Background Notes




Usability Engineering (UE) also popularly termed as Interaction Design has emerged as a new exciting area of knowledge pursuit worldwide. By the year 2025, it is expected to be recognized as an independent discipline.


In India Designers have been the main human resource Engines of Innovation, Creativity, and Research in ‘Useability’. UE has emerged as the fastest expanding area of activity in the world of IT & Computing Sciences, driven by multidisciplinary researchers and industry practicing professional worldwide. Elsewhere this area is increasingly associated with IT & Computer Science - CS whereas in India it has been spearheaded by Industrial - Designers. The recently concluded 12th International Conference on Usability at Beijing - China has launched UE as an independent discipline by itself.


IITG-DoD was one of the first institutions in India to have the vision to recognize UE’s potential within Design and established India’s  first ever UE- HCI ( Interaction Design)  research lab in educational institutions, in 2003. The Department of Design at IITG has established the UE-HCI lab in an emerging area of international importance and active research to enable its students acquires training and expertise and be counted amongst the best in the world. In a span of 14 years this has been achieved as seen in the placement statistics, publications, projects executed, awards won.


In the knowledge domain of Creative Design this Usability lab aids in Designing, implementing and evaluating new information technology products from the users utility and usability point of view. Research in Advanced User Interaction; Interface design and Usability engineering methodology are being carried out both on software and physical products. Being Human Centered Aesthetics in Usability is as much valued as function and performance and efficiency in Engineering.


Definitions & Scope


The figure above is an attempt to understand holistically with respect to the Creative Design domain definitions formed by confused pairing of terms such for example embedded interaction (probably meant akin to embedded electronics but not very appropriate in Interaction Design as Humans are the center, not VLSI chips.   Another unsatisfactory practice has been the limiting of definitions to parts of output such as equating Interaction design to Graphic of  User Interfaces (GUI)  which is a part of the domain but not the entire field of Usability Engineering.


Interaction Design in India - like elsewhere in the world, is known by multiple terms such as User Interface Design (UI), Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), or User Experience (UX) – all of which are subsets of the broad term - ‘Usability’ as used by Nielsen [1]; Jordan [2].The word ‘Usability' in connection with ‘product usage’ can be traced back probably to the first Usability Laboratory at IBM set up in 1981. Some in India prefer the term HCI - Human Computer Interaction while others differentiate between’ Interface Design’ & ‘Interaction Design.' Some professionals in India argue erroneously that ‘Usability’ is different from ‘Interaction’ and some others insist on calling it Cognitive Ergonomics. International Organisation for Standardization-approved definitions (see, e.g., ISO 9241 part 11) is most appropriate to follow which the UE-HCI Lab at IIT Guwahati has adopted.


India’s first and pioneering research laboratory in Interaction Design, which was established in 2003, at the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati Assam is named as ‘Usability Engineering and Human-Computer Interaction Design Laboratory’  (UE-HCI Lab). To resolve the confusion resulting from multiple terms UI, Ux, ID etc – all of which are used to represent ‘Interaction Design’ - the UE-HCI laboratory at IIT Guwahati describes the emerging field thus: “UE” = Ux+UI+ID+HCI+ICT” where U stands for User and X in UX stands for each one of the multiple terms such as Interface, Interaction, etc. and lowercase ‘x’ stands for ‘experience’ as in   Ux = User Experience.  The field concerns use of products by humans and studies how both, humans and products, interact with each other. The term ‘Human Computer Interaction’- HCI is in vogue not only amongst designers but also software and computer science practitioners in India. In India, Interaction Design falls under ICT- Information Communication Technology as much as in Design.


References for above notes:

[1] Jacob Neilsen; Usability Engineering; Morgan Kaufmann, Academic Press. 1993.   ISBN 0125184069.

[2] Patric W Jordon; An Introduction to Usability; Tylor & Francis. 1998. ISBN 0748407626.



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