"Technonews" Interactive Interfaces

by Erik Strommen

Ease of use is the fundamental principal guiding computer interface design. The assumption is that easier is always better, and that a challenging interface is a hindrance to effective computer use. Two studies published by the Interactive Technologies Division suggest that while ease of use may be an appropriate goal for adults, it is not necessarily the right goal for children. In two different studies, researchers tested different interface configurations for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The studies were conducted as part of our formative work on NES cartridges. In both studies, there was an "easy" interface that required a minimum amount of effort to use, and a "hard" interface that demanded more control from the child in order to position their cursor (in the shape of a little bird or a little person). Contrary to expectations, researchers found that even the youngest children enjoyed using the "hard" interfaces, even when they committed more errors and took longer to place the cursor where they wanted it!

Erik Strommen, Research Roundup, January 1996, Children's Television Workshop / Interactive Technology Department

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