Human-Computer Interaction Basics

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Fact Box
Module Foundations and Principles I
Gerhard Hartmann
Credits 3
Term Term 1, Term 2
Course is not required
Current course page Winter 2018
Active Yes

The course Human-Computer Interaction Basics deals with the challenge of designing web based interactive systems from the human perspective.

The Big Picture

The human-centered design approach as outlined in the ISO-EN-DIN standard 9241, part 210 or the well-known acronym of PACT (People, Activities, Context and Technology) covers the scope of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) pretty well. Therefore we have to understand the humans (People), interacting with an interactive system. Having some fundamental knowledge of cognitive psychology (perception, attention, memory, reasoning and problem solving), being able to identify and specify relevant aspects of the people, affected by the interactive sytem and having them as an integral part in the design process will support us in dealing appropriately with the people. In order to cover the scope of Activities we have to identify and deeply understand what the humans are going to do (their tasks) and find a way to model the human activities and create design solutions that adhere to peoples requirements. Since the Context has a strong impact on people (regarding their expectations, thinking , activities as well as perceptions and experiences) it's crucial that the design solutions incorporate these influencing factors. Although we design from the human perspective the resulting interactive system will run on an Technology platform that bears constrains and capabilities. Having some applicable knowledge about technology and being able to balance their pros and cons is necessary.

Intended Learning Outcomes

The students

- develop a big picture of HCI, know some basic terms and are able to argue within a professional jargon,

- have some basic knowledge about cognitive psychology (perception, cognition, attention, memory, reasoning and (creative) problem solving) and are able to apply this in order to design interactive systems from the perspective of interacting humans,

- know some techniques and methods to capture, analyse and specify human activities and their enclosing contexts and are able to critically discuss them in terms of their application,

- know the notion of usability and other usage-oriented qualities of interactive systems and have a repertoire of activities in order to carry out an usability-engineering process (like ISO standards, usability engineering process models),

- know the notion of accessibility, know the relevant ISO standard and know how to design web based interactive systems according to this requirement,

- know up-to-date web and other interactive technologies and are able to make well-informed decisions about this

- know, how to evaluate design solutions according to given requirements and interpret results in order to perform redesign activities (if needed).

Structure of the Course


A brief history on Human-Computer Interaction [1] and some basic terms and concepts will be defined. Therefore we introduce the notions of

- stakeholder

- goal

- task

- context of use

- implied need

- usability

- effectiveness

- efficiency

- satisfaction

- accessibility

- user experience

- system

- Scenario

- user need .

Fundamentals of Cognitive Psychology

We try to have a comprehensive view on people, not just externally (e.g. by observation) but also internally. Therefore we explore some basic concepts and paradigms from psychology, especially cognitive psychology. We deal with basic aspect of visual, auditory and haptical/sensory perception. We conceptualize cognition as an information processing process, known as the sternberg paradigm. We expand this conceptualization by taking attention (auditory and visual) and memory phenomenons into account. We discuss a structural model of the working memory according to Alan Baddeley in order to better understand constrains and capabilities of human thinking. We take a closer look to mental activities in human problem solving processes and derive conclusions for creative problem solving.

Models of Human-Computer Interaction

We conceptualize interaction as the bidirectional exchange of cause between (at least two) components (e.g. human and the technical sub-system) and review some basic interaction models [2] ( e.g.: Leavitt-Rhombus, Abowd's User Action Framework, Normans seven stages of action) in order to gain a deeper understanding of the implications of designing interactive systems from the human's perspective.

Conceptualization of a Human-Centered Design Process

We introduce to relevant process models for designing from the human's perspective:

- ISO standard 9241, part 210 ("Human-centred design for interactive systems") as a reference model for a human-centered design process in general and the

- ISO standard 9241, part 151 ("Guidance on World Wide Web user interfaces") which especially deals with Human-Computer Interfaces of web based interactive systems

and apply these process models to a given design problem (case study).

Conceptualization of Accessibility

After having studied the generic definition from the introduction, we access the relevant - ISO standard 9241, part 171 (Guidance on software accessibility) and apply important findings to the issue of Human-Computer Interaction.

Didactic Concept, Schedule and Assignments

The course concept comprises basic readings, online workshops, online group work and an introductory and final on site presence. After a first introductory lecture on site, the subject is treated in three online workshops, that are supplemented by a session on-site. Online workshops are held on three evenings with a duration of three hours each.

Introductory lecture on site

The introductory meeting deals with organizational course details and a workshop to address basic definitions and concepts of Human-Computer Interaction. The students are encouraged to form small groups (up to three participants) and to choose an appropriate case study. The case study has to be chosen from the web domain in order to have a real or (if not at hand) a fictional web-based interactive system.

1st online workshop

This workshop consists of two phases: The first part is held in a seminarial form, where the subject (fundamentals of cognitive psychology) is presented in a highly interactive matter. Open questions are discussed with the lecturer and among the students. For the second phase students form groups and choose their own case study and specify stakeholder, their context of use and the relevant tasks. Group presentations and a concluding discussion will complete this session.

2nd online workshop

Between the first and the second online session the students study the ISO standard 9241, part 210 and part 151.

The second workshop is carried out by at first having a presentation of the lecturer, dealing with models of interaction. Then the prepared basic readings (ISO standard 9241, parts 210 and 151) are discussed. Afterwards the students continue with their case studies and apply the relevant concepts and informations from the ISO standards to the open issues of their case studies. This means, that they plan a process, specify the use requirements for their web based interactive system and outline, which design solutions they envision. Findings are discussed in a concluding plenary session.

3rd online workshop

Between the second and the third online session the students study the ISO standard 9241, part 171 which deals with accessibility concerns. They continue to particularise their design solutions from a conceptual model to a more detailed design solution (mock-ups, sketches, storyboards etc.).

Open issues are discussed in a plenary session. Afterwards the students apply the accessibility notion to their detailed design solutions and, where necessary, redesign their design solutions. The meeting terminates by focussing at the evaluation phase of a design process. The lecturer classifies and accesses several evaluation approaches and methods in a plenary meeting.

Wrap-up session on-site

Between the third online and the last onsite session the students elaborate their documents (case studies) by appending the evaluation issue. Findings are discussed. Wrap-up session represents the deadline for the submission of the case-study documentations.


Students choose and carry out a case study. They elaborate a document, containing a conceptualization of an interactive web based system, the documentation of all research, analysis and modeling/design activities as well as assessments of their decisions. This document will be rated as the course grade.


  1. David Benyon. "Designing Interactive Systems". Addison Wesley, 2010. 
  2. Alan Dix et al.. "Human Computer Interaction". Prentice Hall, 2003. 

Past Course Pages