COMP33511
User Experience (UX)

The COMP33511 Open Courseware Site

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Contents

Welcome to the 2017 Edition of COMP33511!

COMP33511 runs as a 'flipped classroom' in that I expect you to read the notes before the lecture, and then in the lecture we discuss the topics covered in the notes as well as possible exam questions, problems you are having etc.

Assessment is via both coursework and examination. Coursework comprises three short assignments (reading and a 250 word report each) worth 30% total (3 x 10%). The exam is therefore worth 70% and comprises ten multiple choice questions and five/six longer questions. Both coursework and exam are completed by electronic assessment and all questions are compulsory.

User Experience

Since the early days of computer science, with the move from punch cards to QWERTY keyboards, from “Doug Englebart's” mouse and rudimentary hypertext systems, via work on graphical user interfaces at Xerox PARC, to the desire to share information between any computer (the World Wide Web), the human has been at the heart of the system. Human computer interaction then, has had a long history in terms of computer science, but is relatively young as a separate subject area. In some ways, its study is indivisible from that of the components which it helps to make usable, however, as we shall, key scientific principles different from most other aspects of computer science, support and underlay the area; and by implication its practical application as UX.

User experience (UX or UE) is often conflated with usability but some would say takes its lead from the emerging discipline of experience design (XD). In reality, this means that usability is often thought of as being within the technical domain. Often being responsible for engineering aspects of the interface or interactive behaviour by building usability paradigms directly into the system. On the other hand user experience is meant to convey a wider remit which does not just primarily focus on the interface but other psychological aspects of the use behaviour. We’ll talk about this in more detail later, because as the UX field evolves, this view has become somewhat out of date.


Current Edition

Slides (in Reverse Chronological Order)

Discuss the topic

Resources

COMP33511 Logistics

This unit comprises twenty teaching sessions (grouped in double lectures on Wednesday's from 09:00 until 11:00; in Semester 1.) with one extra to cover revision topics, and one self revision lecture (which might also be a make-up lecture to cover unexpected circumstances).

You will be expected to devote further time for your own study and for the completion of your coursework (this is expected for all courses and is detailed in the course / programme handbook.).

The twenty traditional lectures will be interspersed with three discussions in which the material for the coursework (coursework will take the form of three, 250 word, discussions of key UX topics.) will be examined, after you have completed and submitted it for marking.

Submission Dates will be:

We will also be having between 2 and 3 industrial talks from organisations such as the BBC, Thoughtworks, and Barclays.

In this case the unit is composed of discussions through: (a) the principles, tools, and techniques required; (b) These course notes to expand on those principles and techniques; (c) the discussion topics to teach and test your ability to summarise, and then form a view based on a complex UX topic1; and finally, (d) the secondary text which will hopefully teach you something about the general science of the area while also enabling you to critique areas and understand how and why your view has been formed (including the ability for people to have different views which may coexist).

In addition to the unit topics, there will be an unseen quiz at the start of each lecture, along with a discussion on a question -- based on the course text -- posed at the end of the preceding lecture.

Attendance

I consider that you are all adults and I will treat you as such. Attendance for all contact hours is entirely optional -- however from past years experience there is a direct correlation between students who attend and those who get over 56% overall.

Expectations and Help

Before we get started on the real UX work let me state the kind of expectations I have of you, and the kind of help that you can get from me. My primary expectation is that you will talk to me, interact, ask questions, and challenge me if you think I'm wrong; in general be interested. Anybody interested will be able to understand this course and only by understanding will you be able to pass your exams.

I consider you all to be adults, attendance is therefore optional, however don't expect that you will be able to monopolise my `open house' near the end of the course if you haven't attended, contributed or put in some effort consistently over the full course.

Hopefully you will choose to attend every lecture, in this case I do not expect you to be asleep, reading a newspaper or some other magazines, be talking to your friends, or be using your mobile -- remember if you do not want to be at the lecture, be somewhere else.

I am here to help, if you have any problems with the course itself, the work you are expected to do, problems in general (not course related), a need for more feedback either from your coursework or from the questions posed within the course lectures, or anything else you are not clear on, then come to see me either at the end of each lecture or privately in my 'open house' sessions. If you feel you need more help, if I can't help you, or if you do not feel comfortable talking to me (maybe because you have a problem with my teaching) then you can talk in confidence with your personal tutor, or your third-year supervisor. If these tutors cannot help you, then you can talk -- again in confidence -- to the Head of Year3, or the Director of Undergraduate Studies4.

We are all here to help whatever happens do not sit on a problem, the sooner we know there is a problem the sooner we can help you address it:

Contact

Simon Harper


Coursework Assignments

These discussion topics are provided to help you form your opinion about a certain aspect of UX which needs closer inspection, while at the same time teaching you how to read, summarise, and critique2 a piece of work such that you can form your own opinions about that work.

A Note on Plagiarism

Both the School and University take plagiarism very seriously, in the context of your coursework let us just revisit what this actually means. Plagiarism is presenting the ideas, work or words of other people without proper, clear and unambiguous acknowledgement. It also includes self-plagiarism (which occurs where, for example, you submit work that you have presented for assessment on a previous occasion), and the submission of material from essay banks (even if the authors of such material appear to be giving you permission to use it in this way). Obviously, the most blatant example of plagiarism would be to copy another students work. Hence it is essential to make clear in your work the distinction between: the ideas and work of other people that you may have quite legitimately exploited and developed, and the ideas or material that you have personally contributed. To assist you, here are a few important dos and don'ts:

  1. Do get lots of background information on subjects you are writing about to help you form your own view of the subject. The information could be from electronic journals, technical reports, unpublished dissertations, etc. Make a note of the source of every piece of information at the time you record it, even if it is just one sentence.
  2. Don't construct a piece of work by cutting and pasting or copying material written by other people, or by you for any other purpose, into something you are submitting as your own work. Sometimes you may need to quote someone else's exact form of words in order to analyse or criticise them, in which case the quotation must be enclosed in quotation marks to show that it is a direct quote, and it must have the source properly acknowledged at that point. Any omissions from a quotation must be indicated by an ellipsis and any additions for clarity must be enclosed in square brackets, e.g. [These] results suggest that the hypothesis is correct. It may also be appropriate to reproduce a diagram from someone else's work, but again the source must be explicitly and fully acknowledged there. However, constructing large chunks of documents from a string of quotes, even if they are acknowledged, is another form of plagiarism.
  3. Do attribute all ideas to their original authors. Written ideas are the product that authors produce. You would not appreciate it if other people passed off your ideas as their own, and that is what plagiarism rules are intended to prevent. A good rule of thumb is that each idea or statement that you write should be attributed to a source unless it is your personal idea or it is common knowledge. (If you are unsure if something is common knowledge, ask other students: if they don't know what you are talking about, then it is not common knowledge!)

You should note that a quote in quotation marks, either indented or not, is not plagiarism as long as you cite its source. Further, it will not be included in the 250 words (details coming up) and neither will the citation or the references.

Your Submission

As we have already seen 30% of the assessment structure for this unit is made up from the three coursework components based on our discussion topics. These discussion topics are provided to help you form your opinion about a certain aspect of the course which needs closer inspection, while at the same time teaching you how to read, summarise, and critique5 a piece of work such that you can form your own opinions about that work.

You should submit all 250 word (plus or minus 10% or 25 words) coursework assignments via Blackboard. These will be checked for length and plagiarism via the Turn-It-In system; after which point they will be graded. You will receive feedback and grades within two weeks of the submission deadline. I am strict on hand-ins -- no exceptions and no exemptions. Remember you can complete all coursework as soon as you like -- the deadlines are your last possible chance to submit.

Remember, No exceptions, No exemptions! The printer will be busy -- this is not an excuse -- you don't need to print; if the power goes off or the computer explodes -- this is not an excuse -- back-ups. If your Hamster dies in a horrible 'seed-choking' accident -- this is not an excuse. You haven't got a dog -- it cannot chew your answers. And no, your USB pen has not been abducted by aliens! If you get hit by a bus; suffer a gruesome chain-saw accident; are attacked by a loose buffalo along Oxford Road I may be lenient. Finally, remember No Plagiarism, both the School and University take plagiarism very seriously.

Your assignments are:

  1. 'Understanding, Scoping and Defining User Experience: A Survey Approach'[Law et al., 2009] (10 Marks) -- this work will enable you to understand the scope and the inconsistencies still present within the UX domain. It will enable you to understand that the definition of UX is not yet fixed and is someway based on the interpretation of the practitioner;

  2. 'Designing the Star User Interface' [Smith et al., 1982] (10 Marks) -- the Star interface is really where all GUI interfaces began. It takes the user as a first and primary priority in the design and it is inconceivable that you do not have an awareness of these classic design principles as perspective computer science graduates; and

  3. 'Voice Loops as Cooperative Aids in Space Shuttle Mission Control' [Watts et al., 1996] (10 Marks) -- this paper shows just how far UX and the techniques which it inherits from human computer interaction can go. We are mainly concerned with systems and objects which are purely commercial, however, in this case failures in the human interface can have serious consequences for a real-time mission, including the loss of the vehicle. Further, these kind of UX techniques can also be found in other critical interface components such as those controlling nuclear power stations or fly-by-wire aircraft.

What I Want from an Assignment

So the 'question' that you need to answer for each of the three assignments is that which is asked of UX'ers in most companies.

The questions from managers often are phrased thus:

  1. 'Tell me why this paper is important?'
  2. 'What should I know and why is it important?'
  3. 'How does this paper affect our development?'
  4. 'What insights does the paper have and how does it affect us?'
  5. 'Can we use this paper to our advantage?'

So the skill is to be able to summarise a paper while also adding in your expertise and original thought - coming up with 250 words (the industry standard) of insight which someone without your training in UX or CS could not produce.

You interpret the paper, add your insight (using experience created from your UX/CS training), and produce a 'mash-up' of the two focusing on aspects of the paper you think are important, rationalising why, and linking it to other work you have read, work you have done or seen, prior knowledge, or real world experience.

It is difficult to not just produce a summary (but a summary is often never required). Think to yourself, what do I bring to this 250 words (± 10%), could anyone have created the 250 words (± 10%) by just reading the paper and without your training and insight. If the answer to the last question is 'yes' then you need to change adding your insight based on your expertise.

Submitting Your Work

You should submit all 250 word (± 10%) coursework assignments via Blackboard. These will be checked for length and plagiarism via the Turn-It-In system; after which point they will be graded. You will receive feedback and grades within two weeks of the submission deadline. I am strict on hand-ins -- no exceptions and no exemptions. Remember you can complete all coursework as soon as you like -- the deadlines are your last possible chance to submit.

Why 250 words? (± 10%)

Students tell me that when trying to write the coursework they constantly find that 250 words is completely insufficient to properly make any point that they would like to make about the paper that they have read. They are not suggesting that these be made into 1000 word essays as that would just be unfair and way too much work. They do however suggest that perhaps the guideline length to 250-500 words with a 10% tolerance at either end meaning an overall length of between 225 and 550 words would be better. They think this would allow for some more in depth observations without the pressure of such a low word limit as it often doesn't seem right to make two to three (perhaps flimsy, due to the word cap) points and to sum your opinions all in the space of 225 to 275 words.

I quite understand their point; 250 words is very short. However, you may have guessed by now that I don't do very much without a reason. So the reason why it is 250 words is simple - this is the industry standard. You need to be able to summarise in 250 words - and I fear you've not been exposed to this in CS up to now. Remember, you don't need to say everything - you need to pick out the most important stuff based on your experience. It may be tough now - but you'll be expected to write it in 250 words in business - and I'd rather this occurs now and you don't have to learn within a company settings. If you don't believe me have a look at the ACM DL for abstracts - it's the same for all Science, Engineering, and Medical domains - 250 words.

You should note that a quote in quotation marks, either indented or not, is not plagiarism as long as you cite its source. Further, it will not be included in the 250 words and neither will the citation or the references.

Marking Rubric

Your submission will be marked according to the following rubric, which has three components marked from A--E:

Teaching Assistant Marking Instructions

Students have been asked to discuss each of the following papers and make 250 word submissions for each, according to the timetable , and based on the rubric you will use to mark them.

  1. 'Understanding, Scoping and Defining User Experience: A Survey Approach'[Law et al., 2009] (10 Marks) -- this work will enable you to understand the scope and the inconsistencies still present within the UX domain. It will enable you to understand that the definition of UX is not yet fixed and is someway based on the interpretation of the practitioner;
  2. 'Designing the Star User Interface' [Smith et al., 1982] (10 Marks) -- the Star interface is really where all GUI interfaces began. It takes the user as a first and primary priority in the design and it is inconceivable that you do not have an awareness of these classic design principles as perspective computer science graduates; and
  3. 'Voice Loops as Cooperative Aids in Space Shuttle Mission Control' [Watts et al., 1996] (10 Marks) -- this paper shows just how far UX and the techniques which it inherits from human computer interaction can go. We are mainly concerned with systems and objects which are purely commercial, however, in this case failures in the human interface can have serious consequences for a real-time mission, including the loss of the vehicle. Further, these kind of UX techniques can also be found in other critical interface components such as those controlling nuclear power stations or fly-by-wire aircraft.

We Have Two Weeks...

to turn around feedback for each submission, with a final feedback deadline two weeks after the coursework submission deadline.

You will need to have read each paper, and formed your own opinions about it before marking the work. The objective is not to slavishly follow a set template but to make sure the students know the content of the work, and understand that content in enough detail to form a critical opinion of that work. As there are no boolean right of wrong answers the marking of each abstract will take longer than a conventional marking process; but this will, hopefully, give us better learning outcomes than parrot-fashion (thought free) assessments.

Each submission will be submitted to the Turn-It-In Plagiarism checker - if there are signs of repetition of: phraseology, ideas, or the like - beyond that which we could normally expect - when we will define this as plagiarised work. In this case you should alert me.

If you have any questions on any work as you are marking it then please forward them to me as soon as possible - so that we can maintain our two week target for feedback.

Feedback

The feedback for this work should not just be via the grade, but written and informative enough for the students to understand their mistakes and derive some beneficial learning experience from the feedback -- so as to make their exam work better. The 'Grade-mark' system will be used with the rubric providing the more universal comments, then general comments entered into the system, and finally any quick comments and off-the-shelf remarks dragging to the relevant position in the text. The students should be able to get to all this information, but after marking each assignment we need to download the pdf feedback form and email it to each student.

Exemplars

Finally...

If you have any questions on any work as you are marking it then please forward them to me as soon as possible - so that we can maintain our two week target for feedback.


Learning Outcomes

Once you've completed this course you will have covered a number of School/University stipulated learning outcomes. These count towards your final degree:

  1. A2/A3/A5: Have an understanding of the domain, concepts, and important and upcoming aspects of UX along with aspects of user interaction and cognition. In particular to have an understanding of the importance of Standards, Technologies, and Guidelines in the process;
  2. C4: Have an understanding of relevant methods including experiment design, application, and the ethical issues surrounding such a design;
  3. A1/D6: Have an understanding of, and be able to select and apply, the relevant descriptive statistical tests associated with UX Engineering;
  4. B1/C4: Be able to analyse and critique UX work, experimental studies, and computer interfaces; and
  5. B3/C4: Use analysis techniques associated with their knowledge of the domain to understand the problems associated with different designs, and suggests solutions for their resolution.

Learning outcomes are variously assessed by Examination (70%) and Coursework (30%):

  1. A1/A2/A3/A5/B3/C2/C4/D6: Examination;
  2. B1/C4: Coursework - papers and texts will serve as discussion topics which will give rise to concise 200 word essays analysing and/or critiquing the topic under discussion -- an understanding of the most important topics which arise from these analysis will also be tested via Examination.

Assessment

As we have already seen 30% of the assessment structure for this unit is made up from the three coursework components, the remaining 70% is from the final examination. This examination will be 1h:30m long and will be in two parts. The first part will be composed of 10 compulsory multiple-choice questions (no negative marking); while the second part will be a choice of five/six longer questions again compulsory. The questions on the second part will require longer answers and will be made up of sub questions; with the topics drawn randomly from the unit book. This method has served well over the last few years giving averages of 60% inline with differences from the students average performance of 1.3.

The structure of both parts will comprise: bookwork; discussions (and examples); application of technique; and original thought. You will not be able to attain a first (over 70%) without being able to demonstrate your ability to apply original thought to a problem, and you will not be able to achieve an upper second class (2:1, 60%) without being able to demonstrate a good grasp of the application of various techniques.

In a break with the tradition let us look at the kinds of questions you will be expected to answer when it comes to the completion of this exam:

'MCQ' Type Question:

'Bookwork' Type Question:

'Discussion' Type Question:

'Application of Technique' Type Question:

'Bookwork' Type Question:


Past Editions of User Experience (COMP33511)

You'll notice that I've left last years posts as an archive just so you can look ahead as we go if you'd like. You'll also notice that there is information that you should look at immediately under the 'Important' menu item, and this will be updated as the unit progresses.


References

[Law et al., 2009] Law, E. L.-C., Roto, V., Hassenzahl, M., Vermeeren, A. P., and Kort, J. (2009). Under- standing, scoping and defining user experience: a survey approach. In Proceedings of the 27th international conference on Human factors in computing systems, CHI ’09, pages 719–728, New York, NY, USA. ACM.

[Miller, 1956] Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. The Psychological Review, 63(2):81–97.

[Pirsig, 1974] Pirsig, R. M. (1974). Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance: an inquiry into values. Morrow, New York.

[Roto et al., 2011] Roto, V., Law, E., Vermeeren, A., and Hoonhout, J. (2011). USER EXPERIENCE WHITE PAPER: Bringing clarity to the concept of user experience. Technical report, AllAbouUX - http://www.allaboutux.org/uxwhitepaper.

[Watts et al., 1996] Watts, J. C., Woods, D. D., Corban, J. M., Patterson, E. S., Kerr, R. L., and Hicks, L. C. (1996). Voice loops as cooperative aids in space shuttle mission control. In Proceedings of the 1996 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work, CSCW ’96, pages 48–56, New York, NY, USA. ACM.

[Smith et al., 1982] Smith, D. C., Irby, C., Kimball, R., Verplank, B., and Harslem, E. (1982). Designing the star user interface. BYTE, 7(4):242–282.


The Importance of Taking Notes!

In 2003, Rob Howard described a meeting with Bill Gates

The first thing I notice as the meeting starts is that Bill is left-handed. He also didn’t bring a computer in with him, but instead is taking notes on a yellow pad of paper. I had heard this before – Bill takes amazingly detailed notes during meetings. I image he has to, given all the information directed at him. The other thing I noticed during the course of the meeting is how he takes his notes. He doesn’t take notes from top-to-bottom, but rather logically divides the page into quadrants, each reserved for a different thought. For example, it appeared that all his questions were placed at the bottom of the page.

James Vornov Continues…


  1. Indeed, as UX is a new area you will need to be able to read and form an opinion about the work as it is published.

  2. 'Critique is a method of disciplined, systematic analysis of a written or oral discourse. Critique is commonly understood as fault finding and negative judgement, but it can also involve merit recognition, and in the philosophical tradition it also means a methodical practice of doubt.' - wikipedia

  3. Tim Morris, Rm 2.107.

  4. Toby Howard, Rm 2.96.

  5. 'Critique is a method of disciplined, systematic analysis of a written or oral discourse. Critique is commonly understood as fault finding and negative judgement, but it can also involve merit recognition, and in the philosophical tradition it also means a methodical practice of doubt.' - wikipedia