How does Human-Computer Interaction apply to SharePoint? Part 3

The last post I covered the fundamentals of cognitive principles. This post covers communication principles that delve deeper into human behavior. These theories attempt to explain how to best describe human behavior during various interaction stages and scenarios. Ultimately, I will reference these theories and principles to guide our information design and architecture of a virtual SharePoint portal. We are still a long way from even considering what

Communication Principles

AIDA (Alternative, Interest, Desire, Action) is a model for describing the sales process. Developed by E. St. Elmo Lewis in the early 1900s, Lewis wanted to understand how effective salespeople led their customers to a buying decision.

  • Attention or awareness must be developed; the audience must be cognizant of the product or service
  • Interest must generated so the audience learns more about the offering
  • Action will then be taken by the audience, eliciting the desired response

LATCH (Location, Alphabet, Time, Category, Hierarchy) is a model for organizing information. Developed by Richard Saul Wurman, the model simplifies the grouping of content in five ways.

  • Location – information is structured based on physical geography or where physical connections are important [medical texts group information in relation to where it is found in the human body]
  • Alphabet-information is structured based on letter sequence [dictionaries list words in  alphabetical order]
  • Time-a functional structure based on sequence of events [calendars and time-lines can organize information by days]
  • Category-information is structured based on similar features or attributes [topics of books, types of trees in a list]
  • Hierarchy-information is structured by measure or by perceived importance [small to large, weight or value of level]

A common structure used in journalism, the Inverted Pyramid is most effective writing structure for delivering written content online.

  • Use stories or anecdotes to place information in context [simplify understanding, emotional connection for long-term memory]
  • Use of existing information structures to introduce familiarity of new content
  • Use of inverted pyramid writing style to convey information in shortest time possible by enhancing skimming and scanning [inverted pyramid: lead (who, what where when, why, how), supporting information, details]

The Principle of Least Effort describes the searching and seeking behavior of information system users. It states that researchers will accept results from the most accessible source, such as the internet, when more accurate or current information could be found elsewhere, like the library or office of vital statistics.

Uncertainty is unpleasant, thus people use language and communication to reduce it. The Uncertainty Reduction Theory postulates that when encountering a new person, or group of people, we move through three different phases of discovery: Entry, Personal, and Exit.

  • When we are uncertain, we actively seek information
  • Certainty is enhanced by similarities, and minimized by differences
  • That of which we are uncertain becomes less favorable

The goals of this process is to build a level of understanding so that we can more easily predict behavior, thus reducing uncertainty and discomfort in acquiring new information.

An individual’s ability to recognize when information is needed and then have the skills to find, evaluate, analyze, interpret and effectively apply that information is measured by their literacy ability. Information Literacy Theory describes the ability to locate, evaluate , and apply information while distinguishing between legitimate and questionable sources. Visual Literacy Theory describes the ability to appreciate, analyze, create, and utilize visuals for communication and learning.

Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols as elements of language and communication. The concept of the “sign” whether it is defined as a word, image, sound, gesture, or any other sensory experience.  Signs are classified as icons, symbols, or indexes. Icons are literal visual representations, like a drawing of a cat. Symbols are more abstract and my represent things that may not have a physical form, like a biohazard symbol. Indexes create connection between objects, such as an umbrella for wet weather. Use customary icons and symbols while being sensitive to cultural changes and differences. Other areas of study to help in determining appropriate use of semiotics in content are iconography and typography.

Did you know there is an ISO Standard for Testing Graphic Symbols? ISO 9186-2:2008, Procedures for the Development and Testing of Public Information Symbols, defines testing methods and criteria for adopting symbols as an international standard. If you haven’t done icon testing before, this standard is a good resource.

Great! We have covered most of the essentials with respect to understanding fundamental cognitive and communication principles. We will finish off with our third and final set of principles, aesthetic principles for information design and architecture.

Aesthetic Principles

  • Grid Systems
  • Hierarchy
  • Color
  • Contrast
  • Typography
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I am a technologist with a strong background in software engineering. I have many interests. My current distractions are 70s-80s-90s music [it's a very eclectic collection], ontology, information architecture, mobile device technology, medical bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, and nanorobotics.

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