Individual Project (Fall 2017)

Due: Sunday, November 6th, 2017, by 11:59PM UTC-12 (Anywhere on Earth).

Assignment Instructions

Answer the following prompt in a maximum of 2000 words, with a recommended length of 1500 words. Including more than 2000 words may incur a grade penalty. Note that only the overall assignment length limit is enforced; per-section lengths are provided as recommendations, but are not enforced.

You are encouraged to complement your response with diagrams, drawings, pictures, etc.; these do not count against the word limit. If you would like to include additional information beyond the word limit, you may include it in clearly-marked appendices. These materials will not be used in grading your assignment, but they may help you get better feedback from your classmates and grader. For example, you might include copies of previous assignments, copies of your surveys, raw data, interview transcripts, raw notes, etc.: anything that does not directly address the assignment’s questions, but rather helps understand your progress as a whole.

Getting Started

Select any interface with which you are familiar. This may be a traditional desktop web site or application, but you are encouraged to think more broadly:

  • Physical interfaces, like the steering wheel, pedals, and dashboard of a car or the dials and panel of an oven.
  • Embedded interfaces, like the remote control-driven guide for a cable box or the panel of a Nest thermostat.
  • Mobile interfaces, like the Netflix app or Facebook mobile web site.
  • Wearable interfaces, like a smartwatch text messaging app or a blood sugar monitor.
  • Virtual or augmented reality interfaces, like a game for the HTC Vive or a navigation app for Google Glass.
  • Auditory interfaces, like the weather app for Amazon Echo or the Spotify app for Google Home.

Importantly, the interface that you choose must already exist; in the next set of assignments and in the group project, you’ll have the opportunity to address an as-yet unaddressed task, but for this individual project, the interface must already exist.

Heuristic Evaluation: ~750 words

First, perform a heuristic evaluation using the principles from Unit 2 on the interface as it currently exists. Answer the questions: what works well? What makes it work well? What doesn’t work well? Why doesn’t it work well? Make sure to address all these: even the worst interfaces usually have some things that work well. If you can’t think of any good things to say about the interface, select a different one: redesigning an interface with no positive elements at all would be too easy!

In writing this evaluation, it is critical that you ground your critiques in terms of the principles you have learned in Unit 2, both conceptually and using the same vocabulary. Your critique will primarily be evaluated based on how well it grounds its praise and criticism in the principles covered in Unit 2, and how accurately it leverages these principles. We would expect any strong answer to use at least five principles covered in Unit 2, where a ‘Principle’ can be nearly any topic from the unit, including any of the design principles, ideas like expert blindspot and learning curves, and concepts like gulfs of execution and evaluation. However, you are not limited to five principles, nor is five principles automatically sufficient if the individual principles are not leveraged with sufficient depth.

Interface Redesign: Diagrammatic

Second, based on your evaluation, redesign the interface. If it’s a visual interface (such as a mobile app, visual wearable interface, or traditional desktop application), supply visual mock-ups of the potential redesign. If it’s a physical interface, supply a sketch or similar representation of the altered interface. If it’s an interface that cannot be provided in a 2D visual form like a haptic, auditory, or virtual reality interface, describe the redesign in words using diagrams wherever possible. Clearly delineate the redesign from the rest of the submission so that it does not count against the word count. Your redesign can contain textual annotations or rely on text if it is non-visual, but the text should merely explain the redesigned interface, not justify it.

Interface Justification: ~750 words

Third, justify the redesigned interface. Describe how your redesigned interface addresses the criticisms from the first section, while preserving the positive elements of the original interface. Again, make sure to put your justification in terms of the principles covered in Unit 2, both conceptually and using the same vocabulary. You need not focus on the same principles covered in the previous section; you may, for example, leverage a particular principle to improve the interface even if it wasn’t explicitly violating that principle in the first place.

Submission Instructions

Assignments should be submitted to the corresponding assignment submission page in accordance with the Assignment Submission Instructions. Most importantly, you should submit a single PDF for each assignment. This PDF will be ported over to Peer Feedback for peer review by your classmates. If your assignment involves things (like videos, working software prototypes, etc.) that cannot be provided in PDF, you should provide them separately (either through the class Resources folder or your own upload destination) and submit a PDF that links to or otherwise describes how to access that material.

This is an individual assignment. Even if you already plan to work on a team for the project, this assignment should still be completed individually.

Late work is not accepted without advanced agreement except in cases of medical or family emergencies. In the case of such an emergency, please contact the Dean of Students.

Grading Information

As with all assignments in this class, this assignment will be graded on a traditional A-F scale based on the extent to which your deliverable met expectations. This letter grade will be derived from internal scores assigned to each problem.

Peer Review

After submission, your assignment will be ported to Peer Feedback for review by your classmates. Grading is not the primary function of this peer review process; the primary function is simply to give you the opportunity to read and comment on your classmates’ ideas, and receive additional feedback on your own. All grades will come from the graders alone.

You will typically be assigned three classmates to review. You receive 1.5 participation points for completing a peer review by the end of the day Thursday; 1.0 for completing a peer review by the end of the day Sunday; and 0.5 for completing it after Sunday but before the end of the semester. For more details, see the participation policy.