Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Understanding Consumer Navigation Behaviour

Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Understanding Consumer Navigation Behaviour

Article excerpt

This article sets the scene for interface design by first placing the human computer interface within the context of human factors, software engineering, and related subjects, and then examining some justifications for why it is necessary to spend time and money designing human-computer interfaces. The main aim of this article is to present knowledge of the theory, models, and methods relevant to human-computer interaction and skills for designing better human-computer interfaces. The authors have attempted to place interface design into a framework of software development by drawing on methods from systems analysis and design as well as ideas in human-computer interaction. The article, also initiates the debate within the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) community about scientific and engineering approaches to the subject.


Design of the human-computer interface is part of a wider subject area of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). This, generally, but not exclusively, fits within Computer Science and is becoming an established part of the research. However, HCI is an evolving subject and its boundaries are still hazy and fuzzy.

Some History

HCI has formed from a coalescence of interests and knowledge drawn from computer science and psychology, although it has also drawn upon linguistics, sociology, applied psychology, ergonomics and management science. Historically it started life as the Man-Machine Interface (MMI), in the early 1970s; see, for instance, James Martin's hook on dialogue design (Martin, 1973). The MMI was recognised in the UK's Alvey research programme as a sector alongside software engineering, intelligent knowledge-based systems, and hardware. Further interest was stimulated by recognition in the European Communities' (EC) Esprit research initiative and the Japanese fifth-generation project. As a result MMI became an established area of research endeavour and was renamed, to the politically more correct "Human-Computer Interaction." The track record in industrial practice has been less encouraging. Most industrial structured development methods make little reference to HCI, although more recent versions (e.g., SSADM version 4, O bject oriented analysis; Coad & Yourdon, 1991) do have sections on the human-computer interface, and some reference is made to graphical user interface design.

Interface Design and HCI

HCI design is the engineering process of designing interactive computer systems so they are efficient, pleasing, easy to use, and do what people want. Interface design is related to the software engineering part of computer science. HCI research covers a broad field ranging from the environment in which the interactive system is situated, the effect of the interface on people, both individuals and groups, to techniques, methods, and tools to help designers build interactive systems. HCI design subdivides into (a) background theory and knowledge upon which design is based; (b) issues related to the design process such as methods, principles, and techniques; (c) tool support for the design process; and, (d) finally, quality assurance of the product! Hence, the core issues are:

* Understanding the essential properties of people which affect their interaction with computers.

* Analysing what people do with computer systems and their interfaces; understanding users' tasks and requirements.

* Specifying how the interface should function, how it should respond to the user, and its appearance.

* Designing interfaces so that users' needs are fulfilled and the system matches users' characteristics.

* Development of tools to help designers build better interfaces.

* Evaluating the properties of human-computer interfaces and their effect on people to ensure good quality.

* HCI, in the small (programming in the small), deals with detail of interaction such as interactive devices, widgets, or formal specification of restricted dialogue sequences. …

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