Human Computer Interaction (HCI), an Empirical Understanding of Users

Human Computer Interaction focuses on study of interfaces that allow interaction between people and computers.
Human Computer Interaction focuses on study of interfaces that allow interaction between people and computers | Image source: mahdis mousavi

Human computer interaction, or HCI, is an academic field concerned with research and empirical understanding of the way people think about and use technology and how technology can be used to improve people’s lives.

The history of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) is a fascinating one, and its evolution has been nothing short of amazing.

It all started back in the 1920s, when scientists first began to explore the idea of controlling machines with nothing but our thoughts. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that things began to really take off, with the development of the first digital computers.

With the dawn of personal computing, HCI became an important research field.
With the dawn of personal computing, HCI became an important research field | Image source: National Cancer Institute

In a few decades, HCI had grown into a mainstream field, with researchers and developers working around the world to improve interaction between humans and computers.

Today, HCI is more critical than ever, with novel technologies constantly emerging and changing the way we interact with the world around us

HCI Is an Interdisciplinary Field

HCI is an interdisciplinary field that draws from psychology, sociology, anthropology, ergonomics and computer science. This means that HCI professionals need to be familiar with the theories and methodologies from these different disciplines in order to create effective user interfaces.

One of the most important aspects of HCI is understanding how people interact with technology. By studying human behavior and understanding the social context in which users interact with computers, HCI professionals can design interfaces that are more user-friendly and meet the needs of their users.

HCI Research Methods

Design Ethnography is a way to document activities and unravel the rich data to identify behavior patterns influenced by culture.
Design Ethnography is a method to document activities and unravel the rich data to identify behavior patterns influenced by culture | Image source: Vanilla Bear Films

There are a variety of different methods that HCI researchers use to study how people interact with computers. Some of these methods include surveys, interviews, focus groups, usability testing, and field studies.

Each of these methods has its own strengths and weaknesses, and researchers typically use a variety of methods to get a more complete understanding of how people interact with computers. For example, surveys can provide a high-level overview of user opinions, while interviews can give researchers more detailed information about users’ thoughts and experiences.

Three Main Areas of HCI

There are three main areas of Human Computer Interaction: usability, user experience, and social computing. Each one is important in its own way, but they all work together to create a successful user interface.

Usability is all about making sure the interface is easy to use and understand. User experience goes one step further and considers how users feel about using the interface. Are they happy with the look and feel? Do they find it easy to do what they need to do? Social computing takes into account how people interact with each other when using computers. It looks at the social context of the situation and how people use technology to communicate with each other.

The Future of HCI

we can slowly see interfaces moving away from screens and towards physical spaces.
we can slowly see interfaces moving away from screens and towards physical spaces | Image source: Andy Kelly

So, what’s the future of HCI? Well, as technology continues to evolve, so too will HCI. We can expect to see more and more personalized devices with natural and multi-modal interfaces like touch, gestures and voice. Also, we can slowly see interfaces moving away from screens and towards physical spaces.

We will see more virtual and augmented reality applications in the workplace and at home. These technologies will allow us to interact with digital information in a more natural way, making it easier than ever to find what we need and get the job done.

Learn More About HCI

If you’re interested in learning more about HCI, there are a number of resources available online, including courses and lectures from some of the top experts in the field. The following is a list of a few of them.

Courses

EdX — Professional Certificate in Human-Computer Interaction by Georgia Tech

Educative.io —Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction

Coursera — Human-Centered Design: an Introduction

Books

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

Human-Computer Interaction by Alan Dix

The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction by Stuart K. Card

The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems by Jef Raskin

Research Methods in Human-Computer Interaction by Jonathan Lazar

Human-Computer Interaction: An Empirical Research Perspective by I. Scott MacKenzie

Conferences

CHI — Human Factors in Computing Systems

UIST — User Interface Software and Technology

UbiComp — Ubiquitous Computing

CSCW — Computer-Supported Cooperative Work

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Bhavana Inaganti

Bhavana Inaganti

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I am a UX researcher. My work often explores the human-machine connection.