CSCI 380
Assigned Date: Tuesday, September 2, 2003
Due Date: Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Due Time: Noon



This is an exercise in identifying usability issues associated with an alarm clock interface. You will put your results in the form of a short report. Be prepared to present your findings in class on the due date.



Choose a freeware alarm clock application for MS Windows from (see deliverables below).Examine how it has been designed, paying particular attention to how the user is meant to interact with it.

a)     From your first impressions, write down what first comes to mind as to what is good and bad about the way this program works.Then list (i) its functionality and (ii) the range of tasks a typical user would want to do using it.Is the functionality greater, equal, or less than what the user wants to do?

b)    Based on the material we have covered and any other material you have come across, compile your own set of usability and user experience goals that you think would be most useful in evaluating this program.Decide which are the most important ones and explain why.

c)     Translate the core usability and user experience goals you have selected into two or three questions.Then use them to assess how well this interface fares.

d)    Repeat (b) and (c) for Normanís design concepts and Nielsenís usability principles.

e)     Look for some kind of usability breakdown due to design that does not make good use of design concepts and other principles we have covered in class.The problem should be one that came up in as a difficulty in getting it to do what you want, due to flaws in the design of the interaction (i.e., we're 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 failed to be able 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 user. They should say briefly what you tried, what you expected, and what happened.Include any figures or illustrations that give substantive help to the reader in understanding the problem (not just pretty pictures).

f)     Finally, discuss possible improvements to the interface based on your usability evaluation.

Grading will be on the basis of your being able to carefully identify and briefly state the key points of the example. You may lose some points if the report is hard to read, but you won't gain points by putting extra efforts into graphic design. Work for clarity and communication.



  1. (Thursday, Sep. 4, noon)Send email with three alarm clock applications (in decreasing order of preference).I will pick one from your list, so that every student works on a different application.
  2. (Tuesday, Sep. 9, noon)Send email with the questions you derived from (i) the usability and user experience goals, (ii) the design concepts, and (iii) the usability principles.
  3. (Tuesday, Sep. 16, noon)Submit a short report via email (PDF document) and on hardcopy.



As per course collaboration policy, include the following opening comments:

†† Certification of Authenticity <include one of the following>:

†††††††† I certify that this submission is entirely my own work.<or>

†††††††† I certify that this submission is my own work, but I received some assistance from: <Name(s)>



This assignment comes from the course textbook.It includes elements from an exercise used in Terry Winogradís HCI class at Stanford University.