CSC 280 - User Interfaces
Because the user is important too.
When we meet: MW 3:05-4:45
Where we meet: Wold 128
Instructor: Chris Fernandes
Office: Steinmetz 220
Office hours: MW 12-2 and Tues 10:50-12:50
or anytime my door is open!
Course Web page: http://nexus.union.edu
This course will introduce you to the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), a part
of computer science focusing on how end-users interact with hardware and software systems.
HCI is a large, interdisciplinary field involving psychologists,
linguists, artists, and designers to name a few. We will focus on the part of HCI dealing with
the usability of interfaces -- the things that make them easy or difficult
to use. Specifically, you will learn:
- the theory behind what makes an interface usable or unusable
- design processes that support usability such as task and user analyses,
GOMS analysis, and ethnographic observation
- how to evaluate an interface through the careful design and execution of
an empirical study
- how to use sophisticated software packages to record and analyze data from subject
- how to use statistical techniques to analyze results
- how to present a complete usability research study in both oral and written form
HCI is a very different part of computer science than you may be used to in your
other CS classes. It does not focus on programming or on how to get a machine
to do something new and exciting. And while those things are cool, it is just as important
for those new, exciting apps to be made in a way that people can actually use them.
In many ways, this course focuses on people -- how they think, how they react,
and how that informs the development of the cool hardware and software we make.
You'll get the most out of this class by diving right in to this non-traditional approach
to CS: reading the papers, debating with your classmates, designing with your
teammates, really listening to your end users, and taking time to reflect on
what you've built. It's part rigorous science, and part creative art. Get involved.
C- or higher in CSC 150 (Data Structures) or the equivalent
Texts (2 required)
- H. Sharp, Y. Rogers, J. Preece, Interaction Design,
3rd edition, Wiley, 2011. (There's a 4th ed too, but it's
expensive, and we don't need what's new in there.)
- Lidwell, Holden, and Butler, Universal Principles of Design,
2nd edition, Rockport Publishers, 2010
Midterm and Final.
There is one midterm that will be on Wed, Oct. 12. It is closed-book, closed-notes.
Our final exam period will be used for making presentations of your final project.
You are required to be there for the entire time.
There will be
projects assigned throughout the term, and the majority of your grade will be based
on them. Projects are team-based, and although grades will be given to each
team as a whole, your individual grade can go up or down depending on your
Each project will include a variety of activities including, but not
limited to, literature reviews, experiment design, prototype creation,
live subject testing, statistical analysis, research writing, and making presentations to the class.
No lates will be accepted for any of the projects.
You will be making two short presentations to the class on a usability principle of your choice.
I'll discuss details in class.
- Voluntary participation.
The quality of an interface can only be grasped through discussion, so this course lives and dies on you getting involved.
So speak out! You're the only one who can bring your background and experience to the discussion.
Participation will be worth 50 points for the entire term, and you can earn 5 points per week.
So each week, you must participate enough to earn your 5 points.
- Projects: 60%
- Midterm: 20%
- Usability presentations: 10%
- Class participation: 10%
We have an honorcode now and I trust y'all to follow it.
Read up on it at
http://honorcode.union.edu. All suspected
violations will be reported to the Honor Council chair and Dean
of Studies. You must include an abridged honor code affirmation
in the comments or prose of everything you hand in.
What you need to do
To prepare for class, you are required to do the following:
You are expected to be present for
every class. However, I realize that sometimes other things come up
(interview, illness, etc.) so just please let me know in advance or by
phone/email if you're going to be absent. If you miss class, get notes from
someone and do the readings before coming to see me. I'm happy to explain
things, but I won't repeat lectures for you.
Read the stuff I hand out
In addition to textbook readings,
I will hand out articles that we'll be discussing in class.
Class participation is a big percentage of your grade, and
if you haven't read something, you won't do well in this
category. It's easy to tell when you try to fake it.
So no foolin': read!
Carry a notebook everywhere
Sometimes the best ideas for an interface come from things you see
or just happen to think of out in the world. Carry a small notebook
with you throughout this term and use it to jot down ideas, make
sketches, ask important questions, take notes during your group
meetings, record the methods that you used, analyze your results, etc.
This is invaluable way of
bringing inspiration (and organization) to your group projects.
Check the webpage on Nexus
The reading assignments (and other announcements) will be
posted regularly on the course webpage. You are required
to check it at least once a week. I usually update it over the weekend.
Check your email twice a day
I know: it's old tech, but this school runs on email. I send out
a lot of tips, hints, announcements, error corrections, and
lecture addendums over email. Check it at least twice daily.
Union College facilitates the implementation of reasonable accommodations, including
resources and services, for students with disabilities, chronic medical conditions and temporary
disabilities resulting in difficulties accessing learning opportunities. All students needing services must
first register with Accommodative Services located in Reamer 303. It is strongly recommended that
accommodations be requested within the first two weeks of the term. Last minute requests can be denied.
Any student with a documented learning disorder is welcome to
come talk to me privately about options for completion of exams and
The Bottom Line
Ask questions and seek help. This is the most important
point of all. I live to answer questions. Don't be afraid to
come to my office every single day if you want. It's better
for everybody (you AND me) if you understand
things sooner rather than later. More often than not, there's
a line of people waiting to see me on the day before a project
is due. You'll get the help you need faster by starting on projects
sooner rather than waiting until the last minute.