You’ve probably heard the phrase Too Much Information when somebody shares too freely and I believe this happens in the HCI world too whenever a device gives a beep, flash or an alarm that is wholly unwanted. I call this Hyper Feedback. The key factor in deciding whether a stimulus is feedback or Hyper Feedback is whether it causes annoyance, irritation, aggravation or exasperation.
The “Everything is fine” Alarm
Here are the four types of Hyper Feedback:
a) unnecessary as you are acutely aware of the action you have taken;
If you take your seat belt off to open a gate and you don’t bother replacing it for the remaining 5 metre journey in a driveway. And yet the car will beep at you incessantly.
b) continuous or repetitive;
The classic here is the car alarm. (aside: when has anybody ever heard a car alarm and called the police to report a potential crime?) Any alarm that continues will cause habituation and will therefore negate its own usefulness slowly through logic.
An oven timer beeps to let you know that food is ready. This is a good interaction. If it beeped once. But some won’t stop. You have to race to the oven not because the food might spoil but to prevent beep-induced insanity.
c) unintelligible but insistent;
These are the error messages that tell you the Core Creezel needs Reshevelling to prevent Error Code 3546 self-referencing.
d) excessive – you’re just too darn loud!
The sheer number of messages that emerge on a Windows screen and fade away notifying available updates, files changes and that devices are working (I assume they work – tell me when they don’t)
So for those of you with kids, how many boxes of Hyper Feedback can a crying baby tick?