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Designing Human-Computer Interaction

Introduction

In the book by Shneiderman and Plaisant (2010), designing Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is the science of studying and structuring interaction between users and the devices or machines such as computers. It’s a process that requires proper planning, incorporates numerous fields of disciplines such as the study of computer science, the study of the behaviors in science and the study of the structural design of both users and computers and how they relate through interaction.

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Therefore, human computer interaction can be defined as an evaluative discipline concerned with the process of designing and implementing systems for study of events through computing functions by users who are people. Such interactive systems can be academic where students research their reports or project proposal writing.

The goal of Human-Computer Interaction

The goals of designing Human-Computer Interface are to create systems that are functional and safe to use. To achieve this designers struggle to have equipments and methods necessary to enable them create quality systems. They also keep in mind factors such as technology that affects users usability and ensure that such determining factors are studied and adverse effects realized in advance.

Another goal is to develop efficiency through designing safe interface which is highly effective to the user.

Based on the needs of the users, the task of the system developers or designers is to focus on their abilities and ways in which they can provide users with systems that suit their preference and requirements. Interface programmers study human factors of the users such psychology and design interfaces through scientific knowledge they already have since they are professionals in the field of engineering. This interdisciplinary approach proves Human-Computer interaction as both an art and a science.

Analysis of the interactions

In the book by Constantine and Lockwood (1999), the success of analyzing interactions between humans and computers is guided by the following questions;

  • Who are the immediate users of the system?
  • What will the users need to meet their goals?
  • What are the requirements of the system to accomplish the tasks?
  • Are there methods of supply that systems should possess to meet users’ needs?
  • How reliable or efficient is the interaction interface?

Therefore to answer the above questions, one has to consider the following;

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The interaction platform between computers and actual users of computers is referred to as the interface. Users constantly come into contact with computer components.

Such components are categorized into two i.e. Computer software and hardware. The interface created by such components aims at creating and satisfying the needs of the user or the people whose operations are computer-based.

Analysis of the Users

Users are the people interacting with machines in a given work environment. To analyze them appropriately, one needs to understand the social groups in which they belong, group or individual efforts, interaction time between the users and the machines, goals to accomplish and their levels of motivation in undertaking their tasks. Contextual inquiry is the most useful technique of retrieving information about all the variables of user analysis. It helps in the collection and analysis of information to bring sense about the interaction between humans and computers.

Analysis of the tasks

A task is an important activity to be performed by the user to meet the set objectives or goals. Task analysis is therefore a technique that is mostly used by people to accomplish certain activities. It’s concerned with objective development and use of software to undertake such activities. Users’ tasks can be used to develop systems through design and interaction. This gives rise to usage- centered method of design to evaluate the tasks performed by the user.

Interaction analysis links the users, tasks and the computers. It’s important in the identification of the tasks that a system can handle and the ease with which users’ goals can be accomplished. Interaction effectiveness and reliability are determined through the analysis approach. Analysis of the interactions involves the study of the interface area, the flow of information as input raw material and the information out put that originates from the Human-Computer-environment interaction.

Quality evaluation of interactions

In the book by Shneiderman and Plaisant (2010) to evaluate the quality of human computer interaction, it’s important to relate how users interact with the systems. This is referred to as usability. Usability attributes used to measure and evaluate quality of interaction include;

Error manipulation and handling

The design of the system should be made in such a way that critical errors cannot be made by the users. The system should be able to notice any form of error at an early stage in the course of interaction and offer simple ways of going about fixing the error. Designing high quality systems will help prevent occurrence of errors.

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Enable quick access to functions by the users

Depending on the needs of the user, there is need for high speed in operations to accomplish certain tasks. Therefore short-cut commands and functions should be well understood by the user to improve the quality of the task outcome.

Flexibility in reversing operations

Quality designed systems are easy to use and enable the user to correct errors with ease.

Feedback process

Any action performed by the user should be backed up immediately. Feedback process of systems will enable users to be certain about every action they perform.

Consistency in operations

Well designed systems will ensure the flow of similar actions or operations is consistent throughout the entire operation. For example execution of any command on the menu should remain consistent during user-computer interaction.

In the evaluation of quality of interaction in a newly designed user interface the following principles approach must be observed.

Establish an early user and tasks focus: User and task focus involves defining clearly the number of users needed to undertake a particular task or tasks. Target the right users based on the user orientation perspective i.e. regular users with stability in their work and not expected to change working environments. The users’ roles should be defined and time allocated for each task to be undertaken. The frequency with which the tasks are to be performed should also be clearly stated.

Initial measurement: carry out tests of the newly designed interface with actual users who are frequently in the interaction environment with the computers. Ensure all factors favorable to initiate the interaction process are in place since the output will be related to the actual performance when the system designed is put in a competitive working environment.

Quantity attributes such as the tasks, people and time used to perform the tasks allocated should be recorded. Errors made should also be noted. This will act as a guide in dealing with such similar cases in the future to reduce uncertainty and increase quality and improve productivity and users’ satisfaction.

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Design-interaction stage follows immediately after the measurements are done, tasks and users have already been fully evaluated. The design interaction stage includes designing the actual user interface, proof testing the interface, analysis of results and repetition of the whole process again until a logically interactive interface for the users is developed. Ensure the newly developed user-friendly interface is desirably workable and free of errors. Interfaces with relative errors may cause dissatisfaction to the users and lead to inefficiency and users may lose confidence in relying to such interfaces.

This process of design development can be used to create individual or group interfaces. Group interfaces enable multitudes to work as a whole, for example, organizations under certain projects use internet in their work group systems to carry out group tasks.

Recommended changes to the interactions

A new way of understanding and designing the interaction between human and computers includes thorough research on relevant goals to draw the relationship between technology and users. Therefore, there is need to understand users’ needs, their behavior, roles and responsibilities and their overall expectations which form the basis of the interaction relationship. The following recommendations will help in the understanding of changing interactions between human and computer systems in the future.

Offering training support for researchers

Researchers of human-computer interaction need to understand the interaction relationship and design to identify problematic areas that require close attention. This will also aid In the process of exploring new areas of the changing interaction and possible ways of dealing with such scenarios.

Educate the young generation

The changing world has impacted adverse and complicated effects to the modern society. Computer as a discipline needs to be taught in schools to increase computing skills. This will aid the further understanding of the problems that face the interaction between the humans and the computers.

Understand users through exploration of new ways

Articulation measures need to be put in place to study factors that affect human behaviors and social sciences that restructure systems and designs to crown meaningful values of tasks to be undertaken. Value should be the determining factor in the design and making of novel devices. The ability to satisfy the user should be well defined involving the complex systems such the emerging technologies. There is a need to evaluate new technologies and reconsider the sensitiveness to the work environment in terms of efficiency, level of satisfaction and productivity

Based on the above recommendations for future changes, it’s evident that the quality and extent of the existing interaction is expected to change positively within the next decades. Researchers of Human-Computer Interaction are optimistic in their work to prove the evolutionary changes which are growing at a faster rate.

For example; high sophistication in entertainment where the user interacts with computers by playing music through multi touch interfaces; this is aimed at satisfying leisure and recreating individuals. The Robot- Human interaction interface enhances decision making and improves social life. This will be as a result of more research and the need to explore the human machine interaction in depth. Mobile phones will also be expected to change evolutionally from large handsets ‘bricks’ to the present sophisticated touch sets, ‘clicks’ such as the ‘Google phones’.

In conclusion, the recommendations are expected to change the lives of people and improve social interactions.

Methodology in designing Human-Computer interface

In the recent decades, methodologies in the designing of human-computer interface have come into existence. These methodologies are the techniques used to determine the relationship of interaction among systems, users and the actual designers of such interactive interfaces. The strategies aimed at studying in the interaction through cognition as a process of predicting future behavior of the users and the machines.

Quantity output is also measured and designers of the system are encouraged to analyze and explore scientific fields and pay maximum attention to feedback and memory the design of modern user interactive interfaces.

Designers should consider users as the foundation of the design. This is known as user-centered design strategy. This strategy addresses users’ needs and preferences, wants and dislikes based on the present environment in which the user and the designer in situated and will interact with the system.

Participatory or democratic design strategy proves the capability of the users to actively participate through contribution to the interaction relationship in the work environment. It determines the rate and frequency at which users interact with computers at work. It’s based on human motivational factors such as moral, interest, time and attitude towards the immediate workshop.

Principle strategy of designing User Interface

The process of designing any user interface is normally guided by certain principles. The principles are important in ensuring structure development is in order, maintenance of consistency in operation and organized feedback process. The strategies include;

Predictive aiding principle-Designers should be able to predict the perceptual needs of the user. The user should not concentrate more on his or her present conditions but should think of the future conditions. If the design requirements are too demanding the designer should formulate ways of addressing such conditions without the users’ knowledge. This will help eradicate any form of uncertainty by the user. Therefore designers need to be proactive rather than being reactive to situations of great concern.

The moving part Principle-The features that the designer uses should coincide with the users’ moving mental system. The elements should move in the same pace with the expectations of the user. This increases understanding of the systems’ operation to the user. There should be some form of compatibility between systems’ patterns and users’ direction of understanding.

Scope of judgment. It involves ensuring the limit of a particular factor to be considered in the design structure. For example if the variable to be considered is gender the limits may be in terms of numbers of male or female users in a given user interface.

The flow of the processing mechanism-The designer’s way of perceiving and interpreting ideas is based on the level of his experience. Such ideas should be presented as per the expectations of the user to simplify the process of user’s understanding. The user will understand the ideas used correctly and this increases accuracy with which the user will apply those ideas in the course of the interaction with the computers.

Positive redundancy-If an action is performed for several times, its understood correctly than before. The user will understand the relevance of an operation if a similar operation is performed more than once and the results do not change. This principle is used to correct minor errors such as the undo function of the computers.

Confusion avoidance-Confusion is often caused by the occurrence of similar operations. Therefore similar operational features should be avoided and if necessary be removed or changed all together to reduce confusion. Confusing features cause errors in the designing of interfaces. This is likely to frustrate the final users of the system. To avoid confusion the designer has to use elements with discriminating characteristics and if possible avoid elements with potential of confusing.

Cost principle of accessing information-Cost and time factors affect users directly. The user may decide to move from one place to the other with least costs of accessing information. Therefore the designer should ensure that systems adequately favor users. Minimizing the costs of obtaining information will help conserve resources and users’ efforts are less compromised.

Multiple sources Principle-System designers ensure that interfaces provide users with information from native sources. Information processed from such internal and external environments can be used by the users across geographical locations to satisfy their needs. Such information can either be in audio form or visual.

Consistency Principle-The designer must ensure that there is some form of order between the techniques used to design the interface in line with the users’ expectation and usability.

Poor methodology in the design of computer systems are subject to waste computer users time and are a hindrance to effective and efficient interaction with user-centered systems. It’s essential that before any process of interface design is attempted an in depth of users and tasks analysis is undertaken in advance.

The designer should be able to know what takes place during interaction between the user and the interface, he also needs to know if the interaction produces the desired result to the user or not. He needs to weigh the possibilities of whether the interface can be easily changed to accommodate evaluation feedback process. The feedback process will enable him evaluate the entire interface performance. Computer programmers design software and hardware. They consider user factors throughout the process of the product design.

A newly designed interface with new technology is not usually interactive enough and accepted by the user because it’s not efficient to use. Depending on the users’ acceptance and feeling to interact with the designed product depends on the marketability and usability concerns. Therefore to launch such an interface there is need for good usability of technology, optimization of factors such as efficiency, designing speed, high levels of product comfortability that translates to acceptance and use by the people within the interaction environment. The major role played by the interface is to provide users with high levels of expectancy, effectiveness and ability to be learnt easily by the users.

Recent researches show that designing new interface is an essential part of the interaction between humans and computers because disasters that have resulted have mainly. After all, designers never pay attention to the needs of both the users and the computers. These two parties form the interaction cycle and without one or both the relationship won’t exist at all. For example, complexities of user interface have caused havocs such as system failure and loss of direction especially for aircraft control. This has caused air crash accidents, loss of employment for incompetent programmers and lack of profitability in Hospitality and Tourism industries.

Poorly maintained Human-Computer interaction has also triggered terrorism and caused a lot of insecurity cases. An example is the Japan attack through missile bombing due to poor interface between the system administrators and the users to detect any external attack through radar control functions.

Strengths and weaknesses

There is rapid evolution as a result of humans interacting with computers. The success or failure of this interaction interface is measured in strengths and weakness respectively.

Strength forces

Communication speed-Computers are speedy in communication through networks. Information can be obtained from a click of a button. Data can be computed and sent over several networks in a fraction of a second. This shows how efficient computers are and there is need to increase the speed even more in the future.

Functionality capabilities-computers can manage numerous factions executed at the same time. Users save time in carrying out assigned tasks. This increases productivity and efficiency.

Computer bulkiness-Computers can handle other systems such as graphics, animations and images and other mixed media which can be manipulated and transferred across network links therefore merging with other remote systems. This creates bandwidth interaction and saves time and material resources such as money.

Information provisions- information is provided to the Public. Customers can do home shopping and banking with ease. Customers can interact with online sellers via the internet e.g. eBay. Interface quality is increased due to increasing bandwidth interaction.

The evident strength of the current state of the interaction is that it has been able to solve problems. In the field of medicine, doctors have been able to deal with diseases such as diagnosing the causes through the use of computers. In engineering field, programmers have been successful in developing new software to improve the interaction relationship between computer-human interface.

In the social science fields psychologists have been successful in the study of the behaviors of people and their attitude towards the interaction with machines. Improvements in the entertainment, leisure and recreation fields have resulted to increased holiday planning to wonderful destinations with exceptional levels of satisfaction.

Tour operators and travel agents in the field of Hospitality and tourism can now reach their customers easily. Customers can interact with computers and make reservations at destinations away from their homes. They can also get relevant information about the places they want to visit from the destination websites. The overall effects to customers are that they built confidence and positive attitude towards their holiday destinations. This has branded image and build excellent reputation of tourist destinations. As a result, there are increased tourist activities boosting up the Tourism industry.

Business Administration fields have also benefited a lot. Marketers have gained more skills in their field of profession through the use of computers. Online marketing of products can be done easily, customers can access goods and services via net and even purchase goods right from the click of the button.

This has led to emergence of online sellers through development of websites which are the interfaces of consumer-seller interaction. Moreover, the quality of information, new technology and the value of designed interfaces as areas of interactions adds to the overall exceptional experience and satisfaction to the end users.

Weakness forces

Increasing computer illiteracy-most developing countries cannot meet the requirements of the changing technologies. Most citizens in such states may not have access to computers.

Traditional ways of operations-most developing countries are still operating under uncouth ways and irresponsive to the changing needs have caused by the changing technology.

Power is a major requirement to run computers. Rural areas in most developing countries do not have electric power supply.

High computerization, high costs due to emerging innovative techniques. Most developing states lack resources to withstand the costs of transformation and change with new technology.

Conclusion

The study of human computer interaction is uniform and simultaneous. Individuals cannot separate one component from the other. To gain knowledge on both people and computers, there is need to study them as a whole. For example in the study of computers one needs to understand the functions of the operating system and installation, understand and interpret computer language used in the running and execution of programs and the development of quality graphics in computers.

In the near future our interactions with computers will be expected to transform based on how we define and think about interaction which is currently changing exponentially. The nature of how we use computers and rely on them in our daily life, the rate of hyper connection of interactions with the digital world and the ease with which we solve critical emerging as well as existing problems due to the new forms of innovation and creativity are factors of great concern and require prompt scrutiny and conceptualization analysis.

There is need to focus on the effects caused by the interaction such as diseases like cancer and impotence caused by infrared radiations and Bluetooth enabled devices. This is especially with modern forms of laptops and phones. Doctors have to formulate ways of dealing with such problems as computers have become part of today’s man’s life.

In the transport industry, airlines have to be up to date with technology to reduce accidents. Professional technicians and computer literate persons must be employed to help minimize occurrence of accidents. Main causes of accidents include poor maintenance of machines and human factors such as ignorance, high illiteracy levels and lack of motivation in the work place. Therefore there is need to formulate rewarding and incentives programs to motivate people in their places of work by making them feel part and parcel of the establishment.

In the study of recipients or users, factors to consider include level of satisfaction from the use of computers, communication and graphical design of disciplines such as socially interacting sciences and the study of psychology and cognitive environments. Thus the nature of human computer interaction is important in the fact that users from different ecological and geographical background get to interact smoothly thus referred to as man-machine interaction.

High quality systems should be designed to respond to most problems. Concerns should be based on the ways of improving human-computer interactions worldwide with the changing technological world.

References

Constantine, L & Lockwood, L 1999, Software for Use: A Practical Guide to the Models and Methods of Usage Centered Design ACM Press, Addison-Wesley.

Shneiderman, B &Plaisant, C 2010, Designing the User Interface Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction 5th Edition, Addison-Wesley.

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