Assignment M1 (Spring 2017)

Due: Sunday, March 5th, 2017, by 11:59PM UTC-12 (Anywhere on Earth). This assignment is based on lesson 3.3 (Needfinding), and focuses on planning your needfinding process.

Getting Started

In the M assignments, you will complete one cycle through the design life cycle with a task of your choice. This may be redesigning an existing interface, or it may be designing a new interface to address some as-yet unaddressed task. You are encouraged, but not required, to treat these assignments as the first iteration through the design life cycle on the same task you plan to address in the team project; your team project will be best positioned for success if it is informed by several smaller individual investigations of the task. We encourage you to talk with your team prior to beginning the M assignments to figure out how your individual work can best be constructed to inform the team project.

However, this is not required. You may choose a completely different task or interface to investigate for the M projects. You should choose this prior to beginning Assignment M1. The same advice applies here that applies to selecting tasks for team projects:

  • Select tasks with large audiences. You’ll need to recruit participants to complete surveys or participate in interviews, and selecting tasks with extremely niche audiences will make this difficult, unless you have access to that audience.
  • Emphasize the task. As you’ll learn in Unit 2, when designing interfaces, we are actually designing tasks. In this project, you shouldn’t redesign entire web sites or entire apps; most web sites and mobile apps support multiple tasks. Instead, focus on a specific task to redesign, like the search function for Netflix or the password-entry part of using an ATM machine.
  • Select a commonly-known task. After all, the graders and your peers need to evaluate and give feedback on your work; if they are completely unfamiliar with the task you’ve selected, they will have difficulty providing feedback.

Defining the problem space will be the first task you undertake in Assignment M1.

Assignment Instructions

Answer the following prompt in a maximum of 1200 words, with a recommended length of 1000 words; if you supply more than 1200 words, the grader will stop reading at the 1200th word, and you will not receive credit for anything written after that. You are encouraged but not required to complement your responses with diagrams, drawings, pictures, etc.; these do not count against the word limit, though any captions, text in tables, etc. does.

Compile a plan for your initial needfinding exercise for the project you’ve selected. First, define the problem space (~150 words). Define the problem itself and location in which the problem takes place, including elements of the environment surrounding the problem. This is also where you’ll define the segment of the target domain for which you’re interested in developing (e.g. the turning alerts for a navigation app or the search function for a Netflix app). You’ll develop this more when you actually carry out the needfinding exercises, but you need to have some rough idea to know where to start looking. Then, outline your user types (~100 words). For whom are you interested in designing? Make sure to include their demographic information, their levels of expertise, and their motivations for engaging in the task. It is fine to have a broad, diverse audience rather than a narrowly targeted one, but that diversity needs to be defined explicitly.

With that foundation, select three low-intervention methods of needfinding, such as:

  • Naturalistic observation.
  • Participant observation.
  • Analysis of existing user interfaces.
  • Analysis of product reviews.
  • Analysis of existing data logs.

It is also acceptable to perform higher-intervention methods with friends, family, or classmates; however, you should not recruit participants publicly without IRB approval. If you choose to talk with friends, family, or classmates, you could:

  • Conduct short interviews
  • Send surveys
  • Perform think-aloud exercises or post-event protocols
  • Apprentice with them on the task

Select three of the above nine methods of needfinding. For each method, lay out a clear plan for that needfinding exercise (~150 words per method). The nature of the plan will differ based on the type of needfinding you select; in naturalistic observation, for example, you would specifically outline where you will observe, when, what data you will gather, etc. For interviews, you would write the loose interview script you would follow. For existing interfaces or product reviews, you would outline the number of other resources, where you would access them, and what methods you would employ to evaluate them. Make sure to connect each of these needfinding methods to the items from the data inventory. Then, for each plan, specifically outline the potential biases you might encounter and your plans for controlling for them (~100 words per method).

Submission Instructions

Assignments should be submitted to the corresponding assignment on T-Square 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 describes how to access the assignment.

This is an individual assignment. Every student should submit an assignment individually.

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

Grading Information

This question is graded out of 20 possible points. Your grade and feedback will be returned to you via T-Square. An announcement will be made via Piazza when grades are returned.

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.