NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 40


Human-Computer Interaction

Amin Nasr

The current text is an introduction to Human Computer Interaction (HCI); the words computer, machine, and system are used interchangeably herein.

    Not so long ago, calculator watches (with buttons that could be pressed difficultly with the tip of a pen) dazzled our eyes, and the first video games entered our houses via Atari. These examples might be considered the first public experiences of the interaction between human and computer — an interaction which was not so simple and pleasant at first but envisioned a bright future. The emergence of personal computers in the early '70s marked the first encounters of the public with this not-so-new machine, and suddenly all the people in the world became potential users of this new technology. In a short while, computers became everyday tools. At the same time, with the increasing prevalence of computers, engineers and designers strived to simplify and facilitate the use of these devices. In the very moment you are reading this article, more than three billion people are using the Internet via various computers. Nowadays, it semmes impossible to imagine that the smallest everyday activities could be carried out without computers. Do you remember the last time you used a paper map to find your destination, or are you still surprised when your grandmother likes your photos on social media?

What makes us lock our telephones today to prevent a two-year-old child from installing new applications on it, whereas a few years ago connecting video to television required two competent, experienced engineers?

In general, what makes you satisfied (or dissatisfied) with using computers and technology is owed to HCI. Human Computer Interaction, or HCI, is a process based on the analysis, design, and production of a system (or to be more precise, an ecosystem) in which a user is interacting with a computer. This communication is generally (but not always) enabled by a graphical user interface (GUI), and its ultimate goal is to improve user experience (UX). Thus, HCI and user experience are two sides of the same coin. People who utilize knowledge of human-computer interaction to create better experiences for users are mainly called user experience designers. However, user experience analysis is beyond the scope of the current discussion and will hopefully be explored in detail in the future issues of Neshan.

    Human Computer Interaction is an extensive knowledge that entails various disciplines and expertise. Psychology, sociology, ergonomics, linguistics, graphic design, and many other disciplines are the fields HCI benefits from. Consider the following simple example: Imagine you want to design a very simple page for a mobile application. This page contains only a short text and two buttons — one lets you exit the program and the other enables you to stay in it. The nice client has only one request: he does not want the user to leave the application if possible. How do you design this simple page?

    This simple example raises many questions, each of which lead to a different experience for the user. How must the buttons be designed, and where on the page should they be placed? Should both buttons be the same size and color? What must be written on them? Can the writing be replaced with an icon or can an icon serve as an extension to the writing? What would be the effect of using animation, sound, and different statuses for the buttons? These and many other questions can extremely influence the use of the system and lead to the success or failure of the application. The answer to each of these questions is rooted in the exact knowledge of the interaction between human and computer. Today, companies are completely aware of the importance of design based on the knowledge of human computer interaction and its relationship with user experience, and finally the success of a product. For instance, the redesign of Expedia’s website checkout form (which shortened the buying process) led to tremendous growth in the company's sales rate — raising it to 12 million dollars per year.

    If the emergence of personal computers is considered the first wave in the digital world, the second wave could perhaps be the appearance of smart phones, which is currently highly under growth and development. Along with smart phones, several other products including wearable technology, virtual reality (VR), the Internet of things, and even insertables are trying to seize the future. Every day, technology brings a new achievement. Accordingly, an increasing need for interactive designers is palpable — designers who can create not only beautiful and creative interfaces, but also practical ones based on the exact knowledge of users.

Amin Nasr

began his professional career in 2002 in the design and advertising field as an art director and visual artist. After many years of working as an independent design consultant and also working with different advertising agencies he founded withit in 2010, a human-centred design studio located in Toronto, Canada. He has worked for technology companies and as a UX consultant and Interaction Designer, developing projects all around the world and for a diverse portfolio of clients in the industrial, commercial, and publication. He holds a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and his MA. Des. in visual art and he is a member of Interaction Design Foundation (IDF).

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