An interview with Ben Shneiderman

About Ben Shneiderman

Ben Shneiderman is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Founding Director (1983-2000) of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland. He was elected as a Fellow of the Association for Computing (ACM) in 1997, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2001, and a Member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2010. He received the ACM SIGCHI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. Ben is the co-author with Catherine Plaisant of Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction (5th ed., 2010). With Stu Card and Jock Mackinlay, he co-authored Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think (1999). His book Leonardo’s Laptop appeared in 2002 and won the IEEE book award for Distinguished Literary Contribution. His latest book, with Derek Hansen and Marc Smith, is Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL (2010).


Main points

  • Ben didn’t have a lot of resistance to the HCI program in the University of Maryland.
  • Students were ahead of faculty. They filled in all of the HCI courses.
  • There are still faculty members who think that HCI is not real computer science. When he was elected to the national academy of engineering in 2010, that has changed a little bit.
  • HCI courses are still not mandatory for CS students. It is still a new discipline.
  • There is a growing awareness and responsiveness to new programs in the HCI field among universities.
  • The most important thing to affect acceptance is the quality of HCI work being done. Doors will open in return.
  • Not every usability related document is perfect, so not all efforts will always be successful among stakeholders.
  • ROI is powerful in gaining acceptance.
  • Today, smart phones and tablets are helping in getting acceptance for usability.
  • The term “research” has an esoteric tone to it in a corporate environment. It suggests payoffs in 3-5 years away, which companies don’t have.
  • Work on short time frames and produce results. Rapid testing in the context of agile and lean development has proven itself.