Human Computer Interaction Assignment 1<br />Outline<br />The following report will look into the real world problem I have identified within store catalogue ordering systems, specifically the catalogue ordering system utilised by the Argos shopping chain within the United Kingdom. <br />Currently customers are asked to follow a strict sequential process as detailed in figure 1. The sequence is as follows, the customer is lead to approach one of the many catalogues situated around the store. Once at the catalogue, they then have to find the relevant section within the catalogue, usually by means of the index. A further search is required to find the listed products, upon locating the desired product, the customers are then asked to note the product code on an order slip provided. The customers are at this point given three choices. They can continue shopping, check the price of their selected product or they can continue on to the checkout. What is not illustrated here is that the user can at any point, decide not to buy and leave the store.<br />Figure 1 Low level customer interaction model<br />I feel it is important to illustrate this process before looking further. Firstly I will review existing technologies for carrying out this process and state why they are designed in their particular manner.<br />Review and analysis and evaluation of existing technologies<br />Catalogues<br />20320617220The problems that I have encountered with this system do not stem from the design; as a whole they are small points within its entirety. But regardless of their size I believe with the adaptation of a new all encompassing system; the Argos chain can overcome these small problems and incorporate the already successful parts of their catalogue into the new system.<br />Figure 2 Donald Norman's 7 stages of interactionThe complex nature of catalogue design can lead to frustration and missed sales. If a customer is unable to complete or facilitate their intentions through obvious actions there will be a breakdown in the interaction stages as described by (Norman, 2002). The complexities that can be presented can fall into either the gulf of execution or gulf of evaluation gaps, these gaps can be defined as the lack of communication between the designer and the user. This lack of communication manifests itself in the user’s inability to form an appropriate sequence of actions, or the user’s inability to evaluate any given change within the environment. The term inability is used here to represent the failures in the design process, if the user cannot easily manipulate any device or information given to them. The designers of the device or information are at fault. Another invaluable set of guidelines that can be used alongside Normans seven stages of interaction to ensure a more user-centric design are Shneiderman’s eight golden rules of dialog design (Shneiderman, 1992). These rules set out principles that are applicable to interactive systems design.<br />
Strive for Consistency.
Enable frequent users to use shortcuts.
Offer informative feedback.
Design dialogs to yield closure.
Offer simple error handling.
Permit easy reversal of actions.
Support internal locus of control.
Reduce short-term memory tool.
With the combination of Norman’s seven stages and Shneiderman’s eight golden rules a designer is empowered to create a more intuitive model that meets the requirements for successful user interaction.<br />Attention<br />The designers of the Argos catalogue deal with the problem of attention in various ways firstly they use colour coding for all sections this is not only represented in the index but also the page edges are coloured in the same way, this has two main advantages <br />
Ease of search – Once identified within the index the user can easily locate the section they require by simply looking for the relevant colour, this may even be on a subconscious level.
By alleviating the user of the burden of search the designer allows the users mind to concentrate wholly on the products within the given section.
Another very useful technique utilised within the catalogue is the use of red borders to signify the ‘Great Value’ items within the catalogue. This eye catching and consistent method allows users to identify quickly and with great ease any item that may be on special offer. <br />Visibility<br />From a very early age people are given books. This previously surmounted learning curve is an advantage for the Argos catalogue designers, with this knowledge they can relatively safely assume that anyone of an age old enough to purchase products from their catalogue will have a very strong conceptual model for the inner workings of books/catalogues. Some examples of this are where the index can be found. The numbering systems used within them. The use of chapters can be easily transposed over to sections of a catalogue as depicted below. The similarities between the two media enable customers to successfully use catalogues.<br />92075158115Mapping<br />Figure 3 Similarities of conceptual modelsThe catalogue designers use this inherited conceptual model frequently, allowing the users mapping of a books pages and hierarchical structure to filter over, this mapping of the movement or workings of pages allows users to move freely between sections of the catalogue, this is closely tied to the conceptual model for the following reason. Without the predefined conceptual model users would be unable to form an appropriate sequence of actions, so we see that conceptual models and the mapping of an interface are important to its success. Designers must utilise already existing mapping models to their advantage this will not only make it easier for users to navigate their designs but lessen the work required to introduce new technologies / applications to users.<br />Feedback<br />The change in state when a page is turned relates a sensory change in world state; this is easily perceived and evaluated as a success for that particular intention i.e. to turn the page. <br />This can be broken down further into Donald Norman’s seven stages of interaction model figure 2 mentioned earlier. The user requires new information from another page (GOAL), The user realises that the pages need to be turned to gather new information (INTENTION TO ACT), the user formulates a (SEQUENCE OF ACTIONS) i.e. ‘use hand to turn page’, the user gets these actions from long term memory of previous encounters with catalogues, which can be stated as pulling in there conceptual model. The user then executes the series of actions and perceives the results as follows.<br />Using sensory information the user will access changes within the environment concentrating mainly on the area they have interacted with the catalogue (PERCEIVING THE STATE OF THE WORLD) this new perception is then looked at and interpreted by the user taking in all the changes (INTERPRETING THE PERCEPTION) these interpretations are then used to evaluate the success of the actions (EVALUATION OF PERCEPTIONS). This can lead to the formulation of new goals or a repeat sequence of the previous goals. At this point there are a multitude of possibilities ranging from repeating the sequence, as previously stated all the way to the complete abandonment of the task, in order to understand what the possible actions the user will take within this scenario are, we have to look in more depth at the environment the user is presented with.<br />Environment<br />-10795819150Figure 4 A typical Argos storeThe factors that are involved with the user’s environment are many as depicted in Figure 4, can come in varying complexities, one of these many complexities comes for the fact that not every Argos store will be of the same shape or size. If we accept the fact that the basic area of catalogue access is however very similar in all stores we can now start to formulate the environmental conditions associated with this task. The users are in a confined cramp space, but will not be accessing the catalogue for prolonged periods so this can be seen as acceptable. The catalogue provided within this space is laminated and fixed down; this does not seem to phase any customers. I have observed the average time from catalogue to the completion of checkout (not collection of goods) being three minutes, twenty two seconds (figures courtesy of Argos UK Ltd). This time incorporates all of the steps mentioned in Figure 1. I intend to incorporate all the mentioned steps into a single system which will be described in the following sections.<br />The Catalogue Touch System<br />Design Concept<br />Figure 5 Catalogue Touch interfaceleft1414780The Catalogue Touch system shown in Figure 5 is in essence a touch screen, product selection interface with the ability to carry out monetary transactions via an onboard payment machine. The idea behind this comes from the need of businesses to streamline their commercial activities. The extreme competitive nature of the retail sector promotes the need for newer faster interfaces that are more customer focussed. These systems need to be able to develop customer relationships to create and maintain repeat business. These factors imply that any business with an edge due to their systems being easier to use and faster will gain a percentage of the market. With the current credit crunch crisis we will see that technologies such as this will become more embedded within top retail stores, as they attempt to streamline their operations. <br />Touch screen interface<br />The combination of touch screen technology and payment machines, I believe will significantly cut down on the previously mentioned three minutes, twenty two seconds time to completion. The main reason I believe for the reduction in time will be the fact that there are no queues, once on a catalogue touch system the clock begins there is no waiting time for checkout staff to become available. Also the amount of checkout staff becomes irrelevant as every catalogue touch system is a 24/7 checkout operator.<br />The catalogue touch system also addresses the problem of complexity, by using varying navigation techniques we can present an easy to use graphical user interface (GUI). The incorporated touch screen technology can include direct manipulation concepts, indeed if we look at the product selection part of the interface I will use a drag and drop function to add the item to the users shopping basket.<br />Learning curve<br />Figure 6 Direct Manipulationleft6074410The learning curve for the catalogue touch system is slight and can be aided by an idle state animation which will depict a person using the system and emphasise the touch screen selection process an example of this can be seen in Figure 6. By using Shneiderman’s first golden rule Strive for Consistency, we can make the action used for navigation, selecting an item and checking out consistent. The only part of the entire process that cannot be consistent would be the insertion of the money, for technological factors we cannot change this process. The monetary exchange would be very similar to slot machines which accept paper as well as coins. This machine will send a signal to the application which will present feedback to the user that their money has been accepted or declined. I could have also included icons to help the learning curve but felt that with the wide variety of products represented within the catalogues individual section icons would have been ambiguous, this would have been counterproductive as the design of the initial navigation takes the colour coded index from the catalogue, icons are not required.<br />Attention<br />Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 7 The catalogue touch GUI-1244601480185The same approaches that were utilised within the catalogue can be manifested in the catalogue touch system. Coloured sections and coloured borders emphasising value deals are all possible within the system, this not only make ease of transfer more plausible but the consistency for the customers will be significant. The interface shown in Figure 7 is a mock up of the actual interface that would be implemented. This design takes into account the seven plus or minus two rule of navigation design, as you can see there are only buttons the customer can select. The reason for their only being five buttons is that their need not be anymore each button takes the customer to a page that contains everything they need to shop, for instance the search page would have relevant sections listed to the right in category order utilising the colour coding employed in the original catalogue also the ability to search all products with a Google like one box interface. On the products pages that would be generated from such a search, two more buttons would be added one for ‘NEXT’ and another for ‘PREVIOUS’ these are to aid the user in navigating the number of results returned from their search. Again the results returned would be split into pages containing nine per page this is on the upper limit of chunks of information people are able to absorb and deal with adequately. <br />Conceptual models<br />The conceptual models that are required to use the catalogue touch system are widely acknowledged within today’s society. The ability to touch a screen and get a response is with the introduction of the iPhone and Windows 7 among other touch screen enabled devices, embedding the conceptual models for touch screen interaction into today’s users. The direct manipulation aspect of the catalogue touch system means that users are not required to read extensive manuals to interact with the system. The manipulation of objects is processed by the system in the background with the users finger position calculated using two panels that sit around the edges of the screen spreading an infrared blanket which when broken gives the position of the break. This break is then interpreted to give a location on the interface which relates to a button or action. The system carries out the required action and the user receives feedback. <br />Feedback<br />There are several aspects of the catalogue touch system that need to be considered when speaking about feedback. Firstly button interaction when a user presses a button the drop shadow element will be removed giving the user the impression the button has been pressed down, also the colour of the button will change slightly again informing the user that their action has been interpreted by the system. When the user wishes to move an item to the shopping basket the user keeps there finger on the item dragging it into the basket provided. While this action is carried out the image in the original position greys out and an identical image with a lower alpha value can then be moved around the screen. This displays to the user not only has their action been interpreted by the system but it is continually being interpreted. When the user finally moves there finger away from the screen the infrared blanket is detected as being complete the last position of the finger is taken and interpreted as to where the user wanted to place the product, for instance the shopping basket. The item is then added to the shopping basket. The basket data is updated and a thumbnail of the product with an adjustable quantity scale appears. The user has presented with many aspects of feedback throughout this small interaction. This relatively small interaction with the system has another added benefit, they have now learnt every technique the system utilises and they can now use the system in its entirety. <br />Environment<br />The issue of environment does changes slightly with the introduction of the catalogue touch system. There will be more of these screens available to customers. This is justified by the removal of checkouts and there replacement being more desks with more interfaces. <br />When considering which technologies to use the idea of voice control was a strong contender, but when taking into account the amount of noise there is in an average retail store, and the level of development there is in this area of research, this technology becomes unsuitable.<br />Recommendations<br />I would recommend that the catalogue touch system be integrated into a test bed of stores in order for thorough analysis of the implications of a big transition such as this be ascertained. Upon completion of the relevant analysis and taking that the results are favourable a more widespread approach should be adopted harnessing the benefits of the system and ironing out any of the gremlins that may present themselves in the test period. The installation within the test bed should be thoroughly documented as such to alleviate any problems that may be encountered by further stores in the future.<br />References BIBLIOGRAPHY Goodchild, A. (unknown). An Overview Of Catalogue Design Problems In Resource Discovery. Queensland: The University of Queensland.Mass Multimedia Inc. (unknown, unknown unknown). Introduction to Touch Screen Systems . Retrieved October 14, 2008, from www.touchscreens.com: http://www.touchscreens.com/introduction.htmlNorman, D. A. (2002). The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books.Sharp, H., Preece, J., & Rogers, Y. (2007). Interaction Design. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.Shneiderman, B. (1992). Design the user interface. Maryland: Addison Wesley Publishing Company, inc.<br />