Human-Computer Interaction: Toward the Year 2000

Baeker, Ronald M.; Grudin, Jonathan; Buxton, Wiliam A. S.;  Greenberg, Saul (2d. ed., 1995) Human-Computer Interaction: Toward the Year 2000 San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann (950 pgs.)

Don’t let the title or 1995 publishing date put you off this solid text, which was still being highly recommended in 2010. The book was first produced (1st ed. ,1987)  at a time when computers and the art of testing them were emerging. But it offers far more than a walk down memory lane. Its 950 pages —14 chapters arranged in 5 major sections—are a collection of case studies followed by key articles from the literature with discussion about the linkages between theory and practice.  The authors and editors were at the cutting edge, writing about the times when the first Apple  Graphic User Interfaces (GUIs) were disrupting the console driven mainframes and finding their ways into the homes of relatively ordinary people and their work places.  They defined the study of systems usability, and they established the practice of watching users use systems, and then measuring the results with the focused aim of making the systems more usable.

I gave special attention to Part 1 (Case study A on the development of an information kiosk, Chapter 1 Historical and Intellectual Perspective, and Case study B on the on the development of the Xerox Star’s GUI, pp 23-70), Robert Mack and Jakob Nielsen’s executive summary of Usability Testing Methods (pp 170-181), Sue Kennedy’s concise report on the use of video at the Bell-Northern Research Usability Lab (pp 182-185) and Robert Glushko’s Seven Ways to Make a Hypertext Project Fail (pp 849-853).  All of these contain the themes of joining user-centered, user-focused testing and observation joined with robust, quantitative measuring techniques to produce data, which is quickly taken back to the design team where changes are made to improve the users’ experience of the product.

There is not a great deal in this book about Accessibility or barriers. There is nonetheless an overwhelming guiding principle that more usable software is better software.

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