :-) .

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