Archive for the ‘ Class notes ’ Category

Class notes: Design guidelines firehose part 2

These are the most important ideas from today’s class along with the references where you can learn more about each of them.

  • Affordance – how an object communicates possible/available actions (Norman Design of Everyday Things Ch. 1)
  • Information scent – from Information Foraging Theory
  • Information architecture – see e.g. Pervasive Information Architecture: Designing Cross-Channel User Experiences
  • Mental Models (Cooper About Face 3 Ch. 2)
  • How to use Card Sorting to understand users’ mental models and build an information architecture (see Measuring the User Experience Ch. 9)
  • Controls – 4 types: Imperative, Selection, Entry, and Display. These can look and behave differently on different platforms. It is important to learn their grammar for each platform and not reinvent the wheel or make it square! (Cooper About Face 3 Ch. 21)
  • Excise – any work that the user does that is not task related; it is meant to serve the machine’s needs (Cooper About Face 3 Ch. 11)

The slides I used in class are below:

Please remember to write less on your blog this week and spend some time catching up with class mates’ blog posts.

For your class reflection, please consider what you will do with this information, and what is your plan for assimilating the firehose.


Class notes: UI design principles

Tonight in class we went through the book Designing with the Mind in Mind. The book explains the human perception and psychology mechanisms that underlie many popular UI design principles.

I know it is a lot of information to process in a short amount of time. It is OK if you don’t feel you have really learned or can remember it all. My intention is to raise your awareness about these issues enough that you know that they exist and can search for more information when you need it. Also, keep the book.  You will refer to it often.

Please help each other further learn and remember these principles, by blogging about them and showing examples. They really are everywhere. Take a look at the screen shot of the WordPress dashboard below. I have circled some issues to get your attention – what principles from the book do you recognize there?

Click image to enlarge:

Screenshot 10:9:13 10:15 PM

Class notes: Conceptual design

Today we moved from the user research phase to the conceptual design phase by going through a very quick design workshop. Please reflect on what you are taking away from it and from the readings. Consider questions such as:

  • How was your process of creating ideas similar/different from what you read about in the articles about design workshops? How are design workshops with users different than design workshops without users? What do you think you could you have gotten from involving users in tonight’s design workshop?
  • Did you notice attachment to an idea just because it was yours? Is this something that it might be desirable to overcome? What could you do to overcome being overly attached to an idea just because it’s yours?
  • What was the difference between seeing the data presented as 4 main themes on my slides vs. the personas? How did it impact your thinking about design?

Remember what we discussed about:

  1. the language and grammar of each platform – different menus and controls look and work differently on different platforms.
  2. fundamental usability principles derived from human psychology and perception – these are applicable cross-platform.

Class notes: User research wrap-up

We just finished up the first big part of the User-Centered Design process, user research.

We moved from learning about planning and conducting user research to analyzing data into the form of personas and then using scenarios to derive specific design requirements. The course is designed so that you apply these concepts in upcoming assignments. So, the user research project that you will conduct is meant for you to implement these same steps. As you can begin to see, doing the work raises issues that are not as straightforward as they seem when we read about them.

We used the quotes in the slides below to provide integration and meaning to what we have done so far and what we are doing in this class:

Should you need a more linear, defined outline of the steps in the UCD process, please go through the slides I use for my undergraduate class:

The main points to remember so far are, that if you want to build GOOD, useful, and successful computer products:

  1. You need to put the users first.
  2. You need to understand very well actual users – talk to actual people. Avoid the trap of self-referential design where you design for yourself!
  3. Creating ideas for what the product should do comes from a deep understanding of actual users, and happens only after you have a good understanding of actual users.
  4. To understand actual users and their needs, you need to observe them, talk to them, ask them questions, and then synthesize all that information into personas.
  5. Persona-based scenarios help you bridge the gap between research and design (envisioning what the product should be able to do).
  6. The idea for the product emerges from the combination of user research and your own creativity. Your own creativity must remain grounded in the user research. Personas help you stay grounded.
  7. How the product should work, and the programming behind it are not even issues at this time. At this time, we assume that the computer can work magic.

The idea of designing products first and programming later was revolutionary about 10 years ago. It was introduced in Alan Cooper’s book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. These days, it is pretty much taken for granted.

I highly recommend looking at this book a bit closer. Here is an excerpt from the publisher’s summary:

Why are VCRs impossible to program? Why do car alarms make us all crazy at all the wrong times? Why do our computers reprimand us when they screw up? All of these computerized devices are wildly sophisticated and powerful, and they have proliferated our desks, our cars, our homes and our offices. So why are they still so dauntingly complicated to use?

The highly renowned Alan Cooper, “The Father of Visual Basic,” tackles this issue head-on with his new book, The Inmates are Running the Asylum, from Sams Publishing. Cooper believes that powerful and pleasurable software-based products can be created by the simple expedient of designing computer-based products first and then building them. Designing interactive software-based products is a specialty that is as demanding as the construction of these same products, Cooper says. Ironically, building computerized products isn’t difficult, they only seem so because our process for making them is out of date. To compound the problem, the costs of badly designed software are incalculable, robbing us of time, customer loyalty, competitive advantage and opportunity.

I would like to ask you:

Is this UCD (and GDD) process what you thought it would be? Does it differ from your experiences and expectations? How so, or why not?

Class notes: Personas

The main questions we worked with this week were:

  • what are personas?
  • what is their role in the UCD/GDD process?
  • why are they useful?
  • how do you go about creating them?

Also, I hope the Cadillac Cue presentation helped you integrate your understanding of steps in the design process.

Please use your Class Reflection blog to synthesize this knowledge of personas and the design knowledge so far, and to point out any questions you have right now about either of these.

Class notes: User research 1

The objective of the first out of 3 class sessions on user research was to get an idea of the steps you would take to move from the initial stage of having an idea (or a problem!) to specific design requirements.

Also, I wanted you to understand what goals you should hope to accomplish with user research and what to stay away from.

Finally, even though you cannot become experts in research methods in a 3-hour period, I wanted you to have an idea of what research tools are available to you. We discussed the components of a research plan (aka research design):

  • data collection procedures
    • in-depth interviewing
    • observation
    • diary studies
    • ethnography
    • ethnographic interviewing
    • contextual inquiry
  • sampling strategies
  • data analysis methods
  • validity & credibility

The slides I used in class summarize the research goals and the process steps I drew at the very end of class discussion – they are embedded below:

Keeping in mind the 3 learning objectives for the class (spelled out above and shown on the first two slides), can you blog about what you learned in relation to each of these objectives? Also, what is still unclear about each one?

Please let me know if you’ve read these notes and/or found them helpful by liking, rating, or commenting (it’s getting lonely here).


Stay posted for detailed information about your research plan assignment.

Class notes: Design process – Sept 4, 2013

There were two big parts to today’s class: history and readings about the design process.

In the history part, we discussed main moments in the history of the GUI, including:

We then talked about the 4 readings that showed different types of HCI design, and a multitude of activities that people engaged in HCI design undertake. We outlined those activities and the major new concepts you encountered in the readings. We established that research is sprinkled throughout the research process just like salt in food.

I pointed out the difference between goal-directed and user-centered design. I recommended you follow Mr. Alan Cooper on Twitter.

I left you with some questions that you can use as prompts for your class reflection blog post:

  1. What is the design process? What activities do you actually do when you engage in say, user-centered design?
  2. Why so many types of design? What are similarities/differences among them?
  3. What type(s) of design appeal to you most?

Please blog about what you took away from class, and let me know in the comments below:

  1. if these class notes are useful
  2. what worked/didn’t work for you this class, what questions you have, etc.