Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Application of Cognitive Psychology on Human Computer Interaction primarily in the GNOME Linux Desktop Environ

The role of cognitive psychology on user interface design ...

"The Gnome Desktop is a Graphical Environment for the Linux operating system. It is the graphical layer of the operating system that is presented to the user on the screen. The imminent introduction of a new interface in the release of Windows Vista means that Interface Design is currently being heavily promoted and scrutinised. Since 2002, the Gnome Desktop Project have started two sub-projects concerned with usability and interface design. This essay will attempt to outline areas in which developers have utilised cognitive psychology theory, areas in which it could be developed, and areas in which it has been misappropriated.

Information Architects mostly come from backgrounds related to cognitive psychology. Their focus is on understanding the user’s interactions with the computer, from mental categorisation to actually learning how to utilise computer programs. Gould and Boies (1983) propose that the user interface should be designed by psychologists, however, due to their being few people with the necessary repertoire of skills, this is unlikely. There is a lack of studies into the decision-making processes in interface design, possibly due to the fact that system development is so confidential. The reason why an “Open Source” Desktop environment was chosen, was the benefit of transparency in development, as all development information is freely available from the GNOME Community.

Interface design is a multi-faceted discipline, with many different cognitive applications. As the desktop interface is a graphical environment, visual perception becomes an important factor in the design. In a graphical environment, it is often visual cues that lead the user through the interface. However, Card et al (1984) suggest there is very little systematic understanding of the interaction between the display and the user’s ability to perform cognitive tasks.

Card, Pavel and Farrel (1984) suggest that windowing (the interface employed by Microsoft Windows ©, and also the GNOME Desktop) is more conducive to assisting human performance, as it also accesses to multiple sources of information, whilst allowing these sources to be combined. Windows are also good as reminders, as they function as “breadcrumb trails” in the identification of their content. Recently there has been a new feature added to GNOME, to enable a 3D Desktop. The main feature is that four sides of a 3D cube are used as Desktops, and the user can rotate the cube in order to work on any desktop concurrently. The evolved cognitive abilities of being able to navigate positionally and geographically are now put to use, something that was previously unexploited by a windowed interface."    (Continued via andylockran’s blog)    [Usability Resources]

2 Comments:

Anonymous Andy Loughran said...

Nice to see external sites aggregating my blog. Would be interesting to hear from the rest of the readership what they make of this essay. Unfortunately I didn't have much resource available to expand on the work, but I intend to do more research over the next couple of years.

4:48 AM  
Blogger Usernomics said...

Nice article andy. We will look for more on the topic from you.

Bob

6:48 AM  

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