A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Human Computer Interaction

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Ease of Instant Messaging: How the use of IBM Lotus Sametime Changes Over Time   (PDF)

This article discusses the results of surveys that indicate the IBM Lotus Sametime instant messaging product is a successful 'walk-up-and-use' application, requiring little documentation and no training. Users achieve a commercially significant level of performance within three months. In addition, over a much longer period, users continue to develop their skills (chat behaviors), social networks (chat partners), and attitudes toward the technology (reasons for using IM). This combination of attributes — ease of learning and sustained development of skills and strategies — is unusual in Human-computer interaction, and poses some unique challenges for creating a product that experienced users continue to find useful and usable.

IBM (2004). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>User Interface>Instant Messaging


Easy, Intuitive and Metaphor, and Other Meaningless Words

A vital skill for designers is to notice fine detail in the other designs which form part of the technological ecosystem in which their design will live. For example, on Mac OS there are now two different styles of text entry fields for forms. One has square corners, and is used for general data entry. The other has rounded ends, and is used for entering searches. I was recently outraged to find a piece of software which used the rounded style for data entry. This kind of design vandalism muddies the rules which users would otherwise learn, and devalues all software on the platform.

Bagnall, Peter. uiGarden (2007). Articles>User Interface>Human Computer Interaction


Education: Some Progress and Some New Questions

For each of the last five years, there has been a workshop on HCI Education at the annual CHI conference. What makes these workshops so interesting isn't just the variety of people it brings together or issues discussed, it's the way the workshops have changed over the years. Just as HCI has evolved as a discipline, the topics of these and other workshops have also evolved. These changes are one indication of how much we have learned and what we have left to understand.

Sears, Andrew. SIGCHI Bulletin (1996). Articles>Education>Human Computer Interaction>Usability


The Effect of Input Device on Video Game Performance

First-person shooter (FPS) games have become increasingly popular, and the player’s ability to accurately control their weapon is very important in these games. This study assesses players’ accuracy on eliminating targets in the FPS game Star Wars Battlefront II using three different input devices (mouse, Playstation 2 controller, and joystick) with two different rifle types (sniper and blaster rifle). No significant performance differences were found between input devices although subjectively participants believed they peformed the worst with the joystick.

Lenz, Kelsi. Usability News (2008). Articles>User Interface>Human Computer Interaction>Academic


The Effects of Perceptual Grouping on Text Entry Performance

One of the primary challenges confronting designers of mobile computing devices is the issue of efficient text entry. One potential solution is to group multiple letters onto single keys, similar to the T9 keyboard currently used on telephones. Two experiments examined the effects of perceptual grouping on soft keyboard transcription rates. Results from Experiment 1 showed significantly slower transcription rates for QWERTY keyboards with grouped keys. Results from Experiment 2 showed various levels of perceptual interference due to the different Gestalt grouping effects. These results indicate that perceptual grouping can negatively affect text entry performance, and placing multiple letters onto single keys reduces the speed at which users can transcribe words.

Hamblin, Christopher J., Michael Bohan and Alex Chaparro. Usability News (2004). Design>Usability>Human Computer Interaction>PDA


Ergonomic Mice: Comparison of Performance and Perceived Exertion

This study reports a psychophysical comparison of four ergonomic mouse-type devices to the standard mouse. It was hypothesized that muscle activity transferred from the distal to proximal limbs for some of the ergonomic mice may result in increased load on the shoulders and declines in target acquisition performance. Results revealed a potential tradeoff between performance and safety with the devices as participants performed the best with the standard mouse but reported more wrist exertion with this device.

Scarlett, Deborah. Usability News (2005). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>User Interface>Usability


Essential Use Cases for Multiplatform Service Design   (PDF)

This paper addresses the problem of designing service interaction for multiplatform operations and is based on a qualitative study of the services offered by a large retail Portuguese bank in four channels: bank branches, telephone, ATM, and Internet. The functionality of bank services across such channels was captured with essential use cases, which are technology free. When customers are free to decide in which channel they are going to get the service they need, customer experience (non-functional) requirements becoming ever more important. Essential use cases were extended to take account of such customer experience requirements. This additional information in essential use cases is very helpful, as it provides concrete and objective guidelines regarding the most suitable channel for implementing and offering each particular service. Doing essential use case modeling for multiplatform service interaction helps service providers allocate resources to the most likely channels that customers will use. It also allows them to identify areas of interaction experience that need to be improved if services offered are likely to be effectively used in the platform.

Patrício, Lia, J. Falcão e Cunha, Raymond P. Fisk and Nuno J. Nunes. Constantine and Lockwood (2003). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Usability>Case Studies


Ethics, Lies and Videotape...

Videotape has become one of the CHI community's mostuseful technologies: it allows us to analyze users' interactions with computers,prototype new interfaces, and present the results of our research andtechnical innovations to others. But video is a double-edged sword. It isoften misused, however unintentionally. How can we use it well, without compromising our integrity? This paper presents actual examples of questionable videotaping practices. Next, it explains why we cannot simply borrow ethical guidelines from otherprofessions. It concludes with a proposal for developing usable ethical guidelines for the capture, analysis andpresentation of video.

Mackay, Wendy E. ACM SIGCHI (1995). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Usability>Testing


The Ever-Evolving Arrow: Universal Control Symbol

The arrow and its brethren are everywhere on our computer screens. For example, a quick examination of the Firefox 3.0 browser, shown in Figure 1 in its standard configuration, yields eight examples of arrows—Forward, Back, and Reload buttons, scroll bar controls, and drop-down menus that reveal search engine, history, and bookmark choices.

Follett, Jonathan. UXmatters (2009). Articles>User Interface>Human Computer Interaction>Graphic Design


Exploring Human Factors in Virtual Worlds   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Why are virtual worlds increasingly relevant to technical communicators? What human factors influence the design of virtual worlds? This article explores these two important questions from a technical communication perspective.

Padmanabhan, Poornima. Technical Communication Online (2008). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Online>3D


Eye Tracking in Human-Computer Interaction and Usability Research: Current Status and Future Prospects   (PDF)

Discusses the various opportunities for eye-movement studies in future HCI research, and details some of the challenges that need to be overcome to enable effective application of the technique in studying the complexities of advanced interactive-system use.

Poole, Alex and Linden J. Ball. Alex Poole (2004). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Usability>Eye Tracking


Fitts's User Interface Law Applied to the Web

Interface design is difficult in part because everything requires interpretation. A design that works for one task or one user might not be appropriate for another. In other types of engineering, like architecture or bridge building, designers can always rely on laws of physics and gravity to make designs work. There is at least one immutable rule for interface design that we know about, and it's called Fitts's Law. It can be applied to software interfaces as well as Web site design because it involves the way people interact with mouse or other pointing devices. Most GUI platforms have built-in common controls designed with Fitts's Law in mind. Many Web designers, however, have yet to recognize the powerful little facts that make this concept so useful.

Berkun, Scott. UIWeb (2000). Design>User Interface>Human Computer Interaction>Web Design


Five Rules for Communication between Machines and People

The Human Research Institute has conducted extensive studies of the proper form of Machine-Human Interaction (MHI). Most of our work has been summarized in our technical report series and was presented at the last global MHI symposium. This report summarizes the key findings in nontechnical language, intended for wider distribution than just the specialized designer machines.

Norman, Donald A. uiGarden (2008). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Research


Fonts, Image, Interface Layout Solution under High Resolution

For an application to work well under a high resolution display environment, there are four major elements to consider: Text, Fonts, Image (Picture, Icon and Mouse Cursors), and Layout.

Liu, Steven. uiGarden (2006). Articles>User Interface>Human Computer Interaction


Framework of Product Experience

In this paper, we introduce a general framework for product experience that applies to all affective responses that can be experienced in human-product interaction. Three distinct components or levels of product experiences are discussed: aesthetic experience, experience of meaning, and emotional experience. All three components are distinguished in having their own lawful underlying process.

Desmet, Pieter and Paul Hekkert. International Journal of Design (2007). Articles>User Interface>Human Computer Interaction>User Experience


Fun Systematically

This position paper looks at two examples where the study of fun is at very least systematic, and quite possibly scientific. In the first, Virtual Crackers, a systematic process of 'deconstructing experience'; identifies the individual aspects of an experience (pulling crackers), which are then used to reconstruct a new experience in a new medium (the web).

Dix, Alan. uiGarden (2004). Articles>User Centered Design>Human Computer Interaction


The Future of Interface Design

The future of how we interact with computers is exciting to say the least. What once seemed like nonsense outside of Hollywood and Science Fiction is now starting to find it’s way into reality, and some of the technology is a bit overwhelming. Have a taste of what the future of interface design has to offer:

Leggett, David. UX Booth (2009). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>User Experience


Garbage In, Garbage Out: Using Affordances

The trick is to make data-entry forms clear enough that workers understand what you require of them without having to ask. This understanding alone can drastically reduce the frequency of errors, but to turn that understanding into a payback, you'll have to design a label for each field that is truly obvious to the workers. Information designers call these clues "affordances", and if you're lucky enough to have technical writers or editors in your organization, you can probably enlist their aid in designing these clues.

Hart, Geoffrey J.S. Geoff-Hart.com (1999). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Usability>Forms


Gary Perlman's Suggested Readings in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), User Interface (UI) Development, and Human Factors (HF)

This collection of recommended books for user interface developers is based on searches of The HCI Bibliography, a free-access online bibliography on Human-Computer Interaction. Over 29,000 bibliographic entries on books, conference proceedings, journal articles, and internet resources can be accessed electronically.

Perlman, Gary. HCIbib.org (2001). Resources>Bibliographies>Human Computer Interaction


Giving the Human Touch to Software

Making too many assumptions about users’ expectations and levels of competence can get software developers into a lot of trouble. Here, Yogita Sahoo tells her own story about designing an application for an industry she was deeply familiar with—but that industry knowledge didn’t keep her from making some big usability blunders.

Sahoo, Yogita. StickyMinds (2003). Design>Human Computer Interaction>Software


Global Issues, Local Concerns   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This introduction previews the articles in this special issue and argues that developing information products for a global audience forces us to confront differences of language, culture, and experience. It also maintains that open and global collaboration strategies offer our best approach to “dealing with difference.”

Hoft, Nancy L. Technical Communication Online (1999). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>International


Good Ergonomics Is Good Economics   (PDF)

Illustrated case studies of how the application of ergonomics principles has resulted in cost savings and injury reduction for several companies.

Hendrick, Hal. HFES (2005). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Ergonomics


Guerrilla HCI: Using Discount Usability Engineering to Penetrate the Intimidation Barrier

When asking how many usability specialists it takes to change a light bulb, the answer might well be four: Two to conduct a field study and task analysis to determine whether people really need light, one to observe the user who actually screws in the light bulb, and one to control the video camera filming the event. It is certainly true that one should study user needs before implementing supposed solutions to those problems. Even so, the perception that anybody touching usability will come down with a bad case of budget overruns is keeping many software projects from achieving the level of usability their users deserve.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (1994). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Methods>Usability



This site is meant to be an online museum of graphical interfaces, especially those old, obscure and in desperate need of preservation. For those interested in seeing how the GUIs evolved throughout the decades.

GUIdebook (2004). Design>User Interface>Human Computer Interaction



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