Week 3 Reading Notes and Thoughts

My thoughts on Cooper Chapter 2 — Implementation Models and Mental Models

Key Words:

Implementation model / system model: the representation of how a machine or program actually works. For machine it’s mechanisms and for program it’s algorithms and models of code.

Mental model / conceptual model: what the user think the machine or program does. Cognitive shortcut for explaining how it works, one that’s powerful enough to cover their interaction with it.

Represented model /  designer’s model: the way designer choose to represent a program’s functioning to the user.

This chapter can be broken into two parts. The first part discusses the definition of the three models and their relationships. And the second part discusses the use of mechanical-age representation in information-age design of represented models.

I think the author is keen to point out that the “distance” between implementation model / system model and mental model / conceptual model isn’t the barrier for user to understand and better use a product. It is the “distance” between mental model and represented model / designer’s model that actually matters. So this means that no matter how far or advanced our science and technology gets, it’s possible for normal people who’s not familiar with the advancement to take advantage of that. So hypothetically, a man traveled forward in time would be easier to adapt to changes in every day life than a man traveled back in time.

The author also talks about that most current software designers don’t really care to bring mental model and represented model together, ‘cause it’s easier for them to stick to the logic that they used in implementation phase than to design a new one specifically for the sake of easy using for the users. I think the reason behind this is that it’s the computer scientists and engineers who are taking the lead in the industry instead of people with knowledge of the design aspect. The computer industry starts with hackers and programmers sharing their latest find in their small circle to the point that everyone else relies on these people to achieve certain functions on their computer. The involvement of design people in developing new softwares hasn’t been stressed until the emergence of the study of human computer interaction. And now people start to realize the important of interaction design factors in developing new softwares, but they are still more comfortable to put more resources on having a completely new feature on their product instead of making their product easy to use.

My thoughts on UX Chapter 13

(This book is considerably hard to read comparing to other materials, so I haven’t spent too much time on it)

My thoughts on Blackboard Reading — How to Conduct a Heuristic Evaluation and Ten Usability Heuristics

Key Words:

Heuristic: involving or serving as an aid to learning, discovery, or problem-solving by experimental and especially trail-and-error methods

This article describes a method called heuristic evaluation that is used to find usability problems in user interface design. It goes into details about the number of evaluators and its effect on finding problems and cost-ratio, the effect of introducing observer/experimenter in the evaluation process, and the set-up of the evaluation process.

What’s interesting to me is the definition of the word “evaluator”. Who would be qualified as evaluator? Are these people professional user experience practitioners or just randomly selected it people? My guess is that these people should at least have some knowledge in HCI in order to relate the actual design to the usability principles/heuristics given to them. And the article also tells us that they may not have the professional knowledge required in the field of the application. And from the section that discusses the association of the number of evaluators and the ratio of benefits to cost, I can see that hiring evaluators are really expensive (between $410 and $900) considering they only work for one or two hours according to information given in previous paragraphs. This brings even more questions, for example why don’t companies hire evaluators for a full time job? How can one become an evaluator? Answers to these questions are nowhere to be found either in the article itself or related topics on the Internet. So I think some explanation of how to select evaluators for best results would be great addition to this article. (I later found information about this on the reading of UX chapter 13. There is no surprise that UX experts are the best candidates for evaluators)

Another thing is that I would really love to see some examples of the comments the evaluators made to a given user interface design with a certain set of usability principles (the heuristics). This would also be helpful in understanding the evaluation process and eliminating misconduct in doing the test.

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