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Introduction toUser-Centred Interaction Design

USI Programme, Module E1-4 by Panos Markopoulos

November 2006

The aim of this module is to provide a step-by-step introduction to user-centered  interaction design. This is achieved by means of a mini-projects during which students execute a single iteration through a typical user-centred design cycle.  The mini-project lasts two weeks and is punctuated by lectures that introduce students to some of the basic interaction design techniques.  Topics covered are:

The students have to present intermediate results at 3 stages of the project:

Projects will be executed by 4 teams USI 's.  Teams should be mixed.

Topic for the mini-project

Michael arrives 15' late to work today. As usual he switches on his email to 'plug-in' to work. First thing he gets a few overdue reminders for appointments. He gets rid of them and looks at his inbox. After deleting some spam he knows a few messages need to be answered. This takes long and takes some preparation. He first files away some big mails to make space on the server for new mails and then goes on to inspect quickly the junk folder. Indeed all there is junk so he empties the folder.

Michael goes to pour himself a cup of coffee and comes back to answer that urgent email. In the process he stops a few times to answer other emails with quick questions and to file away on the folder called Addresses the emails of a new contact person. He should make an entry to the Contacts folder but hasn't got the time right now.

Michael works on many projects. Some of them are rather ephemeral lasting 2-3 weeks. Others last for years. For all these projects Michael communicates with different people although very often he collaborates with the same people for different projects, as he tends to favor projects with the people he likes most. In trying to complete this request for information regarding a bid he has made, he consults a few of the mails he has sent and received regarding this project. Sometimes the information he needs is in attachments to mails, other times he has stored relevant documents on his folder, etc. Mike needs to find that email with the attached excel sheet with the 4th version of the proposed budget. He finds one with the 3rd version attached, so he looks at most recent mails for another one.

During the day Michael breaks often to talk to people, have lunch, go to meetings and answer the phone. Especially for the phone he often consults his email as it is often the case that people calling him inquire about a project or a document or an action pending for which all relevant details can be found in a mail he has received.

Some emails have been littering his inbox for weeks. They are things he should do but never gets around to.Other emails he deletes straight away after answering them immediately. These are typically to friends or colleagues for small jokes or daily activities.

Today he gets a mail at 16:00 with a shopping list. His wife also asks him to be at home with the shopping early so she can cook for the children in time.

This vignette highlights the many uses of email. Imagine your team has been hired by a hardware manufacturer, to provide an email solution suitable for a different target user group or different platform.

Each team should tackle their preferred target user group, e.g., professionals, teenagers, families.   You can also choose your favorite hardware platform among the following 3 options:

For this project, study current email use: when and how is email used, what strategies do people follow to access, manage and use email but also what purposes does email serve for these people. Describe your users and their goals using personas and a task model. Identify opportunities for your design. In the second week you are supposed to propose a conceptual design and make a prototype of it.

As an exercise in heuristic evaluation, a specific application and user group will be given to you (assignment 2)


Recommended text book : Preece,J., Rogers,Y., and Sharp, H., Interaction Design, Wiley, 2002.

I will also be asking you to read from the following books:



Lecture / Presentations


Mon 27/11,  9:30-12:00

Introduction/Overview of module

Defining Design Problems

User Profiles


Newman and Lamming ch 2

Mayhew chapters 2

optional: Preece, Rogers and Sharp chapter 1,

optional: Jordan: chapter 3.


Tue 28/11,  9:30-12:00

Personas and Task Analysis

Personas by Cooper

Mayhew Chapter 3

optional: Preece, Rogers and Sharp, chapter 7

Fri 1, 9:30-12:00

Presentations of User Study

Draft report on problem definition and user requirements (deadline Fri Dec 1, 17:00)

Mon 4/12 9:30-12:30

and 13:30-15:00

Conceptual design, metaphors and lo-fi prototypes, idea generation

Preece, Rogers & Sharp, chapter 8


Wed 6/12 9:30-12:30

Concept design presentations

Intro to inspection techniques

Chapter 9 on Inspection Methods

Fri 8/12 13:00-15:00

Presentations of website evaluations

Hand in Final Report

Ground Rules for Presentations

Everyone should be present in the class at the starting time listed above.

To minimize change-over time, presenters should have one laptop connected, with access (through the network or USB stick or hard disc) to the presentations of each team.

Each group has 25 minutes max plan for presentations of 15 minutes and 10 minutes for discussion.

In preparing your presentations, make sure you describe:

It helps if the whole class is interactive, so you can learn from each other's experiences. So ask questions, share your thoughts about the work of other people.

Try to remain constructive even when you are offering critique. You can inquire about the rationale of other people's work, suggest shortcomings, offer alternatives, but do so in a helpful manner that does not become a personal confrontation.

Ground Rules for Reporting

Each report should have a cover, including the names of team members.

Reports must be mailed by17:00 on the day of its specified deadline.

Hard copies of interim reports should be handed in on the first meeting after the deadline.

The hard copy of the final report should be handed in during the final presentation.

Hand in your best shot no iterations of deliverables with me will be supported (i.e., I will not be correcting the same work till it is good enough).

You can use any format you like e.g., the SIGCHI format or the simple template provided.