Kate Ehrlich, Austin Henderson
To us it seems clear that since the 1980s HCI has matured as a field, as evidenced by the quality and depth of the published research, the breadth of acceptance by vendor and customer organizations of HCI as a practice discipline, and the creativity and innovation of its visual designs. Where we are going seems less clear, but at least it will include much more mobility, more intimate devices, much richer functionality, and a worldwide reach, supported by a growing HCI discipline.
That’s our view. But what do you think? We posed this question to the HCI community at large (see figure 1, next page) by sending e-mail through various widely distributed mailing lists and to some individuals. We received almost 40 responses of varying length, all of them thoughtful and thought-provoking. It has been great fun reading them. We want to share a small portion of them with you in this column.
The responses seemed to us to naturally fall into four areas of lasting and widespread concern to HCI, namely issues and questions addressing the following areas:
- Foundations: the philosophy behind HCI
- Interactions: the users and their experiences
- Domains: the subject matter and application areas
- Design: the practices of HCI research, design, and engineering
We organized the responses by each of these areas, starting with a longer quote that seemed to us to summarize many of the concerns related to the topic or that identified key themes. The remaining quotes in the section we have grouped, somewhat loosely, around emergent subthemes.
And of course we must make the obvious apology: We would like to have included at least one quote from every response. Unfortunately, length limitations have forced us into a much more brutal excision. So if we didn’t include your quote or if we didn’t select your favorite portion, we apologize.
To make up for this, we are putting the full set of responses, organized alphabetically by author, as a link from the Web version of this magazine. You can find interactions on-line at www.acm.org/interactions.
Our understanding of, and goals for, humancomputer interaction have undergone considerable change over the past 20 years, and judging from our respondents we are by no means through. What is the nature of the coupling of people and machines? How do we think about and interact with independent agents? What is the system with which we interact? Aren’t we part of it? Who are its designers? Can users interact not only with technology but also with the commitments of that technology and change them in use? Can those commitments reflect multiple perspectives of multiple users? Will systems be designed, or will they emerge out of use? As in the past, we can expect foundational issues to engender much heat on the route to light.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I first encountered the project of designing interactive computer systems, the assumption seemed to be that computational artifacts were interactive in roughly the same way that we are, albeit with some more and less obvious limitations. However ambitious, the problem on this assumption was a fairly straightforward task of overcoming the limitations of machines by encoding more and more of the cognitive abilities attributed to humans into them. A careful look at what happened when people actually went to use the expert system developed by my colleagues at the time, however, made evident some deep and consequential asymmetries between human and machine. My concern was, and is, that while the language of interactivity and the dynamics of computational artifacts obscure these asymmetries, users inevitably rediscover them in practice. This has led me to question the aptness of the metaphor of interactive technologies, and to wonder what other metaphors we might usefully employ.
In the 1990s the growth of the Internet has brought with it a renewed interest in the idea of computational artifacts attributed with a capacity for intelligent, interactive behavior. Somewhat paradoxically, I’ve come to believe that it is at least in part the persistence of the long-standing humanmachine divide that makes machine agency so compelling. Without it we seem to be worried that machines will remain "lifeless," and by implication, less. But recent developments in social studies of technology suggest that our relations with our artifacts are at once more intimate"we" wouldn’t be who we are without them, at the same time that "they" are thoroughly dependent on us for their sense and usefulnessand also more differentiated, than that simple dualism would imply.
So, what might a design practice based in the premise that humans and machines are both more interdependent, but also variously different look like? The direction that I’d like to propose, or endorse insofar as many in the design community are already headed this way, is twofold. First, that the problem of mutual intelligibility between humans and machines recommends a research agenda aimed less at creating interactive machines than at writing dynamic artifacts intended to be legible, or intelligible to their users.
Second, the dynamics of computational artifacts extend beyond the interface narrowly defined, to relations of people with each other and to the place of computing in their ongoing activities. System design, it follows, must include not only the design of innovative technologies, but their integration into the rest of the social and material world. The value of artifacts on this view lies less in their intrinsic features than in their contribution to particular socialmaterial landscapes.
One of our current problems is that the idea of separation between a human and a system sits tight. Although officially the conception of two symmetrical information processors is mostly dropped and forgotten, we tend anyway to think system and interface as something detached from us, something separate, something we sit beside and act upon. To cope with handheld [device]s we will need approaches that can transcend that boundary, theories and concepts that can deal with "extended humans"when facilities we use become part of us, in a very literal sense. Since the invention of the stone axe, we have all been cyborgs. Handhelds will transform us slightly different cyborgs, and we must understand what is then happening….
The interactions between humans and computers have improved over the past 20 years from a wide range of exploratory techniques for commanding action from a machine to what is essentially a single style for doing the same thing. However we are still commanding machines, and the commands are well defined, and the activity they produce is rigidly defined at application design time. Humancomputer interaction is about delivering fixed computational functionality to the users. However, this is only a beginning. First, interaction between users and computers needs to be extended to support systematic means for talking about that activity (beyond commanding). Second, using the ability to talk about activity, we need machines that can interact with users to change things: to evolve not only activity, butmore profoundlythe conceptual viewpoint that defines it. And third, using the ability to evolve computational ontologies, we need machines that can support the interaction between people with different conceptual viewpoints in the central work of thought: negotiating meanings. In short, we need machines (plural!) that can interact with the users (plural!) about what the machines are doing so that together they can evolve their viewpoints (plural!) and the applications to match, to develop new meanings (plural!) from the interplay of perspectives. Humancomputer interaction, rather than merely delivering the fixed functionality of the machines, must be incorporated throughout our computation, enabling the evolution of that functionality itself.
Marco Padula and Amanda Reggiori
We must stress the reuse of the technologies to definitely enter the recycle society. We must convert, not throw away…. The high level of data dissemination today reached with the information technology, and its easy access emphasize that the use of a same data set in different activities or steps of a same activity performed by many different autonomous people makes reuse of information. We must refine and facilitate the creation of hybrid systems: ...a modular approach based on the availability of many simple bricks to be assembled and fitted to the actual requests….Hybrid systems draw the way for an evolution of information technology which joins statics with dynamics: the "immaterial archives of human memory," repositories of the virtual reality, are shared, activated by the communication processes, and cyclically proposed, upgraded with human creativity, each time bringing innovation; the rough materialthe data and the metadatarequires to be processed by suited applications.
We’re discovering that the desktop metaphor does not necessarily [make the] transition well to the types of interactions important in mobility. In particular, attention is a scarce commodity when the user’s primary task centers on the physical world, such as when repairing a car or participating in a conversation. In the future, designing interfaces so that mobile computers provide unobtrusive and intuitive information support will require a combination of a constant awareness of the user’s physical and mental context and an approach that maximizes effectiveness versus user attention. In addition, we will need to view the combination of human and wearable computer as more a symbiosis, where HCI principles apply to the everyday physical attributes of these devices (form factor, heat dissipation, power usage, etc.) as well as to their software aspects. The results will empower users with unprecedented access to computational and collegial support at any time, in any place, and in the midst of any situation.
Experience is situated, local, and embodied even when it connects us with people and places far away and only imagined…. In my opinion one of the biggest transformations, and one that we would be well advised to reaffirm from time to time, is a shift in focus from looking at the behaviors of isolated individuals to looking at the relations and interactions among people and artifacts. This shift has required us to reconceptualize social and material divides, recognizing that people and machines are mutually constituted. It is in and through our interactions with each other and with our creations that meanings are made. The next 20 years will require that as researchers in the field of HCI we develop innovative strategies for making visible and palpable experiences increasingly mediated through digital technologies. In that way we’ll be able to stay connected to the here and now of everyday experience.
The central focus of HCI is interacting with technology, and our respondents gave different accounts of the changes in interaction past, present, and future. Concerns included the devices we use to interact with technology, technology and its functionality, accessibility, styles of interaction, and culture. On the whole, the views are positive, but not without concerns.
Dick Berry <email@example.com>
The marketplace has evolved from a band of technologists using primitive command line interfaces to enthusiasts coping with a graphical look-and-feel veneer on top of enigmatic system design models having a "one-size-fits-all" mentality. We have recognized that in order for computers to become fully accepted as consumer devices we have to turn the knee of the curve on ease of use and perceived simplicity by practicing ease of use engineering.
Industry and media attention have created high expectations amongst users who often have unfulfilling experiences. We are recognizing the need for more personal solutions as the drivers of evolution become more economic and experience based. Interface technologies that have been "emerging" for nearly a decade are still not ready for prime time. New technologies such as voice recognition can help. but only to the degree that we use them sparingly and in harmony with one another, avoiding the tendency to overuse a technology by seeking panacea solutions. The Web has captured everyone’s attention. We are at or near the knee of the curve for consumer acceptance. We are approaching pervasive access. Perceived simplicity and interoperability will be crucial. Consumers are about to be deluged with new devicesthe overall value must be greater than the sum of the parts. Pervasive computing must not become the TV remote control syndrome of the new millennium.
Interfaces will become more personal and task specific. Today’s notion of desktops and operating systems will become essentially irrelevant to most users. Anytime/anywhere accessibility will be taken for grantedanywhere in the worldusing a variety of devices (personal, shared, and public) to access private and globally public information. Design of the human interface will come to the forefront as the consumer factor takes hold. The challenge will be in orchestrating an overabundance of devices into a unified, cooperative experience for the user.
During the past two decades, we all have been sitting, standing, running, jumping, walking, and talking through almost all of the HCI evolution. What a kick in the pants we got when GUIs arrived and put text displays out to pasture, as well as making the less-sighted almost incompetent. Luckily, much has happened. We learned that direct manipulation isn’t always so good, there are more senses than sight, other means of input than keyboards or mice, what the back of a dialog box might look like, and that paying attention to users is both difficult yet rewarding.
As we are entering the new millennium, it is fitting to recall Mark Weiser’s decade-old paper on "The Computer for the 21st Century" [M. Weiser, The Computer for the 21st Century, Scientific American 265, 30 (1991), pp. 94104]. Although Mark did not live to see his ideas come to fruition, his vision of "ubiquitous computing" is becoming a practical reality. We can now design interactions with a wide variety of devices that break away from the desktop/laptop keyboard/pointer conventions of the last few decades. The hardware provides a range of scales and physical embodiments that are opening up new arenas of use. In the coming 20 years, this shift in hardware will support the development of new interaction designs and systems that move away from the machine-centered architecture of today’s world (even the Internet world), toward a human-centered computing space in which people and their work are uppermost, natural human interaction modes are primary, and individual machines, applications, and computer representations become "invisible" as Mark foresaw.
One day people will watch old movies from the present and laugh at people typing into their desktop and laptop computers.
Graphical user interfaces and the input tools that go with them (e.g., the mouse), [object-oriented] methods for programmers (I think that HCI can take some credit there), various visualization techniques, [virtual reality]these all bring the user experience and the way people think and perceive into computing.
What’s interesting is that the Web took us back to earlier days of design, but yet at the same time offered an enormous benefit of ease of access. We saw for the first time how the ease of access can override many other interface advantages. Now, the Web is becoming more and more like the desktop.
The future is the information appliance. The convergence of communication-based and compute-intensive-based ideas. Wireless will rule and finally be ubiquitous. Smaller screens that are carried everywhere (forcing us to go back 10 years yet again). But wireless’s ease of use will win again. Designers will be in increasing demand to make sense of all of the different applications in different scenarios.
The most pressing challenge facing HCI would naturally be to get our current systems to serve us below the pain threshold… but the one that will get most publicity in the near future will be the design of new mobile communications terminals and services, services that are typically place-and-situation-dependent and may use interaction between devices in the environment and the hand-held. Services must be activated, navigated and so on.
The challenge is twofold: for the systems to be economically viable there must be a critical mass of users, but most potential users currently would see a PCInternet-based one a too complicated way to access any services. Thus for survival the interface of new devices and services must be considerable better than what we currently have available in the PC world. On the other hand, the improvement must be done with devices considerably smaller and cheaper than PCs. The whole chain from the small interface to use situations to services themselves must be analysed and designed. The demand for that will be huge, and nobody knows yet how it is to be done. Some challenge indeedit will take the design of interfaces into a new millennium, both literally and figuratively.
We need to design products and interfaces that transcend time and place. The central office no longer defines where work gets done. People work from home, on the road, from other locations. This necessitates the need for devices which are themselves ubiquitouslightweight, portable, consistent in both interface and data, and combine many functions. We see this happening with the convergence of data and communications in a single device, with notions of ubiquitous computing and with the emergence of information appliances.
Multimedia technologyvisualization, virtuality, voicegrabs people’s imaginations and progresses toward acceptance. It is also a time when we see the notion of interfaces, devices and hardware break free of previous restrictions. Consumers are faced with voice "interfaces" almost every time they dial a business; cell phones, pagers and the like are as commonplace as computers; and Palm Pilots are the preferred method of access to calendars, mail, and even the Internet for the more digitally conscious.
Nearly two decades ago common themes at the CHI conference included how to design an effective text editor, structuring menus, and whether windows should scroll or the content behind the window should scroll. WIMP approaches to design illustrated by the Xerox STAR were new to most people, and while the approaches were exciting they did not significantly impact the design work in most businesses.
The analogy that seems most appropriate is that a century ago there was a stage during which existing factories and institutions were equipped with steam. The real impact was not felt, however, until factories and institutions were designed under the assumption of steam power (and subsequently, electricity). We have been through the period of retrofitting institutions with networked information, enhanced communication, and processing power. We are in the period in which businesses are being designed with the assumption of increasingly ubiquitous networked computing and access to the wealth of information produced.
In the future, processing will find its way into everything, and new forms of appliances will emerge. The trends driving future applications are clearly smaller, faster, cheaper, and ubiquitous; and I would hope simpler and helpful.
Opportunities for supporting long-distance collaborations and relationships, and the ability to have new types of communities, are exciting present challenges. The spread of computing out of boxes on the desk and into everyday objects like clothing, business cards, toys, kitchen appliances, etc., is an exciting new area.
Mobility and accessibility are the challenge. But they are extremely complementarymobility makes us all impaired in ways at different times. We need to think even furtherhow stressed is the user, how tired is the user, at any given time, the information and presentation of the information needs to better match the user’s capabilities without the user having to spell them all out.
We don’t have too much information currentlywhat we lack are adequate ways of presenting information to the user. Computer systems need to know more about what users are doing and help filter information and adapt presentation.
Right now we have very separate environmentsthe paper and the paperless. Getting from the physical into the virtual is difficultwe need to merge these. Embedded systems are going to increase dramaticallysensors will be everywhere. What sort of design and interaction lets me monitor/control millions of these devices? It’s time to step away from the box in front of us and think about how we manage information in the physical world. What can we learn from this for the digital world?
User Style and Culture
Today, one of the biggest challenges is to figure out what to save out of all the knowledge we’ve gained as the Web brings new people, new attitudes, new disciplines into play, and deconstructs much that we worked so hard to understand in the past twenty years. Suddenly anyone and everyone can Do It, and all are. The Rules and the Ruler have been thrown out the Windows. One of the biggest challenges is to evolve and distribute useful conventions in a chaotic system. One of the biggest discoveries: Hey, there are other people in here; and, like, wow, they think, speak, behave differently. What metaphors, mental models, navigation, interaction, and appearance will enable us to communicate well with them in teams trying to augment humankind around the globe?
In the future, effective means of knowledge sharing across cultures seem to be the Big Issue. Do we sell it, or give it away? Define It. What knowledge do we have? How do we present it to ourselves? How do we know what we have? How do we represent it to others so they can use/value/appreciate it? We have many gaps across which to communicate: age, nation, religion, profession, gender, family, social group. How can we stuff all of the best into a tiny display on our pinky finger, into our augmented-reality i-glasses, and into our intelligent, user-friendly vests?
The user population has changed dramatically from the early days of HCI. Not only are a large part of the population knowledgeable in the lore and language of technology but technology in its various guises is an accepted, embedded part of working and personal life. The generation of people 20 and under who grew up with computers take them for granted. For these users, the need to make interfaces easy to use will be replaced by the need for interfaces that are sufficiently compelling to capture their limited attention.
If we are to believe popular media, the future of HCI and human factors in general is, indeed, bleak. It seems that everyone involved in human-centred design will, in the future, be destroyed by some catastropheperhaps an explosion or a warm whipped-cream dessert at CHI shall do us all in at once. How else can one explain Star Trek, where fast, manoeuvrable shuttlecraft are steered by typing in numbers at keypads with no tactile feedback? Or computer control systems in many films that respond to bad input by exploding in sparks and flame, causing third-degree burns to the user? Or all those sheer cliffs in the vast fortresses of the future, which are built without benefit of handrails or even warning signs? Or that fact that every large military installation is built in such a way that a tiny blast at a critical junction will cause the entire thing to explode, killing all inside?
A challenge for humancomputer interaction researchers and user interface designers is to construct information technologies that support creativity. This ambitious goal can be attained by building on an adequate understanding of creative processes. There are at least eight activities that need humancomputer interaction research: searching, visualizing, consulting, free associating, exploring solutions, composing, reviewing, and disseminating. Appropriate user interface support could help make more people more creative more of the time.
Our accomplishments have been to contribute to the shift from a pre-computer form of interaction, command interfaces, to graphical interfaces, a novel way of conceptualizing most work.
The key mission today is to design for smaller devices and for younger users, a difficult challenge for a field that has grown up with PCs used by adults. The era of designing for the inexperienced has many years to run, but in twenty years it will be over. Experience is specialized and personal, so design will be much more specialized.
How do people learn to use a new computer system, or a new feature of a familiar one? Often they ask a colleague to help show them what to do. The colleague may lean over their shoulder for a few minutes and share ideas. This colleague may be an expert in the system, or just someone who knows a little more than the person asking. They can help in the extremely complex task of translating from what the user would like to do in terms of their work context (and the language they use to describe those actions), to what is possible in terms of the system’s functionality (and the language used in the interfaceand its help optionsto describe those actions). What would systems be like if they actively tried to support Over-The-Shoulder Learning? How can we design interfaces and helper functionalities to support these brief, opportunistic help-giving episodes?
For those whose job it is to guarantee a consistent, branded, and easy-to-use online customer experience, there will be great challenges to balance business requirements with the needs of customers in a constantly changing technical environment. As the line between the browser and the desktop blurs, issues such as privacy, disclosure, and security will be of paramount importance as the Web becomes increasingly more commerce oriented.
Altogether, the future of humanity concerns all human beings regardless of race, ideology, and tradition. It is ironic that in an era of globalization and efficient communication technology, substantial communication between people and cultures is seriously lacking.
Humancomputer interaction often takes place in the context of particular work environments. How should we think about incorporating the elements of these environments in our designs? What are some of the important trends and changes taking place in particular industries that will influence our designs? What better place to start envisioning the future for these domains than by asking some future users: kids. What was important for them were the work environments, the tools for communication and beauty. These themes were echoed in the comments of many of our older respondents as well.
When I think of the future, I think of kids. I think of how their hopes and dreams are reflected in the technologies of the future. When I asked some colleagues of mine, who also happened to be kids, what they thought the future would bring, they offered this.
"I think computers in the future should make us laugh. Right now people seem so sad when they go to work. And I know my mom has to use computers all the time. I think she needs a computer to help her laugh." ("Brian," age 8).
"I know computers will be with me all the time. Soon, they’ll be so small and easy to share with my friends. I think I’ll have more friends ‘cause of computers." ("Sarah," age 7).
"Computers in the future will help all kids learn. Right now only some kids can use the web and email and stuff. I bet sometime they’ll just make a law that says computers are so good that everyone has to have them. That’s what I would do." ("Erica," age 9).
Domains such as nuclear industry, civil and mechanical engineering, and aerospace, have their own specific HCI problems that they need to solve, often urgently. Domains need more attention from the HCI community worldwide. I strongly believe that during the next decade, HCI will become an integrated discipline within domains. A good example is HCI-Aero 2000 that covers domain-specific topics such as pilot-controller communication, free-flight, and team resource management on flight decks. It also covers general HCI issues such as situation awareness, human reliability, usability, cognitive task analysis, experience feedback, and organizational issues.
Access to informationinformation that exists in paper records in doctors’ offices or in islands of technology in hospitalshandicaps medical research on a macro level and makes appropriate care difficult on an individual level. We all have rich medical histories that could be employed more effectively when we need them most. If I knew I could say, "This is my history, doctor," and have "all the relevant information"environmental factors, past conditions, family historymade available using technology for filtering, pattern identification, and information visualization to a skilled doctor I would feel more confident (and the physicians I have worked with would feel more confident) in the prospects for my care. We are not waiting for a technology revolution here as much as we are waiting for a social/organizational oneone I feel certain the HCI design will play an important role in.
Bruno Von Niman
Enabling users to be mobile in time and spaceand still be in touch with other people and information at a distanceis creating value. We do not believe that there will be one "universal communication appliance" in the future, but a variety of communication appliances that are operating in harmony and gracefully supporting the user’s various tasks in everyday life.
Ambiguousness has always been an aspect of art. As artists become more facile with the aesthetics of interface design, their "broken" interfaces will be more refined but likely, no less ambiguous. Interactive computer art may influence interface design to be less about efficiency and clarity and more about beauty and richness.
McLuhan said that artists are running ahead of the rest of us backwards. Next time you go to an interactive art show, see what there is to learn about interface design.
4. Design Practice
HCIthough legitimized as an area of study, profession, and practiceis still far from universally accepted in software development. Yet, the need for good HCI has never been more important. In the area of Web design with its associated pressure to create good designs faster, the design of Web pages has cultural and business implications. Our respondents, although not mentioning the Web explicitly, were clearly concerned and focused on the growth of a broader design discipline and on the business context in which HCI design is carried out.
Progress, of course, has brought a rich set of HCI design challenges. The pace of technological progress and the requirement to quickly produce new applications for the market have increased dramatically and will continue to increase. Academic research that can be easily applied to the design problems we face today lags behind the technology for which we are designing. Even the time and resources that used to be available to compensate for the absence of applicable academic research has been tightened. There is less and less time in industry to conduct applied research or usability work. It is difficult in industry even to do work on one product in a way that allows it to be generalizable to the next product, and to get data after a product release to understand the impact of the final changes made to a design and to learn for the next release.
The majority of HCI professionals still aren’t equipped with methodologies to assess the total set of factors influencing users as they are empowered by systems, and in fact dialogue with some disciplines (e.g., anthropology) is just starting and so many of the methodologies we will need do not even exist. This means that for the majority of the users and applications, we do not completely understand all the factors that will be important in their use of the applications and what knowledge there is not widely shared. This will be increasingly important as technology becomes more and more ubiquitous in our society. Because our understanding is limited, we are often in a situation where there are unanticipated repercussions of the applications we offer. There are safety issues that emerge because of the popularity of a cellular phone that was designed to be easy to use and functional, for example; personal and family well-being issues that emerge when a family member is never out of touch with others; and social issues that arise when advertising is aimed at children and attempts are made to compromise their privacy in order to better "target" or "personalize" (two sides of the same coin) for them.
Many of us are adding anthropologists and social psychologists to teams of cognitive and perceptual psychologists and market researchers, in order to better understand the total set of factors influencing user behavior and attitudes. This has meant the field is continuing to evolve as new methodologies are created and added to the portfolio of HCI practitioners. Furthermore, where the goal has traditionally been to remove barriers to using the functionality in applications and to make the interface invisible, the emphasis on a consumer market has driven the need to make applications compelling. This has resulted in exciting collaborations between people with traditional and emerging human factors skills and those whose skills and talents lie in the arts.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishments have been in attracting HCI practitioners and equipping them to contribute effectively to an industry that is positioned to create the infrastructure that could enhance social well being as we enter the next century.
How could Newton have known about black holes? Twenty years is an eternity these days. We will probably have a convergence of biology and computingHCI might be medical science. Maybe we will invent computing molecules or viruses (good ones) that assemble themselves to solve custom problems or help in certain tasksHCI will be organization theory. Probably almost everything will have information processing as part of itHCI will be clothes design, or architecture. Surely we will finally have some degree of intelligence in most computing objects. Maybe HCI will finally just be sociologythe study of how we interact with others in our world.
It seems obvious that to cope with small interfaces, we as HCI researchers must start to open connections to two directions: toward CSCW research for better understanding of contexts and toward industrial design for better understanding of ergonomical and aesthetical product design.
As the millennium approaches, I believe that HCI is about the integration of philosophy, biology, and art through language. From books like Understanding Computers and Cognition (Flores and Winograd), The Tree of Knowledge (Maturana and Varela), and The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion (Wilber), I sense that we are evolving interaction design, customer experience, and branding into an integrated form of identity that transcends and includes all of the individual parts. As we move from a world based primarily in matter to a world based in body and soul, the power of designers who can invent passionately with these distinctions will become increasingly valuable and, I hope, fun.
What can we expect as the take-up of interactive systems in other societies accelerates? For example, India is now a major supplier of commercial software services. There are already substantial development centres building up significant experience in how to design systems. So as the technology gets rapidly dispersed we can expect such societies to generate quite new paradigms for interactive system design and, correspondingly, new application directions. The drive for a international perspective in design has been growing for years. The pace will only quicken. It is time for the traditional CHI communities to embrace and encourage an international perspective, to learn from other societies, and not to impose "Western paradigms."
The greatest leap forward in the past twenty years has been in realising and acknowledging that no one discipline or approach has the moral or intellectual high ground in defining the field of HCI. We have drawn on input from a variety of human based approaches and disciplines such as psychology, sociology, anthropology and various flavours of direct user involvement.
The pace of life in Internet startups, as well as its immediate results (cash)-oriented focus is affecting the pace in all related segments of the computer industry. This is definitely putting greater pressure on the those who practice HCI. We need to counter this, by pointing out that just as glamour, novelty, and spiffy design work can make one’s product and stand out, so can a well-thought-out HCI-oriented design.
Eighteen years ago, people who did HCI got hired as font engineers or graphic artists or technical writers or programmers. Today I receive anywhere from 1 to 5 contacts a week from recruiters looking for HCI professionals to hire. The best part is that most of the recruiters actually have a clue about HCI.
Designing and building interactive systems (with user involvement) makes tangible many technical and commercial issues which can directly impact on business and technical strategies that go well beyond the detail issues of design execution. Design in this sense can facilitate "business design" as much as "device design." The design skills of requirements capture, solution development, and evaluation can at times be the tools to help determine business strategy. This arena is one of the most important to address in the coming decades. Work of this type could impact the way the technologies are developed and applied with much greater effect than restricting our focus on just designing devices. It is for us to take up the challenge.
For the first time, HCI is being factored into the business plan. Many organizations are coming to understand the cost of poor [user interface] design in time to market, lost customers, and increased support calls. Those organizations will experiment with new ways to bring the user and usability into the development process. If an increased emphasis on ease of use gives these companies an edge in the marketplace, other companies will recognize this and follow. It’s our job to make sure that when our company comes asking for ease of use as a competitive advantage, we are able to respond effectively. If we can’t make a difference? a difference that matters to the bottom line? then we will be relegated to the afterthought, the "nice to have, but not essential" position that HCI plays in most organizations today.
Where are we now? Making tons of money, exercising stock options, retiring early. (Everybody but me!)
We have no choice as humane beings but to grasp hold of our surfing boards, ride the waves, enjoy the show, hoping for the best and planning for the worst. May the next generation inherit a world of improved global understanding made possible by superior global communication systems with excellent, thoughtful, sensitive HCI design. Amen.
Design Column Editors
89 South St, 2nd Floor
Boston MA 02111
Rivendel Consulting & Design, Inc.
P.O. Box 334
8115 La Honda Rd. (for courier services)
La Honda, CA 94020 USA
©2000 ACM 1072-5220/00/0100 $5.00
Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee.
The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2000 ACM, Inc.