Fall 2006»CSIS 672 Homework 1

CSIS 672 Homework 1

Assigned Date: Wednesday, Sep. 6, 2006
Due Date: Monday, Sep. 18, 2006
Due Time: 5pm

Last modified on September 18, 2006, at 09:40 PM (see updates)

This is an individual assignment. See course collaboration policy for details.


Identify usability issues associated with a familiar user interface.


  1. Monday, Sep. 11, 5pm: Send email with, at least, three different user interfaces/usability breakdowns (in decreasing order of preference).
  2. Monday, Sep. 18, 5pm: Submit a short report on the Wiki (details soon). Be ready to present your analysis in class (in 10 minutes or less).


Choose an interactive interface with which you have experienced some kind of usability breakdown. Examine how the interface has been designed, paying particular attention to how the user is meant to interact with it.

In your report, follow the following outline:

  • Name, class, date, etc.
  1. Introduction: Describe your first impressions:
    • What is good and bad about this interface?
    • What is good and bad about the user experience it produces?
  2. Functionality: Describe the system's functionality.
    • Provide concise, yet complete description (one to three sentences).
  3. Tasks: List user tasks.
    • What would a typical user want to accomplish? (Remember: Focus on user tasks, not system features.)
    • Is the functionality greater, equal, or less than what the user needs?
  4. Usability Breakdown: Describe a usability breakdown caused by the system's design.
    • The problem should be one that came up as a difficulty in getting the system do what you wanted, due to flaws in the design.
    • Note: We are not interested in cases where the system crashed, or the program just didn't work.
    • The example of breakdown can be a situation where you did something that created a problem, or you failed to find the way to do something.
    • Give a few sentences ("bullet points") characterizing the breakdown from the point of view of you as a typical user. They should say briefly what you tried, what you expected, and what happened.
  5. Analysis: Using design concepts and other principles from class/textbook, explain why this usability breakdown occurred.
    • State the most important concepts/principles that were violated.
    • Provide short, yet complete explanations (one to three sentences) for each.
  6. Improvements: Discuss possible design improvements to the interface, based on your usability evaluation.


  • Your report should have sections that follow the above outline. Include figures and illustrations that give substantive help to the reader in understanding the user interface, the usability breakdown, and your analysis. You are encouraged to use screen snapshots and other graphics (e.g., diagrams) for elucidation. However, avoid decorative graphics/pictures.
  • As per course collaboration policy, there should be no discussion of any kind about this assignment (and possible solutions) with any person other than the instructor. You are not allowed to discuss/look at someone else’s solution (including material in books and the Internet) or show your solution to someone else other than the instructor.
  • At the top of your report, include a certificate of authenticity using this format:
       Certification of Authenticity:

       I certify that this submission is entirely my own work, 
       as per course collaboration policy.

       Name: ________________________ Date: ___________
  • Include references on materials (other than the textbooks and handouts) you consulted to do the assignment.


Grading will be based on your ability to carefully and succinctly identify the key points of the case study.

  • Work for clarity, succinctness, and effectiveness.
  • Hint: It might help to think of your report as a (meta) user interface, and your classmates as your end-users. What are the tasks they would want to accomplish with your report?


This assignment comes from the Preece et al, Interaction Design textbook (p. 28). It includes elements from an HCI class assignment at Stanford University taught by Terry Winograd. Here is a sample solution from that assignment (note that your specs are somewhat different).

Also, here is a sample solution from one of my classes... and another one.


Submit your solution by editing your page (use the provided template): Tyler Bennett, Thomas Dion, Johnathan Heh, Robert Keisler, Mark Mixson, Luca Pellicoro, Jeffrey Shumard, and Brian Smith.