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Human Computer Interaction

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Learning Goals

As the aim of this lecture is to introduce you the study of Human Computer
Interaction, so that after studying this you will be able to:

. Discuss the effect of bad tools

. Discuss and argue about why Human computer Interaction (HCI) is important
with reference to the way in which technology has developed during past forty

. Describe requirement of new economy era.

Effect of Bad Tools

Not only are computers taking over the cockpit of jet airliners, they are taking over
the passenger cabin, too, behaving in that same obstinate, perverse way that is so easy
to recognize and so hard to use. Modern jet planes have in-flight entertainment (IFE)
systems that deliver movies and music to airline passengers. These IFEs are merely
computers connected with local area network, just like in your office. Advanced IFE
systems are generally installed only on larger airplanes flying transoceanic routes.
One airline’s IFE was so frustrating for the flight attendants to use that many of them
were bidding to fly shorter, local routes to avoid having to learn and use the difficult
systems. This is remarkable considering that the time-honored airline route-bidding
process is based on seniority, and that those same long-distance routes have always
been considered the most desirable plums because of their lengthy layovers in exotic
locales like Singapore or Paris. For flight attendants to bid for unglamorous,
unromantic yo-yo flights from Denver-to-Dallas or LA-to-San Francisco just to avoid
the IFE indicated a serious morale problem. Any airline that inflicted bad tools on its
most prized employee—the ones who spent the most time with the customer---was
making a foolish decision and was profligately discarding money, customer loyalty,
and staff loyalty.
The computer-IFE of another large airline was even worse. The airline had created an
in-flight entertainment system that linked movie delivery with the cash collection
function. In a sealed et airplane flying at 37,000 feet, cash collection procedures had
typically been quite laissez-faire; after all, nobody was going to sneak out the back
door. Flight attendants delivered goods and services when it was convenient and
collected cash in only a very loosely coupled fashion. This kept them from running
unnecessarily up and down the narrow aisles. Sure there were occasional errors, but

never more than a few dollars were involved, and the system was quite human and
forgiving; everyone was happy and the work was not oppressive.
With cash-collection connected to content delivery by computer, the flight attendant
had to first get the cash from the passenger, then walk all the way to the head-end of
the cabin, where the attendant’s console was, enter an attendant password, then
perform a cash register-like transaction. Only when that transaction was completed
could the passenger actually view a movie or listen to music. This inane product
design forced the flight attendants to walk up and down those narrow aisles hundreds
of extra times during a typical trip. Out of sheer frustration, the flight attendants
would trip the circuit breaker on the in-flight entertainment system at the beginning of
each long flight, shortly after departure. They would then blandly announce to the
passengers that, sorry, the system was broken and there would be no movie on this
The airline had spent millions of dollars constructing a system so obnoxious that its
users deliberately turned it off to avoid interacting with it. The thousands of bored
passengers were merely innocent victims. And this happened on long, overseas trips
typically packed with much-sought-after frequent flyers. I cannot put a dollar figure
On the expense this caused the airline, but I can say with conviction that it was
catastrophically expensive.
The software inside the IFEs worked with flawless precision, but was a resounding
failure because it misbehaved with its human keepers.

3.1 An Industry in Denial

We are a world awash in high-tech tools. Computers dominate the workplace and our
homes, and vehicles are filling up with silicon-powered gadgets. All of these
computerized devices are wildly sophisticated and powerful, but every one of them is
dauntingly difficult and confusing to use.
The high-tech industry is in denial of a simple fact that every person with a cell phone
or a word processor can clearly see: our computerized tools are hard to use. The
technologists who create software and high-tech gadgets are satisfied with their
efforts. The software engineers who create them have tried as hard as they can to
make them easy to use and they have made some minor progress. They believe that
their products are as easy to use as it is technically possible to make them. As
engineers, their belief is in technology, and they have faith that only some new
technology, like voice recognition or artificial intelligence, will improve the user’s
Ironically, the thing that will likely make the least improvement in the ease of use of
software-based products is new technology. There is little difference technically
between a complicated, confusing program and a simple, fun, and powerful product.
The problem is one of culture, training, and attitude of the people who make them,

more than it is one of chips and programming languages. We are deficient in our
development process, not in out development tools.
The high-tech industry has inadvertently put programmers and engineers in charge, so
their hard-to-use engineering culture dominates. Despite appearances, business
executives are simply not the ones in control of the high-tech industry. It is the
engineers who are running the show. In our rush to accept the many benefits of the
silicon chip, we have abdicated our responsibilities. We have let the inmates run the
When the inmates run the asylum, it is hard for them to see clearly the nature of the
problems that bedevil them. When you look in the mirror, it is all too easy to single
out your best features and overlook the warts. When the creators of software-based
products examine their handiwork, they see how rich the product is in features and
functions. They ignore how excruciatingly difficult it is to use, how many mindnumbing
hours it takes to learn, or how it diminishes and degrades the people who
must use it in their everyday lives.

3.2 Techno-Rage

An article in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal described an anonymous video
clip circulated widely by email that showed as “…Mustachioed Everyman in a short
sleeved shirt hunched over a computer terminal, looking puzzled. Suddenly, he strikes
the side of his monitor in frustration. As a curious co-worker peers over his cubicle,
the man slams the keyboard into the monitor, knocking it to the floor. Rising from his
chair, he goes after the fallen monitor with a final ferocious kick.” The article went on
to say that reaction to the clip had been “intense” and that it had apparently tapped
into a powerful undercurrent of techno-rage”.
It’s ironic that one needs to be moderately computer savvy to even send or view this
video clip. While the man in the video may well be an actor, he touches a widespread,
sympathetic chord in out business world. The frustration that difficult and unpleasant
software-based products are bringing to our lives is rising rapidly.
Joke email circulates on private lists about “Computer Tourette’s.” This is a play on
the disorder known as Tourette’s syndrome, where some sufferers engage in
uncontrollable bouts of swearing. The joke is that you can walk down the halls of
most modern office buildings and hear otherwise-normal people sitting in front of
their monitors, jaws clenched, swearing repeatedly in a rictus of tense fury. Who
knows what triggered such an outburst: a misplaced file, an inaccessible image, or a
frustrating interaction. Or maybe the program just blandly erased the user’s only copy
of a 500-page manuscripts because he responded with a “Yes” to a confirmation
dialog box, assuming that it had asked him if he wanted to “save your changes?”
when it actually asked him if he wanted to “discard your work?”

Novatech survey

One in every four computers has been physically attacked by its owner, according to a

The survey, conducted by British PC manufacturer Novatech, was intended to take a
lighthearted look at embarrassing experiences -- those little technical bloopers that
happen even to ubergeeks, like forwarding a personal love letter to an entire office
mailing list.
But instead, a much darker story emerged in the 4,200 replies. Innocent computers are
being beaten on a regular basis, often by technically challenged users who decide to
take their frustrations out on their helpless machines.
"We decided to do some research into people's relationships with their computers and
we were amazed by some of the results," Novatech managing director David Furby
said. "As computers become more and more a part of our daily lives, we obviously
share more experiences with them."
Many technical support people from the United States, Canada and parts of Europe
have sobering stories of brutalized computers being brought in for repair by sad -- or
in some cases, smug -- owners who had smacked, kicked or otherwise deliberately
injured their machines.
"The incidences of willful neglect have always been high," said David Tepper, owner
of the Village Computer Shop in New York. "We've always had to deal with
computers damaged by people who dumped their refreshing beverage on the
computer's keyboard, or got tangled up in the cords and bringing (sic) the computer
crashing down off their desk."
"But there have also always been a small –- but significant -– number of machines
that were obviously intentionally damaged."
"Hopefully as technology improves and computers become ever more user- friendly,
these attacks will become less frequent," Furby said.

Computer rage

There is a technology-based scourge afoot…maybe. It’s not a virus; it’s not a denial
of service attack; it’s computer rage, and according to the latest reports, it is out to
destroy the physical health, the emotional stability, and if left unchallenged, the
economic strength of whatever population it strikes.
Security software vendor Symantec, working with Britain’s National Opinion Poll,
recently found that when confronted with technical problems, more than 40 percent of
British users surveyed have sworn at, kicked, or otherwise abused their computers,
monitors, and the most victimized of all computer components, their keyboards.
In similar surveys conducted last year, Marlborough, Mass-based Concord
Communications discovered that 83 percent of 150 U.S. respondents witnessed such
attacks, and the international market research firm Mori found that 40 percent of 1250
British workers had watched as their colleagues leveled verbal and physical abuse at
their computers.

Stress related to computer rage, the Symantec study claims, has resulted in a loss of
productivity for most respondents.
Robert Edelmann, clinical psychologist and author of Interpersonal Conflicts at Work,
is worried. “Frustration with IT should be taken seriously as a modern malaise,” he
says. “It is affecting both our work and our home lives to the extent that computer
rage is now much more prolific than road rage.”
Computers increasingly commonplace in offices
As the reliance on computers in the workplace continues to grow, people in the UK
are resorting to violence when their PCs break down, say researchers. When faced
with technical problems, most people shouted at colleagues, hit the PC or even threw
parts of the computers. The most frustrating hitch was when people lost their work
after their computer crashed or froze.
The problems seem to be widespread with more than a quarter of those working with
computers experience problems with their PC on a weekly basis.
"Over half of all working days lost to sickness in the UK are related to workplace
stress," said Fiona Dennis, a stress management trainer with Priory Healthcare.
"Being heavily reliant on IT to speed up our lives means that performance is
hampered greatly when it fails, causing an over-reaction and stress."

70% swear at PCs

The study by the National Opinion Poll and the software company Symantec, found
that nearly half of all computer users had become angry at some time. Almost a third
of people had physically attacked a computer, 67% experienced frustration,
exasperation and anger and more than 70% swore at their machines.
Technology rage is the latest rage to emerge in Britain and follows road rage, trolley
rage and air rage. There was a dramatic rise in air rage incidents last year, with 174
people detained at Heathrow and Gatwick alone. In 1998 the number of air rage
arrests for the whole country was 98.

3.3 Success Criteria in the New Economy

The successful professional for the twenty-first century is either a business savvy
technologist or a technology-savvy businessperson.
The technology-savvy businessperson knows that his success is dependent on the
quality of the information available to him and the sophistication with which he uses
it. The business-savvy technologist, on the other hand, is an entrepreneurial engineer
or scientist trained for technology, but possessing a knee business sense and an
awareness of the power of information. Both of these new archetypes are coming to
dominate contemporary business.
You can divide all businesspeople into two categories: those who will master high
technology and those who will soon be going out of business. No longer can

executive delegate information processing to specialists. Business is information
processing. You differentiate yourself today with the quality of your informationhandling
systems, not your manufacturing systems. If you manufacture anything,
chances are it has a microchip in it. If you offer a service, odds are that offer it with
computerized tools. Attempting to identify businesses that depend on high technology
is as futile as trying to identify businesses that depend on the telephone. The high-tech
revolution has invaded every business, and digital information is the beating heart of
your workday.
It has been said, “to err is human; to really screw up, you need a computer.”
Inefficient mechanical systems can waste couple cents on every widget you build, but
you can lose your entire company to bad information processes. The leverage that
software-based products---and the engineers that build them---have on your company
is enormous.
Sadly, our digital tools are extremely hard to learn, use, and understand, and they
often cause us to fall short of our goals. This wastes money, time, and opportunity. As
a business-savvy technologist/ technology-savvy businessperson, you produce
software-based products or consume them---probably both. Having better, easier-tolearn,
easier-to-use high-tech products is in your personal and professional best
interest. Better products don’t take longer to create, nor do they cost more to build.
The irony is that they don’t have to be difficult, but are so only because our process
for making them is old-fashioned and needs fixing. Only long-standing traditions
rooted in misconceptions keep us from having better products in today.
Consider a scenario: a website is developed of ecommerce system. The site is
aesthetically very beautiful, technically it has no flaw and it has wonderful animated
content on it. But if user is unable to find its desired information about the products or
even he is unable to find the product out of thousands of products, so what of it’s use.
It is useless from the business point of view.

Here are some facts and figures:

Users can only find information 42% of the time
– Jared Spool
62% of web shoppers give up looking for the item they want to buy online
– Zona Research

50% of the potential sales from a site are lost because people cannot find the item they
are looking for
– Forrester Research
40% of the users who do not return to a site do so because their first visit resulted in a
negative experience
– Forrester Research

80% of software lifecycle costs occur after the product is released, in the maintenance
phase - of that work, 80 % is due to unmet or unforeseen user requirements; only 20
% is due to bugs or reliability problems.
- IEEE Software
Around 63% of software projects exceed their cost estimates. The top four reasons for
this are:
– Frequent requests for changes from users
– Overlooked tasks
– Users' lack of understanding of their own requirements
– Insufficient user-analyst communication and understanding
- Communications of the ACM
BOO.com, a $204m startup fails
– BBC News
Poor commercial web sites will kill 80% of Fortune 500 companies within a decade
- Jakob Nielsen
So all above given facts reveals that the product with the bad user experience deserve
to die!
The serious financial implications of today’s digital products should not in any ways
be underestimated.
The table given below depicts two scenarios of potential of sales from an e-commerce
web site. In scenario A, users can easily find items they are looking for, so 0% sales
are lost, so the actual revenue is $100 million. In scenario B, users cannot easily find
the items they are looking for, therefore, the actual revenue is $50 million, thus
causing a loss of $50 million.

Scenario A
Sales Lost 0% 50%
Revenue Lost $0m $50m

Actual Revenue $100m $50m

User Experience Good Bad
Revenue Potential $100m $100m
Scenario B


3.4 Computer + Information

What do you get when you cross a computer with information?
In 2000, the Olympic Games were held in Sydney. Before the Olympic games could
begin, a lawsuit was filed against the Olympic Committee. The case was called Bruce
Lindsay Maguire vs Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympics Games
(SOCOG). On 7 June 1999 the complainant, who is blind, complained to the
Commission that he was unlawfully discriminated against by the respondent in three

. the failure to provide Braille copies of the information required to place orders
for Olympic Games tickets;

. the failure to provide Braille copies of the Olympic Games souvenir
programmed; and

. The failure to provide a web site which was accessible to the complainant.
It was alleged that the SOCOG was in breach the Disability Discrimination Act 1992
by failing to make accessible to him key parts of its web site
According to the law of many European and western countries, organizations with a
web site must ensure that their web site is (within certain limits) accessible by
disabled persons. However, this was not the case in the matter of the official Olympic
Games web site. Could this have been avoided? Certainly: by applying a few very
simple techniques, the developers of the web site could have made it accessible to
people with vision-impairment. But as is usually the case, this was not done.
Result: the complainant won the case and was awarded a sum of money in damages.
This was very embarrassing for both the SOCOG and also the company that
developed the web site.


1. http://www.independentliving.org/docs5/sydney-olympics-blind-accessibilitydecision.

2. http://comment.cio.com/soundoff/061400.html

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