CS 489/689: Human Computer Interaction

Term and Year of Offering: Fall 2009

Course Number and Title: CS489, Advanced Topics in Computer Science


Professor Michael Terry (mterry@cs.uwaterloo.ca)
Office: DC 2118
Office hours: Tuesdays, 11:30-12:30

Matthew Kay (matthew.kay@gmail.com)
Office: DC 3591
Office hours: Tuesdays, 1:30, and Wednesdays, 2:30

Meeting Time and Location
MC 4060
TR 10:00 - 11:20 AM

Course Description

Human-Computer Interaction teaches the fundamental concepts necessary to create useful and usable computational artifacts. Over the term, students will learn how to design novel computational artifacts that enable a well-defined user group to achieve specific goals more effectively. More specifically, students will learn and directly apply:

A computational artifact could be a desktop computer, a mobile device, an application for an electronic whiteboard, a system embedded in one’s clothing, and so on. The techniques taught in this class will apply equally well to the design and evaluation of all of these various forms of computation.

Course Objectives

After completing this course, students will have the skills and knowledge necessary to gather user requirements through interviews and observations; they will know how to model qualitative data using the modeling techniques of Contextual Design; they will have experience engaging in rapid, iterative prototyping; and they will know how to perform evaluations of their designs using common HCI evaluation techniques, such as think-aloud and heuristic evaluation. Finally, they will be exposed to the primary areas of research within HCI.

Course Overview

Required Text

Recommended Texts

All of the above titles will be on reserve in the Davis Library.

Class Wiki

The class wiki is located at http://crackle.cs.uwaterloo.ca/cs489-09. You must have an account to edit pages (account info given out in class, or email the prof). We will not use newsgroups -- email the prof or a TA with questions about the course or course content, or use the wiki to open up a discussion with the entire class.

Assignments, Projects, and Exams

Human-computer interaction is best learned by practicing it. As such, there are individual assignments and a group project. The group project will have three primary components, including three public poster sessions. There is also a midterm and final.

The grade breakdown is as follows:

You must show sufficient mastery of the material to pass this course. What this means in practice is that you must pass both the final and the group project; failure in either is grounds for failing the course. Please refer to the project overview to get a sense of what the project will entail.

Marking notes:

Latest Changes


Date Theme Readings Lecture Slides Deadlines

Overview of HCI

  • Prototypical HCI process
  • The challenge of designing usable technology

Course Overview

  • Logistics, expectations, marking, project

Goals, History of HCI

  • Goals of HCI
  • What HCI is, isn't
  • History of HCI
  • Paradigms of HCI

CD: Chapter 1

CD: pp. 415-421

CD: Chapter 2

History Wiki intro assignment

Observation assignment

Project: Create a project group page


Human Ethics

  • Gaining consent
  • Ethical considerations, anonymity in data collection

Data Collection Overview

  • Goals of requirements gathering
  • Quantitative vs. qualitative methods
  • Data collection technique overview
CD: Chapter 3



Project: Initial proposal and contact


Qualitative methods

  • Ethnography
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Methods, guidelines for conducting interviews
  • Importance of non-verbal behavior
  • Live interview demos
CD: Chapters 4, 5 Interviewing

9/25/09       Project: Revised project proposal

Observation technique and data coding

  • Theory of situated action
  • Methods, guidelines for conducting field observations
  • Being "the alien"
  • Noting language
  • Coding qualitative data
  • Identifying breakdowns, workarounds, and inefficiencies
  • Live demo of coding
CD: pp 89-102 Coding



Modeling work: Flow, sequence, artifact, and physical models

  • Concept of "unpacking" work
  • Importance of multiple representational forms for work
  • Flow and sequence models
  • Concept of distributed cognition
  • Cognitive artifacts
  • Artifact and physical models

CD: pp 107-123



Project: Signed consent forms due


Modeling work: Cultural model and affinity diagrams

  • The importance of culture in technology design
  • Examples of cultural importance in products
  • Technological and representational determinism
  • Concepts of world view and epistemology
  • Stakeholders
  • Affinity diagrams
  • Tips for an effective poster


Affinity Diagram  

Poster Session 1, DC Fish Bowl


Project, Part 1 Poster Session

Stakeholders, Developing a Vision


CD: Chapter 7

CD: pp. 151-163


Midterm 19:00-20:30, MC 2038

Make-up: 17:00-18:30, DC 2314


User environment design, visioning, and brainstorming

  • Designing interaction by considering major work environments
  • How to move from data to design
  • Brainstorming techniques
CD: pp. 163-198 UEDs



Project, Part 1 Paper Due

Group Evaluation Form




Design process overview

  • Design process guidelines
  • Designing at various levels of granularity
  • Concept of a design space
  • Storyboarding
  • Video prototyping
  • Scenarios
CD: Chapters 11, 12 Design Overview  

Paper and physical prototyping

  • Using low-fidelity media versus interface builders
  • Considering representational determinism
  • Prototyping physical interfaces for computational artifacts
CD: Chapter 14 Design

Interaction design

  • Affordances
  • Mapping
  • Feedback
  • Visibility
  • Constraints
  • Interaction cycle
  • Mental models
CD: Chapter 15 More Design  

Interaction design

  • Gulfs
  • Customizability
  • Errors
CD: Chapters 17, 18 Senses


10/30/09       Project Checkpoint: Problem Refinement and UED's

Senses, Memory, and Physical Constraints

CD: Chapter 19 Evaluation



Poster Session 2, DC Fish Bowl

  Project, Part 2 Poster Session

Moving Design Forward


  • Evaluation paradigms
  • Evaluation plans
  (See link above)  

Experimental studies

  • Experimental study design
  • Within- and between-subjects designs

Discount evaluation techniques

  • Heuristic evaluation
  • Cognitive walkthrough
  • Think aloud
  (See link above)  
11/13/09       Project, Part 2 Write-up Due

Input modalities

  • Text input
  • Pointer input
  • Typical rates
  • Fitt's Law

Natural and intelligent input

  • Pen
  • Voice
  • Multi-modal
  • Intelligent user interfaces
  • Typical rates
  • Issues

Output modalities

  • Visual displays
  • Auditory displays
  • Ambient and peripheral displays
Visual composition
  • Gestalt principles

Rich interaction possibilities

  • Haptic feedback
  • Tangible user interfaces
  • Peripheral displays


  • The challenges and opportunities for accessibility

Project Checkpoint: Evaluation


Design critiques

  • How to hold a design critique

Poster session 3, DC Fish Bowl



HCI research

  • Ubicomp
  • CSCW
  • Information visualization

HCI beyond Waterloo

    Project Part 3, Poster Session

Now due 12/07/09

Final Report Due by 5PM     Project Part 3, Final Report Due
  Final exam      


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