FIT2001 week 11: don’t scare the users

I don’t know if this topic is nicer than last week’s topic, or that I forgot to take a proper “stand up and walk around” break between the hours during the first listening of lecture today, or the fact that I had 4 slides per page lecture notes (rather than nicer 1 slide per page lecture notes) for lecture 10, or that the happy-sense of catching up to where I need to be is colouring my view; but I liked this lecture better.

A lot of what is covered in this lecture is also covered in another class I’m taking this semester: FIT3084 Multimedia Programming and the WWW. Check out the lecture notes (not slides, it’s a web based subject) on Human Object Interaction and Human Computer Interaction for some more information on affordances, etc.

Alison’s paraphrase of the lecture:
To the user, the interface IS the system so we need to design it so they don’t think our system is bad. As David Pogue said: Simplicity Sells. (Thanks for showing us that POD. Also recommended is David on the Music Wars.)

We need to care about what the user will Use (physical aspect) see/hear (perceptual aspect) and know (conceptual aspect). The user interface extends beyond the screen and input device, to ergonomic details as well. (I hadn’t realised that the lack of a camera in the iPad could be because the way people hold an iPad most naturally means the camera shoots up your nose!)

HCI, or Human Computer Interaction, has lots of fields that influence it. I thought there was a small dig at Multimedia people “who claim they’re experts in design” which was amusing. I think it interests me because it is a broad field, and I’m a broad kind of person with my literature/language/children/computers/etc interests. Or Double Degree.

Metaphors are very important in User Interface Design, because it will dictate how the system looks and how the system interacts with the user. The main metaphors we use are:

Metaphors give us power in design because we don’t have to start at square one in making the interface user friendly, by following standards. (I liked what David Pogue said though- intelligence trumps consistency. If it makes sense to break tradition, then break it.) Users should only need to learn something once and then be able to transfer that knowledge: file-save is an example of this. (Broken by Balsamiq because of a limitation to the medium, perhaps.)

So what are visibility and affordance? Visibility is the concept that you should be able to see all the controls and get feedback that something is happening when you do something with the system. Affordance is designing things so that how to use them is obvious by looking at them. A door with no handle but a metal rectangle instead is clearly for pushing, not pulling, for example. These two concepts sum up the eight principles of design, which are:

Similarly, here’s another list of this gelled down into six principles of interface design that I compiled for FIT3084.

Be aware that the user perception of the system differs from the analyst/designer perspective of the system! Don’t scare the users, pick a standard (for fonts, colours, etc) and stick to it. Play with screens, story boards (user flow diagrams), prototypes and UML diagrams (the UML diagrams not so much. Know they exist but pick a cooler way of designing interfaces for your own sanity.)

Be careful with just sketching stuff on paper as you might be designing stuff that’s really hard to implement: an example of this is the FIT3084 multimedia assignment: we designed a slider into our interface, only to find that HTML doesn’t have a slider built in. Using a tool helps limit you to what’s available.

Designing for the web is harder than designing a straight software interface because it takes more effort to implement what you want, there are no standards to follow to keep the user happy, and the tech that you choose isn’t identical across all your user systems. (Designing for the web is fun though, and might be the future?)

I definitely will try and get a copy of “The Design of Every Day Things” by Donald Norman to read, but maybe after the exams are over.

The Tutorial
Was a short tutorial, lots of time spent looking at the the assignment 2. We’re focusing on the “attempt quiz” use case. I didn’t look at the exercises at all, but will probably scope them out when I’m working on my assignment.

The Quiz
Lots of stuff I already knew or could guess the answers to.

Hooray, caught up with blog, with the lectures, and have made good progress on my homework. Still got three things due next week, but oh well, such is uni life.

May 21, 2010 | |

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