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Lesson 9 Human-Computer Interaction guidelines
Objective Identify HCI guidelines for information architecture.

Human-Computer Interaction Guidelines

For online resources about HCI standards and guidelines, go to the following URL:
www.hcibib.org. Note: There are hundreds of online resources addressing HCI guidelines. To access these resources, simply type HCI into any search engine and select the resources that appear to be most relevant to your specific needs.
You have been learning that it is not only signs and metaphors that must be designed with the users in mind, but also information architecture. Humans and computers have vastly different "operating systems," and information architects must take this into account in order to make the site content accessible to the human users.

Standards in action?

The focus of the HCI work and research is on developing "user-centered designs." You may want to open another browser window to look at a number of Internet portals, such as
  1. yahoo.com,
  2. bing.com, or
  3. ooportal.com
and think about whether they demonstrate good information architecture and conform to the following HCI standards:
  1. Present only information relevant to the user's job. Do not present information on the screen relevant to the software or its workings.
  2. Use system capabilities because they enhance user task accomplishment, not just because they can be used (such as, color, highlighting techniques, graphics).
  3. Design the system to do what the user would naturally or naively guess it should do.
  4. Make terminology (for labeling, commands, messages, prompts, and so on) consistent with the user's frame of reference (that is, it should mean what the user thinks it means and not reflect computer or programming usage).

The HCI guidelines are based on many years of HCI design experience by leaders in the field of interface design. Graphic designers on the Web development team are most likely to be familiar with HCI and GUI (graphical user interface) guidelines and models. However, because the screen design is the most visible aspect of a Web project, it is helpful for all project team members to have a basic understanding of what constitutes good design.

Human Computer Interaction

Dos and don'ts

In addition to the HCI guidelines described above, the following are some information architecture guidelines you should follow:
  1. Do use signs, words, icons, and symbols that users know or can easily grasp.
  2. Do design unambiguous signs.
  3. Do take the time to understand the different categories of users and their needs, expectations, and experiences.
  4. Do use experts to help you understand connections and alternate paths that are likely to be followed by users.
  5. Do provide users with alternatives: alternative navigation options; alternative paths through information; and more than one kind of sign to direct them.
  6. Do remember that design requires a process of exchange with the client; it is not an artistic expression on behalf of the designer.
  7. Do test the validity of your information architecture on real users, observing where they have problems understanding site architecture or navigation features.
Choices you should avoid:
  1. Avoid treating Web site text as if it were a paper document or a linear article, with a flow of information that makes the user turn many pages of static information.
  2. Avoid using familiar information structures simply because they are familiar. For example, an online organizational chart should be able to be much more engaging than a traditional paper-based organizational chart.
  3. Avoid presenting information from the client organization's point of view. Determine who will actually be using the site, and design information architecture from their perspective.
  4. Avoid making all information hierarchical simply because it's easier for the developers.
  5. Avoid assuming you know how your users will navigate through the site.
Question: According to HCI principles, how much time and effort should you assume the average user will commit to figuring out the system of signs, metaphors, and information architecture that you have created?
Answer: Very little. Signs and metaphors should be easily understood by people from all backgrounds. Think of the design from the user's point of view. Choices and paths should be intuitive and obvious. Design the system to do what the user would naturally or naively guess it should do. And last but not least, do not assume you know how your users will respond to your design: test it on a sample group. The next lesson will teach you more about success factors and risks, as they apply to information architecture planning.