Flow and Frustration – an assessment of the impact of software design on the usability of applications within a working environment

Clough, Stephen (2016) Flow and Frustration – an assessment of the impact of software design on the usability of applications within a working environment. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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Many people spend a lot of their time on computers in work environments, and their usage of these is different from their usage in leisure environments. This study addresses how to make the interactions in this type of task work for the user and thereby enable the user to be more efficient and productive at work. The literature survey considers the dichotomy of flow – as defined by Csikszentmihalyi – and frustration (defined here in Chapter 2). Through a series of surveys and experiments, this study examines how people think and process information during work-type activities. This is crucial to understanding how the “flow” state can be achieved because it is a central thesis that this is where these human processes are working at their best. The initial survey uses a questionnaire about the experience of work and leisure by the participants. The aim is to understand and define the difference between these experiences. Following this, interviews are used to draw out some significant aspects of positive and negative experience of computer usage. These features are then verified in a second empirical study using a different data source, which enables a more comprehensive questionnaire to be produced aimed at providing more detailed data for analysis to understand the types of users and the circumstances in they have used computer systems. This provides some insights into the experience that users have, against some demographics, demonstrating that, broadly, the categorisations are appropriate This study then explores the frustration aspect (and, by contrast, how to avoid frustration) using two experimental studies. The first looks specifically at the design of a user interface and the impact that this has on the usage. The second examines the processing and achievement of tasks with varying levels of “built in” frustration-inducing elements, including impossible tasks. This experiment shows that tasks that are simple to specify but difficult to achieve build up levels of frustration that are carried into further tasks and cause users to be less productive, even for simpler-seeming tasks. My thesis provides strong evidence for the validity of the flow concept as defined by Csikszentmihalyi and that this can be contrasted with frustration in a predictive dichotomy. It indicates that the concept works within the field of computer system usage, and there is some indication that providing an IT environment that encourages flow will provide a far more productive working environment than one which inhibits flow. The flow-frustration dichotomy is identified as a valid and productive one for computer interaction design. By understanding the flow-frustration dichotomy designers can aim to ensure interfaces enable user tasks that flow naturally enabling them to be free from frustration and therefore more efficient and productive.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Hapeshi, Kevinkhapeshi@glos.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Reeves, Ninanreeves@glos.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Uncontrolled Keywords: Software design; Flow state
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA76 Computer software
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 24 May 2019 15:44
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2021 21:47
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/6874

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