The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems (ACM Press Series) / Edition 1

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Overview

"Deep thinking is rare in this field where most companies are glad to copy designs that were great back in the 1970s. The Humane Interface is a gourmet dish from a master chef. Five mice!"
--Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group
Author of Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity

This unique guide to interactive system design reflects the experience and vision of Jef Raskin, the creator of the Apple Macintosh. Other books may show how to use today's widgets and interface ideas effectively. Raskin, however, demonstrates that many current interface paradigms are dead ends, and that to make computers significantly easier to use requires new approaches. He explains how to effect desperately needed changes, offering a wealth of innovative and specific interface ideas for software designers, developers, and product managers.

The Apple Macintosh helped to introduce a previous revolution in computer interface design, drawing on the best available technology to establish many of the interface techniques and methods now universal in the computer industry. With this book, Raskin proves again both his farsightedness and his practicality. He also demonstrates how design ideas must be built on a scientific basis, presenting just enough cognitive psychology to link the interface of the future to the experimental evidence and to show why that interface will work.

Raskin observes that our honeymoon with digital technology is over: We are tired of having to learn huge, arcane programs to do even the simplest of tasks; we have had our fill of crashing computers; and we are fatigued by the continual pressure to upgrade. The Humane Interface delivers a way for computers, information appliances, and other technology-driven products to continue to advance in power and expand their range of applicability, while becoming free of the hassles and obscurities that plague present products.

0201379376B07092001

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Falling somewhere between Donald A. Norman's The Psychology of Everyday Things and Ben Shneiderman's Designing the User Interface, Raskin's book covers ergonomics as well as quantification, evaluation, and navigation. Raskin was the original creator of the Apple Macintosh project before Steve Jobs took over and has a background in technology and art, which gives him a unique perspective on usability; recommended for university and large public libraries.
Booknews
Raskin (best known as the creator of the Apple Macintosh project) describes flaws in current machine-human interface structures and offers advice on how to fix them. Proceeding from basic facts about how human consciousness interacts with the outside environment, through simple technologies such as radios, to computers, he looks at a number of aspects of interface principles covering keyboards, mouses, screen configuration, and menu bars. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780201379372
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley
  • Publication date: 3/24/2000
  • Series: ACM Press
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 233
  • Sales rank: 956,857
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Jef Raskin (www.jefraskin.com) is a user interface and system design consultant based in Pacifica, California. Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Motorola, NCR, Xerox, Ricoh, Canon, McKesson, and AT&T all number among his clients along with dozens of less-well-known firms. His articles have been published in over forty periodicals including Wired, Quantum, IEEE Computer, and the Communications of the ACM. He is best known for having created the Macintosh at Apple and the Cat work processor for Canon.

0201379376AB04062001

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Read an Excerpt

"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 will 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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Table of Contents

Preface.

Acknowledgments.

Introduction: The Importance of Fundamentals.

1. Background.

Interface Definition.

Keep the Simple Simple.

Human-Centered Design and User-Centered Design.

Tools That Do Not Facilitate Design Innovation.

Interface Design in the Design Cycle.

Definition of a Humane Interface.

2. Cognetics and the Locus of Attention.

Ergonomics and Cognetics: What We Can and Cannot Do.

Cognitive Conscious and Cognitive Unconscious.

Locus of Attention.

Formation of Habits.

Execution of Simultaneous Tasks.

Singularity of the Locus of Attention.

Origins of the Locus of Attention.

Exploitation of the Single Locus of Attention.

Resumption of Interrupted Work.

3. Meanings, Modes, Monotony, and Myths.

Nomenclature and Notations.

Modes.

Definition of Modes.

Modes, User-Preference Settings, and Temporary Modes.

Modes and Quasimodes.

Noun-Verb versus Verb-Noun Constructions.

Visibility and Affordances.

Monotony.

Myth of the Beginner-Expert Dichotomy.

4. Quantification.

Quantitative Analyses of Interfaces.

GOMS Keystroke-Level Model.

Interface Timings.

GOMS Calculations.

GOMS Calculation Examples.

Measurement of Interface Efficiency.

Efficiency of Hal's Interfaces.

Other Solutions for Hal's Interface.

Fitts' Law and Hick's Law.

Fitts' Law.

Hick's Law.

5. Unification.

Uniformity and Elementary Actions.

Elementary Actions Cataloged.

Highlighting, Indication, and Selection.

Commands.

Display States of Objects.

File Names and Structures.

String Searches and Find Mechanisms.

Search-Pattern Delimiters.

Units of Interaction.

Cursor Design and a Strategy for Making Selections.

Cursor Position and LEAP.

Applications Abolished.

Commands and Transformers.

6. Navigation and Other Aspects of Humane Interfaces.

Intuitive and Natural Interfaces.

Better Navigation: ZoomWorld.

Icons.

Techniques and Help Facilities in Humane Interfaces.

Cut and Paste.

Messages to the User.

Simplified Sign-Ons.

Time Delays and Keyboard Tricks.

Letter from a User.

7. Interface Issues Outside the User Interface.

More Humane Programming Language Environments.

System and Development Environment.

Importance of Documentation in Program Creation.

Modes and Cables.

Ethics and Management of Interface Design.

8. Conclusion.

References.

Appendix A: The One-Button Mouse History.

Appendix B: SwyftCard Interface Theory of Operation.

References.

Index. 0201379376T04062001

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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 will find that they will never again be able to view interfaces in quite the same way they did before reading The Humane Interface .

0201379376P04062001

Read More Show Less

Introduction

"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 presenthuman-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 will find that they will never again be able to view interfaces in quite the same way they did before reading The Humane Interface.

Read More Show Less

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2000

    Empty your brain and get ready to fill it again.

    Approach this book with an open mind and you will see user interactions in a whole different light. I can't count the number of times I said 'why, of course' to my self. Great job, with great explanations. Would be five stars if Jef followed his own rules in relationship to understanding the user. His pedantic use of $20 words comes over as pretentious - or perhaps 'the average Joe/Jill' wouldn't have an interest in this topic - WRONG!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2000

    Extraordinary

    This book brings a new level of objectivity and practicality to fundamental questions of interface design. It begins with a review of just those portions of cognitive psychology that are essential to understanding what makes interfaces succeed or fail. Once these principles are established, Raskin shows how and how often they are ignored in present products. This is particularly eye-opening because there are many commonly held beliefs that turn out to be incorrect. The book then treats the quantitative (yes!) analysis of interfaces, turning what are often 'religious' arguments into sound engineering practice. The book doesn't say this, but I know from practical experience that most interface developers are still ignorant of these tools. Lastly, Raskin shows a number of novel and practical interface designs -- some of which are already in commercial practice -- that are as superior to today's graphic user interfaces (GUIs) as the GUIs were an improvement over what came before they took over. This book is basic reading in interface design. It is deeper and better researched than the usual run of books on the subject. Surprisingly, it is also an enjoyable book to read, well-written, with occasional touches of humor and personal insight.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2000

    Consider the implications

    Jef Raskin's new book, The Humane Interface, is just out and everybody who cares to understand why computers are so hard to use, and how to fix them, should read it. I've spent two or three years pressing Jef to finish the book. He did, eight times. I've marked up manuscripts in detail, noting flaws and unclarities which Jef has fixed beautifully. - - - The biggest rewrite recently removed the personal stories which I loved and thus could not tell him to remove; others did that. - - - I believe that the book will make you a much better critic of computer systems. Further, it's liable to change the face of computing, quite literally. Jef did that before. He invented the Macintosh. - - - When you analyze what Jef has done, you see that this is a magnum opus. First, he gathers the most relevant material from cognitive psychology and other fields. That would be enough for a good textbook. - - - But he goes further. He unifies the concepts and even recreates the formulas to show how closely related they are. And he creates new formulas to capture more of human interface considerations in mathematically precise form. And he shows exactly how to apply those formulas to real situations. That would be more than enough for a truly great textbook. - - - But he goes further. He describes a system which behaves as though a dozen or so of the axioms of humane interfaces were respected. And he describes a real, commercial system which used many of these ideas, complete with screen shots. You wouldn't believe the rapidity with which untrained executives can become fully trained and competent with a huge hospital information system, so I won't say. Read the book. Now. - - - But if such dramatic improvements are possible in that context, consider the effect on the information economy if computers became that easy to use and friendly in general. The entire economy would take off like a rocket! Everybody would smile when they think of their computer. - - - So I want someone to call his bluff and contract with him to create a humane system. He seems to think he knows how to do it in about a year. If such an angel were truly beneficent, she would then put the result under Larry Wall's Artistic License. Now who will give him the million dollars to test whether Raskin really can deliver a truly humane interface that people can actually learn and use? - - - I wish to retain the right to reuse my words as written here. - - - Dick Karpinski - - - The world's largest leprechaun. |=|:-}=

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2000

    Computer Geeks: Please Read This Book

    This is a valuable book for two reasons. First, it explains how human cognitive abilities and limitations determine which UI designs will be easy vs. difficult for people to learn and use. It can therefore help to educate those software designers who lack training in cognitive psychology. Second, it challenges longstanding GUI design assumptions, pointing out many ways in which conventional GUIs are actually bad for users. It can therefore point the way for evolution of current-day GUIs into something better. <P> What this book is NOT is a design-guide for creating GUIs that are Windows (or Mac, Motif, or Web) compliant. If that's what you want, you should look elsewhere. <P> My one criticism is that, in my opinion, the book loses steam in its later chapters, becoming a collection (the author calls it a 'potpourri') of Raskin's pet peeves about computers, along with his remedies. For the second edition, these chapters could be tightened up or cut. Nonetheless, the Human Interface should be required reading for every software designer and UI researcher.

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