What is a human computer interface?
Stigberg presents an updated interface model recently published in Lecture Notes in Computer Sciences by Springer and presented at her digital talk at the 22nd International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction.
Traditional understanding of human computer interface based on the desktop computer
What is a human computer interface? Most would say that input and output together form the interface, which sits between the user and the system. This definition originates from early HCI research based on the desktop computer interface. Nowadays, there are many different types of user interfaces and selecting a suitable input and output for a new digital product can be a challenging exercise. Numerous adjectives have been used to describe the different kinds of interfaces that have been developed, including graphical, command, speech, multimodal, invisible, ambient, affective, mobile, intelligent, adaptive, smart, tangible, touchless, and natural. Some of the interface types are primarily concerned with a function (e.g. to be intelligent, to be adaptive, to be ambient, to be smart), while others focus on the interaction style used (e.g. command, graphical, multimedia), the input/output device used (e.g. pen-based, speech-based, gesturebased), or the platform being designed for (e.g. tablet, mobile, PC, wearable). So how do we teach this complexity of human computer interfaces to our IT students?
In her article, Stigberg presents an overview of the terminology used in popular HCI textbooks to describe user interfaces and suggests a revised model that clarifies how these concepts are interrelated. The model can be used in academic for teaching about user interfaces, in practice to provide a framework when designing user interfaces, and as a scaffold inviting the research community to contribute additional content.
Even though terms and concepts are overlapping in textbooks, there is no coherent understanding of the terminology used to discuss user interfaces. Some books define interaction type and interface type, there as other textbooks utilise interaction style instead. Furthermore, concepts such as interaction paradigm are explained differently in all textbooks. Another notable insight from Stigberg's review is the bias towards the desktop metaphor, which is discussed in great detail in all textbooks. Reasonably, most interface terminology originates from desktop interfaces; however, discussing and conceptualising a variety of interfaces is necessary for a broader understanding of user interface concept.
Stigberg proposes a new HCI Model synthesised from her review and based on five core concepts. The model has been useful for teaching interface terminology and introducing user interfaces beyond the desktop through several ways:
- The model It offers the students a structure and a lingua franca for describing user interfaces.
- It allows students to explore user interfaces from the three main concepts.
- It enables students to compare user interfaces.
- It illustrates gaps in current research and practice.
- It indicates possible issues when adapting user interfaces across platforms.
You can read more about the research above in the article:
Stigberg S.K. (2020) Human Computer Interfaces Reconsidered: A Conceptual Model for Understanding User Interfaces. In: Kurosu M. (eds) Human-Computer Interaction. Design and User Experience. HCII 2020. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 12181. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-49059-1_12