The School’s website describes the HCI program as such:
The Human Computer Interaction (HCI) specialization prepares students to address human needs with technology by determining useful system functionality and by designing usable interfaces, considering the context of the individual and/or organization.
It’s a fascinating field of study, but I’ve found that it requires a love of minutia. When we were in the early stages of developing Showcase, we sat in rooms for hours on end discussing user experience, like what happens when you tap a button—and I mean precisely what happens, like where does it take you, how does it take you there, is it a pop up, how does it pop up, does it slide in, fade in, how do you get out of it, and on and on. I can remember thinking well into the (unadvisable) third hour of an afternoon meeting, “I DO NOT CARE ANYMORE, JUST SEND EVERYONE TO GOOGLE.”
Obviously I had a bad case of meetingitis, because in reality I did care, very much. When something does not behave as expected, people get MAD, and it can cost you goodwill, allegiance, and revenue.
KISSmetrics has a great infographic (right) showing user tolerance. It’s all valuable information, and one of the things that stuck out for me was that 45% of mobile users said that they encountered a website that didn’t function as they expected on their mobile browser.
Let me repeat that: almost half reported usability confusion.
It doesn’t take an HCI graduate to understand something’s wrong with a user interface, and you’re probably savvier about usability than you know. I’ll give you an example: Ann Arbor’s fancy solar-powered parking meters are in many ways super. First and foremost: they take credit cards and I no longer have to try to mine for coins under my floor mats to feed a meter. Hooray! My generation loathes carrying cash!
When I pay with a credit card, the machine gives me the option to receive a printed receipt. It says something like this on the LCD screen (it’s important to note that it is not a touch screen):
Do you want a receipt?
I am supposed to press the corresponding button on the keypad below to indicate my selection. However, the buttons are in the opposite order, like this:
So, I always have to pause and think about it. I mean, not HARD, but still this irks me. It irks me enough to write about it publicly and hope that someone changes the screens to correspond with the keypad. And if it were a website, and I were sitting at my computer or mobile device with the option to visit multitudes of other websites that do the same thing with less thinking, I’d go elsewhere. Because I, like all other Internet users, am a selfish, narcissistic browser and only want to spend my time on things that get me to my end goal while completely ignoring the minutia.
And so do your customers. That’s why developing a sound user interface is necessary. It’s a complex process and difficult to get right without the proper knowledge base. It’s best done by an expert who will make your website or app experience feel invisible to your users.
*I might have enthusiastically followed this by saying (out loud), “J/K!” thereby demonstrating that I am indeed a totally lame adult.