Projects - ISU570 Human Computer Interaction

Professor Futrelle, CCIS, Northeastern University - Fall 2007

Version of April 5, 2008


Your semester project is far and away the most important piece of work you will do in this course. Because of that, the specifications and requirements for the project will be rather detailed. The primary organizing principle for your project is that it should, as much as possible, draw on all of the material in your textbook. The details are described below.

Important instructions as to how to structure your project paper

All the items listed below are required. You will lose points if any of them are omitted. The precise order can be varied, as long as everything is there. Some of the requirements relate to form, some to content. (My hope is that the requirements below can stand you in good stead when writing other papers and reports, in school, and on the job.)

Addtional notes on how to organize your handins can be found here.

Project handin schedule - with minimum requirements

Overview of your project structure and activities involved

This project has some resemblance to your second assignment, "Analyzing and critiquing some artifact". But the project will go beyond that in all dimensions, including experimental design and data gathering and including your own ideas for redesign of the systems you study. A key component will be evaluation - it is easy enough to state your own personal evaluation of systems - it is quite another matter to discover how other people use and evaluate the systems you are focusing on. More than anything, you will need to do extensive and careful reading in your textbook to make sure that you have included as many important concepts and strategies in your project as is practical, within the time and effort you have to devote to it. There will be no further assignments in this course beyond your project. On the other hand, there will be some exams covering a variety of important topics from the textbook.

Your "experimental subjects"

You should do everything you can to enlist people to use the systems you are working with so you can observe them, ask questions, have them fill out user experience forms, etc. You may need to give them some little reward such as taking them to dinner or to a movie to show them your appreciation. You should not name your subjects, just age, gender, occupation (typically "student"), as well as some indication as to whether they are or are not familiar with the system(s) you're studying.

You must describe redesigns for systems you study!

Your project will also differ from your past work, because you will take a more active approach. When you carefully study any system, you'll find deficiencies or awkward, confusing, or annoying design. So an important part of your project, especially in the second and final versions, will be to suggest design improvements, and in addition, describe the types of experiments that could be done to compare the new design with the old - does it produce a more successful user experience?

How many words, pages, figures, and references you'll need

Each successive version will include improved versions of what you handed in previously, plus new material. For each version, state clearly how much is old and how much is new - how many more pages, how many more figures, how many more references. You may throw away or radically revise some older material too. That's often a smart approach. For example, you may find better references or figures and replace the old with the new as well as adding a few more. And remember your audience, the people you'll target your reports at - not Professor Futrelle, but other students who might or might not have taken ISU570 (the latter audience is the best bet). A smart move would be to have your reports read by someone else before you finish the final editing of each version, to see if it reads well and clearly.

The breadth and depth of what you will study in your project

A few examples can help here:

The literature describing your topic

In virtually every case, there will be literature describing the background, history, and current status of the systems you are studying. Some of it will from the HCI research literature. You'll need to track it down and discuss it. In addition, many systems have user guides and built-in-help that you'll need to discuss. You may need to have a system in front of you and write down what it looks like or explains. For a system such as self-bagging there is always an attendant nearby to help with difficult or confusing aspects of the system, ditto the Charlie Card (at least for now).

The material in the textbook that can be included in your project

In the list below, I list every chapter, with a brief note about how it could contribute to your project.

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