[Week 8] Blog Post 7 – Cognitive Aspects of Interaction Design

Cognitive science is the study of minds, in particular, human behavior and information processing. This includes understanding, remembering, reasoning, attending, being aware, acquiring skills and creating new ideas. Attempts have been made to establish a relationship between cognitive science and human-computer interaction (HCI) to predict human performance through the use of design technologies. The aim of this is to understand how knowledge transmission can take place between humans and computers and how through the use of technologies, human’s competency could be enhanced and weakness compensated.

Before I go into the challenges of learning and how can the use of technology enhance user experience, I would to share a video about the Kinect Effect.

From this video, we can see the advancement of technology such that now, there are substantial human interaction with technology, rather than the pure clicking of the mouse and browsing through highly stimulating websites. The Kinect technology not only provides entertainment, but it can assist work processes and help humans accomplish things which will be impossible without the existence of technology.

Challenges of cognitive learning

All user interfaces make cognitive demands on users and hence through the use of technologies, we aim to reduce cognitive overload. Cognitive overload occurs when the learning task exceeds the processing capacity of the cognitive system. Hence, successful user interface designs ought to acknowledge the limitations of cognitive processing. There are three challenges to keep in mind throughout the design process.

1.     Contextual complexity

Are the new concepts that users have to learn too complex? How efficient can the mind link the new concepts with his past learning experiences?

2.     Memory load

How much information must users store in their short-term memory without exceeding its optimum capacity? How much new information (e.g. commands, procedures) do they have to process?

 3.     Attention

Do the users feel at ease when viewing at the information put on screen? How good is the user interface at capturing the user’s attention? If the user is distracted by other work, will he continue their interaction with the system once they are free of that distraction?

Enhancing the user experience

Ease of usage

Users appeal to the visual aspects of a computer interface primarily. Hence, it is crucial that there should be ease of reading of screen images and content. If not, users would be deterred from using it and switch to a friendlier user interface that is more conducive for learning and interaction. For example, a simple classic design (shown on the top diagram) would appeal more to the masses rather than a ‘congested’ layout with highly complicated functions (shown on the bottom diagram).

Good website interface

 Bad website interface

Consistency of programs

Graphical user interface takes advantage of the ability to display information on the computer screen. For example, a toolbar of icons could be utilized as they are representatives of popular actions taken also creates convenience for usage. The toolbar is constantly on the screen and it reduces the user’s need to memorize a set of actions and commands. The use of consistent terms and colours will increase the ease of usage. New, yet complex, interface will only serve to let users fumble on the new functions and requires time for them to familiarize with the new terms and commands. Successful systems tend to require users to spend the shortest time to get used to their system. In addition, associating universal commands with function such as “Help” by connecting them to speak to a live agent, or an associative online help page would improve user experience and satisfaction.

Using images

The use of images is important is interface design as the brain is better at recognizing images than words. It captures the user’s attention faster and helps the brain relate to concepts easier. Graphical illustration thus serves to create a visual image and helps user to understand the concepts presented rather than mainly text.  Users also tend to be more attracted to reading text with images than purely text. Images tend to be appealing and will tempt the user to continue reading.

 Conclusion

In conclusion, incorporating technologies into learning creates a more different and interactive form of learning as users can be more focused through the use of graphics illustrations like animations and hands on experience. This is in contrast with traditional form of learning through books whereby users tend to drift off due to the lack of ‘interaction’. Though these technologies enhance learning, we should also consider that the way technology appeals to different individuals. Every individual perceives technology differently, hence the design of interface should be taken into account. With advancement technologies like Kinect, there is hope for more complex technologies to be developed to enhance human’s way of living.

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