Thursday, November 06, 2008

Preparing for the HCI 440 final exam

I have always wanted to be different. While many other bloggers will rant about the historic elections, I will move on to more pressing personal topics, such as my upcoming exams. I had (last few weeks in play) the privilege of attending a HCI 440 course this Fall, as it is winding down, it is fitting I write about my User Experience (pun not intended or intended) this Saturday morning.

Design Theory: My bachelors degree many moons ago was in Architecture, this course in many ways was a rehash of design theories I learned and have forgotten since. There has been a lot of progress in 30 years in the field of design. But the essential fundamentals remain the same. ie. you are designing FOR USERS. The big difference this time around was the amount of involvement of users in the design process. There has been a significant body of research that has gone into cognitive studies understanding why and how we do things. This in my opinion has greatly enhanced the design process. I highly recommend this course to those of you who started out many years ago as I did.

The largest impact in my opinion is the application of design principles, processes and cognitive research that has gone into making what HCI (Human computer interaction) and UCD (User centered design) is today. There are many heavy weights who have contributed to this discipline. Names such as Jakob Nielsen, Bruce Tognazzini are just a few to scratch the surface.

So what exactly did I learn in these 11 weeks? The material we covered in class came from the book: "Beyond Human-Computer interaction" by Yvonne Sharp, Helen Sharp and Jenny Preece. Lots of great material in the book that spans Requirements gathering, Analysis, Design/Prototyping, Iteration, Evaluation and testing. Iteration by far was the most powerful concept that I latched on to. We also worked in a group of 6 to collaboratively design a Mobile application that replaces your remote controls around the house. It appears we will have a fairly decent final prototype by the 11th week.

We also covered various Theories, models and Frameworks that was a segway into Agile and SCRUM methodologies. I got a chance to watch what Jeff Sutherland did at google on the Adword project and what Jensen Harris did with the User Experience team at Microsoft as they developed the ribbon user experience for office 2007. Included here are links for your viewing pleasure if you are into that sort of thing.

Usabilty and User experience goals along with design principles and how cognitive theories tie into these, was fertile fodder. Use of metaphors was a fascinating study as you look around and see the rampant use of metaphors in design these days. Trashcan, desktop, Search engine, Browsing and exploring are all great examples of how metaphors have been used in todays design world.

I will leave you folks with these three thoughts:

The Architects of yesterday will really enjoy and benefit from this course, for it explains many approaches we gravitated to intutively years ago. The medium of design has certainly changed, and so has the process. Yet innovation, creativity and immagination are attributes that we will always strive to in our designs in years to come.

November 13th is World usability day. A lot of good events are planned around the world on this day, a testament to how far we have come. If you are inclined and wish to make time explore the world usability day event map is a great place to start

If you get an opportunity, try out Mozilla labs Ubiquity. It told me that there are some really sharp folks out there creating and innovating. All we have to do is be there to enjoy the USER EXPERIENCE.

That folks, is my Saturday Morning Rant for this Saturday November 8th 2008.


Anonymous said...

It was many years ago we first selected Top Restaurants in the U.S. See it.

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