CSIS 672 – Spring 2005
Assigned Date: Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Due Date: Wednesday, February 2, 2005
Due Time: Noon (via email)



Identify usability issues associated with a familiar (to you) interface.



  1. (Thursday, Jan. 27, noon)  Send email with, at least, two different user interfaces/usability breakdowns (in decreasing order of preference).  If another student has selected your first choice, I will let you know.
  2. (Wednesday, Feb. 2, noon)  Submit a short report via email (PDF format).  You may use only up to one late day on this deliverable. 
  3. (Thursday, Feb 3, beginning of class)  Submit a signed hard copy of your report.  Be ready to present your case study (in 10 minutes).  Aim for clarity, succinctness, and effectiveness.  No late days may be used here.



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.


Part I:

  1. Write down your first impressions, as to what is good and bad about this interface and the user experience it produces. 
  2. Then state:

a.       The functionality of the system (a thorough description – one to three sentences). 

b.      A list of specific tasks a typical user would want to perform using this system. 

Is the functionality greater, equal, or less than what the user wants to do?

  1. Based on the material we have covered (e.g., Norman’s design concepts, and Nielsen’s usability principles) and any other material you have come across, and given your answer in (2.b), compile your own set of usability and user experience goals that you think would be most useful in evaluating this program (see ID textbook, Ch 1). 
  2. Translate the most important usability and user experience goals you have selected into questions.  Then use them to assess how well this interface fares.

Part II:

  1. 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 as a difficulty in getting the system do what you wanted, 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 typical user. They should say briefly what you tried, what you expected, and what happened. 
  2. Finally, discuss possible improvements to the interface based on your usability evaluation.



  1. 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; avoid decorative graphics/pictures.
  2. 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.
  3. In 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.

   Signature: ________________________ Date: ___________

  1. 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 ID textbook (p. 28).  It includes elements from an HCI class assignment at Stanford University taught by Terry Winograd.  Here’s a sample solution from that assignment (note that your specs are somewhat different).