of Information and Library Science
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
1-4: Design and Implementation of an Interface
1, User Analysis / 2, Task analysis / 3, Design Decisions / 4, System Description
Assignments 5-6: Evaluation
5, Usability Inspection / 6, Usability Test Plan
Syllabus / Schedule (today) / Assignments / Sakai site
This series of assignments involves designing a prototype of an interface for an information system and developing a description of that interface. The design process involves identifying and describing the intended users of the system (assignment 1), identifying and describing the essence of the task to be supported by the system (assignment 2), and making justifiable decisions about the design (assignment 3). The description of the interface includes a graphical overview of the system and a prototype of the interface (assignment 4), documentation of the interface (user description, task description, system description), and your rationale for the design decisions made (assignment 3).
Each of the assignments will be due in draft form as we cover the necessary background material in class, so that you can have feedback while you're working on the overall project. These drafts will be due on particular dates, but the grade will not be assigned until all the portions of the project are complete (i.e., your work on a particular assignment may be revised prior to the grade being assigned).
This set of assignments represents 45% of your final grade (this portion will be allocated as follows: 15% user analysis, 15% task analysis, 40% design decisions, 30% prototype and system description). For those who are working in teams, each team member will receive the same grade on the project. The evaluation criteria for these projects will emphasize the quality and justification of your design decisions. They also include the quality (clarity, appropriateness for users/tasks) of the design itself and the quality (specificity, completeness) of the user and task analyses. Throughout your documentation, strive for clarity.
The complete documentation of the system is due on April 2. It will integrate the final versions of assignments 1-4. A sample outline for the system documentation is available. You do not need to follow it strictly, but it does give you some idea of the material that should be covered.
This is the version that will be graded. The entire package should be turned in, via Sakai, as a single document (in pdf, Word, or similar format). You may point the evaluators to a "working" prototype if you wish, but all screen views should also be available in the documentation package.
Assignment 1: User Analysis
The user analysis will include a definition of the target audience (i.e., who is in it and who is not), summary data on their characteristics (with special emphasis on characteristics that might affect design decisions), and two or more personas (at minimum, a primary persona and a secondary persona). A sample outline for this assignment is available. The draft version is due on February 5.
Assignment 2: Task Analysis
The task analysis is focused on the definition of the task, from the user's perspective. The goals or intentions of the user should be documented, as well as the essential steps required to complete the task. Your documentation of the tasks is in two components, as indicated in the sample outline. In the first component, you will analyze the task itself. The documentation should include a high-level overview of the task structure, a use case for each subtask, and one or more scenarios for each use case. The second component describes other aspects of the task, such as its frequency and the environment in which it occurs. The draft version is due on February 26.
Assignment 3: Design Decisions
As you develop your design, you will be making decisions about how the system will be implemented. Five or six of your major design decisions should be documented formally (though you may also document smaller decisions, if it is helpful to you). For each decision, you should specify the decision itself, the alternatives considered, and your rationale for selecting a particular alternative, including the evidence supporting your reasoning. Evidence supporting your design decisions may be drawn from published usability guidelines, prior research studies that are relevant to your decision, or data you have gathered from your target audience. At least two decisions should be documented and are due on March 9 ; all five/six will be turned in with the final documentation for the project, on April 2.
Assignment 4: System Description
In this assignment, you will make your design decisions concrete. They will be documented in two forms: 1) a "map" of the system architecture and 2) a prototype of all or a portion of the system. The map may be a simplified state transition diagram, a user environment map (from Beyer & Holtzblatt), or some other graphical illustration of the system architecture. The prototype will instantiate all or portions of your design. It is not intended that it be the final version of the system; instead, it is a first prototype that can be used to evaluate some of your early design decisions. The prototype will be demonstrated in class on March 17 or March 19; you should be ready to demonstrate it on March 17. The map will be turned in with the final documentation on April 2; if you would like feedback on it prior to that time, I will review it.
Interface design and evaluation go hand in hand. Thus, this course will provide an opportunity for you to participate in two types of evaluation assignments: a usability inspection of a design developed by one of your classmates, and the planning of a usability test of your own design.
Assignment 5: Usability Inspection, with Designer's Response
Prior to April 2, you will be asked to select one of the class projects in which you are particularly interested and/or about which you are particularly knowledgeable. Prior to that class session, you will have had a chance to see the prototypes demonstrated (March 17 and 19). On April 2, I will assign you to evaluate one of the projects. Each project will be evaluated by one class member; each class member will evaluate one project.
For the evaluation, you will have access to the complete documentation of the design. You may also communicate with the designer concerning questions of clarification. In addition, the designer may ask that the evaluator consider focusing on particular areas of interest or concern.
Using an approach similar to that described in Chapter 15 of Sharp, Rogers, and Preece (2007), evaluate the design to which you were assigned.
The next phase of the assignment is for you, as a designer, to respond to the evaluation of your design.
This assignment will be evaluated based on the selection of topics/points evaluated (i.e., whether they were the most important strengths/weaknesses of the design), the use of appropriate literature in discussing the strengths/weaknesses and how the weaknesses might be minimized, the reasoning used in discussing the strengths/weaknesses and how the weaknesses might be minimized, and the constructiveness of the tone used in providing criticism. In addition, the quality of the designer's response will be evaluated in terms of its use of appropriate literature/evidence, reasoning, and tone. This assignment accounts for 20% of the course grade.
Assignment 6: Usability Test Plan
Assume that you have incorporated the suggestions provided by the usability inspection of your design and that you will now conduct a usability test as the next evaluation cycle. In particular, consider the design decisions that were made with little support; can you design a study that will provide a stronger foundation for making those design decisions?
Your study should use standard social science research methods that are commonly applied in the evaluation of usability (see Chapter 14 of Sharp, Rogers, and Preece (2007) and the examples discussed during class).
You will present your test plan in the form of a proposal to UNC's Behavioral Institutional Review Board (IRB). Complete the "Application for IRB Approval of Human Subjects Research" available at http://ohre.unc.edu/forms.php. You will need to complete parts A and B of the application form (you can omit part C). Additional information about ethical treatment of human subjects can be found in the Researcher's Guide to the IRB Process and Human Subjects Research, http://ohre.unc.edu/researchers_manual_hsr.pdf.
The proposal is due by 8am on May 4 .
This assignment will be evaluated on the quality/significance of the question being investigated; the appropriateness and completeness of the literature review; the appropriateness of the sample to be used in the study and the feasibility of the recruitment plans; the quality of the measurements to be taken; the appropriateness and practicality of the research design, data collection methods, and data analysis methods; and the reasoning used to consider possible implications of the study results. This assignment accounts for 20% of the course grade.
Class participation is encouraged and expected. Each student is expected to participate actively in both the online discussion forum provided in Sakai and in face-to-face class discussions. These forms of class participation will be evaluated in terms of their contribution to the class's learning opportunites, and will account for 15% of the course grade.
© Barbara M. Wildemuth, 2009. All rights reserved.