CS 3500, Spring 2015 Homeworks
Note: Homeworks will change, please check frequently.
The assignments listed below, after the current date, are only tentative.

Don't forget to also check the reading reflections and lecture schedule.

DN = Don Norman's "The Design of Everyday Things"
RI = Steven Heim's "The Resonant Interface: HCI Foundations for Interaction Design

WK Class/Date Homework Due Date/Time
1 Tu 1/27
Th 1/29 Log on to Blackboard and post a message to the "Test Posts" thread in the "Reading Reflections" forum of the Blackboard class Discussion Board; the only information the message must include is your first and last name.
First week only, no reading reflection required.
F 1/30
2 Tu 2/3 Reading reflection due (every time we start a new chapter) From this point forward reading reflections will NOT be explicitly noted here. They are due every day a reading assignment is listed in the schedule. 9 am Tues
Th 2/5
F 2/6, M 2/9, W 2/11 Essay 1: (See essay rules in syllabus).  Topic: analyze a kitchen appliance, focussing on the issues discussed in chapters 1-2 of DN.  Make sure you have the appliance owner's permission before fiddling with it.   Pick an appliance that is complicated enough to provide "meat" for your analysis.
Keywords: affordance, signifier, visibility, feedback, mapping, conceptual model (Do not try to jam discussion of all these concepts into one short essay. But do fit in enough to satisfy the rules in the syllabus.)
Fri midnight (essay draft)
Mon midnight (comments, original deadline)
Tues midnight (comments, extended deadline)
Wed midnight (essay final)
3 Tu 2/10
Th 2/12
F 2/13, M 2/16, W 2/18 Essay 2: Analyze some other appliance in your/a friend's home.   Analyze a TV, DVD player, stereo, sewing machine, bedside clock, something like that. Forbidden items: do not analyze a kitchen appliance, a computer, a cell phone, a tablet computer (iPad, etc), an iPod Touch. Focus on issues from DN Chapters 2-3.
Some sample keywords: short-term memory, knowledge in head, mental models, natural mappings, etc
Fri (essay draft)
Mon (comments)
Wed (essay)


Tu 2/17
Th 2/19
F 2/20, M 2/23, W 2/25 Essay 3: Analyze a car/motorcycle/motorized transport. Recall that this is a class in usability and design, not mechanics -- top speed, suspension, and whether the car has flames painted on the side or not are irrelevant for our class.
Sample keywords: constraints (logical, physical, cultural, etc), feedback, forcing functions, lapses, slips (mode errors, capture slips, etc), mistakes, sensibility checks
Fri (essay draft)
Mon (comments)
Wed (essay)
5 Tu 2/24
Th 2/26 Reminder: quiz today
F 2/27, M 3/2, W 3/4

Essay 4: Download a free computer game from the Apple iTunes Store or Google App Store. (Do not download an app from any other source without consulting the professor first. Malware and spyware are possible inside the stores, and probable from other sources.) Analyze the usability of the game.
You are required to provide the exact name of the game and the store where you found it.   (Since the grader may need to examine the game, analyze only free games that do not require setting up a user account.)
If you do not have a smart phone where you are allowed to install software, see the professor ASAP to work out an alternative assignment.
As you write, remember that the reader cannot see the same screen you see. Describe what you see as you also discuss usability issues.
Sample keywords: lapses, slips (mode errors, capture slips, etc), mistakes, forcing functions, sensibility checks, difficulties in design
Fri (essay draft)
Mon (comments)
Wed (essay)
6 Tu 3/3
Th 3/5 Class cancelled due to professor travel to SIGCSE 2015 conference
F 3/6 No essay this week


Tu 3/10

Th 3/12
F 3/13 No essay this week, due to transition between textbooks.


Tu 3/17
Th 3/19
F 3/20 GOMS analysis results on your cell phone, as an MS Excel table. (Blank MS Excel document to start with can be found here.) GOMS analysis will be completed in class; more details on format for table will be given in class. Please bring your cell phone to class so you can analyze it. (Email MS Excel document to professor with subject line: "CS3500: Table 1".)
Here is a spreadsheet with all the tasks we chose filled in in column C for you.
midnight Fri
9 Tu 3/24
Th 3/26
F 3/27 Essay 5: Cell phone analysis, with particular attention paid to the results of the class-wide KLM-GOMS analysis. All students will be responsible for completing this essay assignment.

Compare your cell phone to other cell phones in the class; hypothesize about the differences you see. What design decisions may have motivated those differences?

N.B. This is an analysis, not a competition. Cell phone purchasers pick phones for many reasons not related to usability (cost! durability!), reasons we are ignoring. Allowing users to perform a task faster is one factor in making a phone better, but not the only one, and your essays should reflect that. This is not a race; just because a phone is slower at some task does not make it "worse." (It might be slower but more reliable, or slower but $250 cheaper.) Your essay should be an examination of trade-offs and design decisions for different phones, not a "my phone is better than yours, nee-ner, nee-ner, nee-ner" competition.

You must suggest at least one change that would improve the results of the GOMS analysis of your cell phone. Be specific. Try to find a change that would improve the usability of some aspect of your phone you care about. (If you text frequently, is there a way to make texting easier? If you use the camera frequently, is there a way to make taking a photo faster?) Be sure to specify where performance would get worse, with your suggested change. (For example, your change might make texting faster, but calling slower.) Note that a faster CPU or a bigger screen will not change the GOMS analysis results at all, since GOMS is all about the actions a user must take, not about the machine.

Fri (final essay)
10 Tu 3/31 School Holiday: Cesar Chavez Day
Th 4/2 Reminder: quiz today; start work on Report on Qualitative User Testing
F 4/3 Essay 6: Web site analysis.  You must pick a small site, and the site must be local to the Central Valley.  Do not critique a site for a state or nation-wide organization like Amazon.com, McDonalds.com or the like.  Flip through the local Yellow Pages to find web sites for local businesses. Critique a local public library web site, or the City of Turlock site, or the Modesto Bee site, or...
(Zero pts for essay if web site is not local.)
Not our university web site, please.
You must tell the reader the URL of your chosen web site. (URLs usually start with http://, and are in the address bar at the top of your web browser. For example, the URL for this web page is "http://www.cs.csustan.edu/~mthomas/cs3500/homeworks.html")
After you have discussed color and the other keywords, "Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design" and "The Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines" may help you find other issues to critique.
Keywords: color, contrast, hue, saturation, value, accessibility for people who do not have perfect vision

All students will be responsible for completing this essay assignment. Last individual essay of the semester.

Fri (final essay)
11 Tu 4/7 School Holiday: Spring Break
Th 4/9 School Holiday: Spring Break
F 4/10 School Holiday: Spring Break
12 Tu 4/14

Th 4/16
F 4/17
13 Tu 4/21
Th 4/23
F 4/24 Report on Qualitative User Testing due 11:59 pm Friday
14 Tu 4/28 Group Design Project starts
Th 4/30
F 5/1


Tu 5/5
Th 5/7
F 5/8
16 Tu 5/12

Th 5/14
F 5/15 Last day of classes
17 Tue 5/17 Final exam week
Tue 5/19 Final Quiz
Group Design Project demonstration due in finals week
Group Design Report due (Wed), by email, by midnight