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Foundations for designing user-centered systems : what system designers need to know about people
Ritter F., Baxter G., Churchill E., Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, London, UK, 2014. 442 pp.  Type: Book (978-1-447151-33-3)
Date Reviewed: Aug 28 2014

This book is about understanding people in order to design better interactive devices. It is addressed to designers of modern technological systems.

The book covers aspects of computer science, cognitive science, psychology, and human factors. The elements to be considered for the design of interaction with computers are user capabilities, user expectations, and context. The purpose is to create usable products and safer systems.

The book is dense and mostly contains text in small font. However, it is pleasant to read because it describes human behavior through many stories.

Each chapter concludes with implications for system design, a summary, other resources, and many exercises that help readers to better understand the chapter. Dozens of references are indicated.

The book has four parts. Part 1, “Introduction: Aims, Motivations, and Introduction to Human-Centered Design,” describes ways of understanding people, their tasks, and context. It also contains a history of user-centered design.

Part 2, “Design Relevant User Characteristics: The ABCS,” covers two-thirds of the book. It deals with the four aspects of human activity, called ABCS: anthropometrics, behavior, cognition, and social. The anthropometrics chapter is about how people sit at the computer and touch devices (keyboards, pointing devices, cellphones, and video game consoles). The chapter on behavior shows the interaction types: visual (with problems like light, flicker, and pop-out), hearing (such as discriminating sounds), and motivation of interaction using Maslow’s needs pyramid. Cognition is explored in three chapters that cover limits in memory, attention, and learning; mental processes, problem solving, and decision making; and human-computer interaction (HCI). Most existing HCI books deal with a single user. This book includes two chapters that examine social cognition and teamwork. An example is sending an email that does not arrive due to various reasons, but the sender does not know it and expects an answer. The book shows how teams work together in social process modeling. Part 2 ends with an important chapter about studying errors to improve systems.

Several research methods, including task analysis, cognitive dimensions, and empirical evaluation, are examined in Part 3. Part 4, a summary, reviews the topics.

The book is a pleasure to read, though the fonts are too small. It is very useful for anyone who designs interactive systems. It contains in-depth analysis together with the effects on designing good systems.

Reviewer:  Claudiu Popescu Review #: CR142670 (1412-1027)
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