What is it?
Feedback is when you perform a task it responds. It can respond with the 5 senses of touch, sight, sound, taste and smell though taste/smell are extremely rare on purpose indicators. This could be pulling a lever then hearing noises as the machine reacts or clicking a digital button on a touch screen and it visually changes to let you know you have done something.
“Feedback is about sending back information about what action has been done and what has been accomplished, allowing the person to continue with the activity. Various kinds of feedback are available for interaction design-audio, tactile, verbal, and combinations of these. Source:” Preece, J., Rogers, Y., Sharp, H. (2002), Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction, New York: Wiley, p.21
Why is it important?
With properly done feedback can tell the user much of what is going on mostly if they are operating the device correctly. A challenge has been for digital devices that done physically have feed back indicators as a screen except when designed to by the creator. Without feedback you can go to a web page and may not know what is clickable or what are links. This could mean a user is using a device very wrong and possibly dangerously and all this because the device is not showing proper signs of responding. Feedback should be immediate to know it is associated with the activation but should not be irritating for common functions.
Visual is possibly the most important as we are so visually bias as a species. Also visual cues are very important for digital screen as the main way you interact is with sight. For a web page there are challenges. If the text is the same color as the standard link color you would have no easy way to know without trying to interact with it. On the other hand if the links to other web pages are a distinct different color than your text you can be very confident that the convention of underlined and dark blue are links. Also the cursor could change to indicate this is different. Visual cue for say a car when you activate the wipers they immediately respond letting you know you did something and with what.
Sound is important because you need not be looking at the part activated or possibly in an other room. When you set your stove temperature it has to heat up and it takes a few minutes. Often you may be waiting for it and go to an other room or be doing something else in the kitchen. When the temperature is reached generally an alarm will go off. This lets you know it is ready and possibly remind you to put your food in. Other examples are for computers when you do something wrong or there is an error is often displays and error but it also often makes a distinct sound. This is often when you are about to do something that you may not want to do or could be permanent as deleting a file or closing an application without saving. This sound is a warning and different from other sounds made so that when you hear the sound you know something is or could be wrong if you proceed. With visual cues of deleting a file you may already be to committed to re read the warning of “are you sure you want to delete this?” but a sound could help snap you out of that and make you realize this is important and takes closer attention.
Touch is important because it is generally how we interact with everything. For a phone it could vibrate for any number of occurrences to let the user know when they have activated a task. Some phones will vibrate when you lock them to let you know you have done it correctly. Other wise you may keep pressing buttons and not immediately know why its not responding. An other example is when using a microwave oven. Almost always the button to open the door is a button you physically push in that releases the door. This is physical feedback and makes sense doing a physical task to activate a physical operation.
Taste/Smell is important because you need not be near the object for it to alert you. This feedback is grouped as 1 because they are so closely related and if one is say sick and cant smell it dramatically hinders your taste. This as feedback is usually unintentional such a when your food is burning you may smell burning. The reason this is not used much on purpose is because it would require a lot of money to use. There would need to be a devise that releases the smell and formula sprayed and then there is problems with how strong should be and how far should you be able to smell it and will you be able to out side and so forth. One of the only designed feed backs for smell is a child’s toy of “scratch n’ sniff” stickers. I need not explain how they work but you know you have done it correctly because you then smell a strong usually pleasant aroma that is not normally present. The problem with said item is the smell fades fairly fast. This is also used with perfume magazines and have a similar effect but the same issue of short duration and no recharge. Also a problem is if you scratch multiple in the same magazine quickly the smells with blend making it hard to know which smell was for which perfume which is important if you are planing to buy your most liked smell.
Feedback is very important and is difficult to simulate in digital formats as we have to simulate and fake real feedback. Feed back for physical objects are generally more natural and easier to understand. Designing for feedback is vital in interactive media. When feedback is done correctly is helps know when a thing is being used correctly and when not well designed it can throw one off to if they are doing anything or using it correctly.