The design of an interface between humans and computers has a direct impact on the efficiency of the interaction between the two parties. HCI emerged in the 1980s with the popularization of personal computing. Computers were no longer being built just for experts, and the goal of HCI was to make all interaction with computers easy and efficient for broad groups of users at different skill levels.
HCI practitioners observe the ways in which people interact with computers and then design technologies to help them use computers more efficiently. The goal is to minimize interaction cost–the amount of physical and mental effort a user must exert when using the technology–and make interactions more human.
As a discipline, HCI is the forerunner of user experience design. The HCI field seeks to improve human-computer interaction by improving the functionality, reliability, usability, and comfort of computer interfaces. Iterative design is one of the foundational principles of HCI. Once a designer has gained an understanding of the target audience, their tasks, and empirical measurements surrounding an interaction, designers follow several iterative design steps: design the user interface; conduct user testing; analyze results of testing; and repeat. The iterative design process is repeated until a user-friendly interface is created.
The interaction between a machine and a human can be facilitated in multiple ways. Generally, it’s possible to utilize one or more human senses to form the basis of a UI, such as tactile UI (touch), visual UI (sight), and auditory UI (sound). HCI practitioners find the optimal combination that fits the purpose of the product. For example, for a mobile app, this might be a combination of visual UI and auditory UI.
The rise of mobile devices has prompted UX practitioners to focus on making HCI accessible to large groups of users, including the elderly, and cognitively or physically impaired users. Another challenge of HCI design is the need to create omnichannel experiences, and include emerging technologies like VR devices. A typical user might have a range of devices that they interact with, and they should be able to switch from device to device and continue the user journey in a comfortable and effective way. This means HCI practitioners now need to think about every digital product in a holistic way and place even more focus on the needs and wants of end-users. Read on for more details and insights into human-computer interaction and to learn more about the latest developments in UX design knowledge.