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Introduction toUser-Centred Interaction Design

USI Programme, Module by Panos Markopoulos

November 2009

The aim of this module is to provide a step-by-step introduction to user-centered  interaction design.

We shall do this 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.  Teams should be mixed.

Topics for the mini-project

Topic 1: Supporting the learning of skills

Modern information storage and retrieval technology already supports successfully education by facilitating access of documents needed by learners. Such text-centric mode of knowledge transfer is very powerful and generic: text and sometimes accompanying multimedia documents are invaluable educational materials for almost every type of education and scientific discipline. However, in the domain of design, crafts and arts, and technical professions, a large part of skill acquisition is more successfully done by imitation, trial and error, critique, demonstration rather than by studying documents. Traditionally, learning of this kind takes is supported through apprenticeship and peer learning, which require physical collocation and contemporaneity (being at one place at the same time) and it requires the individuals who assume the role of tutor or tutee, to be co-present and dedicate attention to each other. 

We seek to find potential ways to improve this kind of practice, especially relating to supporting the sharing of multi-media information that helps craft-skill acquisition. Specifically, this project shall explore through design research how to best support the

In this project, you are invited to select a target user group, e.g., design students, cook apprentices, artists, etc., to whom you can have access for a couple of observations and interviews. Study how skill acquisition is currently achieved and seek for ways to improve/support it with the introduction of interactive technology.

You may consult related literature and find solutions that have been tried out - in this case, show how you adopt, modify or discard such solutions in your project.

Topic 2: Supporting the creative design

This assignment focuses on how interactive technology can support design and engineering processes involving multi-disciplinary teams. In such teams multiple representations have to be developed and maintained suiting different aspects of the design and engineering effort. Often these representations are used in different contexts. E.g., when building a house, the architect will use paper print outs of building plans on location, will amend them, and will need to update information later. The architect may need to communicate with the client as well as with different contractors, e.g., civil engineers, builders, electricians, etc., providing different views of the same project.

You are invited to study multi-disciplinary teams in a domain of your own choice, and study how interactive technology can facilitate collaboration between members of the team. We are especially interested in supporting collocated collaboration between team members.

Topic 3: Travel Planning

Travel planning has changed substantially since 10 years ago. The availability of web based airline and hotel booking sites and even of travel agencies has limited the role of the travel agent. While  a lot of people still prefer the face to face contact with the travel agent, the proportion of them is diminishing. Customers can retrieve information from the web, compare prices and often cut out the middle man in their transactions. Often the web offers more and better information than the travel shop, e.g., recommendations from other, links to a lot of material regarding the travel destination.

You are invited to study the process of planning trips for holidays, that go beyond buying a flight to and back from the destination. Consider problems and advantages of planning both at the travel shop and over the Internet. Consider the full range of activities concerned, e.g., planning an itinerary, combining different services and activities at the destination, travel budget planning, payment, etc.

Your solution should build on the fact that a) customers can already access the Internet and relevant sources before and after they go to the agent b) the travel agent can provide face-to-face interaction and can use more advanced technologies than a desktop computer; e.g., think of large shared displays that support collocated collaboration c) the agent has expert knowledge to guide the customers but needs to leave room for customers to explore their options. 

See for example. Rodden, T., Rogers, Y., Halloran, J., and Taylor, I. 2003. Designing novel interactional workspaces to support face to face consultations. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA, April 05 - 10, 2003). CHI '03. ACM, New York, NY, 57-64. DOI=


Students in the department of industrial


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 Nov 16


Introduction/Overview of module

Introduction to Usability

Interaction Design Lifecycle

Defining an Interaction Design Problem


Prepare a presentation of different lifecycle models from literature

Study the problem definition suggested by Newman and Lamming ch 2

Mayhew chapters 2

optional: Preece, Rogers and Sharp chapter 1,

optional: Jordan: chapter 3.


Tue Nov 17


Presentations Lifecycle Models

Introduction to User Profiling and Task Analysis

Personas by Cooper

Mayhew Chapter 3

optional: Preece, Rogers and Sharp, chapter 7

Mon Nov 23



Presentations User Profiles and Task Models

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

Preece, Rogers & Sharp, chapter 8


Wed Nov 25


Concept design presentations

Introduction to Detailed Interaction Design and Evaluation


Preece et Al chapter 6

Fri Nov 27


Presentations of whole project

 Hand in slides

Tips for Presentation Sessions

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.

In preparing your presentations, make sure you describe (not necessarily in this order):

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.

Past runs of the course

This course has been running since 2002. You can find information on these earlier versions: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004