HCID 2018: 6 takeaways

Usability | May 2018

hcid 2018 logoSome key learnings from City University’s HCID Open Day

Each year, City University of London hosts its Human Computer Interaction Design (HCID) Open Day. The theme of HCID 2018 was ‘Beyond the Screen’.

One of our UX consultants, Lesley Fosh, spoke at the event about the value of conducting contextual research beyond the lab , which was just one of many interesting talks throughout the day. Below we’ve collated some of our key takeaways about taking interactions ‘Beyond the Screen’.

Design wearable technologies with different accessibility needs in mind.

For example, if you are designing wearables to potentially be used by people with autism there are two key factors to consider. The first is to make sure that it can withstand a punch. People with autism may display self-injurious behaviour, such as slapping themselves or hitting their head against a surface, and so wearables need to be able to take a knock. The second is to be cautious of what you are asking people to put on their bodies. Many people with autism also have social anxiety and therefore may be more self-conscious about the wearables they use.

Dafydd Henke-Reed

It is important to manage expectations when designing for human-robot interaction.

People interact with robots in surprising and unexpected ways. It is therefore important to test robots with people in different contexts and cultures to understand how best to design for a range of interactions. It has often been observed that people will assume that robots are incredibly intelligent and can read their minds. However, this is not realistic (at least not right now) and so one design challenge is how to best communicate this limitation and manage the expectations of users.

Andrei Danescu

Provide users with different ways to complete the same task.

Offering users different options to interact with your product or service, for example, via website or via voice interaction, will improve both its usability and accessibility. For example, Barclays have introduced voice-activated banking so that users can make transactions using Apple’s Siri voice assistant, instead of using their computer. This will make banking potentially much easier for users with vision or motor impairments who may struggle to use a computer, as well as users without any accessibility requirements who may prefer this option or do not have access to a computer or smartphone at that point. However, voice interfaces may not be preferable to those who have a speech impairment or a strong accent. It is therefore important that Barclays continue to offer the option of completing payments via their internet banking service or in branch, as well.

Emanuela Gorla

Keep user testing scenarios short, simple and personal.

When we conduct user testing, it’s important to consider the needs of users and tailor our approach to meet their needs. Users with language impairments can find it difficult to follow complex scenarios, particularly when they are asked to imagine that they are someone else. Instead, tasks should be designed to be short, simple and users should be able to complete them as themselves, rather than taking on another persona. This makes completing tasks easier for everyone, but is particularly important when conducting testing with those with a language impairment who may struggle to grasp abstract concepts.

Stephanie Wilson

Make sure you understand people’s current needs and behaviours before designing for them.

A talk about self-managing HIV with technology highlighted that current apps fell short of meeting users’ needs. Although they allowed a way for users to record their lab results, they did not allow users to capture more comprehensive health information, such ashow they were feeling each day, which was important to many people who self-managed their HIV. Research also demonstrated the importance of sharing and receiving information with other people living with HIV. A tool to help people self-manage their HIV therefore needs to take into consideration these current needs and behaviours to ensure that it is helpful to users.

Adrian Bussone

Cultural probes can be a powerful way to elicit creative responses from participants.

Cultural probes are designs, prototypes and artefacts that are given to people to live with, use and record their interaction with. This powerful research tool allows participants to interact more naturally and spontaneously with the materials you give them. Materials could include diagrams, maps or images for participants to annotate, or they could include cameras which participants use to record different aspects of their lives. Combining these materials with more creative and less prescriptive tasks gives researchers the opportunity to observe more natural and spontaneous interactions and increases the possibility of uncovering surprising findings.

Bill Gaver

Food for thought?

Hopefully our takeaways from HCID 2018 give you some food for thought! Whatever you’re working on and whatever design stage you’re at, we’d love to hear from you. We are experienced in using a wide range of research and design methodologies to help you improve your users’ experience.

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