LIS590II: Interfaces to Information Systems

Tuesdays 1-3:50pm (Location: Room 52 LIS Building)

4 hours

Instructor: Michael Twidale


This course will provide an introduction to the following:


This course will consider how people use information systems such as on-line public access catalogues, CD-Roms, bibliographic databases, digital libraries, world wide web pages, web search engines, etc. For many users the computer interface they see is the system that they are using. Thus the usability of that interface has a profound effect on any usefulness they gain from using the system. We will use the techniques from Human Computer Interaction research to identify the problems that people have with poorly designed interfaces, and indeed any interface to a complex information system. We will see how non-specialists can be involved in the interface design process and how an awareness of usability issues is an important skill for any information professional who may be involved in the commission, specification, design, selection or adaptation of an information system.
Furthermore we shall consider how an awareness of usability issues can help in education, training and the giving of help to users encountering difficulty with a system. This will include a consideration of both formal learning activities and the more frequent and perhaps more important (but often unconsidered, even by experts) informal learning from peers and colleagues - the kind that can be typified as 'over the shoulder teaching and learning'. In the context of the move to distributed and rapidly developing information resources we shall consider how this help-giving can be provided in different contexts of time and proximity.

A strong emphasis within the course will be the design of better interfaces. You are not required to know a particular programming language (or indeed any) in order to undertake this. However, you must be prepared to learn and understand (by doing) the process and way of thinking embodied in the engineering paradigm of design. This is a very creative process involving juggling multiple contraints and trying to match different sets of needs with available technologies and techniques. If you do know a programming language, you will have the opportunity to build a system interface. In any case you will explore the design of a novel interface to an information system of your choice, using various tools including simple drawing software.


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