Bill Manaris : Fall 2012 / CSIS 672 Homework 2

Assigned Date: Monday, Sep. 10, 2012
Due Date: Monday, Sep. 17, 2012
Due Time: 5pm

Last modified on October 16, 2012, at 09:08 AM (see updates)

This is a team assignment (i.e., you may work with two partners). You may discuss the assignment only with your partner(s) or the instructor.


Identify usability issues associated with a familiar user interface.


  1. Tuesday, Sep. 11, 5pm: Send one email per team.
    • Identify your partner.
    • Cc your partner in the email.
    • Identify three different user interfaces/usability breakdowns (in decreasing order of preference).
      • Instructor will respond with which interface/usability breakdown to do.
  2. Monday, Sep. 17, 5pm: Submission and presentation.
    • Submit a short report via OAKS (see specs below).
    • 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:

  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 analysis concepts (and possibly 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.



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


Submit your solution in PDF format via OAKS, by the due date.


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).

(Printable View of