Frequently Asked Questions about HCI


What is human-computer interaction (HCI)?
What types of jobs can I get?
Could you explain the joint program with Rutgers?
What electives should I take?
Where can I get more information?

What is human-computer interaction (HCI)?

Human-Computer Interaction is a new field of computing that has the primary purpose of building human interfaces to computers such that they are easier to learn, easier to use, and cause the person using the computer to commit less errors. People who work in human-computer interaction (commonly called HCI) know how to measure groups of potential users and interpret the data collected from the users so that it can be applied to the interface design. Human-centered design techniques are used to build prototypes of the proposed user interface, and this interface is then tested with users and modified as needed to ensure that the interface meets ease of use criteria. People who work in HCI have backgrounds in design, psychology, and computer systems building. Many also have backgrounds in technical writing and sociology.

A classic example of the type of product an HCI person produces is the mobile telephone. HCI people had to come up with a design that worked with only a few menu selection buttons but still handled the multiple menu selections users felt were useful in a phone such as keeping a personal telephone numbers, updating the time, setting alarms, downloading and setting special rings, etc. In addition, they had to make the telephone work with no training whatsoever. Thousands of hours of HCI personnel time went into the development of the initial interfaces. Phone companies who did not do this initial HCI development lost a large amount of money in sales.

The field of Human-Computer Interaction also is responsible for inventing many of the new technologies that appear today. Because so much computing technology is a part of every day tasks, many HCI people work on appliance design, game design or even a car’s dashboard design. HCI is also involved in the presentation of television weather, much of electronic commerce and even surgery.

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What types of jobs can I get?

Usability Engineer – a usability engineer is typically involved in setting the criteria that user interfaces need to meet and in running the user testing that is carried out on prototypes of the interface.

Interaction Designer – an interaction design works on developing prototype interface designs from user specifications. This person needs to know a lot about design issues, e.g., what colors work best, what typography to use and how to organize menu items.

Information Architect – an information architect works with web pages, especially large web sites. Such a person specifies what information should be on what page, what should be on the sidebar panel and what links should be on each page. They also manage the database behind the web page.

Usability Specialist – a usability specialist is a more generalist type of job that involves the entire user-centered development life cycle. This is typically the name for a consultant who works in the field. Such a person may be called in to direct the development of a set of web pages from start to finish or to direct the design of a complex interface such as the mobile telephone.

User Experience Engineer – a user experience engineer is more likely to be focused on the early part of a user interface design. Such a person is an expert in gathering data from users with such techniques as focus groups, interview, unobtrusive observations or surveys. They gain their name from designing for what they perceive the user experience with the interface to be. This includes such experiences as feeling satisfied, secure, comfortable, supported, etc.

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Could you explain the joint program with Rutgers?

Because HCI is an interdisciplinary field, students will be required to take courses in psychology at Rutgers-Newark and courses in information systems and computer science at NJIT. Courses in human-computer interaction will be taught in the NJIT Information Systems department . The degree program is jointly administered by the NJIT Department of Information Systems and by the Rutgers University-Newark Psychology Department .

Students are admitted to the program by applying to either NJIT or to Rutgers-Newark. Those admitted to NJIT must satisfy the General University Requirements at NJIT and those admitted to Rutgers-Newark must satisfy the General Educational Requirements at Rutgers-Newark.

Information on the required courses for the BS-HCI degree program can be found in the university course catalog: link to BS-HCI degree description.

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What electives should I take?

Students are required to take four upper division (courses numbered above 299) electives in the HCI programs. These electives are to form a coherent set of four courses focused on a discipline or subject area related to human-computer interaction. Below, we recommend streams that typically fit this requirement beyond those already listed in the catalog. Other streams are possible but need to be developed in discussion with the program advisor.

HCI Specialization Courses

Many of these are already listed towards the end of the BS HCI catalog.

Electronic Commerce

Mgmt 380 – Principles of e-Commerce
Mgmt 460 – Management Strategies for e-Commerce
Mgmt 480 – Managing in a Technological Environment

Psychology – these courses are taught at Rutgers-Newark – a student in HCI may pursue a second degree in Psychology by adding appropriate electives and these courses

830-346 – Psychology of Language
830-423 – History and Modern Viewpoints in Psychology
830-484 – Physiological Psychology

Professional Technical Communication

Eng 353 – Electronic Publishing
Eng 360 – Collaborative Communication: Community and Global Perspectives
STS 304 – Writing about Science, Technology and Society
STS 340 – Multiculturalism in a Technological Society
STS 348 – Aesthetics and Modern Technology

Industrial Engineering

IE 355 – Human Factors
IE 436 – Cost Analysis and Engineering Economics
IE 441 – Information and Knowledge Engineering
IE 460 – Measuring Techniques and Quality Control
IE 492 – Engineering Management

Human-Centered Information Systems

IS 392 – Information Retrieval
IE 355 – Human Factors
and you can take several graduate level HCI courses as a junior or senior - check with your advisor!

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Where can I get more information?

HCI Bibliography

  • Click here to get absolutely free Human-Computer Interaction resources like definitions, coming events, history of HCI, etc.

Human-Computer Interaction Resources on the Net

  • Check it out to find the HCI jobs, research labs, projects, companies and consultants.

British HCI Group

  • British HCI group is a special group of the British Computer Scociety (BCS), which is the longest-established and largest national group in Europe devoted to HCI.

HCI Index

  • This is the complete index representing all the news as well as upcoming events related to HCI.

Human-Computer Interaction Resource Network

  • HCIRN provides HCI professionals with relevant, accurate and timely information on HCI theories, methods, practices and resources. It’s scope is to represent the collective knowledge of HCI in a cross-linked knowledge-database.

HCI Books

  • Get all the HCI books online here.

Microsoft's Usability Research

  • Click here to see Microsoft’s usability research page and find out more information related to usability.

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