Constructing and Evaluating Social Software: Lessons from Interaction Design

Constructing and Evaluating Social Software: Lessons from Interaction Design

Christopher Douce (Open University, UK)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-904-6.ch010


The process of developing interactive systems necessitates designers to have a comprehensive understanding of the needs of the user and the context in which a device or system is to be used. Interactive systems are often designed through a series of iterations, guided by a sequence of evaluations. This chapter describes how the research and development techniques used within the field of Interaction Design (ID), a successor to the field of human-computer interaction, can be used to inform the development and evaluation of social software systems. Particular attention is given to the challenging area of end-user culture and how different evaluation paradigms and techniques can be applied. The chapter concludes by presenting pointers towards a number of international standards and highlighting a number of potentially useful research directions.
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Interaction Design can be described as a set of subjects and techniques that can be used to facilitate the design of ‘interactive products to support people in their everyday and working lives’ (Preece et al., 2002). Interaction Design has emerged from the field of human-computer interaction (HCI). HCI has a long history which encompasses diverse domains such as engineering psychology (Wickens, 1992), human visual and auditory perception, product design and typography. It could also be said to embody a number of different conceptual approaches; an approach that seeks to explain how aspects of interfaces are perceived by users, and another approach that considers the processes that can be used to design effective interfaces.

The emergence of HCI as a subject in its own right has been facilitated by the development of high resolution computer graphics, the creation of new ways to interact with computer systems and increasing levels of computing power. The continual increase in computing power has inspired the creation of new ways in which desktop computer systems can be used. The challenge of HCI was to explore not only how to harness new levels of power but also to create systems that are understandable and comprehensible to different user groups and communities without users having to undergo extended periods of training. User interfaces, in essence, should match the experience and needs of those who need to use them.

As computing and digital communication technologies have evolved, the computer is no longer a tool that is constrained to the desktop. Instead, the notion of an interactive product, or more specifically interactive software system, has expanded considerably due to the emergence of innovations such as mobile phones, personal digital assistants and the ability to embed microcomputer technology into a myriad of different devices. An interactive system can now be thought of as an application found on a desktop computer or an application running on mobile devices. The term can also encompass systems found within public spaces, such as bank teller machines, travel ticket dispensers and so on.

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