HCI – Human-Computer Interaction

What is Human-Computer Interaction? 

Human-Computer Interaction is a multidisciplinary field of study focusing on the interfaces between humans – users and computers – devices, and on the design of computer technology. HCI researches design technologies that allows users to interact with computers in novel ways.

I’m guessing the reason you’re reading this article now at the moment is because you’ve got an interest in HCI. If you want to read more about it, let’s explain what is HCI and how it impact our everyday life.

HCI is broad field which overlaps with areas such as user interface UI design and user experience UX design. In many ways HCI was the forerunner to UX design. HCI tend to be more academically focused than UX design.

The human-computer interface can be described as the point of communication between the human user and the computer. The flow of information between the human and computer is defined as the loop of interaction – actions. The loop of interactions has several aspects to it, including: 

– Visual Based: The visual-based human-computer interaction is probably the most widespread HCI research area.

– Audio Based: The audio-based interaction between a computer and a human is another important area of HCI system. This area deals with information acquired by different audio signals.

– Task environment: The conditions and goals set upon the users.

– Machine environment: The computer’s environment is connected to e.g., a laptop in collage students dorm room.

– Areas of te interface: Non-overlapped areas involve the processes related to humans and computers themselves, while the overlapping areas only involve the processes related to their interaction.

– Input flow: The flow of information begins in the task environment when the user has some task requiring using their computer.

– Output: The flow of information that originates in the machine environment.

– Feedback: Loops through the interface and evaluate, moderate and confirm processes as they pass from the user through the interface to the computer and back.

– Fit: This matches the computer design, the user, and the task to optimise the Human Resources needed to accomplish the task.

Now lets make some examples: 

Let’s imagine you go to a restaurant and you order something that is really dry. Now imagine a situation where you’ll have to call the waiter to get you a glass of water to go with the food. In another situation the waiter, knowing the food ordered is dry asks you for a glass of water. In a third situation, no matter what kind of food you ordered, the waiter constantly asks you if you need a glass of water. 

In all the three examples above, the interfaces is responsive. But there is something that sets all the three apart: 

– In the first situation, you, as a user, through a series of interactions with the interface got the job you intended.

– In the second scenario, the interface was smart enough to understand what you wanted and even with no interaction, you got that you wanted.

– In the third scenario, the interface was hard-wired and started bloating all around.

A subtle difference makes a huge difference. You’d obviously want the second waiter to serve you the next time you visit the restaurant. There you go, the second interface was a good design.

If we want our application to apply some standards, first we have to do a research what our application do, for what kind of users (elders, kids, etc.), what are the main and most frequently used flow of actions, etc. 

For example developing an application for pensioners and their found, would acquire to put payment and insight into financial situation as the main options, which should be found on home screen, and the font should be large and there should be a simple flow through the entire process of transactions – Visual-based HCI. Also as there are people with vision problems there should also be audio communication, and that can manage whole flow of interactions – Audio-Based HCI.

Conclusion: 

HCI researchers focused on improving the usability of desktop computers (i.e., practitioners concentrated on how easy computers are to learn and use). We conclude that to design a worthy human computer interaction, we have to appropriately elect the suitable style of interaction, kind of interface to adequate with the group of users it is intended whereas the human issues must be taken into account. Hopefully we conveyed what HCI is and what advantages of its research we have.