You have begun to explore how users can be frustrated by the design of everyday things and how they form a conceptual model of the things they use. You have read through Page 17 of The Design of Everyday Things.
Break off into teams of three or four people based on the number in the righthand corner of this page.
Pick something people use. Describe a user of this item for each category above. For example, you might consider a car and think of examples of novice, knowledgeable, and expert users of cars. Next, think of a kind of user who does not fit neatly into any of these categories. Define a fourth category of user based on your idea and list some features of this kind of user.
Discuss the similarities and differences among these interaction styles. Identify at least two examples of each style from your experiences as users.
Hint: There are 16 different combinations to consider, so you may want to divide them up among the three or four of you and then discuss your solutions tgether at the end.
The well-known book referred to in Tasks 1 and 2 is Designing the User Interface, by Ben Shneiderman. Shneiderman's focus is on the design of computer-based systems, but the theory that he presents draws on studies of users and usability more generally. I will occasionally refer to his ideas throughout the semester.
Shneiderman's categories of users represent points in a multi-dimensional space. What are the dimensions? Can you identify other dimensions relevant to the problem of classifying software users? Answering these questions may help you identify other relevant classes of user.
We could look at his categories as three items from a 2x2 classification. One dimension is frequency of use (infrequent or frequent), and a second is level of knowledge (novice or expert). The "missing" category is a frequent user who remains a novice. Is that even possible? Well, some users (children, perhaps older folks, people with some illness) may have insufficient enough long-term memories that they remain in this category, despite frequent use. Might we want to treat them differently?
The 'knowledge' dimension could actually refer to two kinds of knowledge: knowledge of the tool or knowledge of the task domain. I think that Shneiderman is referring to the former, but what role does the second kind of knowledge play in user interaction with a program? How might a domain expert/tool novice interact differently with a system?
The notion of task domain is important. Think about the relationship between a writer and a word processor. Whenever I ask my computer science students to design an interface for a word processor, many invariably comment that the assignment is difficult because the the tool is so "simple". But I think the real problem is that, as writers and frequent users themselves, they have great knowledge of the domain -- and the creators of word processors have already satisfied most of their users' needs. Doing something different than Microsoft Word is difficult. (This leads to a later topic this semester: standardization of tools, whether by rule or by inertia.)
Would it make sense for us to have as a design goal to create a tool that a domain expert/tool novice can use immediately?
A common fourth category suggested by students is "drone", the application user "expert" in a very narrow set of uses but otherwise "clueless". How does this person differ from a novice in ways that affect how we might want to design the user interface?
Does any interaction style work well for every class of user? Direct manipulation may well. But then why don't we use DM as the primary interaction style for every system? (Good metaphors are hard to come by...)
A fifth interaction style is "natural language", a style in which users speak their 'natural' language -- say, English or Spanish -- to control the system. We do not know how to create natural language interfaces very well yet. Off the top of my head, I can think of only a few systems that use natural language interaction, those telephone-based, and then only with *very* narrow parameters. For example, when making a call from a pay phone and charging the call somewhere else, many companies now ask the caller to "say 'collect', 'calling card, or 'credit card'". Can you think of any?
We can contrast "natural language" with the artificial languages that we ordinarily use to communicate with computers (command languages for operating systems, programming languages, etc.) What trade-offs do we make between the use of natural and artificial languages? Natural language opens up effective communication to many more people, but ...
I thought the second part was difficult and some of the groups had a hard time understanding it. I know in my group we looked at each catagory (direct manipulation, menu selection, data entry, and command language) and gave two examples for each one. An example we looked at was direct manipulation and thought of someone riding their bike. We did that for all of the catagories.
I think my group also did the last part wrong, we looked at the 3 types of users and the one we added, then which ones would be able to use the catagories from above. It looked right when we did it but I am unsure if this was the correct instructions.
Overall, I learn the most when we get back into our large groups, when everyone talks about what they had. It helps me to realize more points of view. I never would have thought of "the clapper" as being a command language.
How users use an item can also be classified into the following categories: direct manipulation, menu selection, data entry, and command language. Each of these interaction styles varies depending on the item in use and the user's knowledge base. As a class, we determined that almost all real things fall into the first three categories listed above. Because of this, even though we may not have a clue how something works, we can usually build a model in our head as to how we think it should work. Our interactions with the item and this model will allow us to determine how to operate many common items if they are designed effectively. We will also try to figure things out based on common knowledge because we do not like to be treated as though we don't know what we're doing.
A microwave was one particular item discussed. This item uses both menu selection and data entry for its operations. Yet, even these categories can be more narrowly defined because menu selections can be simple one-level operations, but also could require multi-level selections for more difficult functions. Therefore, while one version of a microwave may be simple and foolproof, another may require an instruction manual just to pop some popcorn.
When discussing the design of new things, we addressed the point that it is often very difficult to improve the design for an item that we feel already satisfies all our needs. An example we used was Microsoft Word. Many of us may feel this completely satisfies all our word processing needs, as well as grammar issues, etc. Therefore, it becomes very difficult to design a program that will continue to meet all these needs, and incorporate some improvements as well.
One issue that came to my mind during discussion today is the extreme use of computerized systems. I have found that good customer service is hard to come by these days and in order to receive any at all, you must punch a million things into your phone. A recent example I have is my attempt to change my mailing address for my credit card. I simply wanted to speak to someone who would key it in and read it back to me. Instead, I had to push a million buttons to get to the correct menu and then state all my new information. A computerized voice then repeated everything back to me very slowly. On top of this, the computer didn't always understand what I was saying and I'd have to repeat myself if I spoke unclearly, or too soon, or too late. This process was far too time-consuming in my opinion and I was extremely annoyed by the time I got off the phone. We have lost a lot of human interaction due to technology and I don't feel this is always the most efficient or effective way to deal with issues.
We were to come up with a fourth category. Some in the class called it unconventional users or non-users. I thought of my dad for this category. He is a small business owner and uses a computer for finances, estimates/bids, etc. His age would put him into the novice category, but his ability to use a computer puts him in the knowledgeable user category. Others in the class filled this category with people with disabilities/handicaps or babies.
The interaction styles are direct manipulation, menu selection, data entry, and command language. Ideas/concepts given for each during discussion were:
All four of these summaries have something good to say. I especially like the second summary -- not for its length, but for its thoughtfulness and discussion of how the topic relates to the student's life.