Computers should help us concentrate on our work, without concentrating on the computer

Ben Bederson has written an interesting article “Interfaces for Staying in the Flow” (via Surf*Minf*Musings).

Five characteristics of flow (observed by Csikszentmihalyi):
1. Challenge and require skill
2. Concentrate and avoid interruption
3. Maintain control
4. Speed and feedback
5. Transformation of time

I was interested to read the discussion of animation between screen states as a way to reduce the perception of interruption. “While animation in general can be used in ways that are very disruptive, we have found that animation can be helpful if used to help users understand how the interface changes. The potential for this kind of animated transition is that it can reduce the cognitive overhead of understanding of the relationship between two screen sates, thus enabling users to stay focused on the task…Reducing the need for users to consciously make connections between different interface states has the potential for reducing their short-term memory load.”

While I have often experienced the transformation of time associated with flow. I never thought to measure it in usability studies. “People regularly report that their perception of time changes when they are in the flow.” Bederson reports that Czerwinski, Horvitz and Cutrell “found that the more difficult the task, the longer the participans thought the task took relative to the actual task time.”

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