This is a guide for students attempting Human Computer Interaction in digital technologies achievement standard 2.44 (AS91371).

In order to fully cover the standard, you will also need to have done projects covering the topics of Representing Data and Encoding, and included these in your report.

Human Computer Interaction has the following bullet points in achievement standard 2.44, which this guide covers.

Achieved: "providing examples from human-computer interfaces that illustrate usability heuristics"

Merit: "evaluating a given human-computer interface in terms of usability heuristics"

Excellence: "suggesting improvements to a given human-computer interface based on an evaluation in terms of usability heuristics"

As with all externally assessed reports, you should base your explanations around personalised examples, so that the marker can be confident that your report is your own work.

Start by reading these introduction sections. They will give you a general overview of what Human Computer Interaction is all about. If you read them last year for 1.44 and remember the material well, you can just quickly skim over them.

What’s the Big Picture?

Users and Tasks

Interface Usability

Then read the section on usability heuristics. You will need to understand this material well.

Usability Heuristics

Achieved

Everybody has experienced times where a computer system does not do what they expect and/ or they cannot get it to do what they want. A natural reaction to this for many people is to blame themselves. However, in almost every case, the real problem is with the design of the interface. In the field guide or in class, you will have learnt a lot about Nielson's Heuristics. If you think back on some of the times where you've had difficulty with a computer system, you'll probably be able to identify which of Nielson's Heuristics were violated.

To start this section of your report, you should write a brief (around half a page) introduction to Nielson's heuristics, using a couple of examples (preferably two good ones, but no more than three) you have come across in your day to day life to illustrate your introduction.

Your introduction should do the following:

  • Summarise the purpose of Nielson's heuristics. i.e. why do computer scientists find the heuristics useful to know?
  • Include two or three examples of heuristics violations you've come across in your every day life. For each of these examples you should
    • Explain what and when it happened (one or two sentences should be enough).
    • State which heuristic(s) was/were violated (give the full name of the heuristic - just it's number is not enough). Remember that there is not necessarily one right answer. Different people will come to different conclusions.
    • Explain why you think it was that/those particular heuristic(s) violated (one sentence should be enough). There isn't any one right answer, just write what you think.

You should not:

  • List all the heuristics (it's not necessary and wastes space/ bulks out the report unnecessarily)
  • List examples you were given in class or read about on the Internet (the marker is only interested in the heuristic violations you identify and classify).

Merit/ Excellence

Next, you are going to carry out a usability evaluation using heuristics. If you did 1.44, this might seem a lot like what you did then. However, you should keep in mind the following points:

  • You must use heuristics. While in 1.44 the heuristics were optional, in 2.44 they are a requirement.
  • You only need to evaluate one interface.
  • Excellence is not comparing multiple interfaces, but instead using your own intuition to suggest improvements which would address the usability problems you identify.

Start by choosing a suitable interface. A suitable interface would be one that you have not used before. Write a list of common tasks with that device, for example sending a text or adding a new contact on a cellphone, or drawing a picture and adding text in a drawing program. You might not need to use all the tasks you come up with - it will depend on how many usability issues you are finding.

Go through the tasks on your list. Go slowly, and whenever you run into an issue, write down what it was.

Once you have three or four issues written down and know which heuristic was violated (make sure there are at least two different heuristics across all the issues you identify), you can stop.

Put a heading that says something like "Usability evaluation" to make it really clear to the marker that you are now doing your usability evaluation. Start the section by writing a paragraph stating what device you choose and which tasks you carried out. Also briefly explain how you carried out your evaluation.

Then, for two or three of the issues you identified, write a paragraph that includes the following:

  • Explain what and when it happened (one or two sentences should be enough).
  • State which heuristic(s) was/were violated (give the full name of the heuristic - just it's number is not enough). Remember that there is not necessarily one right answer. Different people will come to different conclusions.
  • Explain why you think it was that/those particular heuristic(s) violated (one sentence should be enough). There isn't any one right answer, just write what you think.
  • Suggest how the interface designer could address the issue you identified. Be sure to justify your answer.

The length of the paragraphs will depend largely on how concisely you can write. For this reason, keep in mind that more is not necessarily better.

You might like to include images of usability issues (e.g. strange layouts of buttons, strange icons, etc), but be sure these don't take up more than 1 page in total, are clear, and contribute directly to your explanations. Images are not required, so don't include them if you don't need them.

Finish up with a conclusion of two or three sentences. Was the interface a good design overall? Why did you reach this conclusion? While the conclusion is supposed to be your opinion, keep your focus on the usability of the interface. Stay away from external factors, such as your view towards the company as a whole. For example, saying "It sucks because it is Internet Explorer" is not what the marker is looking for. Instead, say "Internet Explorer was difficult to use because ".

  • Write as concisely as you can. The quality of your examples and whether or not you justified your conclusions about which heuristic was violated are more important than the amount of text. It is possible to cover all the requirements to the excellence level with less than one page, and it has been done before.
  • Do not include a list of the heuristics. It is not necessary.
  • Do not write about the cliché examples you have found on the Internet. Remember that the point of the standard is that you can identify the heuristic that was violated, given an identified usability issue.
  • Only use images if they are helpful. Ensure they are legible.