cover to FDUCS

Web site for Foundations for Designing User-Centered Systems: What system designers need to know about people

Frank E. Ritter, Gordon D. Baxter, Elizabeth F. Churchill (2014).

Available through Springer ($45) and Springer Link (free PDF if your library subscribes [partial list] and $25 for a printed copy, enter through your library portal [example screenshot showing link to MyCopy]). Springer video on the book!

  "It looks great! It's going to be really useful. This may be the best HCI text so far." -- Stu Card

The Foundations for Designing User-Centered Systems (previously the ABCS of HCI) has been used by Ritter for several years to teach an impactful HCI course [1][2][3][4], and by other PSU instructors for online (Yeh) and residential classroom (Poole, UP; Brandywine, Bob Jones; McKeesport, Pat Clemson, not to be confused with the university), and at other universities including Arizona State (Atkinson), UMBC (Rana Balci-Sinha), Edinburgh (UK, Wolters), Glyndwr U (Wales), Hanyang U (S. Korea, Hokyoung Ryu), Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT, Finland), NIU / Galway (O' Laighin, (Ireland), Unitec (New Zealand, Dr. Nilufar Baghaei), U. of Newcastle (Baxter), U. of Conn and WPI (Qin), Hamburg and FH-Brandenburg (Kindsmueller), U of Michigan (Newman), St. Andrews (Dow), TU/Chemnitz (Krems, Ritter), Tufts (Ritter), and Mass. C. of Liberal Arts and Truman State (Cohen).

A review in Computing Reviews by Popescu is kind, and the book is mentioned in a review of another book (Chipman, 2017).

This web site provides additional, particularly online, resources. It uses a sparse style that is easy to maintain, and we believe straightforward to use. To the extent that this web site fails it provides two things (a) an example for a class exercise, and (b) proof of the adage about cobbler's children [reference to this phrase]. The PDF from Springer is in PDF v.9; some earlier readers may have difficulties.

General resources

 also see, the IST 331 web site at Penn State

List of errata

Slide deck for the book

 For instructors: example exam questions, and most figures are available by request to Ritter.

Front matter [PDF] This includes Foreword, Preface, Table of contents, and recomendations

Chapter 1: Introduction and overview

 Lovely site, not enough content: Huh? Corp

Ergonomics is cost effective, Stanton & Baber

Chapter 2: History

Example Ergonomics Lab, at Cornell

Apple user interface guidelines

A Definition of HCI

A nice, thoughtful, insighful, theoretical summary of the history of HCI

Grudin, J. (2012). A moving target—The evolution of human-computer interaction. In J. Jacko (Ed.), Human-Computer Interaction Handbook (3rd Edition) (pp. xxvii-lxi). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Chapter 3: Anthropometrics

Google-based summary of letter and word frequency shows some subtle changes for most common letters and words. This could influence how you set up keyboards and suggest passwords, for two quick examples.

 There is much material on the web to avoid or reduce Upper limb disorders (ULD) and Repetative Strain Injuries (RSI). One of many links is auat the U. of Nebraska Electronics Shop, and others in Australia and England.

 A new style of interaction, not clicking but mouse-over.     Found by Sam Christie-Sgro.

Chapter 4: Basics of Behavior, how and start to why

Demonstrations of auditory perceptual effects

Web site for Blake and Sekuler's book on perception

Color: an example where it is used directly for aesthetics

Changeblindness demo

Changeblindness demo, U of I.


Visual illusions

How colors can go together

Spot the flounder

 David Hubel (of Hubel and Wiesel fame) has an excellent online book that is available as html or pdf at

Dan Pink on motivation on YouTube

An interesting low-level visual effect, a spiral display tires some aspect of visual system

Eye-tracking video on Youtube illustrating how an eye moves on a web page

Colorblindness 1 (requires file upload), illustrates the effect

Colorblindness 2 (requires Java)

Colorblindness 3 (requires Flash), provides a fairly comprehensive test, taken from article on Pingu


BBC series on the senses

Chapter 5: Memory, attention, and learning

 Implicit memory, measuring it:

Examples of learning theories

 Attention demo [Youtube version 1 in advert]   [Youtube version 2 in a movie] [Imgur from Reddit]

 A useful, short set of slides on distraction and interface design by Giles Colborne

A short paper suggesting that cognitive science and memory research can predict how memorable TV ads are

XKCD on password choice, the use of words vs. characters

Short article on PINs

 The missing boat picture (Figure 6-12),   a clearer picture with just the missing boat

Brain Memory, an interactive diagram to show memory in the brain

Chapter 6: Mental representation, problem solving, and decision making

The Puzzle Museum, with more puzzles.

 Playing with mental models, car interacts with air wrench in an unanticpated way

Post-completion error exercise with ATM machines

 A Tower of Hanoi simulator

 A nice summary of decision biases

Chapter 7: Human-computer communication

 Jacob Nielsen makes some useful and direct suggestions for your web site based on information foraging in an Alertbox article

New Yorker article on reading on the screen (there are likely some problems, noted by Bob Jones, PSU/Brandywine)

A nice summary about serif and sanserif fonts, with multiple links by Alex Poole (but it's lack of conclusions Ritter disagrees with)

The Beach Boys used a theremin in their Good Vibrations song. The interface shown in the video varies slightly in that the physical surfaces have been modified to be easier to play. Further examples of ways of making sound typically using unsual interfaces.

A small, open source tool for computing readability scores. There is plenty of material on the web about this topic. You can also productively score different pieces of writing to see what the score can measure and what remains elusive. For example, "He did it. She helped them." has a perfectly good score, but is not interpretable.

Material on fonts and driving from the MIT Age Lab. They found a reliable and significant effect between several fonts.

Chapter 8: Social cognition

 Levitt and Dunbar (in Superfreakonomics), offers as having more details on Kitty Genovese's murder, suggesting in fact, that it is a poor example of bystander effects because there were essentially no bystanders. But, in January 2013, the web site appears to have removed this material, perhaps inadvertently.

A short summary of several topics on groups

Chapter 9: Networks

Facebook and you

Chapter 10: Errors

Raw error rates, a large list of papers Lots of example mistakes, errors, poor mental models, timing mistakes, etc., lists examples of errors, both simple and complex and benign and deadly

 Example (near-miss) errors

Animated videos about industrial accidents involving people from the US Chemical Safety Board

Sidney Dekker on errors The first part is a potted history of thinking about safet, and the role of HF. It also includes the anecdote about where to reinforce aircraft damaged in WWII based on an analysis of shrapnel patterns. The solution is to reinforce them where they haven't been hit—those are the ones that didn't come back. Dekker argues that we need (something like) that approach for modern complex systems, because the precursors don't predict the real events any more. People work around problems and don't report them, so you end up with normalisation of deviance. Lots of food for thought, particularly in the last half of the talk and the questions.

Chapter 11: Task analyses

Microwave races, shows time to do a task can differ and matters

A nice, simple KLM calculator. Spreadsheets are useful, but this is handy.

Some worked examples of KLM and GOMS by Ritter

Chapter 12: Empirical evaluation

Different usability methods

A summary of rapid prototyping tools [there are more lists and more tools, for sure. Also consider paper, Word, Pages, Powerpoint, Prezzi, and Keynote.]

References on usability testing from Goodman, Kuniavsky, & Moed, Observing the user experience

Why You Only Need To Test With Five Users (Explained), from Erika Poole, PSU/UP

Sample sizes for usability tests: mostly math, not magic, from Erika Poole, PSU/UP

Chapter 13: Cognitive dimensions and the gulfs

An online tutorial on Cognitive Dimensions by some of the authors of CDs (Green and Blackwell)

Chapter 14: Summaries of human behavior

Comments on building social networks by Agre

A tool, Usability Planner to decide what tools to use to reduce risk in system design

Further MHP example analyses, an extension to Table 16-1

 Ritter et al.'s (2004) book, Techniques for modeling human performance in synthetic environments

 Tools for testing web sites: Bobby, now renamed, and Erigami

 Pew and Mavor's (2007) book, Human-system integration in the system development process: A new look

Spiral model in UX

Chapter 19: Leftovers, future, emotions and esthetics

Somewhat informed software development

What cinematrography has to say about interface design

References, other resources is a treasure trove of HCI publications and resources

 Here is a nice review of a useful conference, UX Australia

Online Appendix 1: Example reports

 Example 1, by David Gilmore and Karen Coombes, of usability problems, from individuals to groups, intereact.

Online Appendix 2: Larger projects for classes

 Here are some larger class exercises and projects.

Online Appendix 3: Comments on writing and report preparation

 A short essay on how to prepare reports on HCI topics.

Online Appendix 4: Comments on how to read and what to read

Example Exams

 A single question exam from Rob St. Amant, about a single interface. Great stuff.

 Six example exams are available from Ritter.

Related books and resources

User-Centred Engineering, by Richter and Flückiger, also published by Springer and available on a chapter basis, may provide useful method reviews or additional material. Instructors could mix and match chapters.

 Also see, Interaction Design, by Rogers, Sharp, & Preece

 Userfocus has a short, interesting, easy to read book that is consistent with the ABCS (part of it made Ritter LoL).

 Also see, The FastTrack to Human-Computer Interaction by Serengul Smith-Atakan

100 things every designer needs to know about people, and 100 things every presenter needs to know about people, by Susan Weinschenk. These are good value books, but they fail to provide a unified view of users.

Guerrilla User Centred Design (UCD), provides a series of webinars (paid) that helps translate the effects of designing for users into design and interface building tips. They are nice, but somewhat assume the ABCS, which not everyone has. The idea that designers and implementors should care about users we completely agree with.

Resources from the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority. An interesting and useful collection of materials and examples, that overlap with this book, but are oriented for aircraft maintainers in Australia, but great stuff overall.

Designing-Interactive-Systems: A comprehensive guide to HCI UX and interaction design by David Benyon is more about design and appears to assume that you know the ABCS about users.

  brink, t., gergle, d., & wood, s. d. (2002). designing web sites that work: Usability for the web [sic]. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufman. Is a useful book, about applying some of these concepts to web sites, albeit it has a hard to parse cover.

Cognitive Psychology by Nick Braisby and Angus Gellatly (2012) is a general overview of many topics in cognitive psychology related to chapters on cognitive aspects of users (ch. 4-7 and ch. 10 in parts). and are sets of cognitive science and cogntive psychology resources

An ebook of psychology studies and demos, ePsych, at Mississippi State

 a set of demos and videos that are useful from U. of Idaho, Go Cognitive (I think)

 Springer's press releases on the book 1 and 2, on the front page of the European Association of Cognitive Ergonomics web site in September 2014.



Chipman, S. E. F. (2017). Keep Looking for that Textbook, a Review of "Psychology of Technology? by V. K. Kool and Rita Agrawal Cham. PsycCRITIQUES. 62(15), Article 4. DOI: 10.1037/a0040815


last updated: Frank Ritter, 15 july 2017

Be seeing you.