erica cheng

Friday, January 20, 2006

Notes on HCI design principles & Gestalt Theory

As far as I’m concerned, the Gestalt theory can be applied to the instructional design, which can facilitate the ways people perceived and understand the contents. Meanwhile, Human-Computer Interface (HCI) design provides users the simple and clear ways to operate the designed product.

The fundamental idea in Gestalt theory is that people perceive a design according to the context, which is the relationship between contents. It is the whole design that affect people’s perception rather the fragmentary elements in the design. The theory is composed of the basic terms—figure and ground, and the six principles—similarity, proximity, continuity, closure, symmetry, and area. There are some ideas in HCI design related closely to Gestalt theory. For instance, the rule of “Strive for consistency” in the HCI design can be viewed as the practice of principles of similarity (put things that share similar visual characteristics together to make them seen as a group) and continuity (preference for continuous figures). It is suggested that the designer should put the consistent actions or similar displays of text (e.g. color, layout, capitalization) together so as to facilitate the ways users understand and operate the designed product. In this way, users can perceive the organized contents as belonging to a group or having relationship with one another, so as to reduce their memory load and enable them to absorb the information more systematically, efficiently, and effectively.

Besides, the rule of “Design dialogs to yield closure” can be interpreted as the practice of principles of proximity and closure. The author of “HCI Design” asserts that “Sequences of actions should be organized into groups with a beginning, middle, and end.” In this way, users can have a complete recognition of the information, which has relationship among each other and is displayed orderly. The application of proximity (put things closer to make them seen as a group) and closure (people’s tendency to see complete figures so as to get complete information), will be helpful for users to catch the message of the design more quickly and coherently.

In my opinion, the application of Gestalt Theory can make a designed product more easily, pleasantly, and distinctively be accepted, understood, and adopted by the users because the process of perception is simplified and organized. Besides, people can grab the information more quickly and efficiently since they will not be distracted by messy contents, neither do they need to waste time finding information in a chaos or looking for relationship in the contents.

The HCI design also includes the ideas of conceptual model, constraint, and conventions discussed in “Affordances and Design”. The conceptual model helps both designers and users to catch the messages being conveyed as well the organization within the messages at a glance. Besides, using constraints and conventions prevent users from making errors during the operation of the product, and familiarize users with the use of the product by following the conventional usage.

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