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Performance Load Examples (Item 2)

November 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Here are some examples primarily discussed in the authors Lidwell, Holden & Butler’s (2003) article on Performance Load.

Figure 1: How Slot Machines Work (Source: How Stuff Works, 2012)

First (1st) example is the Slot machines. Slot machines back when they were new, the user had to pull a rather large lever placed on either side of the slot machine to make the slot machine spin. Now days, the slot machine can easily be spun by a press of the button. This is relevant towards performance load with the kinematic load aspect. Reason being, is that instead of increasing your kinematic load by using more effort in pulling a lever, you now can press a button, decreasing your kinematic load.

Figure 3: Ignition Keys (Source: 1 A Locksmiths, 2009)

Second (2nd) example is the remote car keysCar keys are simple, you open the door by inserting the key into the car door lock and turning, thus opening the car door, same applies to turning on the engine. The introduction of the remote car keys has decreased performance load, specifically in kinematic load, by having a special set of buttons on the key that will unlock and lock the car doors while standing away at a distance. This helps when walking towards the car, pressing the button to unlock the doors, and simply opening the door and hopping into the vehicle, instead of increasing kinematic load and having to manually take your time opening the lock yourself.

Figure 2: Barcode (Source: Barcoding Inc., 2011)

Third (3rd) and final example of performance load is the bar code. Before bar codes were brought into existence, when purchasing a product, the cashier would have to type the products code into the computer themselves, increasing both the cognitive (remembering the digits) and kinematic (typing each digit into the computer). Now that the bar code has been introduced, the cognitive and kinematic loads have been significantly decreased, because now the cashier can simply swipe the product’s bar code across a scanner, scanning the digits into the computer themselves.

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Performance Load “Chunking” Information & Psychology Effect in Visual Design (Item 1 / Q2&3 Summary)

November 2, 2012 Leave a comment

(Q2) – “What is Chunking?”

The authors Lidwell, Holden & Butler (2003) discuss the performance load method for reducing cognitive load as ‘chunking‘.

Figure 1: George A. Miller (Source: The New York Times Company)

Chambers (2012) give the definition of ‘chunking’ as “a strategy used to improve memory performance. It helps you present information in a way that makes it easy for your audience to understand and remember.” So essentially, the way chunking works is to make things easier for your memory to process, this is delivered through visual representations and communication. Chunking works best when separating key elements of important information and placing such information into key units. Chambers (2012) gives an example of chunking through George A. Miller’s use of chunking in his journal article ‘The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two’. 

He explains “Miller studied the capabilities of our short term memory. For example, he researched how many numbers we can reliably remember a few minutes after we’ve been told them only once.” The way chunking is connected with performance load is that the use of chunking will decrease the cognitive load, thus making it easier for the person to accomplish their task/goal with minimal chance of error. Lidwell, Holden & Butler (2003) identify chunking in their article “General strategies for reducing cognitive load […] chunking information.” Final example of chunking is within Saariluoma & Sajaniemi’s (1989) journal article ‘International Journal of Man-Machine Studies‘. In their studies that they conducted, they trialed chunking in spreadsheets to see what effects it would have on the memory load (cognitive load). The results are positive, stating that chunking “…showed that a possibility to visual information chunking substantially decreases the memory load caused by spreadsheet calculation.”

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(Q3) – “Do you think a study of psychology is necessary in design?

Lidwell, Holden & Butler (2003) touch on the visual design aspect of performance load. The question asks if the psychology in visual design is ‘necessary’, and my answer is yes. The reason why the study is necessary is because visual design plays a major key role in our cognitive load. What we ‘visually’ see and interpret may increase our cognitive load, so the study of psychology in visual design is used to better suit a lower cognitive load for the viewer. For example, Hofmann (2012) discusses the essentials of effective visual design, one of the studied aspects in the psychology of design. He is an expert in design and through his article, pitches ideas of visual design that can better improve one’s attention, like the importance of ‘hierarchy‘ in the piece, showing the most important information first, and also trying to deliver a message within the image clearly without making it ‘too’ confusing. If the image’s message is coming through as ‘confusing’ for some, the performance load, specifically cognitive, would increase.

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Chambers & Associates Pty Ltd. (2012). Software in Practice. Chunking Principles. Retrieved from http://www.chambers.com.au/glossary/chunking_principle.php

Hofmann, P. (2012). User Interface Engineering. Essentials of Effective Visual Design. Retrieved from http://www.uie.com/events/virtual_seminars/Visual_PH/

Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J. (2003). Aesthetic-Usability Effect. In Universal Principles of Design, (pp. 148-149).

Saariluoma, S., & Sajaniemi, S. (1989). International Journal of Man-Machine Studies. Visual information chunking in spreadsheet calculations. (pp. 475-488).

Performance Load Analysis (Item 1 / Q1 Summary)

November 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Figure 1: Human Brain Evolution (Source: Mobile Phone Talk, 2010)

A brief summary of Lidwell, Holden & Butler’s (2003) extract on ‘Performance Load‘ explains that to accomplish a goal, we must use a large degree of mental and physical activity, which in this case, is called Performance Load. If we increase our performance load, there will be a large chance of errors and damage to the performance time, and completion of the goal will be significantly decreased. If we decrease our performance load, they’ll be a significant chance of successfully completing your goal and a minimal chance of error. The two (2) performance loads are; Cognitive Load, which is the use of mental activity, and Kinematic Load, which is the use of physical activity.

Lidwell, Holden & Butler’s (2003) example of Cognitive Load is the use of computers. Many years ago, “early computer systems required users to remember large sets of commands, and then type them into the computer in specific ways.” But now days, we have ‘bar codes’ and ‘scanners’ that can simply be scanned into the computer, this reduces the performance load and decreases the possibility of errors. An extract from Malamed’s (2012) on Cognitive Load explains “[…] the part of our brain that consciously processes information, dominates everything we do in terms of learning.”

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Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J. (2003). Aesthetic-Usability Effect. In Universal Principles of Design. (pp. 148-149).

Malamed, C. (2012). The eLearning Coach. What is cognitive load? Retrieved from http://theelearningcoach.com/learning/what-is-cognitive-load/