Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Human Computer Interaction - Cooper

by: Binding Designs, LLC

Part IV of Cooper’s book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, is “Interaction Design Is Good Business.” This part emphasizes on some more aspects of the importance of designing the user interface. There are three categories or chapters in Part IV. These chapters are titled: “Designing for Pleasure”, “Designing for Power”, and “Designing for People.” Overall, he is emphasizing “designing” taking these three important factors into consideration: “Pleasure”, “Power”, & “People.”

Chapter 9, “Designing for Pleasure” is about designing for different types of users. He suggests that the only way to please the users is to design with a persona in mind. A persona is a particular type of user. It is a general person that many people follow the behavior of and have the same traits. One example used is the idea of designing one automobile for a husky carpenter, a soccer mom, & a business geek all at the same time. This would not be desirable. A disturbing looking picture of a vehicle should come to mind that fits all three of these people. Instead, a solution offered by Cooper, design three types of vehicles: one for each of the three categories or persona. Designing for a single user is inadequate because the “user” does not behave like an “elastic.” There should be particular users taken into mind. Actual people are used to represent categories of users. Four personas used in the book for a flight computer console were Clevis McCloud, a not to computer savvy fellow; and the three computer savvy users that know computers better but do not like the same materials that would be displayed by the console. The system should be designed to satisfy all these personas: easy to use for the beginners, yet have all the features the others would want to use.

Chapter 10, “Designing for Power” is about defining goals as a method to solve problems and its’ about designing polite software. A goal is a purpose, Cooper states. It is not the same as a task. The goal is the end condition while the task is the process of achieving it. An example used is getting across the country is the goal and the task of traveling is means to achieve the goal (ends). The means and ends theory. Programmers are more like task-oriented designers instead of goal-oriented designers. Cooper states that interaction designers must be goal-oriented instead of task-oriented designers. One example used in the book was about a Television News. The goal was not to have a static news show, but a dynamic, ever-changing to stay good, news show. A method used to remedy a clip that may not be used in a show is to have a strategy to allocate the time for the missing clip to the rest of the broadcasting. This will not disrupt the timing of the show. There are two types of goals: “personal” and “practical” goals. All goals should be able to be lumped into one of these two categories. Practical goals should be able to be met without violating the personal goals. Allowing Ted, a TV consumer, to operate a TV is used as an example. An obvious goal he is trying to achieve is to watch TV. Other goals he is trying to accomplish by buying a TV are: not to feel stupid, not be humiliated, not make mistakes, not make mistakes, feel accomplished (sooner the better), and have some fun. These goals Ted is trying achieve will be met with the task or process of “getting” a TV. The way the TV was designed was not satisfying Ted’s goals. The TV was too complicated for all of this. It had so many features that were hard to learn. He would enjoy these features after many hours of practice or learning. But, he does not want to spend all this time right away. Instead, he would rather just simply take the TV out of the box and watch it. The TV should accommodate both the beginning users and the advanced users. All stages of a beginning user turning into an advanced user should be accommodated also. Another type of goal is a “corporate goal.” This would include increasing profit & market share, eliminating competition, expanding, and going public, etc… “False goals” are another type of goal which is described more as tasks than goals. “False goals” are means to ends instead of ends themselves. “Computers Are Humans, Too” is a statement portraying the behavior of people when around computers. They act more like they are in the presence of another person instead of a dead object like a rock. Designing for politeness is about trying to get computers to behave politely by making them more like a person; but not to mimic the bad traits of humans like being error-prone. Some traits of politeness are for the software to be interested, deferential, forthcoming, etc… to the users.

“Designing for People,” Chapter 11 of the book is a scenario based approach of designing the human-interactive interfaces of computers. A scenario is a certain sequence of events that either are frequent, necessary, or neither. Neither is defined as an edge-case scenario. Frequent is defined as a daily-use scenario. Necessary is defined as a necessary-use scenario. These are three categories that different sequences of events could be classified as. They are all self descriptive upon their terms or name of definition. Removing function makes a UI easier to use. However, sometimes the functionality is desired by some of the personas. “Perpetual Intermediates” are the users that do not fall into the beginner or expert user classes. These guys are the intermediate users. Perpetuated by Cooper is the fact that most users are not beginners or experts, but are intermediates. Marketers want it to be designed for the beginner while the programmers design it for the experts. The curve is a paradox. Most of the users are intermediate users, but the ease of use is high for the beginners and experts. The gray space that represents what the application was designed for and no users fall in is large. The black space where the software was not designed for but all the users fall in is large. The key would be to make these two spaces as small as possible. The upside down bell curve created by the programmers and marketers ease of use paradigm should be flipped to downside up. Or, the classes of users’ bell curve needs to be flipped to upside down. So, either the users all need to be changed to be beginners or experts; or the ease of use should be changed to satisfy the intermediate users. Or, the two curves could be fit to each other with high precision and design the user interface 10% for the beginners, 80% for the intermediate users, and 10% for the experts. This will about match up the two lines on the graph of page 184 of Coopers’ book and get rid of the paradoxical curve. Setting up an appropriate vocabulary is an important phase in developing the interactive user interface. Different members of the team may portray the same words, sentences, paragraphs, and other material differently. There should be clearly defined terms used in discussion and all other stages. The term design phase might be interpreted differently by two different members of the team. The design phase could be interpreted as “building a prototype” by one person and “building a prototype” could be thrown into the class of implementation

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