How People Approach Technology-Based Interactions

How People Approach Technology-Based Interactions

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0152-9.ch005


Design teams should not consider a person’s computer interface as just a set of hardware and software that make upcompose the computer (Grudin, 1990). Instead, from the person’s point of view, the interface includes all of the elements which compose its context of use. From this perspective, one can view the interface of a computer as more than the screens, buttons, and knobs, and also include any documentation, other people present, and past knowledge directly relevant to the situation. In these situations, HII needs to consider more than just the button-pushing or system response, but how people and information interact with the situation in building comprehension.
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If a screen displays precise and highly actionable information and the HCI is so poor nobody can figure out how to comprehend it, does it have any content?

This part of the book considers how people approach and interact with technology. HII in the modern world, and as viewed within this book, almost always consists of a computer-based interaction. The computer itself influences how people interact with the information. Design teams need to consider how technology often drives the HII. This chapter examines some of the major ways technology exerts its influence. The white area in Figure 1 shows the area of the HII model relevant to this chapter.

Figure 1.

How people approach technology.

This chapter looks at:

  • Models of how people accept technology: Models work to address how people react to technology, how that reaction shapes their intentions to use it, and how it shapes their actual use.

  • Respond to system speed: Factors such as time and perceived time have a profound effect on how satisfied people are with technology interactions.

  • People-display interaction: People interact with the system based on the information the display provides them. This section considers the factors of good feedback and feedforward which allow the design team to maximize the HII of a system.

  • Technology factors driving user satisfaction: A wide range of factors influence people’s satisfaction with an interface and the technology behind it. This section examines some of major factors.

  • Motor control and HII: Motor control and its influence on interactions via mouse and keyboard strongly affect how easily people can interact with technology.



Many designs fail because they assume that technology can adequately address a problem, a view that Norman (1998) has dedicated a book to criticizing (The Invisible Computer). As he points out:

The proposals are always technical solutions, whereas the problems reside within the person; cognitive tools are needed to aid in the programming task, social and organizational tools are needed for the group problems. And these human problems are harder to solve than mere technical ones (p. 95).

Good HII is not and never will be a solution based in technology; it must be based in how people respond to and are influenced by both the information and the technology.

Questions about how people interact with machine interfaces predate computers, as shown by early ergonomic studies of aircraft cockpits and plant control panel designs. Likewise, HCI design has long been its own discipline. With the advent of the web, HCI spread into multiple sub-disciplines such as interface design, interaction design, usability, and to some degree, information design and information architecture. Unfortunately, HCI design has historically been driven by engineers and programmers, who took a programmatic view of design. The focus was, too often, on what was easiest to program rather what was best for the end user, with the design reflecting a program’s internal structure. Or the interface reflected the programmer’s understanding of the problem, which might be very different from how the end users understand the problem. Or, even products with a user-centered focus, the actual focus is often on the product design rather than on how well the product communicates its information to people. Typically, usability tests try to measure something; with the complex situations relevant to HII, the ability to measure what truly matters is difficult. Luckily, progress has been made to resolve this problem in recent years; although there is still a long way to go. But the fundamental problem still exists: people must use a computer interface to gain information from a computer.

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