IS 4300: Human-Computer Interaction

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The following assignments are to be completed individually and posted to your individual course web site by 5 PM the day before class.

Homework 1: Project Web Site and Brainstorming

A 1 week assignment.

1) If you do not have a CCIS account and have not requested one, do so.

2) Create a personal course web site and put it online. This site is an opportunity for you to develop your practical understanding of human computer interaction. Create a clear and engaging design that you will be able to use to post all of your individual homework assignments and reading responses throughout the semester. See the resources for details about how to put sites online and the kinds of tools you can use to do this.

Your site should have your name and email in a prominent location. Having a picture of you on the site is a good idea. The site should be easy to navigate. (Remember, I will go to your web site to grade your homeworks and reading responses!) In this story you can see are some examples of course web sites created by graduate students. (Note that the first link in this story is broken but others work.) Your site will have fewer sections than these examples.

For now please post what you hope to get from the course and any relevant experiences you bring to it. Relevant experience includes programming and other technologies (particular those listed as rapid prototyping resources), design, testing, management, organization skills. This information about roles may help you identify what you can contribute.

3) Send an email with: (a) your name, (b) preferred email address, and (c) URL of your personal course web site to

4) Pick three different project ideas that you would be interested in working on for a team project, make a rough sketch of a user interface and write a 1 paragraph proposal for each, further fleshing out the idea. Post your write-ups and sketches on your site indicating your order of preference (these will be used to help form project teams). For ideas, review recent years' CHI proceedings and other materials in the HCI links and think about what you, yourself, would like to see. Post your ideas to your new web site. To get others excited about your ideas, present them in a clear and engaging way. Scanned or photographed sketches can be appealling. So is humor, but don't let it get in the way of a good idea.

Homework 2: UI Critique

Due in 1 week.

Find 2 examples of good user interface design, and 2 examples of bad user interface design. Is there something that you use regularly that works well? Or really annoys you? Maybe it is on your email client, your phone texting interface, or on Facebook. Think about interfaces you use that you all the time effortlessly. Why is that? Or ones that you knew exactly what they did from the first time you used them. Why? On the other end, what interface drives you crazy? Why do you seem to the same mistake with an interface regularly?

Your examples and your reasoning should be specific. Focus on features of the user interfaces that makes your case even if other aspects of the interface are neutral to or opposing your argument. Any interface can be studied: desktop, embedded, mobile, web, consumer appliances, car dashboards, building entrances, traffic intersections, shower controls, etc. Norman's book, The Design of Everyday Things, includes a lot of examples of this kind, which you may find inspirational.

What to Post

Your report should include 2 good examples and 2 bad examples. For each example:

· describe the purpose of the overall interface

· describe the particular aspect you find good or bad

· explain why it's good or bad (please make explicit reference to the principles covered in the readings and in call on 1/14).

· if bad, speculate why it might have been designed that way, and suggest a better design if possible

· illustrate with screenshots or photographs

Homework 3: Ethnography

Due in 1 week.

Northeastern has just hired you to make the student center more efficient and friendly. Pick a location and spend an hour people watching with a notebook and pencil. Spend some time watching the kinds of activities that people are engaged in, and think about how technology could help improve these activities. Pick one such activity to focus on and study. For your chosen activity watch several people perform the task and make detailed notes about the series of steps they go through, any objects (“artifacts”) they use, whether they interact with other people and, if so, the step-by-step details of this interaction. Conduct one or two unstructured interviews with your subjects. Some examples of activities: deciding on a restaurant meal ordering finding a room deciding whether to take the stairs or elevator. Even better, come up with one that interests you.

What to Post

Your report should include a one-paragraph summary of why you picked your particular activity to focus on, followed by an overview of the activity, the kinds of people you observed engaging in it, and a description of any artifacts they used. Describe the individuals you interviewed (not by name) and what you learned from the interviews. Following this, provide a detailed description of the activity and any variations you observed. Review the two papers assigned this class for examples of how to write your report. You can include sketches or photographs. Total report length should be 2-3 pages.

Homework 4: Protoyping

Due in 1 week.

For this assignment you will build a wireframe of an interface you find interesting. Your interface could be based on 1.) something we have discussed in class, 2.) a one of your previous assignments (including a project idea from H1 that didn't become a team project, bad interfaces from H2 that you want to redesign, or an interface you thought about doing your ethnography for H3), or 3) something else that interests you. Based on the previous class and your readings, generate an appropriate task scenarios, persona(s), and use case(s) to find a single or small set of problems you will address. Next create a wireframe of an interface that will allow your persona to accomplish the goals from the use case. You may use any technology you would like to create your wireframe. Options include photographs of paper, paper with stop motion animation, animated gifs, Gliffy, HTML/Javascript/CSS, Flash, Axure, Scratch, etc. Your final output should not be highly decorative because the goal is to describe the functionality and interaction, not the look-and-feel. So your output should be cleanly clearly presented. If your functionality is very simple or obvious without seeing the interaction, you may only need static wireframes. In many cases you will need to demonstrate the interaction. This could be done through video, animation, wireframing tools, or just coding it up enough to show the interaction.

What to post:

Several paragraphs describing the task scenarios, persona(s), and use case(s). Include images should that be appropriate.

Your wireframes with any textual annotation needed to understand it.

Homework 5: Heuristic Evaluation

Due in 1 week.

Before you begin, it will be helpful for you to review this short, previously-assigned article on how to conduct a heuristic evaluation.

You will do heuristic evaluation on two computer prototypes developed by your classmates. The two interfaces you will be evaluating will be assigned in class. For each, go to the project team's webpage and review the T6 report for each project, which will give you instructions for running the prototype and background information about the project. This is not an anonymous evaluation, so feel free to contact a project group directly if you need more information than you were given. As soon as you receive your prototype assignments, try to download and run both prototypes. You don't have to do your heuristic evaluation right away, but poke around a bit and make sure the prototypes appear to work. We need to get logistical problems out of the way as early as possible, since everybody else is going to be working on heuristic evaluations too. Follow the heuristic evaluation procedure to evaluate both interfaces carefully. Make a numbered list of usability problems and successes you find. For each problem or positive comment, you should: describe the problem or positive feature identify the relevant usability heuristics (from Nielsen's Ten Usability Heuristics, or any other guidelines we've discussed in class) estimate its severity (for problems, use cosmetic, minor, major, or catastrophic; for positive comments, just say good) You aren't required to recommend solutions for the problems, but any ideas you have would no doubt be appreciated. Be thorough. You should have at least 20 useful comments (positive or negative) about each interface that you evaluate. Write your reports in a readable style. The usability of your report to its recipients will matter in your grade. In particular, don't bury the problems you found in reams of free-flowing prose. Where possible, include screenshots to illustrate the problems you found. In general, make your report easy to read and understand.

What to Post

You should post two reports, one for each interface you evaluated, on separate web pages. Email the relevant URL to the appropriate team members.