Get ready to refine the design

Scotify, a Scottish music streaming service, is launching a new music app. They want to attract users to sign up, so their goal is to make their app:

Your task is to take on the role of a Human-Computer Interaction researcher. You'll look at the app and evaluate how well it meets these goals.

During this evaluation, you’ll need to think about what it is that makes an app “easy to use”, and make suggestions about any usability problems you find.

Human-Computer Interaction (called HCI for short) is the study and research of how people interact with and use computing systems. It focuses on how to make computers, apps, and websites easier to use.

Question 1

Which of these activities would you expect a Human-Computer Interaction researcher to do as part of their job?

Please choose an option.

What makes an app easy to use?

As an HCI researcher, you'll evaluate the usability of the Scotify music app and suggest changes to make it more appealing and easier to use. To do this, you'll need to think about your own experiences of using apps and websites - and what makes them fun, or frustrating, to use.

Here's some of the most popular apps. Do you use any of these? Do you find any of them fun or frustrating to use?

Question 2

Name an app or website that you enjoy using, or find really easy to use.

Describe in a sentence why you find it enjoyable to use. What is it about it that you like?

For example: Google Maps, I like how it shows places on the map that are useful to me personally as I zoom in and out, and that the search bar is always there.

Your answer must be at least 20 characters long.

Question 3

Name an app or website that you find frustrating, or difficult to use.

Describe in sentence, what it is you think makes it difficult to use?

Your answer must be at least 20 characters long.

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More questions will appear soon.

Choosing and designing icons

The Scotify music app uses icons as part of their interface.

A good icon represents the action you want to take and is relevant to something the user might have seen in the real world.

When choosing an icon, it must be recognisable and simple. HCI designers often use a “metaphor” or “symbolism” when designing interfaces.

Often the icon is a picture which represents the action the user wants to take.

For example, this icon symbolises cutting something out of a page with a pair of scissors.

Question 4

Which of these icons is normally used to represent printing a file?

Please choose an option.

HCI designers have a rule of thumb that an icon should be a “Match between the system and the real world”.

HCI researcher Jakob Nielsen says:

“The design should speak the users' language. Use words, phrases, and concepts familiar to the user, rather than internal jargon. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.”
Question 5

Why is this printing icon a good design decision?

Have you seen it somewhere else before? Does it look like something you’d associate with printing? Tell us in a few sentences why you think this icon is used?

Your answer must be at least 20 characters long.

Question 6

Scotify wants app users to be able to delete songs from their music library. Which of these icons would you recommend they use for this feature?

Why did you choose that icon? Why would this make the app easy to use? Is there a match between the system and the real world? In a few sentences, tell us why you made that design decision.

Your explanation must be at least 20 characters long.

Please choose an option.

Let’s make another icon design decision.

Scotify wants users to be able to keep a note of songs they enjoy listening to. When they press a button that track will be added to a playlist of their favourite songs.

Question 7

Which of these icons would you recommend Scotify use for this feature?

Why did you choose this icon? Justify your design decision in a sentence.

Your explanation must be at least 20 characters long.

Please choose an option.

Question 8

Design an icon

The Scotify app has a feature where the user can press a button and the lyrics to the current song are shown on the screen.

In the box, sketch an icon that you think could represent that feature.

Once you’ve finished, press the button to submit your design

Question 9

Tell us about your icon

What did you design, and why is it appropriate? How will users know that this shows the lyrics?

Your answer must be at least 20 characters long.

Choosing icons that are easily identifiable and make sense to the user is an important part of making the Scotify music app more usable. These design decisions make the app easy to learn and use.

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More questions will appear soon.

Accessibility and designing for everyone

Scotify has made a promise to make their app accessible to everyone.

Making an app accessible means making sure it can be used by as many people as possible. Including people with:

To help these users, it’s important that the Scotify app follows strict accessibility guidelines.

Question 10

About 67 million people live in the UK. How many of these people do you think have a disability?

Please choose an option.

Designing for people with Visual impairments:

There are two key ways that HCI designers can create interfaces accessible to people with visual impairments like blurred vision, or colour blindness.

Size adjustable text is important because it allows the user to change the way text looks. They can set it to a size that allows them to read the on-screen content more easily.

High colour contrast, means how easy it is to see or read text, images, or icons on different coloured backgrounds. For example, light yellow text is tricky to read on a white background.

Colours shouldn't be too similar or contain colour combinations that people with colour blindness find difficult to see. People with deuteranomaly, a type of colour blindness, may struggle to differentiate between reds, oranges, and browns.

Question 11

Scotify has asked you to choose colours for their app with good contrast between them. Select one of the combinations below that is easiest to read.

Why did you choose this combination?

Your explanation must be at least 20 characters long.

Please choose an option.

Designing for people with poor motor skills:

Motor skills let you move your hands and fingers easily. It is important to account for users with motor control disabilities and design accommodations to make navigation easier.

Two ways that HCI researchers can do this are:

Make button sizes large enough so it is easy to press, even if the phone cannot be held steady, or the user finds it difficult to touch accurately.

Keeping consistent layouts across pages so buttons are in a predictable place. This makes it easier for people who have to grip the phone a certain way to reach areas of the screen.

Question 12

Scotify needs to add a Back button in their app. This button is very important as it allows users to navigate to previous places in the app easily.
Remember, this button must be accessible to people with poor motor skills.
The designers have produced two mockup screenshots of different places the Back button can be.

Thinking as an HCI researcher, select the mockup you think would be best for users with limited motor skills.

Why did you choose this mockup? Is this consistent with other apps you have used?

Your explanation must be at least 20 characters long.

Please choose an option.

Designing for learning difficulties like dyslexia:

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that affects roughly one in ten people in Scotland. Often, people with dyslexia may have more difficulty reading and writing than others.

Two ways HCI researchers can make using an app much easier for someone with dyslexia are:

Choosing large, clear fonts helps people differentiate between letters and makes it easier to read and understand the words.

Keeping lines short, and spacing out paragraphs helps keep instructions simple, and focuses the user's attention.

Question 13

The Scotify design team has suggested 3 different fonts to use within the app. Which one would you recommend they use?

Remember, the font needs to be easy to read as it will be used everywhere in the app.

Why did you choose this font? Did you consider the needs of different users?

Your explanation must be at least 20 characters long.

Please choose an option.

Identify the accessibility issues

Scotify was informed of accessibility issues in the top songs page of the app.

The reported issues were:

Scotify has tried to fix these issues to ensure the app is accessible to everyone.

Question 14

Tap on areas where accessibility changes had to be made to the app.
Can you spot all 3 differences in the right hand screenshot?

Look at these two screenshots of the “Top Songs”.

The left screenshot shows what the app looks like after the fixes. The right screenshot shows how the app looked originally.

Tap on 3 areas in the right screenshot with accessibility issues.

Found 0 of 3.

By taking into account these guidelines and best practices you have helped to make the Scotify app accessible for everyone.

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We will share some of your answers.
More questions will appear soon.

You did it! - Well done

Today you thought like a Human Computer Interaction researcher.

You learned that apps should be: easy to learn and use, attractive and pleasing and accessible for everyone.

By evaluating the Scotify app you:

  1. Investigated what makes an app “easy to use”
  2. Learned how icons are used to make an interface
  3. Designed an icon for a new feature in the app, following the principles of metaphors, consistency, and standards.
  4. Made design decisions that considered the needs of users with disabilities like visual impairments, motor difficulties, and dyslexia.
  5. Identified some accessibility issues and helped make the Scotify app usable by more people.

If you enjoyed looking at the Scotify app and improving its usability — you'd make a great Human Computer Interaction specialist!

If you want to find out more about careers in Human Computer Interaction, check out the Digital World website.


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Graphic credits

Motor Skills Design vector created by macrovector — Freepik

Poor Visibility disability icons created by Freepik — Freepik

Inclusive People vector created by pch.vector — Freepik

Music Player Icons was designed by — Chima Okehie

People using smartphones vector created by freepik — Freepik

Music vector created by storyset — Freepik