An essential part of the course will be a class project. The project should be done in groups of 2 to 4, because many of the techniques are easier to employ with two or more experimenters, and to allow more ambitious projects to be done and to bring several perspectives to the project.
Important!! It's essential to get going on your projects very early in the quarter -- doing iterative design, rapid prototyping, and user studies are things that can't be completed all at the last minute.
Feel free to use the class e-mail list to send out match-making messages looking for project partners or ideas. Also we've set up an online project discussion area using EPost for students to post preliminary project descriptions and comments.
There are several possibilities for course projects:
Below are some more details on the different possibilities. If you are interested in something else, ask!
Usability evaluations will employ one or more of the techniques discussed in the readings and in classs. The study could be done in an outside organization, or it could be done at UW. This is probably the most straightforward option, since it doesn't involve implementation. Select a system or application, and evaluate the software from a usability perspective. Use a combination of contextual inquiry, ethnographic studies, informal experiments, and usability inspection (such as heuristic evaluation).
Design and prototype an interface for a software system, or modify an existing system, with particular emphasis on the user interface and its usability. As with the first possibility, use a combination of the techniques discussed in the readings and in class to evaluate the system, and combine this with iterative design. The system might be a part of an ongoing company or UW research project you are involved in, or might be new.
We expect that such projects will be done on a variety of platforms. Some will involve constructing working interfaces to an existing system, while others may involve constructing prototypes only in Macromedia Director or another system.
We do not want to over-constrain the implementation projects. A wide range of systems are acceptable as long as they show a reasonable application of techniques and skills learned during the quarter. The project should include and show evidence of extensive brainstorming, storyboarding, domain analysis, experimentation, paper mockup development before beginning any coding. After an initial prototype has been developed, we expect to see user testing and analysis of these tests. The purpose of this project is not to develop a working product, but rather to experience and practice the HCI design cycle. In a sense, we would prefer that you not to invest too much of yourselves into the finished product, because we want you to be able to be critical and realistic about what you have accomplished and how it could be improved. A prototype with limited functionality that shows evidence of solid design and evaluation practices is far preferrable to a snazzy but poorly designed project.
For projects of this kind, investigate a novel technology that is believed to be useful for HCI applications. Some diverse examples are wearable computers, constraint-based layout systems, intelligent agents for information retrieval and filtering, or phycons (physical icons). The initial impetus for this type of project will come from looking for useful applications of a technology. However, after picking the technology, as with the other project types, these projects should have a user-centered focus -- investigate how the technology would be useful to real users in their work. Your investigation should include a combination of iterative design and prototyping -- although given time constraints you might use mockups of the design for evaluation, and separately experiment with the implementation.
Each group should turn in a 4-10 page written report on the project. The complete report is due March 18.
Project presentations will be March 14 and 21 (the last day of class, and the final exam slot for the class).