Professor Ann Blandford

Professor of Human–Computer Interaction

Director of UCL Institute of Digital Health

Location: Room 2.02, 66-72 Gower Street

University College London
Gower Street - London - WC1E 6BT, U.K

Telephone: +44 203 108 7049 (internal: 57049)
Email: a.blandford at ucl.ac.uk

Blog: HCI Sense & Safety

Ann Blandford

External activities

Videos, books and other resources

Brief biography

I am Professor of Human–Computer Interaction in the Department of Computer Science at UCL, and a member of UCL Interaction Centre (UCLIC, jointly supported by the Department of Computer Science and the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences). I was Director of UCLIC 2004-2011. In 2013, I was recognised as an academic role model in the School of Life and Medical Sciences, a testament to UCL's support for interdisciplinary working. I am also a parent and a grandparent. In 2015, I was appointed as the first Director of the UCL Institute of Digital Health.

My first degree is in Mathematics, from Cambridge University, and my PhD is in Artificial Intelligence and Education, from the Open University. I started my career in industry as a software engineer, followed by a period managing the Computer Assisted Teaching Unit at QMUL. I gradually developed a focus on the use and usability of computer systems. In 1991, I joined the Applied Psychology Unit in Cambridge as a research scientist, working on the AMODEUS project. I moved to Middlesex University, initially as a lecturer, and subsequently as Professor and Director of Research in Computing Science. I moved to UCL as a Senior Lecturer in 2002 and became a professor (again) in 2005. My focus is on technology for health and wellbeing.

I have been technical programme chair for IHM-HCI 2001, HCI 2006, DSVIS 2006 and NordiCHI2010. I chaired AISB (1997-1999), and was a member of the EPSRC Information and Communications Technologies Strategic Advisory Team (2004-2008). I was Vice Chair of IFIP Working Group 2.7/13.4 (2010-2013). I am a Fellow of the BCS and serve on the Executive of UKCRC.


My funded work is on evaluating complex systems "in the wild", whether in relation to human error or the use of information. My focus is on Digital Healthcare. I take a pragmatic approach to developing and applying theory in practice, recognising and working with the inherent "messiness" of the real world.

I am currently UCL Principal Investigator for the following funded projects:

ECLIPSE: Exploring the Landscape of Intravenous Infusion Practices & Errors

CHI+MED: Computer–Human Interaction for Medical Devices (EPSRC Programme Grant). This is also described in cs4fn.

....and I am also involved in:

Farr Institute @ London: MRC e-Health Informatics Translational Research Centre.

UBIHealth: Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme.

Recent activities include:

Information on my research (including publications and my team), teaching, and knowledge transfer activities can be found by following the links above.

Ann Blandford Research photo

I have led or participated in various funded research projects. My research has all been broadly in the area of evaluating complex systems, and my current work focuses on supporting people's activities in healthcare through better interactive technology design. Within this, there are several (ongoing, overlapping) themes:

Designing safe, usable systems for healthcare

  • Ongoing work on ECLIPSE is focusing on the design of infusions devices (for administering drugs) and patient safety.
  • Work on CHI+MED has focused on human factors for medical devices, with a particular concern with error and resilience.
  • Earlier work investigated the use of information technologies by clinicians, e.g. the role of communities of practice in take-up and use, design of an awareness server, and requirements on time management tools.
  • I am interested in how patients engage with health technologies and health information. Some of our work on home haemodialysis features on the York Nephrology blog.

Lay people's interactions with health and wellness technologies

I also lead several smaller projects investigating how people interact with health and wellness technologies "in the wild", including projects on:

  • patient empowerment, and what that really means;
  • engagement with behaviour change technologies for health and wellness;
  • people's views of data privacy for health information;
  • how people engage with and make sense of health information (e.g. concerning infection);
  • integrating the physical and the digital in self care and shared care.

Interacting with information

  • See our Synthesis Lecture, for an overview of much of our work on interacting with information, and in particular the "information journey".
  • Our paper on sensemaking summarises our work with lawyers.
  • A recently completed project studied the nature of serendipity (through the SerenA project) and how to design to support sensemaking.

Human error and safety in interactive systems

  • We have conducted many studies on cognitive slips, such as that reported by Li et al. The focus of this work, currently being supported through CHI+MED, is on understanding how the design of interactive systems provokes or mitigates slips.
  • Conversely, we are also studying how individuals and organisations develop resilient strategies, and how technology supports this. For example, we conducted studies in control rooms, and have developed a preliminary resilience markers framework.

Methods for evaluating interactive systems

  • The CASSM method focuses on the conceptual fit between user and system; a tutorial and the Cassata support tool are available from the CASSM website.
  • DiCoT is an approach to evaluating small team interactions in terms of Distributed Cognition.
  • We have done a little work on Evaluating Multimodal Usability (EMU), e.g. evaluating a satnav system.
  • CASSM and EMU both built, to some extent, on Programmable User Modelling (PUMA), an approach which turned out to be too costly relative to its benefits.
  • PRET A Rapporter isn't a method as such, but a structured approach to planning any evaluation study. Sorry we've only reported on it in the context of information systems so far!
  • As well as developing methods, we have tried to evaluate them; for example we tested the scope of various methods.
  • We have also reflected on what it takes to develop and test a new method.

Applying and developing theory in practical contexts

  • As well as the work on resilience, error, communities of practice, sensemaking, serendipity, etc., we have investigated emergency medical dispatch from the perspectives of situation awareness and distributed cognition.

Currently funded projects:

CHI+MED: Computer–Human Interaction for Medical Devices (EPSRC Programme Grant).

ECLIPSE: on the design of infusions devices (for administering drugs) and patient safety (NIHR).

Completed projects:

Healthy Interactive Systems in Healthcare (EPRSC Platform Grant).

SerenA: The Serendipity Arena (EPSRC sandpit project).

INKE: Implementing New Knowledge Environments (SSHRCC).

Making Sense of Information (with John Dowell, Simon Attfield & Stephen de Gabrielle)

Human Error Modelling (HUM) (with Paul Curzon, Jonathan Back, Dominic Furniss, George Papatzanis & Rimvydas Ruksenas)

User Centred Interactive Search with Digital Libraries (with Claire Warwick, George Buchanan, Jeremy Gow, Jon Rimmer & William Newman)

Co-evolving roles and responsibilities in the NHS (with Anne Adams & Peter Lunt)

Concept-based Analysis of Surface and Structural Misfits (CASSM – formerly OSM) (with Thomas Green & Iain Connell)

Learning from Organisations Using Information Systems (with Henry Potts, David Patterson, Justin Keen, Chris Martin, Jackie Nicholls & Tracy Denby)

Interaction Modelling for the Design of Digital Libraries (with Harold Thimbleby, Hanna Stelmaszewska, George Buchanan, Ian Witten, David Bainbridge). Final report and list of publications also available.

Usability evaluation tools for digital libraries (with Bob Fields & Suzette Keith)

Programmable User Modelling Applications (with Richard Butterworth, Richard Young & Paul Curzon)

Research Publications

Retrieving data...
Ann Blandford Teaching photo

My teaching materials for the MSc HCI-E are now available to current students via Moodle. For prospective students, information about the course is available here. I teach Understanding Usability and Use on the MSc HCI-E.

MSc projects

The main information on MSc projects is available from Moodle. I am particularly interested in supervising projects that:

  • relate directly to my funded research projects, or
  • improve our understanding of how to design and deploy systems for health and wellbeing.

Projects supervised by me that have been awarded a Distinction include:

  • Robert Nicolaides (2014) Understanding human values inbanking technology
  • James Laurie (2014) Understanding user behaviour and user experience of a mental wellbeing mobile application.
  • Maninis, Georgios (2012) What is required to determine a useful tag collection? A qualitative study of social tagging behaviour on radio broadcasts. 
  • Gant, Frances (2011) Behind closed doors – a distributed cognition study of infusion pump use in round-the-clock haematology treatment
  • Dantonio, Laura (2010) Reciprocity and investment: The role of social media in fostering serendipity
  • O'Connor, Liam (2010) Workarounds in Accident and Emergency & Intensive Therapy Departments: Resilience, Creation and Consequences
  • Rajkomar, Atish (2010) Extending Distributed Cognition Analysis for Complex Work Settings: A Case Study of Infusion Pumps in the Intensive Care Unit – awarded the John Long Prize for an outstanding research dissertation
  • King, Ashton (2009) Goalchase: A motivation-driven design and evaluation framework for interactive systems – awarded the John Long Prize for an outstanding research dissertation
  • Moore, Lisa (2009) At your leisure: Assessing ebook reader functionality and interactivity
  • Kollmann, Johanna (2008) Designing the user experience in an agile context
  • Tam, Phyllis (2008) UrbanBuzz: Evaluation of a niche professional social networking site
  • Webb, Philip (2008) Extending a distributed cognition framework: The evolution and social organisation of line control – awarded the John Long Prize for an outstanding research dissertation
  • Atkinson, Elizabeth (2007) Web analytics and think aloud studies in web evaluation: understanding user experience
  • Ioannidis, Antonios (2007) Do you read me? An investigation into how expert users respond to dialogue boxes
  • Kelley, Kimberley (2007) An exploration of internal cues to reduce omission errors in a procedural task – awarded the John Long Prize for an outstanding research dissertation
  • Perera, Mickela (2006) Human error in context
  • Smith, Penelope (2006) Trust, flow and pleasure: an ethnographic study of London Underground control rooms

Journal and conference publications that are based on MSc dissertations include:

  • Dantonio, L., Makri, S., & Blandford, A. (2012). Coming across academic social media content serendipitously. Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 49(1), 1-10. [link]
  • Rajkomar, A. & Blandford, A. (2012) Understanding Infusion Administration in the ICU through Distributed Cognition. Journal of Biomedical Informatics.45.3. 580-590. [link]
  • Hiltz, K., Back, J., Blandford, A. (2010). The roles of conceptual device models and user goals in avoiding device initialization errors. Interacting with Computers. 22.5. 363-374. [DOI link]
  • Kollmann, J., Sharp, H., Blandford, A.(2009) The importance of Identity and Vision to user experience designers on agile projects. Agile 2009, 11-18. [DOI link]
  • Smith, P., Blandford, A., Back, J.(2008). Questioning, exploring, narrating and playing in the control room to maintain system safety.Cognition, Technology and Work . ISSN: 1435-5558 [DOI link]
  • Fleet, L., Blandford, A.(2005). Requirements of Time Management Tools for Outpatient Physiotherapy Practice. Health Informatics Journal 11, 179-199.[Eprint]
  • Furniss,D., Blandford,A.(2006). Understanding Emergency Medical Dispatch in terms of Distributed Cognition: a case study.Ergonomics 49(12 & 13), 1174-1203. ISSN: 0014-0139 [Eprint] [DOI link]
  • Makri,S., Blandford,A., Gow,J., Rimmer,J., Warwick,C.Buchanan,G.(2007). A library or just another information resource? A case study of users' mental models of traditional and digital libraries.Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 58(3), 433-445. ISSN: 1532-2882 [Eprint] [DOI link]
CHI+MED team photo

Current Research Associates

Dr Dominic Furniss - working on the ECLIPSE project, studying the situated use of medical devices, how errors occur and how they are avoided.

Dr Imogen Lyons - working on the ECLIPSE project.


Current PhD/EngD Students

Aisling O'Kane - user experience of interactive diabetes technologies

Kathy Stawarz - apps to support medication adherence

Hadiza Ismaila - technology for behaviour change for non-communicable diseases
Nicola Newhouse - technology support for perinatal mental health Irina Orovskaya - patient controlled electronic health records

Olga Perski - technology for behaviour change


Former Research Associates

Dr Anne Adams

Dr Simon Attfield

Dr Jonathan Back

Dr Nick Bryan-Kinns

Dr George Buchanan

Dr Richard Butterworth

Dr Iain Connell

Alexandra Eveleigh

Dr Sarah Faisal

Dr Jeremy Gow

Ms Suzette Keith

Dr Stephann Makri

Dr Sheila Pontis

Dr Hanna Stelmaszewska

Dr Chris Vincent


Former PhD Students (Graduated)

Maartje Ament - studying the role of task structure in provoking or mitigating cognitive slips

George Buchanan- spatial hypertext and digital libraries

Abdigani Diriye - investigating how digital library interfaces can better support exploratory search

Sarah Faisal - interacting with information visualisation of academic literature

Dominic Furniss - usability evaluation in design practice

Kostas Giannakis - graphical techniques for describing sounds

Stephen Hassard - design fixation and design decision making

Becky Hill - domain modelling for major incident planning

Huayi Huang (QMUL) - analysing incidents with medical systems.

Jo Hyde - usability of multimodal systems

Amirrudin Kamsin - time management behaviours and needs

Simon Li - cognitive modelling of prospective memory errors

Stephann Makri - lawyers' information behaviours

George Papatzanis - evaluation of multimodal in-car systems

Atish Rajkomar - use of home haemodialysis devices (a Distributed Cognition perspective)

Cecile Rigny - executable user models

Serengul Smith - machine learning for user modelling in hypertext navigation

Hanna Stelmaszewska - photo sharing with camera phones

Suziah Sulaiman - usability of haptic interfaces

David Thompson (EngD, NATS) - behavioural markers for air traffic controll

Haiyan Xiong - machine assisted proof

Ann Blandford KT photo

I work with both commercial and public organisations to better understand how technology is used, and how it can be designed and deployed to improve use. There are various ways of working with business and the public sector. The following are illustrative examples.In the ongoing CHI+MED programme, we are working with manufacturers of interactive medical devices to understand their needs and practices, with a view to providing tools that support them in designing more usable (safer) systems. We are also working with policy organisations such as the National Patient Safety Agency to improve safety through usability, and with various NHS Trusts looking at procurement, deployment and training issues.

With Lexis Nexis UK, I completed a series of consultancy projects, supported by Simon Attfield and Stephann Makri. We worked with them (using an "apprenticeship" model) to gather rich user data from their customers, jointly analysing that data to develop use cases and personas that have been used in subsequent development work within the company. We delivered training workshops on how journalists and lawyers work with information (particularly their products), and on how to evaluate their products from a Human Factors perspective. This work had three important outcomes:

  1. A set of use cases and personas that have been used in subsequent development work.
  2. Enhanced skills of the Human Factors team and their colleagues, expanding their repertoire of techniques for designing and evaluating their systems.
  3. Improved dialogue with key customers about their practices and requirements.

In an earlier research project studying the work of Emergency Medical Dispatchers at London Ambulance Service, we highlighted some "quick fixes" that would make their systems more efficient, as well as longer term design possibilities. For example, we identified key information that should be displayed on the "overview" screen; this design change substantially reduced the number of times staff had to flick between screens to get the information they needed, and was greatly welcomed by staff in the control room.

I have also worked with law firms, newspapers, e-commerce organisations, London Underground, BT, NATS, and the British Library. These have included organisations hosting MSc projects, organising workshops, working jointly on research projects, and providing consultancy services.

Page last modified on 12 apr 13 15:05 by Rowanne Fleck