Posts Tagged ‘HCI’

user-experience-diagramMost of us who work on digital products are familiar with the concept of A/B or multivariate testing – the process of exposing users to multiple variations of a design concept and using their aggregate behaviour to identify the optimal design, based on a predefined set of metrics. By gathering data across thousands of individual user sessions, multivariate testing can provide a rigorous evidence base for principled decision making. In principle, such data-centric, quantitative research techniques can be highly complementary to the more qualitative, user-centric research techniques typically associated with the UX profession.



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uxlabs-192-79-transI am currently recruiting for the following position. We’d like to start asap, so if you know of anyone suitable, please do point in the direction of tgr AT uxlabs.co.uk. Thanks!

Researcher / analyst

UXLabs is seeking a researcher / analyst for a 4-6 month government-funded project investigating the commercial feasibility of a new approach to search query formulation. The project will involve a programme of qualitative research involving end users and stakeholders from a variety of target sectors. It will also include a competitive analysis of alternative approaches to complex query formulation. The results will be used to identify key user tasks and goals, quantify market opportunities, and drive product development.


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ISO 9241-210: Human-centred design for interactive systems

Since founding UXLabs I’ve been involved in all sorts of design projects: both large and small, from simple to complex, start-up to corporate. In that time I’ve noticed some practices that seem to work well, and an even greater number that don’t. In this post I summarise a few as slightly tongue-in-cheek ‘myths’ of the UX design process. I should point out that the specifics here refer to UX projects that involved some element of search or information discovery, but the principles themselves apply much more broadly.


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tabletappsI’m about to start a research project with some academic colleagues from the HCI community in the area of touch-based applications. What we want to create isn’t a game as such, but it contains game-like elements in that it needs to support:

  • the creation and deletion of ’tiles’ that can be dragged and dropped over a canvas
  • grouping, stacking and labelling of tiles
  • the ability to pan, zoom and manipulate the canvas

We are not aiming to create a product here – that will come much, much later (if at all). Instead, what we want to do is find/create a platform that allows a distributed team of researchers (who are technical but *not* developers by training) to rapidly experiment with interaction design ideas with the minimum fuss, ceremony & learning curve. So our immediate questions are:

  • Can we achieve this as a browser-based web app? (in a previous life I’ve developed Java applets, but that was many years ago & have no idea whether that is still a good solution)
  • Is it better to develop a native app? If so, which platform best fits the criteria above (iOS? Android? Surface?)
  • Is there any other possibility we’ve missed?

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In an earlier post we reviewed models of information seeking, from an early focus on documents and queries through to a more nuanced understanding of search as an information journey driven by dynamic information needs. While each model emphasizes different aspects of the search process, what they share is the principle that search begins with an information need which is articulated in some form of query. What follows below is the first in a mini-series of articles exploring the process of query formulation, starting with the most ubiquitous of design elements: the search box.

1. The search box

One of the fundamental concepts in HCI is notion of affordance: the idea that objects should behave in the manner that their appearance suggests. A push plate on a door affords pushing; a handle afford pulling. How many times have you walked up to a door and found it behaved contrary to your expectations? Invariably this is caused by a mismatch between form and function.

Likewise, the design of the search box should follow its function. If its purpose is to allow the user to enter queries in the form of keywords, then it should look like it will accept textual input, and have an associated button which clearly indicates its function. It should also be wide enough to comfortably accommodate the majority of queries:

A match between form and function at eBags.com

The examples below, by contrast, are perhaps somewhat less effective:


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If you’re interested in search and user experience and would like to know more about the science underpinning these disciplines, here’s an ideal opportunity: the 1st European Workshop on Human-Computer Interaction and Information Retrieval. This event is the outcome of a proposal put together with co-organisers Max Wilson, Birger Larsen and James Kalbach, and I am pleased to announce that it has been accepted for inclusion in the workshop programme at HCI 2011 in Newcastle, UK on July 4th. In common with the sister event in the US, we’ll be soliciting submissions that focus on research and practice at the intersection HCI and IR, such as:

  • Novel interaction techniques for information retrieval
  • Exploratory search and information discovery
  • Information visualization and visual analytics

We’ll be focusing in particular on building the HCIR community in Europe, and as part of that extending an explicit invitation to the European Search/UX practitioner community to share with us their lessons learned through case studies and practical papers.

The full Call for Papers is appended below. For further details, see the EuroHCIR website.

Related Posts:

  1. ECIR Industry Day: Lineup Announced
  2. Reflections on Faceted Search and Beyond
  3. Tutorial on Designing the Search Experience
  4. From Search to Discovery
  5. Enterprise Search Meetup: Searching for Leisure, Travelmatch and Real-time search

1st European Workshop on Human-Computer Interaction and Information Retrieval

4th July at the BCS HCI2011 Conference, Newcastle, UK

Key Points:

  • We want to stimulate the European HCIR community with a series of workshops similar to successful HCIR events in the states.
  • Submission Deadline: 1st May 2011
  • Details are online: http://fitlab.eu/euroHCIR2011/

Call for Papers:

In common with the wider HCIR community, this workshop will be focused on submissions based on, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • Novel interaction techniques for information retrieval
  • Modelling and evaluation of interactive information retrieval
  • Exploratory search and information discovery
  • Information visualization and visual analytics
  • Applications of HCI techniques to information retrieval needs in specific domains
  • Ethnography and user studies relevant to information retrieval and access
  • Scale and efficiency considerations for interactive information retrieval systems
  • Relevance feedback and active learning approaches for information retrieval

Industry: The enterprise and web search experiences from professionals, such as UX designers etc, are a key part of understanding excellence in HCIR design. We are inviting case studies and position papers that go beyond a simple narrative to describe lessons learned for the community.
**Industry submissions will be evaluated more in terms of their contributions to lessons learned than through pure academic merit.**

Academia: From the research community, we are interested in late breaking results, or challenging, controversial, or insightful position papers that might shape the way the HCIR community thinks ahead.
** Academic contributions will be evaluated in terms of their contribution to the thinking and discussion for the workshop and the community.**


Participants must submit anonymised 2-4 page ACM format PDFs to the EasyChair page, optionally indicating whether the submission is from industry or academia. More details will appear on http://fitlab.eu/euroHCIR2011/submission.php

Important Dates:

  • 1st May 2011 – Submissions Due
  • 20th May 2011 – Notifications
  • 2nd Jun 2011 – Camera Ready versions
  • 4th July 2011 – Workshop


Registration details will appear on the HCI2011.co.uk website.


Tony Russell-Rose (Industry)
Endeca, UK
trose – at – endeca.com

Max L. Wilson (Academia)
Swansea University, UK
m.l.wilson – at – swansea.ac.uk

James Kalbach (Industry)
LexisNexis, Germany
James.Kalbach – at – lexisnexis.co.uk

Birger Larsen (Academia)
Royal School of Library and Information Science, Denmark
blar – at – iva.dk

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A few folks have pointed out that my recent post on “Changing terms for changing times Usability, HCI, UCD & more” (which examined how the usage of these terms has changed across several decades of publications in Google Books) omitted a consideration of the “demand side” and the frequency of these terms in the Google index. With that in mind, I just updated the original article. If you just want to see the additional material alone, then read on.

Now let’s try a different analysis. If Google Books represents the “supply” side, i.e. content creation, what is the corresponding picture from the “demand” side, i.e. the content consumption? For this we can use Google Trends, which allows us to see how often certain topics have been searched for on Google over time (and also how frequently these topics have appeared in Google News stories). Applying the same query to Google Trends produces the following result, with the y-axis showing the average worldwide traffic for all five terms normalised by the dominant term (usability), and the x-axis showing the time period for which data is available. Note that Google Trends flattens its queries to lower case, thus eliminating one of the noise sources mentioned above. But it clearly cannot differentiate between the different senses for each of the acronyms, and for that reason in this analysis I chose to express the queries in their full British English form:

Clearly, usability remains the dominant term throughout, followed by information architecture and human computer interaction. I don’t think we can conclude much more than that without being able to magnify the scale and properly address the noise issues outlined above.

However, there are two other interesting patterns in these results. First, notice that all queries appear to be declining monotonically throughout the time period. Why is this? I think the answer may lie in the interpretation of the y axis: note that this value is actually the proportion of queries, not their absolute value. So this may reflect a gradual sophistication of user search behaviour on the web, in that queries are becoming ever more diverse as new terms are introduced and average query length increases. This is no doubt facilitated by novel UI features such as Google Instant, which faciliate the expression of longer queries. In other words, although usage of each of the queries above may be growing in absolute terms, they are nonetheless decreasing as proportion of overall web traffic. Unless Google Trends discloses absolute values for search terms, we can never know for sure.

But the more interesting pattern is the spikes in the distribution of the term usability that seem to appear midway through the final quarter of each year. What is causing these? My own hypothesis was that this could be related to World Usability Day, which since 2005 has occurred annually on the second Thursday in November. Indeed, a closer examination of the trends for each individual year does indicate a strong correlation, which appears to be borne out by the topics covered in the news stories associated with each spike. If so, it is reassuring to know that initiatives such as this do indeed appear to be having a global effect(!)

As a final datum, we should of course consider how frequently the various terms appear in the Google index itself (i.e. across the Internet). Would the patterns from Google Books be reflected across the web in general? Querying Google with each term in turn returns the following results (in descending order):

  • “usability”                                   About 21,100,000 results
  • “human computer interaction”      About 2,180,000 results
  • “information architecture”             About 1,850,000 results
  • “user centred design”                      About 131,000 results
  • “human centred design”                    About 61,800 results

So what can we conclude from the above? My own feeling is that it was a worthwhile exercise considering these additional terms, for the sake of completeness if nothing else. And the observations about sophistication of user search behaviour and the spikes due to promotional events such as World Usability Day are also interesting.

For further conclusions and the complete analysis, see the original article.

Related Posts:

  1. Changing terms for changing times Usability, HCI, UCD & more
  2. Ergonomics, Human Factors, User Experience: changing terms for changing times
  3. Tutorial on Designing the Search Experience
  4. The Dimensions of Search User Experience
  5. User Interface Design Patterns for Search & Information Discovery

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