Friday, February 07, 2003

Today I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Saul Greenberg of the University of Calgary. The talk was hosted by my employer. Along with 20 or so other SMARTians I had the good fortune to spend the morning discussing Graphical User Interfaces: Design and Usability with a focus on task-centered system design.

It was a fascinating session. There were many salient points raised over the course of the morning and I could go on forever, here's a partial list:

  • Observing "users" in their "natural environment" is key to understanding specific tasks and how you expect your system to be used. Consider "concrete examples with real people" throughout the design process.

  • Design must consider all "human factors" from the beginning. By the time a hardware or software development process reaches the alpha or beta phase -- it is "too late," and extremely expensive to make significant changes in the system.

  • "low-tech" or "office supply" methods -- sticky notes, paper, cardborad, glue-sticks and scissors -- can be less intimidating to "users" and more effective for making and testing prototypes

  • conduct "walk-through evaluations" of your system on one of the scenarios you've developed -- "can you build a believable story that motivates the user's actions?" and "can you rely on user's expected knowledge and training about [your] system?" -- if not, "you've located a problem in the interface!"

Very fascinating and useful stuff -- I'd like to thank Dr. Saul Greenberg for the session and Shannon Goodman and SMART Technologies Inc. for the opportunity to attend. This was a fantastic re-introduction to human computer interfaces for me and I look forward to leveraging today's information in the consideration of HCI and the application of Dr. Greenberg's methods.

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