Social Factors and Interface Design Guidelines

Social Factors and Interface Design Guidelines

Zhe Xu (Bournemouth University, UK), David John (Bournemouth University, UK) and Anthony C. Boucouvalas (Bournemouth University, UK)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-562-7.ch078
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Designing an attractive user interface for Internet communication is the objective of every software developer. However, it is not an easy task as the interface will be accessed by an uncertain number of users with various purposes. To interact with users, text, sounds, images, and animations can be provided according to different situations. Originally, text was the only medium available for a user to communicate over the Internet. With technology development, multimedia channels (e.g., video and audio) emerged into the online context. Individuals’ sociability may influence human behaviour. Some people prefer a quiet environment and others enjoy more liveliness. On the other hand, the activity purpose influences the environment preference as well. Following usability principles and task analysis (Badre, 2002; Cato, 2001; Dix, Finlay, Abowd, & Beale, 1998; McCraken & Wolfe, 2004; Neilsen, 2000; Nielsen & Tahir, 2002; Preece, Rogers, & Sharp, 2002), we can predict that business-oriented systems and informal systems will require different types of interfaces: Business systems are concerned with the efficiency of performing tasks, while the effectiveness of informal systems depend more on the user’s satisfaction with the experience of interacting with the system. Suppose you are an Internet application designer; should you provide a vivid and multichannel interface or a concise and clear appearance? When individuals’ sociability and the activity purpose contradict, should the interface design follow the sociability requirement, the purpose of the activity, or even neither of them? To answer these questions, the characteristics of communication interfaces should be examined. For face-to-face communications, sounds, voices, various facial expressions, and physical movements are the most important contributing factors. These features are named physical and social presence (Loomis, Golledge, & Klatzky, 1998). In the virtual world, real physical presence does not exist anymore; however, emotional feelings, group feelings, and other social feelings are existent but vary in quantity. The essential differences of interfaces are the quantity of the presented social feelings. For example, a three-dimensional (3-D) interface may provide more geographical and social feelings than a two-dimensional (2-D) chat room may present. To assess the different feelings that may emerge from different interfaces, a two-dimensional chat room and a three-dimensional chatting environment were developed. The identification of social feelings present in the different interface styles is presented first. Then an experiment that was carried out to measure the influence the activity styles and the individuals’ sociability have on the interface preferences is discussed. The questions raised in this article are “What are the social feelings that may differ between the two interfaces (2-D vs. 3-D)?” and “Will users prefer different interfaces for different types of activities?”

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