Computers Work on Our Time
Computer responsiveness is thought to be the most important aspect of design, according to Jeff Johnson in his second edition book, Designing with the Mind in Mind.
As I designed a poster of what seems to be a New York Times article about computer responsiveness, you start to notice that the poster reflects the content written. I moved through the design process with this project by researching and sketching ideas, to designing and user-testing them out.
My process through this design challenge started with doing research about the specific design theory of time requirements and reading chapter 14 from Designing with the Mind in Mind. Understanding the content of the chapter took me some time to think of ways to translate this into a real-life visual prototype, and something I can design, test, and refine.
We Have Time Requirements
Chapter 14 called ‘We Have Time Requirements’ of Designing with the Mind in Mind explains time differences that computer software must be able to meet. Johnson thoroughly explains human-computer interaction time deadlines with graphs and timelines that range from .001 sec to 100 sec. The time constraints of human behavior, as well as real-time deadlines, are both things that computers must meet in order to satisfy human users.
Additional guidelines used for achieving responsive interactive systems, as well as design guidelines specific to each human-computer interaction deadline include:
- Using busy indicators
- Using progress indicators
- Remembering that delays between user tasks are less bothersome than delays within unit tasks
- To display important information first
What is Computer Responsiveness?
Responsiveness is related to performance but it’s not the same. It is measured by compliance level with human time requirements and user satisfaction. Computer responsiveness is a form of user satisfaction and communication design from software to user, showing the user information about the user’s progress in some kind of software process. These forms of communication are most popular through the form of a progress indicator. The most popular form of a progress indicator is a progress bar, which ideally would say something like ‘3 out of 4 files downloaded’ or ‘5 minutes remaining.’ We all are familiar with the classic ‘99%’ progress bar that never seems to hit 100%, and this would be a poor example of a progress indicator. Responsive systems need to be good enough to inform users clearly about the process, while also having the ability to respond to real-time and user satisfaction.
“Responsive systems … they provide feedback about what the user has done and what is happening in the process while also prioritizing human perceptual, motor, and cognitive deadlines”
(Johnson, chapter 14)
My poster design (image seen above) represents what is known as delayed responsiveness, a tactic used by computers to seem like they are faster to load. This delayed information tactic gives the software more time to load content while seeming to be highly responsive. Inserting a button that says ‘Read More Here!’ overtop of fading body text alludes to a mystery element that makes users seek out more information independently.
The Design Process
To begin my ideation phase of the design process, I was thinking of ways to visually communicate what computer responsiveness is by sketching ideas out quickly. Some examples of ideas I had while sketching are:
- Progress Bars
- Delayed Responsiveness
- Loading Circles
After sketching, I narrowed down my focus to an image of a progress bar or a faded article with a “Read More Here!” button at the bottom. I decided to move forward with my article idea because it was more informative while also being more visually appealing than a 3/4 full progress bar.
As I moved forward with designing my poster, I included two icons and a title at the top of the page, and the rest is room for the informative article. I purposefully designed this to look like a phone screen as this is how my example would be most popularly portrayed. The article content explains the tactic that the poster is modeled as, delayed responsiveness.
After I settled on a design for my poster, I then had to test it. I tested my poster on various individuals in my family. As they individually read through the article, they snickered as they reached the end and put together the concept. Although my design is meant to be printed as a 12"x 18" poster, they viewed the prototype PDF document on screen. My mother even tried to press the false ‘Read More Here!’ button as if the PDF image was online, so I would say my design is a success.
Through my testing, I asked each user the same questions, one of them being if they had ever experienced this responsiveness tactic in real-life. All of them answered yes. My sister, 17, said she experiences this every day. This specific type of responsiveness tactic seems to appear a lot in day-to-day life, whether it be an online article or a social media advertisement.
What I find most interesting about this design theory is that it ties together topics of time, cognitive psychology, and design. Through my study, I confidently understand more about our time constraints as humans, our behavior, and our complicated relationship with computer response. As artificial intelligence continues to expand, our understanding of communication will too.