SDSU CS 596: Client-Server Programming
Spring Semester, 1997
Doc 26, User Interface

To Lecture Notes Index
San Diego State University -- This page last updated Apr 17, 1997

Contents of Doc 26, User Interface

  1. References
  2. Interface Design When You Don't Know How
  3. Prototyping
    1. Problems with Software Prototypes
    2. Lo-fi or Paper Prototypes
      1. The Kit
      2. Build A Paper Prototype
      3. Preparing for a Test
      4. Conducting a Test
      5. The Test
      6. Evaluate the Results


Gould, Boies, Lewis, Making Usable, Useful, Productivity Enhancing Computer Applications, Communications of the ACM, Jan. 1991, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 74-85

Heckel, Paul, Elements of Friendly Software Design, San Francisco, Sybex Books, 1991

Hix and Hartson. Developing User Interfaces: Ensuring Usability Through Product and Process. Wiley & Sons, 1993

Laurel, B., Computers as Theatre. Addison-Wesley, 1991

Marcus, A., Graphic Design for Electronic Documents and User Interfaces, ACM Press/Addison-Wesley, 1991

Mulligan, Altom, and Simkin. User interface design in the trenches: Some tips on shooting from the hip. In Reaching through Technology: CHI'91 Proceedings. ACM Press 1991, pp. 232-236

Norman, Donald. Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine, Voyager, CD-ROM

Norman, Donald. The Design of Everyday Things, 1988.

Norman, Donald. Turn Signals Are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles.

Norman, Donald. Things That Make Us Smart.

Rettig, Marc. Interface Design When You Don't Know How, Communications of the ACM, Jan. 1992, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 29-34

Rettig, Marc. Prototyping for Tiny Fingers, Communications of the ACM, April. 1994, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 21-27

Schneiderman, B. Designing the User Interface, Addison-Wesley, 1987

Interactive Color Holliday Horton,

Questionnaire for User Interface Satisfaction
For information and licensing contact:
Carolyn Garrett
Office of Technology
Liason Lee Building, Room 2114
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742

Doc 26, User Interface Slide # 1

Interface Design When You Don't Know How

Basic Rule for Good Visual Design

Hire a graphic/GUI designer

Basic Rule for Almost Everything Else

Painstakingly follow established standards

All major interfaces have published detailed standards for user interface design

If the standard says a window border is 3 pixels wide make it 3 pixels

Doc 26, User Interface Slide # 2
User Interface Standards Manual

Produce standards manual for the project

Manual should address the following:

What symbols are there
How do they relate to each other
How do they relate to the things they represent
How do they relate to the user

Doc 26, User Interface Slide # 3
The Process

Doc 26, User Interface Slide # 4

Set a short time limit (4 weeks) on the planning process

Planning Documents

Document One
Defines design goals
Sets the direction for the work
Identifies open problems that need to be researched

Document Two
Project plan for next four months
Describe series of tasks, each no longer than two weeks

Document Three
Plan for user testing

Document Four
Definition of Iterative Process

Doc 26, User Interface Slide # 5


Problems with Software Prototypes

Software Prototypes take too long to build and change

Testers tend to comment on "fit and finish" issues
Get comments on selection of colors, fonts and buttons
Developers spend time on colors, fonts and buttons

Developers resist changes

Software Prototypes set false expectations

Single bug in a software prototype can halt a test

Doc 26, User Interface Slide # 6

Lo-fi or Paper Prototypes

The Kit

White paper
heavy enough to endure repeated testing and revisions

5-by-3-inch cards
Use as construction material
Taking notes

Tape: clear, colored, double-backed, etc.
Glue sticks
Post-It glue
White correction paper

Colored pens and pencils
Fine and thick markers

Sticky note pads

Acetate sheets

Scissors, X-acto knives, straight-edges, Band-Aids


Doc 26, User Interface Slide # 7

Build A Paper Prototype

Set a short deadline
The prototype will be done by 4:00 this afternoon
Tomorrow at 9:30 we will demo the prototype
Just get a first pass on all aspects of the prototype
It will be "wrong" so don't spend weeks on it

Construct Models, not illustrations
Build the parts of your prototype so they can be used
The parts need to move around
User will use the model, must see the changes
On early models don't be picky - get ideas down
Later models can look "professional"

Doc 26, User Interface Slide # 8

Preparing for a Test

Select your users
Know the demographics of your users
Educational background
Knowledge of computers
Typical tasks involved in their job
Can use "surrogate users"
People with same demographics of your users
Undergrads are cheap available labor
May wish to avoid actual customers, employees, friends, and family
Testers should represent the whole range of users
Do at least one in-house test with surrogates and one field test with typical end users

Prepare test scenarios


Doc 26, User Interface Slide # 9

Conducting a Test

It takes four people to get the most out of a test

Welcomes users
Puts users at ease
Users often worry about:
Flunking the test
Co-workers finding out how they did
Answering the question correctly
Has users fill out forms - experience profile

Runs the test
Gives users instruction
Gives user hand written tasks to perform
Encourage the user to express their thoughts
As use works elicit the user's thought
Makes sure test runs on time

Doc 26, User Interface Slide # 10
Runs the computer
Moves the model in response to users "actions"

Takes notes
One observation per index card

Doc 26, User Interface Slide # 11

The Test

Video tape the test

Before starting the test, explain the process to the user

Debrief the user after the test

During the test, don't:
Give user hints
laugh, gape, gasp, say "a-ha"
Don't display any reaction to the user's actions

Evaluate the Results

Go through all the notes taken during the tests

Use post-it notes to put comments on components of prototype that need change