Thursday, August 29, 2013

Human Computer Interaction - HCI

Human Computer Interaction is basically designing, planning and implementation of interaction between people and computer. First and foremost is the human, the person that’s using the system and the other people that they work and communicate with. Then you got the computer, that’s the machine and the networked-up machines that run the system. And then you got the interface that represents the system to the user. HCI is the design, implementation and evaluation of user interfaces.

At the onset of the design project, we often don’t know what the problem is Or what the space of possibilities might be, let alone what the solution should be. Consequently, real-world design is often iterative, failed fast so you can succeed sooner. Often it benefits from trying and comparing options.
Finally, it’s important to focus on the people who are going to use your system. Good design brings people joy: it helps people do things that we care about, and helps us connect people that we care about. Good user interfaces can have a tremendous impact on both [the] individual’s ability to accomplish things, and societies’. Graphical user interfaces help with computing a hundreds of millions of tasks, enabling us to do things like creating documents, and share photo and connect with family
And find information. 

Bad design is frustrating and costs lives: medical devices, airplane accidents and nuclear disasters are just three domains where bad user interfaces and software errors have caused serious injury and many deaths. These are big ticket items that take a lot of time to produce. What really gets me is that many of these interface problems could have easily been avoided.

Fixing these problems requires following just basic principles like consistency and feedback. If effective principles for interface design were widely known as some of these disasters might have been avoided. Bad design causes problems and degrades people[’s] quality of life in many smaller ways too. Think of all the time that you waste on your bank's website or trying to figure out why the wifi doesn't work, or trying to set something on your digital camera. Let's say these frustrations take 10 minutes a day for the average American. With 300 million people in America alone, that’s 3 billion person-minutes a day. or 18 billion person-hours a year. That's a lot of time that we could’ve spent making the world a better place. Oftentimes, the best interfaces become invisible to us. 

When an interface becomes automatic by practice, by design and most often by a combination, our attention shifts from manipulating an interface to accomplishing a task. It’s kind of like a blind person who has practiced working with a cane. After all those hours of practice, they no longer feel the cane.
Their sensory perception is at the end of the cane, experiencing the world. That attentional shift is what happens when an interface becomes intuitive. Designing great user interfaces requires enormous creativity and a lot of hard work. But designing pretty good user interface is pretty easy if you know some methods, techniques and principles.

Birth of HCI
How did the field of human-computer interaction get started?
One good place to begin our story is in July of 1945, when Vannevar Bush wrote an article for the Atlantic Monthly, later reprinted in Life, called “As We May Think”.Today, technology has mostly augmented people’s physical abilities; Bush outlined a vision for information technologies that augmented people’s intellectual abilities. Who is this guy? What’s his deal? And what led to his pressing vision?

Bush was vice-president and dean of engineering at MIT in the 1930’s, where, incidentally, he was Fred Terman’s advisorTerman went on to become dean of engineering at Stanford and in the eyes of many the father of Silicon Valley. In 1939, Vannevar Bush moved to Washington. He’s a leading scientific policy maker He directs a lot of the government funding, and indeed creates and is instrumental in setting up large-scale university research. This administrative effort eventually leads to the creation of the National Science Foundation and ARPA, institutionalizing government-funded scientific research.
The goal of this article, written in the final months of World War II, is to ask “What can government-funded scientists do to create a better world in peace time?” and his vision was a strongly human-centred one. Bush wrote of a future interactive desk; he calls the system “memex.” The idea is that all of the world’s information would be available on the knowledge worker’s desktop. Key to the memex idea was effective user interfaces for information storage and retrieval.

Remember, this is 1945, so there aren’t yet practical digital computers — the first room-scale digital computers were just being built — and the idea was to use microfiche — high density film — to store everything! Even more impressive, Bush’s memex vision invents hypertext: he has this idea that people could author trails through this information store, save them for later use, and share them with others.

But you’re not always at your desk, right? You want technology to come with you. And knowledge workers need to produce content as well as consume it. And the world isn’t just textual; it’s also visual.
So Bush imagined that, in the future, you’d wear a camera, right in the centre of your head, like a third eye, and use it to capture stuff. And he worked out a design that made it as easy as possible to take pictures, so there’re no dials or settings to fiddle with. As with the memex desk, the details turned out differently; but the core vision was right on target. Today, for example, there are more than a billion camera phones that people carry with them. The programmable digital computers that soon follow, like the ENIACS on here, were a huge technological lead-forward. But, as you can see from the wires, the user interface left a lot to be desired.

The idea of providing a more effective interface to computers has a long and storied history, beginning with Grace Hopper’s invention in the early 1950’s of the first compiler. What’s inspirational for me is that she conceptualized how improved tools could provide a much wider audience with access  to computation. In the intervening years, good programming environments for the desktop and Web enabled legions of developers to create the content that helped put a PC on every desk.
It’s a long path from Grace Hopper’s visionary work on the compiler to the graphical user interface. There are three key highlights I’d like to share with you along the way. The seeds of direct manipulation were sown at MIT at Lincoln Labs by Ivan Sutherland. The key innovation of the graphical user interface is that the user’s input is performed directly on top of the system’s output.

This input-on-output directness makes the interface much easier to understand and much more intuitive. This input-on-output directness makes the system much easier to understand and feel more intuitive. In the case of Sutherland’s Sketchpad, the input was a light pen and the output was an oscilloscope.

HCI Design Principles and Methodologies:
Needfinding: is observing people to discover their needs, goals, and values. One effective starting point for designing new technology is to clearly identify an existing problem or need. And that’s because finding a big problem and need often yield[s] important untapped opportunities for design.

Rapid Prototyping: Rapid prototyping techniques are probably the most valuable weapon you’ll have
In a human-centered design process. Three techniques for rapidly producing prototypes - storyboarding, paper prototypes, and from digital mock-ups.

Heuristic Evaluation: there’s lots of different ways to evaluate software. One that you might be most familiar with is empirical methods, where, of some level of formality, you have actual people trying out your software. It’s also possible to have formal methods, where you’re building a model of how people behave in a particular situation, and that enables you to predict how different user interfaces will work.
Or, if you can’t build a closed-form formal model, you can also try out your interface with simulation and have automated tests — that can detect usability bugs and effective designs.

Visual Design and Information Design: This is to introduce you to graphic design and a set of strategies for helping you communicate more effectively visually. Visual Design and Information Design can be more expressed with Typography,Grids and alignments and Reading and navigating.
Typography: Using typographic variation and size contrast to give some sense of individual hierarchy and as Edward Tufte describes it, information consists of differences that make a difference.
I think there are three major goals of a lot of visual design. The first goal is to guide people to convey the structure, the relative importance and relationships. The second one is to set up the pase of the interaction to draw people in, help orient and provide hooks to dive deep. And the third is to use the visual design to express the message of the information — to give it some meaning and style and breathe life into the content.

Running Web Experiments: The web has offered tremendous power in terms of being able to do experimental work, roll out different versions of a user interface, get feedback, and iterate quickly. You may have heard of this under a bunch of different names. Sometimes this is called AB Test or randomized experiments online or controlled experiments or split testing. In all cases, the basic idea is
the same. What you're going to do is you're going to randomly split the traffic that comes to your website between two or more versions. So, when we talk about it is AB Testing, you've got your A version which is the current live version, usually, and you've got your B version which is usually something new that you're trying. And what you're gonna do is collect metrics about how the two versions perform in terms of conversions or click-throughs or other things that you can measure and then analyze that afterwards to decide which of your designs is more effective. 

Comparing rates: After you've collected all your data, what do you do with it? The main technique you'll learn in this video is how to compare rates. Rate comparison is my pick as a first statistical test to learn in HCI because it's easy to do and relevant to many real world activities like comparing click through rates on websites.

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