Human Computer Interaction

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HUMAN-COMPUTER INTERACTION – The Psychological aspects

Human-Computer Interaction, abbreviated HCI, has simply been explained as the study of how people interact with computing technology (Olson & Olson 2003). It is the intersection between psychology and the social sciences, on the one hand, and computer science and technology, on the other. Throughout the past two decades HCI researchers have been analysing and designing specific user interface technologies, studying and improving the processes of technology development and developing and evaluating new applications of technology with the aim of producing software and hardware that are useful, usable and artistic. This led to development of a body of technical knowledge and methodology. Psychologists have made numerous efforts to understand in detail the involvement of cognitive, perceptual and motor components in the moment-by-moment interaction a person encounters when working at a computer. This line of work was started by Card et al. (1983). Their research was based on the separation of computer use knowledge from what operates on the knowledge to derive a specific behaviour with this approach it was claimed that one could determine several important behaviours. Later a number of researchers built on this original work, adding ore to it. The most significant addition to this was Kieras and Meyer (1997) with their popular ‘EPIC’. Cognitive modeling has also been quite practical. Gray et al. (1993), for example, applied it to the evaluation of two telephone operator keyboards predicting and confirming enacting times between the two. Others have applied it to the application designs like CAD for the banking and Engineering sectors. Although this model has been said to be very powerful, it’s application is not universal. That brings us to the second line of theoretical research; Distributed Cognition. Distributed Cognition focuses more on the social and contextual aspects of work. It recognises how people’s actions are intimately intertwined with the artifacts of their work (Olson 1994). A number of design ideas were inspired from this line of thinking especially in the work environment. These theories and applications in HCI mentioned earlier were primarily focused on the office applications like word processors and spreadsheets, however, in the late 1990’s there came a major theoretical advancement where examinations were done in the area of information-retrieval behaviour. Pirolli & Card (1999), for example, did investigations into surfing techniques used by web users; the decisions information-seekers made in moving from one source to another while surfing the web. Their investigations highlighted the importance of the display of search results in ways that clues are given for appropriate selection. For example, if one does a search for hotels in Grenada using Google’s search engine, the display of a sentence or two beneath the main search headings gives users an idea as to what is expected when visiting the that main link. Card and Pirolli’s work played and integral role in the design and application of search Engines today, since their investigations focused primarily on time efficiency when searching for information over the internet. After the Internet was made accessible to the general public, the design of web interface became a challenging topic area of its own in the discipline of the human-computer interaction. Now developers and designers of computer interfaces rely heavily on techniques and guidelines developed within the field of human-computer interaction. In Ben Shneiderman's book, "Designing the User Interface", he defines eight main principles which designers should follow in order to create a useful and efficient interface. The first principle is striving for consistency. It is important for a user interface to be consistent on many levels. For example, screen layouts should be consistent throughout each screen. An environment using a...
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