From automatically dishing out soap in the restroom to controlling the air-fuel ratio in your car's engine, computers are everywhere. we interact with them constantly - some more than others and the interaction is, unfortunately, not always as easy as we hope for. Can you remember the last time you got frustrated with your phone for auto-correcting the wrong word, the coffee machine at work refusing to follow instructions or that notoriously slow automatic door at the mall? if you can, that device suffered from poor Human-Computer Interaction design.
You might be wondering, I wasn't aware also until I attended my first design class. What about taking you through HCI?
Human-computer interaction emerged in the 1980s as a response to the development of the personal computer. for the first time in history, computers were available to general consumers, which created a new set of design problems. it was no longer about what a computer could do, but how it could do it.
Getting this right was an essential part of making computers a success, as they had to appeal to and satisfy every type of consumer, from the most experienced to the complete novice. as such, the first mainstream companies reframed the relationship between humans and machines into something much more meaningful than the mere use-value. instead, they viewed it as an open-ended dialogue, a fluid and dynamic relationship which is continuously evolving in response to new technology and new consumer demands. this is how in less than 40 years, we have gone from the commodore 64 to hand-held smart technologies that seem to know who we are, what things we like to do, and can even make accurate predictions as to what we might do next.
Usability is the key term in HCI. After all, what good is technology if we can't use it? Safety and functionality are always primary, but there are other things to consider, such as effectiveness and efficiency. Therefore, in today's highly competitive digital markets, HCI design can be the difference between success and failure.
Good HCI design will encourage people to use one mobile app over another and to purchase a specific smartphone or tablet. A customer service agent who has to navigate several different systems to fulfill a request is far more likely to make mistakes than one who works with an integrated system. it also takes longer.
Underlying the whole theme of HCI is the belief that people using a computer system should come first. Their needs, capabilities, and preferences for conducting various tasks should direct developers in the way they design systems. People should not have to change the way that they use the system to fit in with it. instead, the system should be designed to match their requirements.