In the industrial design field of human–machine interaction, the user interface is the space where interaction between humans and machines occurs. The goal of interaction between a human and a machine at the user interface is effective operation and control of the machine, and feedback from the machine which aids the operator in making operational decisions. Examples of this broad concept of user interfaces include the interactive aspects of computer operating systems, hand tools, heavy machinery operator controls. and process controls. The design considerations applicable when creating user interfaces are related to or involve such disciplines as ergonomics and psychology.
A user interface is the system by which people (users) interact with a machine. The user interface includes hardware (physical) and software (logical) components. User interfaces exist for various systems, and provide a means of:
- Input, allowing the users to manipulate a system, and/or
- Output, allowing the system to indicate the effects of the users' manipulation.
Generally, the goal of human-machine interaction engineering is to produce a user interface which makes it easy, efficient, and enjoyable to operate a machine in the way which produces the desired result. This generally means that the operator needs to provide minimal input to achieve the desired output, and also that the machine minimizes undesired outputs to the human.
Ever since the increased use of personal computers and the relative decline in societal awareness of heavy machinery, the term user interface has taken on overtones of the (graphical) user interface, while industrial control panel and machinery control design discussions more commonly refer to human-machine interfaces.
Other terms for user interface include "human–computer interface" (HCI) and "man–machine interface" (MMI).
To work with a system, users have to be able to control and assess the state of the system. For example, when driving an automobile, the driver uses the steering wheel to control the direction of the vehicle, and the accelerator pedal, brake pedal and gearstick to control the speed of the vehicle. The driver perceives the position of the vehicle by looking through the windshield and exact speed of the vehicle by reading the speedometer. The user interface of the automobile is on the whole composed of the instruments the driver can use to accomplish the tasks of driving and maintaining the automobile.
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