Class notes F14 – Week 5: Fundamental principles part III

We discussed the 3 levels we can design for in order to engage users emotionally:

  • visceral
  • behavioral
  • reflective

… and some strategies for designing at each level.

We discussed a bit about the controversy of “designing by committee” vs. the “genius designer.”


Class notes F14 – Week 4: Fundamental principles part 2 of 3

We moved from visual perception and attention to issues related to cognition – specifically, memory and learning.

It should be clear by now that largely, what makes an interface intuitive is its ease of learning. The following concepts are important when it comes to ease of learning:

Here’s Don Norman explaining affordances in less than 2 minutes:

All these things we know about visual perception and cognition are at the root of most guidelines for usable interface design. One of the most famous set of guidelines is Nielsen’s 10 heuristics, which we worked with in class. These heuristics can be used to inspect interfaces in a method called heuristic evaluation, which you will read about for next class.

Please remember to let me know that you read this post by interacting with it somehow. This, as well as participation on the FB group, are requirements for class participation.

Class notes F’14: Week 3 – Fundamental principles part 1 of 3

The first series of design principles were derived from what we know about visual perception and visual attention. They pertained to the Gestalt principles of visual perception, Visual structure & hierarchy, and a bit of Writing for the screen. The slides I used are on Canvas.

I’d also like you to know about:

In class, I mentioned resources such as:

Please look them up.

Not required, but for fun – look at some visual illusions. They really point out the role of the mind in visual perception. Here’s a freaky one I like.

Do remember that online participation on Facebook and here are required parts of the course. Please comment, Like, or somehow interact with this post to let me know you saw it. In the comments, you could let me know if such class notes are useful or not, or how I could make them more useful to you. Of course, questions about the material that I did not get a chance to answer in class should also go in the comments below.

Fall 2014 Class notes: Types of Design

We began class by furthering our exploration of “natural” and “intuitive” interaction with computers. We played around with the idea of tangible design, informed by the belief that using our bodies is natural and intuitive. The argument comes from Paul Dourish’s book Where the Action Is. See also the tangible interfaces lab at MIT.

Quick recap of the very big main points about the design process to take away from week 2:

  1. There are many types and approaches to design. UCD is not alone. The main differences among them are in philosophy (the central goal) and some of the methods and procedures. For example, the central goal of critical design is to raise awareness, to help people reflect upon and question the status quo. The central goal of GDD is to design for the users’ larger aspirations, whereas ACD focuses on structuring tools to facilitate an activity. Be sure to remember and be able to differentiate among UCD, GDD, ACD, participatory design and critical design. Interested in the theory behind critical design? Read up on critical theory – here’s a very quick introduction. Or, you might be interested in Norman’s controversial piece against human-centered design and in support of ACD. It’s a bit inflammatory, he has some clarifications to it, and overall, it does make sense, IMO.
  2. UCD is an approach and a process. It is a philosophy, a value system about how we approach design, but also a  specific set of steps, procedures, methods, and principles. The major steps of UCD are: user research, conceptual design, implementation, and evaluation.

If you have further questions about the things we discussed in class tonight, please ask them in the comments below.

Skills learned in CGT 512

Here is a list of skills I think you have at least experimented with and learned (even if not mastered yet) in CGT 512. Please choose from this list as you revise your portfolio. Don’t undersell your work and what you’ve learned! This is not the time to be modest.


  • How to go through the iterative UCD process
  • How to use research methods specific to UCD
  • How to use creativity methods specific to UCS
  • How to create a range of artifacts (sketches, wireframes) and documents (reports) specific to UCD


  • how to plan a user research study
  • how to collect data
  • how to analyze data
  • how to extract design requirements out of data
  • how to write personas, scenarios, and design requirements


  • how to apply usability principles to evaluate an interface
  • how to identify usability issues
  • how to rank the severity of usability issues
  • how to conduct heuristic evaluation


  • how to use methods to stimulate ideas
  • how to chose between competing ideas
  • how to translate an abstract idea into a tangible artifact
  • how to create UCD artifacts such as sketches, story boards, and wireframes
  • how to conduct a cognitive walkthrough
  • how to identify and prioritize usability issues through a cognitive walkthrough
  • how to communicate your ideas for user experience and explain them to others


  • how to plan a usability study: what metrics, data, procedures, instruments to use
  • how to collect data for a usability study
  • how to analyze qualitative and quantitative data for a usability study
  • how to identify usability issues from a usability study
  • how to prioritize usability issues
  • how to apply usability heuristics to suggest solutions for the usability issues you have identified
  • how to present the findings and write a usability report

End of semester clarifications

It’s been a while since we last met, so I think people have forgotten what’s due when. Let me clarify:

  1. Wed, Dec. 4 – your final presentations. Some groups will give one 20 minute presentation, if they have worked on the same project throughout the semester. Other people will split – they will give one presentation with the group they worked with on the first 3 reports, and a second one with the group they worked with on the 4th report. See detailed instructions here.
  2. Fri, Dec. 6 – Usability report 4 is due on Blackboard by midnight. Please read the instructions in this blog post, and the Q&A in the comments section.
  3. Wed, Dec. 11 – Final exam and final portfolio are due. Instructions are on Blackboard for both of them.

In addition to these, you will have to complete 2 surveys:

  1. peer evaluation of the students you worked with. This survey will be released after UR 4 is submitted on Friday. You will get an email about it. You need to fill it out in order to receive your own peer evaluation points. So check your email!
  2. course and instructor evaluations, as indicated in emails I have already sent. A 100% response rate means each student receives 3 extra credit points.

Please stop blogging on Dec. 6. I will evaluate the blogs soon after that. Please make sure you prepare your blog for grading by:

  1. Making sure each post is categorized correctly, and appears only in ONE category.
  2. Using a WordPress theme that displays the count of posts in each category.

We talked about all these in class when we last met, but here is a reminder just in case. Please ask questions about the individual assignments in their respective blog posts (subscribe to comments to see what gets posted) and ask general questions about administrative stuff in the comments to this blog post.

Good luck as you wrap up the semester!

Graphs and charts

Please see Shweta’s post on new ways of presenting data – besides the old fashioned graphs and charts.