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Q1) Critical reading and summary of ‘Performance load’.

Performance load in programming is simply the amount of input, physical and mental, that a person going about a task needs to do for it to work. Physical (Kinematic) can be things like pushing buttons, plugging things together and putting pieces together. Mental (Cognitive) meanwhile can mean things the person needs to learn, remember and concentrate on to get it to work.

To paraphrase the e-book ‘Cognitive load theory’ ‘the basic human primary skills are something everyone has, but truly great design shouldn’t rely on us expending this basic skills’ (paraphrased, Sweller n.d Pg 7 2011)

The article notes that in the early days of computers, cognitive reasoning was a lot more prominent because the programs were so simple that the user had remember things like commands, codes and sequences and then type them in. Whereas now we rely on things like menus because most of the technical stuff is done for us.

As Rodrigo de Oliveira and Heloisa Da Rocha in ‘Consistency on Multi device design’ (2007) point out, designs should be simple and consistant in order to reduce the level of mental stress involved in the execution of a task. They call this the ‘task perception priority’, implying that people will sometimes percieve the difficulty of the task by how it’s presented and therefore simple easy to follow design makes people more likely to perform the tasks the design is made for. (paraphrased)

The article and book maks a stance that good design means you shouldn’t have to make your users do much in the way of performance load. That it’s easier and more convenient to use something where most of the system is laid out for you. It’s a fair argument to make, it shouldn’t be up to the users to do a lot of the technical stuff and if only for the sake of  business it’s a good idea to be as user friendly as possible because as discussed before people are more likely to buy and use user friendly products and services.

Q2) About Chunking

George A. Miller came up with the concept of ‘chunk’ in 1956. His theory was that human memory was limited in how much storage capacity it had, that rather than absorb all information at once, our minds instead store seven ‘chunks’ of information. Exactly how many chunks a person may absorb at any one time however remains uncertain.

He also noted that if a person’s memory is full than excess memory will simply disappear and that therefore it made more sense to learn information through individual chunks that eventually lead up to the whole rather than have the entire lesson plan forced on you in one sitting.

For that reason he theorized and it later became the popular theory among teachers and ‘elearners’ that chunking is the best way of getting information to come across. The site I just linked gives a few suggestions on how to teach people using the chunk principle, the main idea seems to be to not give all information at once but rather hand out small bits of information at a time to let people absorb that before moving on. As author Connie Malamed says herself:

“It means that if you are explaining something complex and the learner must hold several factors in mind to understand it, you’ll need to chunk information into bite-sized pieces.” (Connie Malamed 2009)

Modules, as the piece called them, are described almost as classes within classes where learning how to use a certain feature is made into a whole lesson rather than just part of a lesson. This is not unlike the classes at Edith Cowan University where every day it’s only about learning specific parts that add up to collective whole.

Q3) Psychology in design

Why is human psychology essential for design principles? Because everything about the human experience of sight and sound and touch is in some way or another grounded in psychology as Wes Towers 2010 writes:

“Understanding the psychological aspect of design principles such as colour, shape and font is the missing ingredient many businesses don’t use to its full capacity.” (Towers, Wes 2010)

However truly it is wrong to say that psychology is essential for design, psychology is design. Images and symbols and shapes were made with the conscious mind and they were made for audiences that also have conscious minds. We create and imagine things that potential users will like or be able to use based on our own psychological viewpoints and bias’s.  We need to constantly evaluate and learn what we can about how people think and by extension how we think when designing things for other people. Everything in the world that was designed exists because someone made the conscious decision to make it like that. A machine can’t do this, humans can.

Q4) Three examples of performance load:

Example one, video game controllers:

Controllers for video game consoles are a very good example of the reduction of performance load. Whereas video games on computers may be buried under mountains of controls and buttons and features, Xbox and Playstation controllers reduce the number of button pushing and the number of things the user needs to remember drastically. With only eight buttons, two joysticks and a ‘dpad’ it’s a lot easier to figure out and requires less kinematic and cognitive load on the person using it.

Example two: Manual cars.

Manual cars require a little bit more kinematic load on the person using them than an automatic car. A lot of people actually do not use them for this exact situation, even though some may handle better than an automatic, an automatic is just simpler and easier to use.

Example 3: Remote controls

Prior to the invention of the remote control, people had to move all the way over to the TV or VCR and hit every button manually. While a small thing, the remote control became a much more popular alternative. Being able to stay seated while controlling the television was an appreciated benefit and now remote controls are the standard for all television and media players. To the point where even though the manual buttons still exist, people will still look all over the room to find the remote because it requires less button pushing.

 

References:

De Oliveira Rodrigo and Vieira da Rocha Heloisa (2007) Consistency on multi-device design part 2. C. Baranauskas et al, Campinas Brazil (2007).

Malamed, Connie (September 24 2009): Chunking information for industrial design. Retrieved May 14 2012 from: http://theelearningcoach.com/elearning_design/chunking-information/

Sweller, John; Ayres, Paul;  Kalyuga, Slava(2011 pg 7) Cognitive load theory. Retrieved 17 May 2012 from:http://reader.eblib.com.au/(S(huhwv2svjhunmloq30pebw4b))/Reader.aspx?p=763221&o=74&u=F17E0D474F&t=1337256058&h=65D62B5EE82

Towers, West (October 20 2010): The psychology of design. Retrieved May 15 2012 from: http://www.omnificdesign.com.au/melbourne-marketing-design/the-psychology-of-graphic-design

Images:

In video game controllers [Digital image] Retrieved May 14 2012 from: http://www.xbox.com/en-au/Xbox360/Accessories/Controllers/Home

In manual cars [Digital image] Retrieved May 14 2012 from: http://emonell.blogspot.com.au/2010/04/what-things-man-should-know-how-to-do.html

In remote controls [Digital image} Retrieved May 14, 2012 from: http://www.cambridgeaudio.com/series.php?SID=7&Title=Remotes

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