Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 1 Homework

Find 2 types of Interfaces:
Anything that is everyday and non-digital. (can be electric)
One that is easy and one that is difficult.

Half a page explanation for each one.

Get the textbook. Read chapters 1 and 2.

Also (this is the big one):

Find two examples of interfaces from the real world, one obvious and one not-so-obvious in its affordances and steps of use. For this first set of examples, please avoid digital interface design, and instead focus on three-dimensional objects. Bring in digital photos of the objects, or better yet bring in the actual objects themselves. Remember our definition of “interface”: anything human-made upon which the user must perform some action or actions in order to achieve their goals (but again, no digital interfaces please). Figure out the goals first (what is this interface meant to accomplish) – then the object’s affordances – then the solution.

An example: shoes.

The goal

Provide a covering for the user’s feet that will remain attached during use.

The affordances

The main affordances are: one, the shape of the shoe and material of the sole, which conform to the shape of a foot and suggest use and directionality; two, the tongue and flap, which suggest the method for inserting the foot; and three, the shoelaces, which suggest the method affixing the shoe once in place.

The solution

To figure out the solution, figure out what you would have to teach someone who has never used the object before:

1. Put on socks.
The very first step involves something other than the shoe itself. What if you didn’t know this? How would you figure that out? How does one put on socks? What are they for? And: how would you figure out which kinds of shoes require socks, and which kinds don’t? Many of these answers are cultural, things we soak up from childhood. That isn’t the case with Web or mobile apps – those have to be obvious. In this case, not knowing that one should use socks with certain shoes, or for certain activities, could cause the user a lot of discomfort or even injury.

2. Insert foot (with sock attached).
Okay, simple enough so far – but what about these possible questions: What direction does the shoe go on the foot? What if the shoes are the wrong size? Are you at the shoe store so that you can ask for a different size? Or is it that you need a shoe horn (another external item)? And: Is there any question which shoe goes on which foot? What if you’ve never used shoes before? What other questions could crop up?

3. Use the provided strings to tighten the shoe and then tie a knot to hold the shoes to your feet.
Okay, but: Are the shoes already laced? If not, how do you accomplish that little miracle? If so, then: What kind of knot? What is a knot, anyway? What if you’ve never tied a bow knot before, and don’t know how? Is a diagram going to be required? This is getting complex…
OR, for some shoes:
Use the Velcro to strap down the top.
Okay, this is simpler, but still forces some possible questions if you’ve never seen Velcro before.

4. Repeat with the remaining foot and shoe.

This is just a quick list – there are surely other assumptions we’ve made about this interface without realizing it. With whatever objects you choose, think about what isn’t obvious if you’re a brand new, first time user – and cannot rely on background cultural information to help you out. You’ll be presenting the process for your interfaces next week, so organize your thoughts in a Word document to submit as homework and to use for presentation notes, similar to the one above for the shoes example.

Goal – affordances (self-evident, self explanatory or not-obvious) – steps.

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