How Interfaces Affect Users

The concern of software engineers is to investigate how interactive systems be designed to make people respond in certain ways. One way is to use expressive icons and other graphical elements to convey emotional states.

Social Computing

Social computing is a general term for an area of computing that is concerned with the intersection of social behaviour and it has become an important concept for use in business.

An example is Facebook.

Interface Style

The use of shapes, fonts, colours and graphics are factors on the users perceived pleasure on the use of the system.

Effective use of imagery will mean that the interface is more engaging and enjoyable.

A pleasing interface is likely to raise the users usability tolerance.

User Frustration

User frustration is often caused by bad design. User frustration provokers include:

  • gimmick – when a users’ expectations are not met and they instead presented with a gimmicky display
  • error messages – when a system/application crashes and provides an ‘unexpected’ error message
  • overburdening the user – upgrading software so that users are required to carry out excessive house keeping tasks
  • appearance – when the appearance of the interface is unpleasant

Error Message Guidelines

The following error message guidelines were proposed by Shneiderman

  • Rather than condemn users, messages should be courteous, indicating what users need to do to set things right
  • Avoid using terms like FATAL, ERROR, INVALID, BAD and ILLEGAL
  • Avoid long code numbers and uppercase letters
  • Audio warnings should be under the user’s control, since they can cause embarrassment
  • Messages should be precise rather than vague
  • Messages should provide a help icon or command to allow uses to get context-sensitive help
  • Messages should be provided at multiple levels, so that short messages can be supplemented with longer explanations


Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human qualities, e.g. the ‘office assistant’ in Word.

Schneiderman believes screen characters can lead to people feeling anxious or inferior.

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