UX hci Best Practices

In the modern world we live in, with new applications for technology pushing computing into levels of ubiquity and into incarnations we could never have predicted, the current HX HCI practices are rapidly being challenged by this new, amorphous nature of things.

That said, we find ourselves in a new paradigm when it comes to how to handle UX HCI principles in a world where even a coffee table or a wine glass might actually have visible, interactive computing capabilities. That may seem like hyperbole or something out of a more tongue in cheek science fiction novel, but in fact, this is the world we stand toes deep in now, and are beginning to wade out against the breakers at an increasing speed.

For now, we’re only beginning to explore the possible ways in the future we may interact with computers of a shape and nature we’re only beginning to imagine. But, this requires us to be forwardly mobile in our thinking about conventions with HCI.

#1 – Minimal Input

The way we handle input has changed a lot over the years. Regardless of the device we’re using – keyboard, mouse, touchscreen, whatever. In the early days, lengthy, arcane commands were needed with lots of obscure parameters in order to get anything done. In fact, most early personal computers, before CP/M was released for them, required you to directly control memory addresses in order to launch programs.

We went from that to high-fidelity operating systems with visual interfaces, and with a few niche demographic exceptions, we didn’t look back. But, in many cases, we haven’t taken advantage of the singularity of input this could allow.

So many designers (and this trend is reemerging in SaaS badly) require entirely too much slicking, typing or tapping and swiping to do any given task, even if the navigation steps are minimal. While the adoption of prediction systems has reduced this, one of the biggest things to work for is to reduce the amount of physical activity needed to act on any given thing. Have the system learn and remember and adopt this prediction and memory convenience more deeply in the input aspect.

#2 – Showing Activity

Once upon a time, as well, it was just a fact of life that when a computer was performing a task, it locked up and showed no signs of life while doing so. The Commodore, for example, would blank out its screen entirely while loading data or programs to and from tape cassettes, because it really had little choice in the matter. UX HCI principles weren’t even an issue yet.

Later computers, before threading was an option, would have a program sit idle, with a busy indicator until the task was completed. Nowadays, this is just not an option. It is so possible for even the weakest devices to show some kind of progress and activity during a task like this, and so common with good designers, that people will assume a program that does not has frozen or timed out. SaaS designers are bad about not doing this, due to the fact that until the last few years, browsers wouldn’t let them.

#3 – Less is not More

The less is more philosophy for what the computer gives back from any given request, command or inquiry is actually a falsehood. While we’ve moved away from the deluge of confusing, vaguely organized technical text of DOS, Unix and P/LM in antiquity, simplifying data too much when notices or responses happen has led to people becoming lost when an obscure thing is said by the computer, because it neglects to explain itself.

Nearly half of the “what does this mean?” software and computer questions out there are asked because there’s no possible way to know, from anything the computer ever says, what the hell it does in fact mean. So, while a deluge of technical gobbledygook is a bad idea, being verbose in providing information in responses is a must for UX HCI moving forward.

Of course, we’re not even touching here on UX HCI tenets such as having multiple ways to input (mouse, key commands, tab selecting), and other such things that are more hardware conformity. Those are concerns too, but what’s listed above is of higher priority, moving forward. We went from too complex to too simple yet awkward. The next age calls for a happy medium of the two.


Megan Wilson
Megan Wilson is user experience specialist & editor of UX Motel. She is also the Quality Assurance and UX Specialist at WalkMe Megan.w(at)walkme.com
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