Project (Summer 2018)

Answer the following prompt in a maximum of 2500 words, with a recommended length of 2000 words. Including more than 2500 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. 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.

Introduction: ~50 words

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 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: ~250 words

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 at least one type of needfinding. It is acceptable for this initial needfinding to be reading existing product reviews, looking at reported problems on help forums, or examining publicly available data. You may also choose to distribute surveys, perform interviews, or engage in naturalistic observation. You should not choose apprenticeship or participant observation, however, as both would be very similar to the heuristic evaluation portion of this assignment.

Briefly describe the needfinding approach(es) you chose and describe your plan. This does not need to be a complex description, but it should describe at a high level what you will do (e.g. “I will gather the first 100 forum topics from a help forum”, “I will send out the survey shown in Appendix A to 100 people”, or “I will collect the 100 most recent negative reviews from the app store”).

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?

Heuristic Evaluation: ~700 words

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: Diagrammatic

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.

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.

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

Interface Justification: ~700 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.

Evaluation Plan: ~300 words

Finally, 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. 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.

Submission Instructions

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 20-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.