Tutaleni I. Asino
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Reaction Note: Chapter 10: Orchestration and Flow

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Chapter 10 focused on the need for interaction designers to get out of the way of the user. The author refers to this concept as mental ergonomics and argues that designers should design products which “support user intelligence and effectiveness”, and should “avoid disrupting the state of productive concentration that we want our users to be able to maintain” (pg. 201). The goal of the designer should be to create a user interface that doesn’t necessarily “leave the users in awe of their beauty, but rather are hardly even noticed because they can be used so effortlessly” (pg.221)

Flow and transparency:
The concept of flow, first identified by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is concerned with designing a program in which users “are able to concentrate wholeheartedly on an activity, [that] they lose awareness of peripheral problems and distractions” (pg 201). To create a sense of flow, the interaction of the programmer and or designer with the software must become transparent (pg.202).  To illustrate the concept of Flow and transparency, the authors devised 15 principles of “designing harmonious interactions”

  1. Follow the users’ mental modes:  A physician in the hospital and a business manager in the same hospital form different mental images about how software perform different task and use those images to look for pattern of causes and effects to gain insight into the machine’s behaviour. Thus although they may use the same software, the interface may need to be designed to each of their need.
  2. Less is more:  Strive to reduce the number of elements in user interface without reducing capability
  3. Enable users to direct, don’t force them to discuss: interactions should function as tools and not engage the user in a dialog
  4. Keep tools close at hand: keep tools on tool bars and make them accessible by keyboard shortcuts.
  5. Provide modeless feedback: feedback should be built into the structure of the interaction (e.g. status bar) instead of pop up windows that interrupt flow
  6. Design for the probable; provide for the possible: interface should accommodate what is possible but the programmer must design for all the possibilities and probabilities
  7. Provide comparisons: comparison is important but must be relevant.
  8. Provide direct manipulation and graphical input: a user should be able to turn graphics to data as easily as they can represent data graphically
  9. Reflect object and application status: when application is a sleep or awake it should reflect the state
  10. Avoid unnecessary reporting:  the application should do its job instead of constantly reporting how it accomplished tasks
  11. Avoid blank slates:  normal users would rather see what the program thinks is right than be asked what they wish to do
  12. Differentiate between command and configuration:  an application should perform a function instead of interrogating the user about configuration details.
  13. Provide choices:  Use of toolbars instead of asking questions with dialog boxes.
  14. Hide the ejector seat levers:  Interface design must assure that a user can never inadvertently perform some irreversible actions.
  15. Optimize for responsiveness: Staring at a screen while waiting for a program to respond disturbs the user’s sense of flow

The concept of flow and transparency in software design can be likened to the experience of going to the movie theatre. Once an individual enters a movie theatre, the goal is escapism. There are no lights, clocks, and the doors have exits signs (perhaps only because of legality), but they are hardly visible or noticeable (casinos adhere to the same principles).

This chapter provoked questions about the intrusiveness of technology or how technology may inhibit learning. It further was a reminder of my interest in the design and research of immersive learning environments rather than focusing or emphasising technology as the term “Educational Technologies” sometime implies.

Reference: Cooper, Reimann, & Cronin. (2007). About face 3: The essentials of Interaction Design. Wiley.

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