A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Human Computer Interaction

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Smooth or Textured: Does Mouse Pad Surface Impact Performance?

This study examined the effects of mouse pad usage on performance of a target acquisition task. Results indicated no performance difference between three specialized mouse pads, a traditional mouse pad and no mouse pad. In addition, no significant differences were found between each of the mousing surfaces based on kinematic data. The results suggest that manufacturer claims of increased performance cannot be supported by empirical evidence.

Slocum, Jeremy and Shelby Thompson. Usability News (2005). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Usability


Specifying Behavior: With an Example Menu Behavior Specification

Why do so many applications provide a poor user experience as a result of their not behaving properly? I can think of several possible reasons why some applications don’t behave as they should.

Gabriel-Petit, Pabini. UXmatters (2010). Articles>Usability>Human Computer Interaction>User Experience


Students on the Road to Somewhere   (PDF)

Students are always asking what they can do to position themselves for a professional career in human factors. The following article summarizes some of my thoughts on the subject, along with advice I have received over the year.

Andre, Anthony D. HFES (1995). Careers>Human Computer Interaction


Studio Design in Human-Computer Interaction

In this course, students work on collaborative projects to design innovative human-computer interactions (HCIs) aimed at transforming the way people do things in their everyday lives at work, in the home, and at play. Students work with activity analysis to observe and analyze everyday practices, with object-oriented modeling to represent and transform those practices, and with UI prototyping for selected implementation. The course serves as the capstone in the HCI MS Certificate but is open to any junior or senior with technical skills seeking an opportunity to engage in an extended design studio leading to an HCI design. Prerequisites: In general: at least one course in one of the following areas: web design, database design, graphics design, document design, or software engineering design. For those completing the MS Certificate in Human-Computer Interaction: Fundamentals of HCI Usability, Electronic Coaching Systems, and Communication Design for the Web.

Carter, Kellie Rae and Cheryl Geisler. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2003). Academic>Courses>Human Computer Interaction


The Synergy between Human Factors and Technical Communication

The human factors specialist and the technical communicator find themselves making similar decisions or weighing similar issues. For example, often it is difficult to decide when to use symbols versus words. Sometimes you cannot shortcut and use pictures because pictures do not convey enough information.

Blackwelder, Meredith. Carolina Communique (2003). Articles>TC>Human Computer Interaction


Task Analysis and Human-Computer Interaction: Approaches, Techniques, and Levels of Analysis   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

In this paper we critically review task analysis models and techniques. These approaches to task analysis are discussed in order to develop a richer picture of human activity, while analyzing their limitations, general weaknesses, and possibilities for improvement. We consider their ability to determine the appropriate set of atomic actions in a task, their effect on workers’ motivational needs, their support of users’ cognitive and sociocultural processes, and their effectiveness in supporting interface design. We note that the major approaches have focused on very different levels of analysis, and call for greater integration of these different levels in task analysis theory.

Crystal, Abe and Beth Ellington. University of North Carolina (2004). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Usability>Methods


Teaching Information Architecture to the Design Student

What the design student needs is a design course that stresses usability, human factors, and clarity, instead of the typical branding and interpretation problems they usually encounter in their other design classes. James Spahr recounts a year of teaching at Pratt Institute that attempts to cross those boundaries.

Spahr, James. Boxes and Arrows (2002). Articles>Education>Human Computer Interaction>Graphic Design


Technical Communication in an Altered Technology Landscape: What Might Be   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Technical communicators create support products that mediate between people and their computers. However, human-computer relations of the future may not require the reading of manuals or even direct manipulation of the interface. These relations may be delegated to agents, computer surrogates that possess a body of knowledge about something and about the user in relation to that something. A new class of applications may suggest information relevant to the user's situation, proactively offering advice that the user didn't know to ask for. Technical communicators will have continuing roles in enabling users because of their knowledge of the ways that people want to learn from machines. The skills required for technical communicators in the next computer revolution will change at least as much in the next 5 years as they have in the past 5 years.

Zimmerman, Muriel. Technical Communication Online (2001). Design>Human Computer Interaction


The Thirteen Greatest Error Messages of All Time

They're rarely helpful. Actually, they usually add insult to injury. But what would computing be without 'em? Herewith, a tribute to a baker's dozen of the best (or is that worst?).

McCracken, Harry. Technologizer (2008). Humor>Human Computer Interaction>User Interface>History


Tips for Using Eyetrackers in HCI Experiments

This is a summary of a talk on eyetracking for HCI students at Lancaster University in the UK. Feedback showed that students felt more able to conduct eye tracking research after attending the session.

Poole, Alex. Alex Poole (2005). Presentations>Human Computer Interaction>Usability>Eye Tracking


Tools and Trade-Offs: Making Wise Choices for User-Centered Design

How can we choose among customer data collection methods when limited staff and financial resources must be spread across the whole development cycle? This tutorial helps participants understand the tradeoffs, so they can make effective choices among methods at different points during product design and development. It focuses on early user-centered intervention to gain cost-effective, reusable end-user information.

Rosenbaum, Stephanie L., Judee Humburg, Judith A. Ramey and Anne Seeley. ACM SIGCHI (1995). Design>User Centered Design>Human Computer Interaction>Usability


Top-10 Application-Design Mistakes

Application usability is enhanced when users know how to operate the UI and it guides them through the workflow. Violating common guidelines prevents both.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2008). Articles>User Interface>Human Computer Interaction>Usability


Touchscreen Usability

Touchscreen devices can only work well if both hardware and software are uniquely optimized for touch interaction. Simply adding touch interaction to an existing device will make the user experience worse instead of better.

ignore the code (2009). Articles>User Interface>Human Computer Interaction


Toward a More Human Interface Device: Integrating the Virtual and Physical

As UX professionals, we often take for granted the fact that our users will be dealing with a keyboard, mouse or track pad, and monitor. We think about users’ physical relationship with their digital devices very selectively, if at all. But, as we explore new human interface devices and incorporate new interactions into our designs, we have the opportunity to create deep connections between users and their technology.

Follett, Jonathan. UXmatters (2008). Articles>User Interface>Human Computer Interaction


Transactional Literacy   (PDF)

Ever wonder why we find graphical user interfaces, hypertext, and multimedia so appealing? Some of the appeal has to do with language itself which is the basis of human transactions, and some of it has to do with our conditioning as a literate society. Literacy builds on visual as well as verbal skills. This paper traces the roots of language to the ascendancy of print technology to explain how visualization is the foundation of literacy.

Hawkes, Lory. STC Proceedings (1993). Presentations>Human Computer Interaction>Multimedia


Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction   (members only)

This archival journal publishes original research that spans the field of human-computer interaction. Beginning with its first issue in March, 1994, it has sought to present work of high scientific quality that contributes to practice in the present and future. The primary emphasis has been on results of broad application, but the journal considers original work focused on specific domains, on special requirements, on ethical issues -- the full range of design, development, and use of interactive systems.

ACM TOCHI. Journals>Human Computer Interaction


Trusted Interaction: User Control and System Responsibilities in Interaction Design for Information Systems   (PDF)

Trust emerges from interaction. If trust in information systems is to be promoted, then attention must be directed, at least in part, to interaction design. This paper explores issues of trust in the interactions between users and systems from the perspective of interaction design. It considers a variety of pragmatic aspects in interaction design that impact user trust, including, predictability, interface stability, user control, and the match between expectations and performance. It critically examines contemporary design practices, such as adaptive interfaces, in terms of their impact on user trust.

Constantine, Larry L. Constantine and Lockwood (2006). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Interaction Design


UPA Supports Maintaining Human Engineering Standard

Standards give very specific details about all varieties of design and give insight into the best practices of an item or process.

Sachs, Baruch. Usability Professionals Association (2005). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Standards


Usability Analysis of a Computer-Based Avionics System

This study evaluates the usability of computer-based avionics system using a methodology described by Schvanevelt, Berringer & Leard (2004) which calculates the accessibility of information based upon the priorities users place upon the individual information sources. We discuss some of the unique usability issues facing engineers designing hardware and software for technically-advanced avionics systems.

Hamblin, Christopher J., Shiva Naidu and Cindy Miller. Usability News (2005). Articles>Usability>Human Computer Interaction


Usability Evaluation of Randomized Keypad   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

In this work, the usability of a randomized numeric keypad was examined and compared to the usability of a conventional numeric keypad. The comparison used completion time measurements and the error rate of short (4-digit) and long (8-digit) PINs to contrast efficiency and accuracy of the keypads. The results showed that the average completion time with a randomized keypad is longer than with a conventional keypad. Additionally, the number of errors with a randomized keypad was significantly higher than with a conventional keypad, particularly when using long PINs. Accordingly, a randomized numeric keypad is more applicable to tasks with short (4-digit) PINs.

Sam Ryu, Young, Do Hyong Koh, Brad L. Aday, Xavier A. Gutierrez and John D. Platt. Journal of Usability Studies (2010). Articles>Usability>Human Computer Interaction


The Usability of Subscribing to Feeds

I have always been bothered by how difficult it is to subscribe to RSS/Atom feeds. Consider the user experience -- Someone sees an orange button with an unfamiliar acronym, they click it, and the browser starts spewing undecipherable code.

Veen, Jeffrey. Veen.com (2005). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Usability>RSS


Useless Memory and Email

While no one would argue that email is useless, continued inefficient management of emails makes email worse than useless—--it makes them dangerous.

Mancini, John. e-Doc (2005). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Information Design>Email


User Attitudes Toward Corporate Style Guides: A Survey   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Little information is known on user attitudes toward corporate style guides (CSGs). A national survey shows that an overwhelming 93% of users and 85% of non-users advocate CSG usage primarily to generate consistency in documents, to save time generating documents, and to create a professional look in documents. As corporations face the future by restructuring, usually by downsizing, and by competing more in a global economy, CSG usage will be more prevalent in corporate America, as the results of this survey indicate that CSGs are an economical quality tool that benefits both the user and the corporation.

Allen, Paul R. Technical Communication Online (1996). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Style Guides


User Experience

This document outlines typical areas of concern when porting a Microsoft Windows application to Mac OS X, and provides guidance for transitioning to the Mac OS X UI.

Apple Inc. (2004). Design>User Experience>Human Computer Interaction


User Observation Testing is Mandatory

Without user observation testing, the usability of your web site is virtually unknown. Surveys are worth little, since those surveyed tend to tell you what they think you want to hear. Staff opinions are nice, but biased and they are not typical users. Heuristic (general guidelines-based) evaluation is helpful, but remains theoretical until tested on actual, representative users as they attempt to find information or perform tasks at your site.

Streight, Steven. Blogger.com (2004). Articles>Usability>Human Computer Interaction>Testing



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