What is Human Computer Interaction (HCI)?

Ann Kim

First and foremost, what exactly is HCI?

Diagram of what HCI is

Human Computer Interaction (HCI) is a multidisciplinary practice that focuses on both the interaction between the user (humans) and the computer as well as the design of the computer interface. Originally, HCI focused primarily on computers, but since then has expanded to include almost all variations of information technology design after the emergence of personal computers in the late 1970s. Researchers realized that they had to expand the interaction with computers to everyone rather than to only people who were information technology professionals. It studies primarily on how people interact with computers and to what extent the users are able to interact with the computers. The goal is to have a successful interaction between both the computer and the user and to see which areas still need more development. HCI consists of three components: the user, the computer, and how these two work together.

What are the goals of HCI?


Simply put, the goal of HCI isto create a user-friendly system that is also functional and safe. In order to achieve this goal, developers must be able to:

  • Empathize with the users and anticipate how they will use the technology
  • Develop tools and techniques to enable best practices on building a sufficient system
  • Produce an effective, efficient, and safe interaction

Why is it important?


Often times, developers are so worried about writing their codes, that they forget to think about the user experience and visual design aspect of their product. This can lead to frustrated users with many pain points and stressed developers because they need to use more time and resources to fix the problem(s). At the end of the day, these products are created to simplify the everyday lives of people. Some examples of interactive products include cell phones, computers, coffee machines, ATM, the web, etc.

What are the factors in HCI?

1) Organization Factors: Politics, Work place, Design, Training

2) Environmental Factors: Noise, Ventilation

3) The User: Capabilities and cognitive processes, Personality, Experience, Motivation, Emotions

4) Comfort Factors: Equipment, Layout

5) User Interface: Input and output of device, Colors, Layout, Icons, Graphics, Navigation

6) Task Factors: How complex/easy it is, skills, task allocation

7) Constraints: Cost, Time, Equipment

8) System Functionality: Hardware, Software, Application

9) Productivity Factors: Least amount of cost for most efficient output, Increase innovation, Problem solving

Practicing Empathy


With developing a new program or device, one of the most important principle to follow is to empathize with the users and put yourself in their shoes. I originally come from a multidisciplinary design background and this rule of thumb has definitely been one of the most critical practices to follow across all design fields. Without the user, the product will essentially be useless. A lot of time, effort, and money would have been wasted on trying to create something that is meant to make the lives of others easier. Remember to practice good user experience design and to interview the users to see what works and what does not to improve the product. The user interface and visual design of a program or device is just as crucial as the code that you write as a developer. The design, the psychology behind the user, and the mechanics behind the codes are all very important factors of HCI.

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