Since the complexity of digital technology inside electronic products went beyond normal users’ intellectual capability, interface design means allowing users to perform tasks without understanding how technology works. Consequently most current digital products are filled up with decision trees and menu structures providing functionality without showing what happened inside - so called the featurism of electronic products. As a counteraction to the featurism, products has started gaining additional layers of interface - e.g. Quick launch button, Interface Wizard and Character agent - which makes the products look simpler and smarter. As more layers are added on user interface, more operations are automated into one functionality and hidden behind the user-interface, thereby users can’t even aware of them. I raise a drawback of the approach in the specific product domain - Products for Profound activity
Opposite to Shallow activity, Profound activity evolves user’s expertise, thus a user would want to be an expert while doing it. Profound activities often have intrinsically unpredictable goals, especially when the activity demands user’s creativity, and it prevents automation from going too far.
When the interface is designed for shallow activities, it’s easy to
learn, quick to use, but has restricted possibility, while a product
with profound activities takes longer time to learn, but has wider
possibility. Based on it, the design goal of this research-throughdesign
project has been drawn - Improving a smooth pathway
from shallow activity (easy for beginners) to profound activity
(useful for experts) on user interface of electronic product.
To put this research project within the theoretical context, two
existing areas of research were explored: Mental model and
Learning by Using. The research area of mental model concerns
‘how product can support user’s knowledge acquisition while
using it’. Going deeper into user’s knowledge acquisition, the
area of Learning by Using states that daily products have both
aspect of Learning and Using. Additionally, Scaffolding with
Fading strategy supporting user’s gradual improvement is
introduced. The exploration ends up with an interaction model
- a pattern of reflective cognition caused by feedforwardfeedback
interaction - which depicts how product interface
evolves user’s activity to profound one.
Getting deeper into Profound activity, digital photography was
investigated by interviewing amateur photographers and
observing photographic excursion. As result, three groups of
photographic knowledge are defined: Aesthetic sense, Technical
knowledge, Operational skill. The technical knowledge doesn’t
show up frequently at photographic moments, however, it
connects user’s aesthetic sense and operational skill while user’s
doing reflective cognition. By overlapping the interaction
model and three groups of photographic knowledge, roles of
feedforward-feedback interplay have been defined: in brief, the
interplay interconnects the three groups with causal
An experiential prototype is designed and built through six
phases of incremental development . starting with a conceptual
model, ending up with an experiential prototype. The conceptual
model depicts internal relationship between each element of
digital camera interface, and is characterized in two aspects.
1) The internal relationship forms a network of controls and
2) The model is scaffolded in two steps.
The experiential prototype simulates photo-taking moments on
PC monitor, and user controls it with mouse. Although it has
some limitations caused by its low-fidelity - lack of tactility;
lack of freedom in context; flaws in technical performance -,
participants can adapt to the prototype quickly.
The experiment is set up to investigate how people interact with
the camera and what they can understand during the interaction.
Six volunteer has participated and each session was videorecorded.
Their changes in photographic expertise were tested
before and after the interaction, and compared.
The result of the experiment indicates that all the participants’
expertise in photography have been improved while interacting
with the prototype. The experiment also shows the prototype
mainly influences on user’s Technical knowledge and
Operational skill, while Aesthetic sense was already mature in
the opening test. The narrowed gaps between three knowledge
groups prove that participants’ photographic activities stepped
forward to profound activity.
Finally the reflection on the work gives what knowledge has
been gained in this research-through-design project and to what
extent the knowledge can be generalized in the problem area -
Products for Profound activity
First, the gained knowledge starts from an interaction model
illustrating how feedforward-feedback interplays can evoke
user’s reflective cognition. The model is very abstract and fully
generalizable in the problem area, but it also evokes further
questions in detail.
The second knowledge is the knowledge groups in digital
photography. Although the names of the groups are
subordinated in the activity domain, their meanings can be
applied to other cases.
Lastly the third knowledge, the conceptual model and also the
prototype, is very specific to digital photography. Thus they can
be an inspiration for other cases in the problem area.