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Learn Human-Computer Interaction

By Christopher Reid Becker
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  1. Free Chapter
    Introducing HCI and UX Design
About this book
Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is a field of study that researches, designs, and develops software solutions that solve human problems. This book will help you understand various aspects of the software development phase, from planning and data gathering through to the design and development of software solutions. The book guides you through implementing methodologies that will help you build robust software. You will perform data gathering, evaluate user data, and execute data analysis and interpretation techniques. You’ll also understand why human-centered methodologies are successful in software development, and learn how to build effective software solutions through practical research processes. The book will even show you how to translate your human understanding into software solutions through validation methods and rapid prototyping leading to usability testing. Later, you will understand how to use effective storytelling to convey the key aspects of your software to users. Throughout the book, you will learn the key concepts with the help of historical figures, best practices, and references to common challenges faced in the software industry. By the end of this book, you will be well-versed with HCI strategies and methodologies to design effective user interfaces.
Publication date:
September 2020
Publisher
Packt
Pages
322
ISBN
9781838820329

 
Introducing HCI and UX Design

Learn Human-Computer Interaction is a starting place for considering and thinking about people (humans), technology (computers), and how we interact. We will discuss a wide set of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) topics that address how to design, build (code), and test the vast amounts of software that ultimately run the world. Throughout this chapter, you will be introduced to the foundations of HCI, which will set the stage for growing your skills and joining HCI practitioners on software design teams.

The topics you will learn about in this chapter are as follows:

  • Prologue
  • Introducing HCI and UX design
  • Why HCI?
  • Exploring HCI jargon and their acronyms
  • Exploring the history of computers
  • Evolving from a T-person into a π person
  • The author's perspective
  • The HCI professions
  • Self-guided questions
 

Prologue

The core of this book covers three pillars:

  1. HCI skills, theory, and historical context:
    Use of stories, contextual examples, and some brief history of widening your HCI knowledge.
  2. HCI Activities and practical challenges:
    A series of hands-on methods to deepen your HCI understanding.

  1. HCI Community resources and source materials:
    A vast set of knowledge and experience that I could never surpass but am happy to share and grow with you as you read in the share your experience:

As the author of this book, my background comes from the Design point of view via user experience (UX)/graphic design/human-centered research into computers rather than via computer science, mathematics, engineering, or computer coding, however, I have gained much of this knowledge over time. Therefore, the content of the book will focus more on the human component of HCI over the computer component.

However, the framing of skills and considerations are designed to improve either side. So read on.

Since...

 

Introducing HCI and UX design

In the beginning, there was nothing but darkness, and then there was light, a binary relationship understood by all—zero (0) and one (1). Binary means related to or composed of two things. Binary relationships dictate a vast majority of our decisions: up or down, left or right, yes or no, like or don't like. Let's practice thinking about some binary concepts through a challenge. The challenges in this book are designed to get you to practice the HCI skills and knowledge necessary to function as an HCI practitioner in the real world. Each challenge will take between 10 minutes and 2 hours to complete.

Challenge 1 – Capturing conceptual relationships – binary and beyond

Setup:

  1. Get out a sheet of paper or a Google Doc/Word doc.

Part 1: Binary concepts:

  1. Think of some binary relationships in your own life.
  2. Write them down.

    Binary relationships:
    _______________________________ versus ___________________________
    ___

Part 2: Other...

 

Why HCI?

The profound impact of computing stands among humankind's greatest achievements alongside the wheel, refrigeration, and sliced bread. The publication of this book itself in both printed and digital formats would be rendered impossible without computation. The reality is that our world is full of technology run by computers. They are here to stay, so let's figure out how they impact our lives and how we can design with them and for them. A big part of understanding computers is that humans make them for other humans and, therefore, can be changed based on how humans evolve. Technology moves at an incredible speed, and the way it impacts our society, our behaviors, and our education are sometimes hard to understand; however, this is HCI's role. We will explore the vast set of opportunities that can come out of harnessing technology and how to keep up with the rapid change.

Documenting HCI jargon

HCI jargon is a collection of unique words or expressions that are used...

 

Exploring HCI jargon and their acronyms

This book contains technical jargon by nature. I will do my best to add resources and a glossary of terms, but some will be on you to figure out. I promise this book will not be a multithreaded annotation like David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest," but we will help you grow your HCI language.

The goals of HCI jargon are to do the following:

  1. Establish a shared language for building human-centered solutions.
  2. Build a shorthand for skills and industry terms.
  3. Identify and navigate the growing job market utilizing HCI skills.

This can also be seen in the following diagram:

Millions of people around the planet build computer hardware and software. As a group, we can create software with computers faster due to our shared vocabulary for describing, discussing, and ultimately building solutions. It is nerdy. HCI jargon is a way to introduce you to the community to give you a shared language and allow you to talk the talk as you walk the...

 

Exploring the history of computers

Without computers, HCI would not be a profession. Software that HCI designers work on is steeped in history and knowing the foundations will allow you to take steps into the future more confidently, therefore, let's rewind a bit and understand how we got here.

Very early history – the 17th century

Since the beginning of civilization, there is proof of human beings' ability to quantify and record their interactions. The computer is the outcome of millennia of knowledge, all now combined into handheld devices that allow us to quantify our existence. The long tail of human accomplishment and innovation that have brought us to today are too numerous to count, but we have been able to advance faster than any other time due to our ability to harness the accomplishments of our forefathers in computing history.

In the Enlightenment era, we had logician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (a 17th/18th century German philosopher and mathematician) who invented...

 

Evolving from T-person into a π person

By picking up this book, you are committing to becoming a T-based person. A T-person is based on two factors, the horizontal and the vertical, as shown here:

The horizontal factor represents the breadth of knowledge. This is the knowledge that can be obtained through life experience, curiosity about people, and cultural education, and is the knowledge that can produce insight. Insight can then travel down the vertical stem of the T, which represents the depth of knowledge, and becomes connected to speciality knowledge. Depth of knowledge is a concept that applies to any specific domain, for example, a General Practioner (GP) represents the horizontal bar, whereas a cardiologist (the specialist medical skill of understanding the heart) would represent the stem of the T. Being skilled at your profession requires considering what your breadth and depth of knowledge concern.

For HCI, this means having and understanding an extensive knowledge...

 

The author's perspective

I am a designer. My education is in human-centred design, and my professional experience is in design education. These things, along with my work experience as a UX designer as well as a UX/UI curriculum architect, have given me some knowledge worth sharing. HCI is a lot to wrap your arms around. One book will not make you an expert; however, the professions that are the by-product of HCI skills are also growing and are more of a vocation than merely an occupation, and I hope you will continue on this path.

HCI is a vocation

A vocation is a job that is particularly worthy and rewarding to a person and typically requires great dedication and passion. I suppose my great dedication to the UX/UI practise has a part in me writing this book, but it also is why I come back to the HCI watering hole. Great dedication requires time, effort, and enthusiasm. Hopefully, you possess these factors. The time it will take you to consume this book will not make you a designer...

 

The HCI professions

Thousands of new job titles have been created to accommodate the skills that have been created associated with computers and the essential roles they play in modern business. Rapid technological change is modifying the skill requirements for most jobs. HCI is responsible for some of this technological change. As the computer has come to dominate modern business, the role of the products and services that support humans' use of computers has also skyrocketed, which has to lead to the shift in roles and job titles that are filling modern businesses.

According to the US News Report (2018) on "100 Best Jobs", a software developer is the #1 job role, with a median salary of $101,000 and a projected 255,000 openings in the US alone. The best software developers are well-versed in HCI skills and use them to work with teams that focus on users as they build great software. Whether you are coming to HCI from the computer science space or the human design space...

 

Summary

Throughout this chapter, we discussed how our lives have been fundamentally reorganized around the computer and how this book, Learn Human-Computer Interaction, provides a way to approach, address, and capitalize on this change. We looked into a brief history of computing and how HCI will change you into a π person. We also looked into the relevant opportunities present in the job market.

HCI is a lot to wrap your head around, and this chapter allowed us to get excited about the potential of leaning into our knowledge and putting it to practice in our own lives and jobs. We covered an introduction to HCI, which included why we care about this profession along with some HCI topics that came from our quick history of computing. All this information is hopefully growing your π person qualities as you develop your HCI interests and direction towards an HCI profession.

In the next chapter, we will focus on the explosion of software made possible through the introduction...

About the Author
  • Christopher Reid Becker

    Christopher Reid Becker is a senior UX designer/lead curriculum architect (UX/UI) at 2U Inc. He comes with extensive experience in building web-based software and commercial projects accessing design thinking, human-centered user research, UX strategies, UI best practices, and interaction design to build relevant, usable, and useful human-computer interactions.

    Browse publications by this author
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