IE 455: User Interface Design

10:30-12:00, Tuesday & Thursday,  RAI  121


Thomas A. Furness III


Industrial Engineering

Office in AERB 141A

Office Hours: Tu/Th 9:00-10:30

(Other times by appointment)

Telephone: 543-4608 (IE); 685-8626 (HITL)

Email: tfurness(at)



Homer Pryor

Teaching Assistant

Office in FLK 215

Office Hours: By appointment

Telephone: 616-1493

Email: hpryor(at)




This course addresses the fundamentals of designing interfaces between humans and complex machines, notably computer systems.  Topics include models of human-computer interaction; the interface design process; hardware, software, and human factors elements associated with interfaces; interface psychology; and sensory, perceptual, and cognitive aspects of human-computer interaction and virtual environments.  In addition to theoretical concepts, group work will be emphasized since it is important for students to develop skills which will allow them to work effectively on interdisciplinary design teams in industry.  The course includes projects and a field trip which give students further “hands on” experience  in designing and assessing interfaces in various settings.  Other topics will be presented as time permits.



Industrial Engineering 315 & 316, equivalents, or consent of instructor.


Required Materials

1. Norman, D.A. (1988). The Design of Everyday Things, New York, NY: Basic Books.

2.  Selected papers to be available for copying.


Recommended Materials

1. Baecker, R.M. & Buxton, W.A.S. (1995). Readings in Human-Computer Interaction: Toward the Year 2000, San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.

2. Preece, J.  (1994).  Human-Computer Interaction,  New York, NY:  Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

3. Laurel, B. (1990). The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.



Professor Furness will grade the projects.  A teaching assistant will grade the weekly design problems, quizes and video game projects.  The teaching assistant will also work with project groups to critique and provide feedback on the organziation and development of the projects.   The final grade will be determined based on the following:


                Weekly Design Problems/Quizes                                                   30%

            Video Game Project                                                                                    20%

            Major Interface Design Project                                                                        50%


Design Problems

During the course of the quarter several short design problems will be assigned  involving a fundamental interface issue.  Both  thorough analysis and design creativity are expected for the design problems.  Some problems will be given to be done quickly in class.  Others will be due at the next class meeting.  Students will be expected to devote more time to these homework problems than to the in-class problems; however, the write-up/design sketch should be limited to one single-sided page.  In some cases,  students will work in project groups to accomplish the short design problems. 


Video Game Project

For this project, take a pocket full of quarters to your local video game parlor or arcade, choose a game that you are not familiar with, and read the instructions.  Make an attempt to play the game based on the instructions and knowledge you have of how other electronic games are played.  Then replay the game (several times, but do not get hooked!) again using additional knowledge that you have obtained from your first experience.  This must be a “real” arcade game and not a game on your computer or home video game system.  Both the Health Sciences Student Center and Husky Union Building  have arcade game rooms; however, you  can wherever you want.


Readings for the Video Game Assignment (copies available at the Ram Copy Center on University Ave.)

1. Chapanis, A. (1965). Words, words, words. Human Factors, 7, 1-17.

2. Crawford, C. (1990). Lessons from Computer Game Design. In Laurel, B. (Ed.) The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 103-111.

3. Crawford, C. (1982). The Art of Computer Game Design, Berkeley, CA: Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 77-92.

4. Wickens, C. (1984). Engineering Psychology and Human Performance, 138-145.

5. Fisk, A.D., Scerbo, M., & Kobylak, R. (1986). Relative value of pictures and text in conveying information. Proceedings of the Human Factors Society 30th Annual Meeting, 1269-1272.


Video Game Project Paper

The student is to prepare a five page paper (including bibliography) for this assignment.  The paper should discuss the game, it’s instructions and interface paradigm.   Use the following questions to guide the analysis of the game and the writing of the paper:


1. Do the instructions provide a novice with all the information necessary to play the game successfully on the first try?  Discuss the procedural knowledge necessary to understand the structure and function of the game.  Also, discuss the necessary perceptual-motor skill needed to play the game.


2. How much help was your prior knowledge of how other video games work in learning to play the present one (i.e., consistence of elements, sounds, movements, and devices)?


3. Analyze the instructions based on principles of instructional design found in the reading by Chapanis, Wickens, and Fisk et al.  Other  references are encouraged.  Provide suggestions for improving the instructions.  Would pictures and fewer works do a better job conveying the relevant information?


4. Attempt to find an expert user of the video game you selected (hint, they are probably much shorter than you).  Ask the expert user how the game should be played.  Compare these instructions to the written instructions.  Which set of instruction would be more useful for the novice?


5. Compare the game with the principles of design outlined by Crawford.  Which of these principles does the game employ?  Which are the most successful in making the game fun?


6. Include observations for improvement of the user interface.


Due Date for Video Game Project

Tuesday, Oct 17, 2000


Major Interface Design Project

For this project, you will be assigned to a four person group on October 3rd.  The assignment of groups will be based on an experience/interest questionnaire given on the second day of class.  Design problem domains will be suggested.  You are to decide on a specific application within that domain, perform a literature search or background review on the topic, design an interface for the particular application chosen, and test and evaluate your design.  Students will turn in an interface as part of the project.  This can be a mockup, artwork or software demonstration.  For the purpose of this class, the interface itself is not as important as the process of designing it.  You will be graded based on how well you complete the process.   Specifically, you grade will be determined by how well the process, as associated with your design, is illustrated and communicated in your final report.  Your performance on the project will also be graded by your other group members.


Project Proposal

Each group is to write a one page proposal outlining the specific interface problem which it will be addressing.  This proposal will be due on Oct 10th after the groups are assigned.  The purpose of this proposal is to get the groups started as quickly as possible.  Each group will be asked to meet with Mr. Pryor to discuss the project based on this proposal so that they may ask any questions which they have and so that Mr. Pryor can provide them with some directions and pointers to the literature.


Background Review

A brief (3-5 pages) background review related to the design problem and possible interface solutions should be prepared by the group.  This background should include references to relevant literature and existing technologies.  The instructors will read and edit these reviews.  They will then be returned so that they may be incorporated into the final paper.


Project Presentation to the Class

During class times 11/30 and 12/5 or another agreed upon date, each group will be required to present their work in a ten minute presentation to class members, instructors and a panel of judges.  This presentation should quickly summarize the need or problem, the design of the resulting interface and include an explanation of why your design is the best solution for the problem.  Note, each project will be graded independently and on its own merits.  However, the panel will also judge the projects, and prizes will be awarded to the groups with the best designs.


Final Project Paper

The final paper should completely detail the design developed by the group.  As stated earlier, the focus should be on the interface design process.  This paper will be used by the instructor as the primary tool for evaluating the design.  The paper should be approximately 15 pages with a brief (3-5 pages) appendix, if necessary.  The paper will be evaluated on these sections:


                • Statement of Problem

                • Background Literature

                • Interface Concept (detailed sketches of the design)

                • Performance requirements

                • Methods Used

                • Documentation of Redesign and Changing Specifications

                • Results (some form of evaluation of the interface is necessary)

                • Discussion

                • Conclusions


The due date for the final project report is 5 pm on 12/7/2000 outside room 141A, AERB