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Notes > Interactive Systems / HCI > Input / Output Technology and Devices

Input Devices

Different input devices may suit different contexts. It is not normally possible to determine in a blanket fashion that one single input method is "better" than another. The user, task, and environment are all factors which need to be considered when deciding upon an input style.

In ISD, the user must be taken into consideration. What are their needs and would they potentially have limiting disabilities?

The task is also central to deciding what input method is best. Does it involve text or numeric input (or both) and is pointing and/or drawing a required part of the task? For more on text input methods, see Text Input Methods.

The environment can have a substantial effect on which input method is most suitable. Where and when is the system to be used? What are the surroundings like? Is there a lot of noise in the environment?

Output Devices

Output devices transform electronic representations of information within a computer into something that can be sensed by users. Visual output through a Visual Display Unit (VDU) of some sort is the main type of output involved in HCI and ISD. Other types of output are audible output (sound) or mechanical (a machine can be triggered into action by a system's output). Sound output is usually used for giving simple feedback for user's actions. Sound output can also be used effectively for those with disabilities (visual or otherwise). Other less mainstream output devices include 3D screens and helmets, force feedback, and speech output.

Visual output can be textual or graphical (involving pictures and images). There are several important design issues related to visual output and how it is displayed. Firstly, the information must be legible. This is affected by factors such as the screen size or screen resolution if the output is displayed on a visual display. It may be the case that textual output is printed onto paper. In this case, the text must still be legible so the relevant factors related to this must be taken into consideration.

The output information must also be easy to browse and process. Information can be laid out in columns and rows which enable easy viewing. Menus can also be employed to make information easier to navigate and find.

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