The Future of HCI


Video Script

One person who’s very active in the field of HCI today is Don Norman. Don Norman was a 2006 Franklin medalist. And he’s really famous for writing a book called The Design of Everyday Things, which if you haven’t taken a look at it, I encourage you to at least look at the front cover of that book and see what he’s talking about. Don Norman is a real big proponent of designing things to be how they’re expected to be used instead of design just to be interesting. And he talks about some really great examples of designing for everyday things. And so after this video, we’ll take a look at a short clip of Don Norman talking about some of his work, and hopefully, you’ll start to see the things that he saw in the real world that helped us understand modern design.

So one of the important things to remember in HCI is that iterative design process and designs change over time. For example, on this slide, the top picture is a picture of Microsoft Word from version two 2003. And the bottom picture is from a much more modern version of word that we use today. In 2003, the version at the top was very well regarded, it had a toolbar with lots of easy to follow buttons. And a lot of people got used to it and really liked it. And so in 2007, when they switched from the toolbar design to the ribbon design that we use today, there were a lot of users that really didn’t like that design. And if you get down to it, it really turns out that those users didn’t like the design, not because it wasn’t a better design. They didn’t like it because it was different. And so one of the things we’ve struggled with in the field of computer science is design changes for change sake is not good, because a lot of users don’t like change. But if we change things for the better, eventually users will get used to it. And thankfully, we’ve seen over time that users have very much gotten used to the new ribbon style and they do understand that it is much more efficient and much easier to use than the old toolbar style, but there’s always still little bit of fear of change that always comes into this.

Another good example of this is Windows, we’ve gone from Windows XP to Windows 7 to Windows 8 to Windows 10. And each time we’ve changed a little bits of how the Windows computer system works from different toolbar designs, two different Start Menu designs, two different designs for things such as the control panel and touch interfaces. And each one of those designs might be based on a lot of really good research, but it’s changed and a lot of users are very resistant to change at first. But of course, some changes are really good. For example, in Windows XP, if you had a blue screen, you would get something that looks like this. This error message isn’t really all that helpful is it? It’s got a lot of technical details. But for most normal users, it just scares them and they don’t really know what to understand. And so a more modern computer system has a little bit friendlier, have an error message that tells you what’s happening and it tells you what’s going on but it doesn’t just bombard you with more data than you actually need.

So what is the future of HCI look like? It’s really hard to tell, but there are tons of things going on. After this video, we’ll post several videos for different views of HCI. And some of the things that have been out there in research or in industry today, for example, different user interface concepts such as 10 GUI, different ideas around ubiquitous computing, such as the Google Glass project from a few years ago. We can look at 3d tools today, such as the Oculus Rift, and some of the new 3d virtual reality tools. And we can even talk about accessibility and how we can design computer systems that use just a single finger to allow you to type text very, very fast with a minimal amount of inputs. And so I hope by looking at some of these videos, you’ll be inspired by the different ways that computer systems can be interacted with beyond just the keyboard and mouse that we’re used to today, and it will encourage you to think about different ways that we can build computer systems in the future.