Project (Fall 2021)

Answer the following prompt in a maximum of 20 pages (excluding references) in JDF format. Any content beyond 20 pages will not be considered for a grade. 20 pages is a maximum, not a target; our recommended per-section lengths intentionally add to less than 20 pages to leave you room to decide where to delve into more detail. This length is intentionally set expecting that your submission will include diagrams, drawings, pictures, etc. These should be incorporated into the body of the paper unless specifically required to be included in an appendix.

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. To make your life easier, you may want to choose an interface for which some form of public user information is available, such as a help forum, product or app reviews, or usage logs.

You should not choose the same interface or task that you selected for the M assignments or Project M. It should be a different task domain. The goal is to apply the same principles to multiple problems to develop your understanding of those principles.

Introduction: ~1 page

In a couple sentences, describe the interface you chose to redesign. If the interface is publicly accessible, describe how to access it, and provide some brief steps for the reader to perform to experience it a bit themselves (e.g. “Go to Delta.com and search for flights from Atlanta to London. Try to compare flight prices and find the best-priced flight.”). If it is not easily accessible, describe the kinds of tasks a user might do with the interface.

Initial Needfinding: ~3 pages

Because the interface already exists, needfinding and evaluation are somewhat identical processes. For a redesign, your initial goal is to seek some information about what the current weaknesses in the interface are. Are there things the interface does not presently do very well? Are there features the interface is expected to have that it currently lacks?

First, choose two types of needfinding. We expect that one form of needfinding will be relatively interactive (surveys, interviews, observations) and one will be relatively pass (reading existing product reviews, looking at reported problems on help forums, examining publicly available data). You should not choose apprenticeship or participant observation, however, as both would be very similar to the heuristic evaluation portion of this assignment.

Describe your needfinding plans. Your description should cover the requirements from Assignment M1—make sure define your problem space and user types, connect your plans to the data inventory, and describe the biases that may come into play and how you will mitigate them.

Then, perform your plan and report the conclusions. You do not need to report the raw data that you gathered, but rather report the results of your analysis or summary. What are the needs? Are they improvements to the existing interface, or new features that would complement the existing interface? Your report should cover the requirements from Assignment M2—complete a data inventory and define the interface’s requirements. 

Heuristic Evaluation: ~3 pages

Second, perform a heuristic evaluation using the principles from Unit 2 on the interface as it currently exists. Answer the questions from your own perspective: 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: ~2 pages

Third, based on your evaluation, redesign the interface. Your redesign should generally be medium- to high-fidelity. If you choose paper or card prototypes, they should be somewhat detailed and polished, likely showing multiple screens. If you choose a wireframe, it should similarly be close in quality to a real interface. If your prototype is not contained to a screen (e.g. motion controls, virtual reality, notification systems), describe it in detail, using diagrams or video demonstrations whenever possible.

Note that differences in prototype fidelity may lead to significant differences in how much space the prototype requires in your document: two pages is the minimum we can imagine for a comprehensive prototype, such as a detailed Wizard of Oz prototype. If you need more space, feel free to include it in an appendix. 

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.

A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it isn’t that good.

Interface Justification: ~3 pages

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.

Evaluation Plan: ~2 pages

Then, describe an evaluation plan you would use to evaluate your prototype. You may choose either a qualitative or empirical evaluation, depending on the readiness of your prototype and the availability of an interface against which to test it. Generally, prototypes that improve existing functionality are best-suited for an empirical evaluation, while prototypes that add new features or modes of interaction are better suited for qualitative evaluations. You should use Assignment M4 to guide what information to include about your plan for the type of plan you select. If you choose an empirical evaluation, make sure to describe your control group, your experimental group, your null and alternative hypotheses, your independent and dependent variables, and your planned statistical analysis. If you choose a qualitative evaluation, provide your survey or interview script, describe how you will recruit participants, and emphasize how you will limit the effect of your own biases during the evaluation.

Evaluation Execution: ~2 pages

Then, execute your evaluation plan. Report the results. Use Assignment M5 as a guide to what to include in this report. If you do a Qualitative Evaluation, you should briefly describe the raw results, and then analyze what those results and describe changes you might make based on this feedback. If you do an Empirical Evaluation, you should report how the experimental process went, perform and report the results of your statistical test, and analyze these results, describing changes you might make in another round of design.

Submission Instructions

Complete your assignment using JDF, then save your submission as a PDF. Assignments should be submitted to the corresponding assignment submission page in Canvas. You should submit a single PDF for this  assignment. This PDF will be ported over to Peer Feedback for peer review by your classmates. If your assignment involves things (like videos, working prototypes, etc.) that cannot be provided in PDF, you should provide them separately (through OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) and submit a PDF that links to or otherwise describes how to access that material.

This is an individual assignment. All work you submit should be your own. Make sure to cite any sources you reference, and use quotes and in-line citations to mark any direct quotes.

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

Your assignment will be graded on a 100-point scale coinciding with a rubric designed to mirror the question structure. Make sure to answer every question posted by the prompt. Pay special attention to bolded words and question marks in the question text.

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.