In our first lecture we started off by looking at user interfaces. This is a nice place to start as it is the first and main part of a computer users experience. It is also one that users tend to put remarkable little thought into in general. It is a part that ICT professionals should be very familiar with if they are going to successfully help people to get the most out of their technology.
Unix in this respect is a useful tool to become familiar with. With it’s modular approach and good range of choice it lends itself better than other OS’s to experimenting. There is a good variety of graphical UI’s and command line UI’s and moving between them all is quick and easy. I strongly recommend that you experiment with using at least 3 different Desktop environments (KDE, Gnome and WindowMaker are good ones to try) and two command line interfaces (BASH is necessary and there are many others). Use Windows, use OSX, use Linux. Experience them all.
Now when I say experiment I mean really experiment. I don’t mean just log in using it, move around a few directories and then log out and say you’ve experienced it. That won’t get you anywhere. I mean use it for a couple of weeks, tweak it in every way you can, get to really understand the ideology behind why it was developed and structured the way it was.
(This is obviously going to be a time consuming task, and will slow you down a bit in other work you are doing but will pay off massively in the long run. You will have a much better appreciation for how people do and should use computers after doing this exercise).
This will set you up to understand clearer the ideas that we covered in the slide on ‘Analysis’. Namely:
- Intended Audience
In the lecture we got to briefly explore these ideas with the juggling example and the muddled up words example. I think understanding and appreciating these concepts are important to developing efficient and effective interfaces, however we really didn’t have time to go over them in detail in the lecture. We had too many other things that needed to be covered. I originally wanted to discuss them here but then decided that, like many other things when it comes to ICT, you would be much better off experiencing them rather than listening to me ramble on. So please do the exercise above and while you are take the time to reflect on it and really understand what it is that you are doing with respect to the 5 points mentioned above.
To understand more about UI design I highly recommend you take the time to have a read through:
- Don Norman’s essays – has some very profound ideas on how we interact with and design technology
- Information Software and the Graphical Interface – a very long read but well worth it. Bret Victor explores many ways we could improve interface design.