[This course is a convened course with the graduate course IRLS575. It is identical to that course except that grading in IRLS475 will make allowance for the fact that enrolled students are undergraduates.]
Three (3) credits will be given in award of the successful completion of this course.
To adapt Ranganathan: information is for use. But nowadays people interact with that information via many and various types of technologies such as computers, smart phones and tablets. Often these use online, 'cloud', or networked software of one kind or another, including web sites. At some point the User meets the information and that is at the interface between humans and computers. The academic discipline of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) studies exactly this interface.
This course offers instruction in a) the User Interface in Information Systems, b) Human Computer Interaction, and c) the design and evaluation of 'information' interfaces.
When looking at HCI, four considerations, and their interactions, are prominent
- —Human capabilities. These include physical and cognitive issues: what folk can do with their hands, eyes, and brains. Humans are highly variable, and have cognitive strengths and weaknesses (for example, humans have poor memories yet good abilities to recognize patterns in a visual scene).
- —The technical features of the computing machines. Principally what the computer presents, and receives by way of input and output; and the style of the interaction between the User and the computer. For example, an older computer might be able to take input only from a keyboard, and give output only to a printer—in which case, human-computer interaction would be similar to a dialog or conversation (these days the possibilities are far richer with, for example, mice, or touchscreens, for input and sophisticated visual displays for output).
- —The tasks being undertaken. For example, there is a world of difference between typing in a document for word processing, and producing some architectural drawings using a CAD/CAM package. Additionally, a modern trend is that of moving from the single user—single interface to group working (think about Facebook and Twitter) and multitasking.
- —The environment. What is the work, or task, setting? What are its physical and socio-cultural characteristics? (For example, it is unwise to use sound input or output in a noisy setting; another example, it is unwise to expect children to spell keywords perfectly for a Search in an Online Public Access Catalog in a library.)
The academic backdrop to HCI
HCI is concerned with the design, evaluation, and implementation of interactive computer systems and study of major phenomena surrounding their use. Many academic disciplines—including cognitive psychology, social psychology, organizational psychology, computer science, ergonomics, linguistics, artificial intelligence, philosophy, sociology, and anthropology—have a role to play in the theories behind HCI and interface design.
Web Site, and Information Access, design
Information interface design augments HCI—it applies and extends the principles of HCI in a special case. To make a rough and ready distinction. Plain stand alone computers tend to calculate what they offer, whereas web sites, or information access gates or portals, are part of a network or networks and tend to retrieve information that they, or others, already have and to offer that. So the design of infomation access artefacts can put an emphasis on the organization of information, on information architecture (IA), and the management of information. The design of infomation access artefacts brings into play traditional library science skills.