SRS 200

Assignment 2 -- Usability on a Budget
Due Monday, September 25, 2006


In this project, you will start to learn how to design a usable product and evaluate its usability. Your goals should be:

The Scenario

Imagine that you work for an appliance company, and the company is preparing to release a new stove to the marketplace. Other departments in the company have already decided on the overall dimensions, but the placement of burners, knobs, controllers, displays, lights, etc... are left to you and your team. The marketing department has determined that the stove should have the following minimum requirements:

What to do

In your team of 3 or 4 members, you will design a prototype of a stove that meets these requirements and is as usable as you can make it. The controls and the burners should be mounted on pegboard which we will provide for you. Your prototype must model the range top (the burners) as well as the controls for both the range top and the oven. You need not make a mock up of the oven cavity itself.

Your team will be given two pegboards. The first (the white plastic one) should be used for the range top. The second (the brown one) can be used in any way you see fit (including not at all). In addition to the pegboard, you can use any of the raw materials in LESS to create your prototype. Also, please feel free to prepare your designs in LESS (when there is no user study underway).

Your design of the prototype should be informed by design heuristics that we discuss in class, that you find in the assigned readings, and that you find in research in the literature. Be sure to look up what people have tried for stoves in particular, but also for design heuristics in general.

Once you have a prototype, you should evaluate the design with user tests, which must be carried out in LESS (we will produce a sign-up sheet for user study time). You should test using 3-4 subjects. Note: we are not telling you what to measure (time, frustration level, error rate, etc.), how to measure it, or anything about what protocol to use (Wizard of Oz, think-aloud, etc.). It is up to your team to make those decisions.

After you have analyzed the results of your study, propose a redesign based upon the conclusions you draw. You don't have to change your mockup -- just record what you would do in your journal and in the final report.

What to turn in


As your team works on this project, each team member should keep a journal. In the journal, take notes on design choices that the team has made, choices that you (the journal writer) explored, ideas for methods you wanted to try, results of the study, anything unusual you saw in the user studies, etc... Be sure to record failed attempts too!

When all the presentations are done, also add to your journal a quick (1-2 page, handwritten) response to the experience. Pay particular attention to methods you have used, why you think they should have worked (or why you think they did not succeed as much as you expected), comparing and contrasting your methods with those described by other groups. Also please be sure to comment on team dynamics; how was it to work in a team; how well did the team work together; how well are the different backgrounds and interests of the team members being represented in the work of the team?

We will collect your journals on Wed, Sept. 27.


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