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Comments | Teaching Materials
Imagine trying to drive a car by using just
a computer keyboard. The four arrow keys are used for steering,
the space bar for braking, and the return key for accelerating.
To indicate left you need to press the F1 key and to indicate
right the F2 key. To sound your horn you need to press the
F3 key. To switch the headlights on you need to use the F4
key and, to switch the windscreen wipers on, the F5 key. Now
imagine as you are driving along a road a ball is suddenly
kicked in front of you. What would you do? Bash the arrow
keys and the space bar madly while pressing the F4 key? How
would you rate your chances of missing the ball?
Most of us would balk at the very idea of
driving a car this way. Many early video games, however, were
designed along these lines: the user had to press an arbitrary
combination of function keys to drive or navigate through
the game. There was little, if any, consideration of the user's
capabilities. While some users regarded mastering an arbitrary
set of keyboard controls as a challenge, many users found
them very limiting, frustrating, and difficult to use. More
recently, computer consoles have been designed with the user's
capabilities and the demands of the activity in mind. Much
better ways of controlling and interacting, such as through
using joysticks and steering wheels, are provided that map
much better onto the physical and cognitive aspects of driving
In this chapter we examine some of the core
cognitive aspects of interaction design. Specifically, we
consider what humans are good and bad at and show how this
knowledge can be used to inform the design of technologies
that both extend human capabilities and compensate for their
weaknesses. We also look at some of the influential cognitively
based conceptual frameworks that have been developed for explaining
the way humans interact with computers. (Other ways of conceptualizing
human behaviour that focus on the social and affective aspects
of interaction design are presented in the following two chapters.)
The main aims of this chapter are to:
- Explain what cognition is and why it
is important for interaction design.
- Describe the main ways cognition has
been applied to interaction design.
- Provide a number of examples in which
cognitive research has led to the design of more effective
- Explain what mental models are.
- Give examples of conceptual frameworks
that are useful for interaction design.
- Enable you to try to elicit a mental
model and be able to understand what it means.