Many studies in human-computer interaction have used and applied various concepts and theories from different branches of psychology. In Jeff Johnson’s (2010) talk at Stanford University, he discussed how cognitive psychology has been applied to user interface / user experience design guidelines, which according to him “UI guidelines are based on how people perceive, think, learn, etc.” (Johnson, 2010). In this sense, Johnson suggests that human factors are essential in terms of designing and developing websites, technological products, computer programs and applications. It is not just about the pleasing aesthetic form of a product but it is worth considering how humans will perceive said product and what it means to their daily lives.
Another concept that is widely used in the field of user interface design is the Gestalt theory of visual perception. Using the gestalt principles, user interface guidelines suggest the use of law of proximity (objects that are close to each other are perceived as forming a group); law of similarity (items that are similar to each other are perceptually grouped); law of prognanz (some objects are located in positions that make them perceptually important while others are less important, as in being in the background); law of symmetry (symmetrical elements that are unconnected are unconsciously perceived as a single object); and law of closure (incomplete objects are perceptually completed). The Gestalt principles are commonly used on how logos are designed and how websites are designed and built.
One of the latest research in human-computer interaction used the principles of Positive Psychology, which is also one of the newest branches of psychology. According to Riva et al. (2012), using the principles of Positive Psychology will benefit studies being conducted in human-computer interaction and cyberpsychology. They even proposed a new approach, Positive Technology, which according to them is “the scientific and applied approach to the use of technology for improving the quality of our personal experience through its structuring, augmentation, and/or replacement” (Riva et al., 2012). Furthermore, they developed a positive technology domain that explains how new technologies and media can be designed to provide positive human experiences in the areas of emotional quality (arousal, valence, object), engagement/actualization (challenge/skills, goals, presence), and connectedness (collective intentions, social presence).
In understanding the impact of psychology to human-computer interaction research and user interface design, different studies were conducted to investigate the response and behavior of users toward different designs and structures that we encounter almost everyday as we use different computing devices, different computer software or applications, and as we browse the internet. To understand the emotional reactions of humans while interacting with computers, Blankertz et al. (2009) conducted an experiment using computer applications that have been specially designed to provoke different emotions in alternating phases — neural, positive or negative. The researchers used multi-channel EEG in four subjects who were instructed to use the specifically designed computer applications. What Blankertz et al. (2009) found out is that all subjects exhibited temporary feelings of inferiority while in a slightly more advanced task compared to other participants, which is unbeknownst to all four subjects. All participants also adjusted their strategy to cope up with each complex task.
Another research that discussed how people respond to different website designs and structures were conducted by Nadkarni and Gupti (2007). They explored the important role of perceived website complexity (PWC) in user satisfaction — whether a complex website design enhances or inhibits user experience at a website. The result of their research suggests that user familiarity is important when it comes to a person’s positive experience with PWC and objective complexity. When it comes to the effects of PWC to user satisfaction, their results suggest that the relationship between PWC and user satisfaction is too complex — complexity inhibits user satisfaction for goal-directed users, while experiential users experienced enhanced user satisfaction in medium levels of complexity.
Using various concepts from different branches of psychology, or merely applying the study of human behavior and cognition to human-interaction research and user interface design, became very important on how we are all able to adapt and use the latest computing devices, computer software / applications, and navigate the internet and various websites. Having the most experienced user to the least experienced user in mind when it comes to building and designing computing devices, computer software / application, and websites, companies and organizations were able to meet the computing needs of the majority. Why is it so important for computing devices, websites, and computer applications to meet the needs of all kinds of users?
Internet, for instance, is becoming more and more of a go-to source for information, knowledge, even goods and services. Being able to recognize the universal needs of internet users regardless of age, gender, physical ability, and so forth, is crucial on how websites and webpages are designed and constructed. Understanding how different users will cope and adjust when faced with complex online environment is also important. Different computing devices are almost identical in function, purpose, built and design. Is it because making all computing devices almost identical makes it easier for users to transition from one device to another? It is no longer just about aesthetic and form, it is about usability — user-friendliness. And when we talk about user-friendly, it has to include all users.
The research of Hassenzhal (2004) provided a good explanation on why form, aesthetic and usability are very important when it comes to providing the best possible human-computer interaction and user experience. He discussed how people perceive interactive products such as websites, and what people value more — aesthetic value, usability, hedonic attributes. His research suggest that beauty is more related to self-oriented, hedonic attributes of a product than to its goal-oriented, pragmatic attributes. This is to say that the aesthetic value of an interactive product allows acquisition, interest, and exploration from users; that the beauty of a product provides an instant perception of its usability. He also mentioned the social context when it comes to the appreciation of a particular interactive product — people’s perception of beauty is greatly influenced by what most people around him/her considers beautiful (Hassenzhal, 2004). The aesthetic value of a product is also the primary reason for ownership, which is quite applicable to what type of computing devices most people purchase and use these days. It is worth noting that perception of usability based on beauty does not come prior to user experience. For a goal-oriented user, beauty may be a secondary factor, and with this, beauty is not significant to the pragmatic attributes of a product.
Hassenzahl’s (2004) experiment is very much applicable to how computing devices and interactive products are being designed, developed, and marketed today. Product designers and developers are now trying to meet both objectives — goodness (hedonic and pragmatic) and beauty (hedonic) — to make products more marketable. It is very obvious that products that meet the needs and demands of both the goal-oriented and experiential users, are the ones that are ahead in the consumer product race.
If programmers, developers, and designers did not bother to consider how others will use computing devices and computer software / applications, will we be able to use them and benefit from them as much as we do today? If websites were designed and built in a manner that is too complex for any ordinary user, will we be able to navigate websites or even the internet comfortably and efficiently? There are so many things that we will not be able to do today, like attending online classes or being able to video chat with family and friends overseas, if human behavior and cognition were not taken into consideration when computing devices and interactive products were designed and built. The goal of human-computer interaction research and user interface design is to provide the most satisfactory and efficient experience to its users. This is where the role of psychology becomes really important in human-computer interaction research and user interface design. If developers, programmers, and designers understand how humans think, feel, react, process information, and deal with new experiences, then they would be able to design and build computing devices and interactive products that cater to these human factors. To conclude, psychology is in every computing device we use and interactive systems we encounter daily. As Jeff Johnson (2012) posited, “user-interface design guidelines are based on human psychology” (Johnson, 2010, p 313) and what this statement covers are people’s perception, cognition, learning, memory, recognition vs. recall, and responses when it comes to interacting with computing devices and computer systems. This is to say that the relationship of psychology to human-computer interaction research and user-interface design is so important, computing devices, interactive systems, and the internet will not become an essential part of our daily lives if not for the integration of said disciplines.
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