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Humane Interface, The: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems

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Humane Interface, The: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems


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  • Copyright 2000
  • Dimensions: 6-1/4x9-1/4
  • Pages: 256
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-201-37937-6
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-201-37937-2

"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.



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Table of Contents



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.


Definition of Modes.

Modes, User-Preference Settings, and Temporary Modes.

Modes and Quasimodes.

Noun-Verb versus Verb-Noun Constructions.

Visibility and Affordances.


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.


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.


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.


Appendix A: The One-Button Mouse History.

Appendix B: SwyftCard Interface Theory of Operation.


Index. 0201379376T04062001


"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.






2000 05 26

p. xiv add Troy May to the acknowledgments

p. 4 the reference to Section 5-6 should be to Section 5-3

p. 6 the reference to Section 4-8 should be to Section 4-3

(Thanks to Martin Portman.)

p. 22, last paragraph. "you can ensure that the user is not confirming..." should have been

" cannot ensure that the user is not confirming..."

But this makes a poor sentence. Better still is

"you cannot protect against a user developing a habit of confirming without reestablishing the decision as the locus of attention, even by making the required confirmation action unpredictable."

p. 23 The paragraph beginning "Requiring this kind.." is missing a last sentence

"While preventing the user from forming a habitual response, such measures also create a new locus of attention; the user may forget to think about the correctness of their prior response altogether, thus frustrating both the purpose of the confirmation and the user."

(Thanks to Rich Morrin for pointing out this error and the previous one.)

p. 88 There is an error in the calculation, it does not affect argument or its conclusions, but for exactness note these changes:

"The probability for any one of the first two types of messages is (0.125 / 200) = 0.000625"

should be

"The probability for either of the first two types of messages is (0.125 / 100) = 0.00125"

In the next paragraph change

0.0067 to 0.012

10.3 bits to 11.4 bits

p. 89 In the second paragraph change "10 bits" to "11 bits".

(Thanks to Cam Mitchner for noticing this error)

p. 115 After the sentence ending "can be typed." it should say:

"The convenience is highly dependent on the ergonomics of the Command keys."

(Thanks to Jon Bondy for this observation.)

p. 117 The following paragraph should be added after the paragraph ending with the word "object":

When a transparent message box would disappear too soon, say when it appeared while you were typing so that the next keystroke would banish it, an attractive alternative is to have the message box gradually fade, like the Cheshire cat, giving the user time to notice it. It is also important to have a document, perhaps entitled "Message Log" where a copy of all messages produced by the system are stored serially, so that they can be inspected at any later time.

(Thanks to Jon Bondy for reminding me about the importance of a message log.)

p. 137 In the illustration, part (c), the insert portion of the cursor should be to the right of the letter "p".

(Thanks to Eric Blossom for carefully thinking through the illustration.)

p. 168 In the first paragraph of 6-3 "advises" should be "advised".

At the end of that paragraph add,

"Later versions of the manual are not so dogmatic about using icons, but the damage had already been done."

p. 172 "Apple_s guidelines state" should be "Apple_s early guidelines stated"

The last sentence of that paragraph (it_s missing a comma, anyway) should be:

"The tendency to overuse graphics has been an impediment to good interface design."

p. 186 In the last two examples, the open single quotes should be close quotes. This is an interesting error in that it shows how an editor facility intended to be helpful, namely "smart quotes" can create an error.

(Thanks to Elisabeth Riba for pointing out this typographical error).

p. 217 The name "Linzmeyer" should be changed to "Linzmayer."

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