Notes from "The Humane Interface"

Some notes/quotes from the book The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems I recently finished reading.

  • User should set the pace of an interaction.
  • A computer shall not harm your work or, through inaction, allow your work to come to harm.
  • Nearly all carpal tunnel injuries are due to mouse, not keyboard, usage.
  • “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first.” – Dick Karpinski
  • One implication for interface design of the rapid decay of sense perceptions is that you cannot assume that, because someone has seen or heard a particular message 5 seconds earlier, that person will remember the wording.
  • The ideal humane interface would reduce the interface component of a user’s work to begin habituation. Many of the problems that make products difficult and unpleasant to use are caused by human- machine design that fails to take into account the helpful and injurious properties of habit formation.
  • No amount of training can teach a user not to develop habits when she uses an interface repeatedly.
  • Any confirmation step that elicits a fixed response soon becomes useless.
  • If the computer behaves unexpectedly while you are using an interface, you become less likely to see hints, help messages or other user aids as you become increasingly agitated about the problem.
  • To make sure that users cannot make interface operation errors, or that the effects of any actions are readily reversible rather than simply notifying users about the potential consequences of their actions.
  • It takes a person approximately 10 seconds to switch contexts.
  • Use radio buttons rather than toggles; toggles work reliably only when the value of the state controlled by the toggle is your locus of attention and is visible, or is in short-term memory.
  • High-level users have no special claim to being good interface designers and, being habituated to their software, have an especially strong need for a stable system so that their habits will not be rendered useless by changes, even they themselves make.
  • Time spent in learning and operating the personalization feature us time mostly wasted from the task at hand.
  • An interface that optimizes productivity is not necessarily an interface that optimizes subjective ratings.
  • If you design a modal interface, users will make mode errors except when the value of the state that is controlled by the mode is the user’s locus of attention and is visible to the user or is in the user’s short-term memory. The burden is on the designer to demonstrate that a mode is being used under the appropriate condition or that the advantages of a particular modal design outweigh its unavoidable disadvantages.
  • Fewer buttons and simpler-looking controls are not always better. The lesson applies to screen design as well as to instruments and appliances.
  • A habituating feature is often one that can be operated successfully by a blind user. Following the principles in this book will often result in interface methods that can be used by the blind. We are all blind – in a very real sense – to the world outside of our locus of attention.
  • Quasimodes are reserved for control functions. Operations you perform when no quasimode is engaged create content.
  • In general, the noun-verb paradigm is preferred. Verb-noun methods should be limited to palette selections intended for immediate use.
  • When you find a computer interface that requires bright colors and myriad explanatory legends to guide you, you can guess that the design has gone astray.
  • A well designed and humane interface dies not have to be split into beginner and expert subsystems.

Leave a Reply