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Preface

Preface

I don't know what percentage of our time on any computer-based project is spent getting the equipment to work right, but if I had a gardener who spent as much of the time fixing her shovel as we spend fooling with our computers, I'd buy her a good shovel. At least you can buy a good shovel.

Erasmus Smums

Creating an interface is much like building a house: If you don't get the foundations right, no amount of decorating can fix the resulting structure. The Humane Interface reexamines the cognitive foundations of human-machine interaction to elucidate a crucial aspect of why interface designs succeed or fail. One finding is that present-day graphical user interfaces, such as those of the Windows and Macintosh operating systems, which are based on an architecture of operating system plus application programs, are inherently flawed. A different approach is required if computers are to become more pleasant and if users are to become more productive. This book describes some of the fundamental flaws in user interfaces and describes solutions for overcoming those flaws.

Although the techniques covered in The Humane Interface apply to a wide range of products—including web sites, application software, handheld personal data managers and other information appliances, and operating systems—this book does not present a survey of the field of human-machine interface design. Rather, this book strikes out in new directions while also reviewing those established parts of interface design that are needed in the development of the new material.

If we are to surmount the inherent problems in present human-machine interfaces, it is necessary that we understand the teachings of this volume; it is not, however, sufficient. Many important aspects of interaction design are not included here because they are well covered in the literature. This book is intended to complement existing—or to be a prolegomenon to future—treatments of interface design.

The audience for this book includes

  • Web designers and managers who want to give their sites a special ease of use that appeals to audiences and helps customers to find the information they need and to buy what they want

  • Product designers and product managers who need to be able to create web sites or products that will win and retain customers by offering ease of use and ready learnability and by having a first-rate feature set

  • Corporate managers who correctly insist on making products that have low maintenance and that reduce the need for help desks

  • Programmers who do interface design—and who doesn't these days?—and who want to understand more of the factors that make their work most useful

  • IT (information technology) managers who need to know which interface features will minimize their costs for training and which interface designs are likely to aid productivity

  • Consumers who want to learn what to hope for in terms of pleasant interaction with computers and other equipment, and what is wrong with the way today's software is designed

  • Computer science and cognitive psychology students who want to understand what lies behind heuristics of interface design

Finally, this book is for human-machine interface researchers, who may find that they will never again be able to view interfaces in quite the same way they did before reading The Humane Interface.

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