Coursera Human-Computer Interaction

Human Computer Interaction Stanford Online Course

How many times have you enrolled in any of these courses and just failed to go beyond week one?

Well, this time i am going to try I am playing the “blog your progress” strategy to add pressure. I’m taking the Human Computer Interaction online course.

Week 1:

1.1 Human Computer Interaction video

From the Notes:

  • Scott Klemmer – associate professor of computer science
  • 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.
  • real-world design is often iterative,
  • fail fast so you can succeed sooner.
  • Good user interfaces can have a tremendous impact on both [the] individual’s ability to accomplish things, and societies’.
  • 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.
  • Fixing these problems requires following just basic principles like consistency and feedback
  • 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.
  • That attentional shift is what happens when an interface becomes intuitive.

https://class.coursera.org/hci-003/lecture/index

1.2 The Power of Prototyping

(found this one particularly relevant because it relates with things at work, as well as a talk that I attended this week at Mozila about designing in the open. There seemed to be a consensus on the way of working of all the speakers: as soon as possible jump to prototype)

• prototyping is a tremendously valuable strategy for effective design.
• when we talk about prototyping, what we mean is rapidly creating an approximation of a design idea so that you can quickly get feedback and learn.
• Prototyping is the pivotal activity in structured  innovation, collaboration and creativity in design.
• Prototypes embody design hypotheses and enable designers to get feedback. It’s what Donald Schon calls “a reflective conversation with materials”.
• By trying things out and learning — from that exploration — you are able to improve your design and be able to gain insights that you otherwise may not have.
• It’s important to remember that the goal in prototyping is not the artefact; it’s feedback: Build some prototypes, try them out, and usually you’d learn to try to in the next design.
• It’s something that you make as a way of communicating with other stakeholders: clients,other people on your design team, users in an interactive system.
• And the role of the prototype in this communication is it serves as a common ground to help people understand really concretely what everybody is talking about.
• And I think this is a really important point about prototypes:
• It’s that prototypes nearly always are and ought to be incomplete.
• Prototyping is a strategy for efficiently dealing with things that are hard to predict.And these hard-to-predict things are both things that you wonder whether there’ll be an issue but don’t know what the answers’s going to be — your “known unknowns — and the things that you don’t know, that you never got to think about — those are your “unknown unknowns”.
• And what’s valuable about prototyping is it helps you to get feedback quickly, so you don’t spend time heading down the wrong path.
• As Bill Buxton points out in his excellent book « Sketching User Interfaces », the kinds of alternatives that you’re going to consider at different points of the design process are going to be different. Early on, you may be thinking about a really broad range of possibilities. And then you might narrow in for a little while. Then you might consider some alternatives and narrow in. And this alternating flair and focus is a hallmark of an effective design process.
• (Linus Pauling may be the premier chemist in the 20th century.) What his work philosophy shares with that of professional designers is the practice of trying out multiple alternative ideas, approaches, and solution strategies.
• As he says here, “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”
• When you’re creating a prototyping strategy, it’s important to think about the cost of change over time.
• Altogether, what this means is that you want to create a design process where you’re making your biggest changes early, and as you build momentum with users, you’re continuing to refine, and adapt, and tweak, and improve your system as it goes on.
• It’s that “prototypes are questions; ask lots of them.”

1.3 Evaluating Designs

  • In many ways, the most creative, challenging, and under-appreciated aspect of interaction design is evaluating designs with people.
  • The insights that you’ll get from testing designs with people can help you get new ideas, make changes, decide wisely, and fix bugs.
  • The value of having a broad toolbox of different methods can be especially valuable in emerging areas like mobile and social software where people’s use practices can be particularly context-dependent and also evolves significantly over time in response to how other people use software through network effects and things like that.
  • One way to learn about the user experience of a design is to bring people into your lab or office and have them try it out. We often call these usability studies.
  • This basic strategy for traditional user-centred design is to iteratively bring people into your lab or office until you run out of time. And then release.
  • And, if you had deep pockets, these rooms had a one-way glass mirror,and the development team was on the other side.
  • However, there are some major shortcomings to this approach. In particular, the setting probably isn’t very ecologically valid. In the real world, people may have different tasks, goals, motivations, and physical settings than your office or lab. This can be especially true for user interfaces that you think people might use on the go, like at a bus stop or while waiting in line.
  • A very different way of getting feedback from people is to use a survey. Surveys are great because you can quickly get feedback from a large number of responses.
  • One of the things that I’ve learned the hard way, though, is the difference between what people say they’re going to do and what they actually do. Still, it can be valuable to get feedback.
  • Another type of responder strategy is focus groups. In a focus group, you’ll gather together a small group of people to discuss a design or idea. The fact that focus groups involve a group of people is a double-edged sword.
  • On one hand, you can get people to tease out of their colleagues things that they might not have thought to say on their own; on the other hand, for a variety of psychological reasons, people may be inclined to say polite things or generate answers completely on the spot that are totally uncorrelated with what they believe or what they would actually do.
  • Our third category of techniques is to get feedback from experts. In addition to having users try your interface, it can be important to eat your own dog food and use the tools that you built yourself.
  • When you are getting feedback from experts, it can often be helpful to have some kind of structured format, much like the rubrics you’ll see in your project assignments.
  • Our next genre is comparative experiments: taking two or more distinct options and comparing their performance to each other.
  • These comparisons can take place in lots of different ways: They can be in the lab; they can be in the field; they can be online. These experiments can be more-or-less controlled, and they can take place over shorter or longer durations.
  • What you’re trying to learn here is which option is the more effective, and, more often, what are the active ingredients, what are the variables that matter in creating the user experience that you seek.
  • Comparative experiments have an advantage over surveys in that you get to see the actual behavior as opposed to self report, and they can be better than usability studies because  you’re comparing multiple alternatives.
  • If realistic longitudinal behaviour is what you’re after, participant observation may be the approach for you. This approach is just what it sounds like: observing what people actually do in their actual work environment. And this more long-term evaluation can be important for uncovering things that you might not see in shorter term, more controlled scenarios.
  • Consequently, when people use simulations, it’s often in conjunction with something like Monte Carlo optimization.
  • One example of this can be found in the ShapeWriter system, where Shuman Zhai and colleagues figured out how to build a keyboard where people could enter an entire word in a single stroke.
  • They were able to do this with the benefit of formal models and optimization-based approaches.
  • Simulation has mostly been used for input techniques because people’s motor performance is probably the most well-quantified area of HCI.
  • You’ll want to pick the right method for the right task, and here’s some issues to consider:
  • If you did it again, would you get the same thing?
  • Another is generalizability and realism. Does this hold for people other than 18-year-old upper-middle-class students who are doing this for course credit or a gift certificate?
  • Is this behavior also what you’ld see in the real world, or only in a more stilted lab environment?
  • Comparisons are important, because they can tell you how the user experience would change with different interface choices
  • My experience as a designer, researcher, teacher, consultant, advisor and mentor has taught me that evaluating designs with people is both easier and more valuable than many people expect, and there’s an incredible lightbulb moment that happens when you actually get designs in front of people and see how they use them.

1.4 The 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’.
  • Bush was vice-president and dean of engineering at MIT in the 1930’s, where, incidentally, he was Fred Terman’s advisor. Terman 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The next major stop on our journey is the creation of the mouse and hypertext; these are key foundations for the Web.
  • In 1945, Doug Engelbart was a navy radar technician. Engelbart spent his monotonous years in the Philippines. In the library, he found a copy of the magazine Life; It reprinted Bush’s Atlantic Monthly article. As John Markov writes, the idea of a device that could extend the power of the human mind left Engelbart awestruck. He had a vision. It took a long time, but eventually he got some funding and set to work.
  • And what Doug Engelbart came up with, he showed to the world in his famous 1968 demo. (The research program that I’m going to describe to you is quickly characterizable by saying, if, in your office, you, as an intellectual worker, were supplied with a computer display, backed up by a computer that was alive for you all day, and was infinitely responsive to the reaction you have, how much value will you derive from that? And in a second you’ll see the screen and it’s working. And the way the tracking spot moves in conjunction with movements of that mouse.)
  • Engelbart’s mouse worked with two orthogonal wheels. Each was a potentiometer, a variable resistor, like  stereos commonly have for a volume knob.
  • After the 1968 demo, Doug takes a show on the road. He travels the country with a 16-millimetre Bell & Howell projector.
  • Ivan Sutherland had recently joined the faculty at the University  of Utah. Doug comes to visit and shows the demo, and in the audience is Ivan’s PhD student Alan Kay. Alan has been dreaming of a personal computer. He sees Engelbart’s video and his eyes bugged out ‘ they have the same dream.
  • After his PhD, Alan moved to the Stanford AI Lab,where John McCarthy’s group has an early time-sharing system, maybe the place in the world where every person had their own terminal. From there, he moves to Xerox PARC, where he fleshes out his vision of a Dynabook.
  • Xerox released the STAR computing system in 1981. The STAR featured a bitmapped display, a window-based graphical user interface, icons, folders, mice, ethernet network, file servers, print servers, and email.
  • When the STAR shipped, this was almost four decades after Vannevar Bush’s vision, three decades after Grace Hopper’s compiler, two decades after Doug Engelbart’s first functioning system, and a decade after Alan Kay set off to work building this computer, inspired by the Dynabook ideas.
  • This is an example of what Bill Buxton calls the ‘Long Nose’ of Innovation, that the early ideas behind a new technology paradigm are often seeded decades before the major commercial adoption.
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