Understanding HCI

What is Interface design?

Interface Design is an iterative process conducted before product release or live date, and includes:

  1. Understanding of Design Principles
  2. Analysis of Client & User Requirements
  3. Envisionment & Prototyping of Interface
  4. Evaluation of Interface
  5. Repeat until no further redesign is required

Interface design principles can be applied to

  1. existing platforms - desktop PC's, WAP phones
  2. emerging platforms - interactive TV, smart homes, wearables

Underlying philosophy

  1. identify unmet desires and needs of users
  2. From this, derive functionality
  3. And then design the form of the device

Interface Design is also variously termed:

  1. Man-Machine Interaction
  2. Human-Computer Interaction
  3. Interactive Systems Design
  4. User Interface Design
  5. User Interaction Design
  6. User Friendly Design
  7. Usability
  8. Participative Design
  9. Cooperative Design
  10. Socio-technical Design
  11. Ergonomics
  12. Human Factors
  13. Contextual Design

why interface design is important

Employers want:

  1. people with lots of good ideas
  2. or who understand how hard design is (i.e. people who can work well with designers)
  3. people who understand usability
  4. and can evaluate designs (i.e. who can work well with users)

Poor design can:

  1. reduce user productivity
  2. create unacceptable learning times
  3. create unacceptable error levels
  4. increase user frustration
  5. lead to system rejection by the user

Outline Process of iterative design

  1. Understand problem and its context
  2. Generate possible solutions
  3. Concretise the possible solutions
  4. Evaluate them
  5. Kill off possible solutions until one emerges
  6. Realise that one
  7. Evaluate
  8. Continue or start again!

Subjects involved in the study of HCI include:

  • Computer Science - Developments in software or hardware, information and computer systems, data structures, data encryption and coding.
  • Artificial Intelligence - The branch of computer science that attempts to program computers to respond as if they were thinking, capable of reasoning, adapting to new situations, and learning new skills. Examples of artificial intelligence programs include those that can locate minerals underground, understand human speech.
  • Anthropology - The study of humanity - our physical characteristics as animals, and our unique non-biological characteristics we call culture. The subject is generally broken down into three subdisciplines: biological (physical) anthropology, cultural (social) anthropology, and archaeology.
  • Ergonomics - The science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job. Its aim is to obtain a correct match between the human body, work-related tasks, and work tools. Ergonomics investigates the impact of a persons physical environment of their health and comfort (eg, work equip, room, general areas).
  • Linguistics - The scientific study of language, which may be undertaken from many different aspects, for example, sounds (phonetics) or structures of words (morphology) or meanings (semantics).
  • Sociology - Sociology is the study of the social lives of humans, groups and societies. It is a relatively new scientific discipline which has evolved in the early 19th century. It concerns itself with the social rules and processes that bind and separate people not only as individuals, but as members of associations, groups, and institutions.
  • Design - Design is a set of fields for problem-solving that uses user-centric approaches to understand user needs (as well as business, economic, environmental, social, and other requirements) to create successful solutions that solve real problems.
  • Psychology - The science of behavior and mental processes and the application of the resulting findings to the solution of problems. The word thus simultaneously refers to a science (involving the study of the behavior of humans and animals) and to various interventions (treatments and therapies) in the mental processes and behavioral patterns of people.
  • Engineering - Engineering is the application of science to the needs of humanity. This is accomplished through knowledge, mathematics, and practical experience applied to the design of useful objects or processes.
  • Physiology - The study of the functions or vital processes of living things.

It ought to be possible to produce computer systems that enable the user to perform the task without first acquiring a detailed knowledge of computer systems.

  1. A good computer system, like a good pair of shoes, should feel natural, comfortable and fit without the user being aware of it.
  2. The aim of interface design is to produce systems that are both natural and transparent to use.
  3. The aim of interface design is to develop systems that do not involve the user in significant amounts of learning time or effort.
  4. These systems should be effective, fun and safe to use.

ISO 9241 is a quality control system which measures:

“The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.”

ISO 9241, part 11

Exercise - Design & Designers

In small groups of 2 or 3, consider and type short answers to the following questions:

  1. What is design?
  2. What does a designer do?
  3. What factors does a designer need to consider when developing a new product?
  4. Is fashion design different from engineering design?
  5. What differentiates good design from bad?
  6. Are interface designers artists or software engineers? What is the difference?

Exercise - Bad Designs

During the week, as you use everyday (non computing) interactive devices, such as video recorders, microwave ovens, light switches in public rooms, taps in hotels and restaurants and so on, try to develop an awareness of how well these devices meet users needs and requirements. Visit http://www.baddesigns.com/examples.html to see some examples of bad design in everyday objects.

For next week,

  1. bring in (or photograph) 1 example of bad interaction design
  2. type a short report
    1. in 500 words or less, explain why this design is bad
    2. in 500 words or less, explain what should be done to fix it
  3. be prepared to share your findings with the class


  1. http://www.baddesigns.com/faq.html