Short Assignment 1: Design Analysis

ASSIGNED: Thursday, January 11, 2007
DUE: Sunday, January 21, 2007 11:59 PM


Over the next few days pay attention to your interactions with the objects around you. When you find yourself doing the wrong thing or you are unsure about what to do next, stop and think about why. What led you to press the wrong button? What information was missing or misleading that led to the situation? Did something about the look of the object lead you down the wrong path? What would have helped you to accomplish your task faster or without the mistake?

The interaction in question does not have to be with your home computer, or even something computerized. However, it must be a synthetic object (that is, an artifact designed by a person). Perhaps you are trying to use a washing machine at the laundromat, program your Digital Video Recorder, or turn on the windshield washer in an unfamiliar car.

Choose one such instance from your real-life experiences and write an essay of no more than 500 words on it. Describe the object, what your goal was, and the situation that led up to the bad interaction. Then describe the bad interaction and your analysis of the factors that contributed to it. Finally, describe what you would do differently if you were responsible for redesigning the object in question.

You may find it helpful to include a diagram or picture of the object.

For this assignment, your document should not be intended as a final draft (but nor should it be a rough draft). Do not worry about spelling or grammar as long as they do not hinder comprehension. (We can't mark what we can't understand.) Your mark will be based on your:

To help you perform the analysis, you may of course use any material we discuss in class. In addition, you may find it helpful to refer to one or more of the frameworks presented in these books: User Interface Design and Evaluation (Stone et. al.); The Humane Interface (Raskin); The Design of Everyday Things (Norman). These three books each take a different approach, and one of them may better suit your way of thinking than the others.

Submission Procedure

At the top of your document, be sure to include your NAME, STUDENT NUMBER, and EMAIL ADDRESS.

Compose your submission as a simple, one-file document in either RTF or Microsoft Word format. There is no need to be fancy. Submit your document using the submission server ( by the deadline.