Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Integrating the Visual Design Discipline with Information Systems Research and Practice

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Integrating the Visual Design Discipline with Information Systems Research and Practice

Article excerpt

Introduction

The process of creating a visual interface involves both art and science, a unified process that requires visual design theory and process and functional systems development knowledge. (Krug, 2006; Lawrence, Tavakol, & Soyhela, 2007; Mullet & Sano, 1995; Norman, 1998). The desired balance of appearance and functionality is determined with and by the user. Successful aesthetic-functional interfaces exhibit characteristics that are evidenced by mature commercial products (Norman, 2002b; Norman, 2004). According to Norman (1998) computer technology, including information systems, generally does not exhibit mature product characteristics because computer systems are frequently difficult to use. A key to diminishing the usability shortcomings of computer technology is to increase the friendliness of the interface (Krug, 2006).

From the informing science perspective, an information system consists of a set of interrelated tasks, technology, structure, and people (Gill & Bhattacherjee, 2007). Therefore, while technology stands at the core of the informing science framework, issues regarding "biological and psychological issues in how clients attend, perceive, and act on information provided" (Cohen, 2009, p. 6) must be resolved. While friendly interfaces enhance the user experience, a poorly-designed interface, can provoke multi-faceted negative impacts on system users (Hassenzahl, 2004). First, flawed interfaces are detrimental to human cognition. Because interfaces guide the decision processes of computer users, interfaces have an enormous influence on the economic, physical, and mental well-being of virtually all users (Hartmann, Sutcliffe, & De Angeli, 2008). Secondly, flawed interfaces can impair affective response. In her work, Zhang (2009) contended that, in the context of information and communication technology (ICT), aesthetic perception influences human behavior through a sequential aesthetics-affect-emotion-action chain. An impaired or garbled affective response can adversely affect system user behavior. Thirdly, a poorly-designed interface can contravene human nature. People are genetically designed to appreciate beauty (Kogan, 1994, 1997). It follows that a system with an aesthetically pleasing appearance improves user moods and overall system impression, while for unpleasing appearance the converse is true (Tractinsky, Katz, & Ikar, 2000).

In addition to the forgoing client issues, Cohen's informing science framework also entails "the decision-making environment ...", "issues involving the media for communicating information", and "error, bias, misinformation, and disinformation in informing systems" (2009, p. 6). For the system user, the system interface emerges as part of the user environment. Aesthetics values aside, visualization can serve as an effective medium to convey information. Visual techniques, supported by effectively-applied aesthetic design principles, enhance the processing of information to improve comprehension, memory, and inference (Agrawala, Li, & Berthouzoz, 2011).

To date, a handful of IS theories and research has devoted attention to aesthetic visual design and its potential personal and commercial advantages for information systems products (Hassenzahl, 2004; Hassenzahl, Schobel, & Trautmann, 2008; Lavie & Tractinsky, 2004; Tractinsky & Rao, 2001). Conversely, it is not surprising that many systems developers create visual systems of inconsistent quality because they lack knowledge, skills, and tools (Lavie & Tractinsky, 2004; Tractinsky, 2006; Tractinsky, Cokhavia, Kirschenbauma, & Sharfib, 2006). Current development practice, including web-based systems, is affected by this inconsistency, where theory and methods focus on the system and its technology but devote insufficient attention to the user and the interface (Krug, 2006). For example, when IS developers perform web-based design, they are using aesthetic characteristics. …

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