Computer science is the study of information management and computation within computer applications. Typically, a computer application includes a user interface (UI) that manages the interaction between the computer and the human users. Human-computer interaction (HCI) is the study of human interaction with computer software applications.
The UI of software applications is considered the front line of development. This computer science specialty requires designs that carefully consider human behaviors and preferences. Human-computer interaction is the behavioral study of human factors based on the design of a UI within a computer application.
A poorly designed user interface can destroy the perception of a good software application. Effective design of a UI must look good and behave correctly. Human-computer interaction requires designers to consider details such as fonts, flow, control positions, and overall intuitiveness of a user interface.
The computer science industry includes specialists in networks, operating systems, database administration, software development, and user interface design. Within each specialty engineers learn the tricks of the trade. The HCI specialists focus on screen design for all types of applications.
Screen designers do not limit their work to standard computers. These experts also build Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) applications, video games and navigation systems. Human-computer interaction is the art of building any automated device with which people will interact.
A good example of effective HCI can be seen in the current air traffic control systems. Users of theses systems are responsible for ensuring plans do not collide with other plans in the sky. The user screen of the air traffic control system will change in appearance to alert controllers to problems. Typically, the color of objects will become brighter and bolder as the situation worsens. In addition, sounds can be added to draw the attention of the user to the problem.
Many modern cars include navigation systems that also rely on good human-computer interaction. A quality design here helps drivers find their location and directions easily. As the driver approaches a change in direction, the application warns him in advance of an upcoming change. These systems typically include calculations and displays of time and range to destination.
Modern cell phones also include human-computer interaction design. Using the phone to find contacts, send messages, or retrieve voice mails requires a well- designed user interface. Typically, users of modern products expect a device to be easy to learn.