The first project in the semester is an opportunity for students to familiarize themselves with design research methods.

This year’s theme for the projects is: remote social interaction. Students are encouraged to envision computer systems that provide value to college students by allowing them to socialize with other people while being remote. Example systems that fit this theme are video conferencing systems (e.g., Zoom, Google Meet), social collaboration tools (e.g., Slack or Discord), or systems for remote play (VectorConnect).

People may want to socialize with one another across many different contexts:

  • personal relationships (e.g., families, friends)
  • work (e.g., group building activities)
  • communities (e.g., activism)

with many different devices:

  • consumer computers
  • smart phones
  • wearables
  • robots

How can computer systems facilitate social interactions among remote users? What novel forms of interaction can aid with this goal? As part of the project, students need to identify the activities that their proposed design will support. If there are existing solutions for the chosen activities, it is important to identify what does not work for them and how the proposed design provides better support.

Project Components

NOTE: For all assignments, a collaboration record must be submitted along with the rest of the assignment by its due date/time. The purpose of the record is to document what each member of the team worked on for each deliverable, as in this template. The absence of this record in Canvas will result in a deduction of 10% of the assignment grade. This record does not count for assignment page limits.

Assignment 1a: Problem Ideation (5%)

The goal of the first assignment is for students to think beyond a technology-centric proposal of a phone app, website, or interaction. Instead, they are encouraged to think of problems that people face while trying to socialize with one another remotely. What role can interactive computing take to help approach these problems?

During class, students will get started thinking about some ideas: Students need to think about three starting points for brainstorming domains, problems, and goals that might be supported by social computing technologies. By domain, we mean an aspect of life, such as wellness. By problems, we mean something negative that needs to be solved (not unsolvable bad things). To identify goals and problems, it is often useful to ask “why” (e.g., within the workplace domain: Why does a person care to socialize with coworkers?).

When brainstorming ideas, priority should be given to the quantity (and diversity) of the ideas, not to the quality of any one of them. The brainstorming effort may include ideas from existing products or solutions, but no pair of ideas should be alike.

The submission for this assignment is a pdf document (4 pages maximum) (with the students’ name and netid at the top). The pdf should include:

  1. A picture of affinity diagram generated from brainstormed ideas.
  2. A summary of key ideas that emerged from the brainstorming session (at least 6*N ideas should be proposed, where N is the number of people in the project group). Each idea should be one or two sentences, identifying the domain, and the problem or goal. A person familiar with the project but who is not a member of the group should be able to understand each idea.
  3. A chosen problem space to investigate further in this project based on the key ideas from above (point #2). The description of the problem should include:
    • an explanation of what the problem is,
    • why it is an interesting problem, and
    • why it is not trivial to solve.

In addition, if there are existing solutions to the problem, the submission should clearly describe their issues and highlight any positive aspect worth retaining in the future. When appropriate, examples of existing systems and practices can be used to support claims.

Assignment 1b: Design Research (5%)

The goal for the second assignment is to reflect on what was learned from contextual inquiries / interviews conducted with potential users in relation to the chosen problem. Each group member should conduct a contextual inquiry or interview, and reflect on what was learned from this experience. The group should then summarize the insights from this need-finding process in their report.

The submission for this assignment is a pdf document (5 pages maximum) (with the students’ name and netid at the top). For each participant, the pdf should include:

  • Who was observed or interviewed? (don’t provide their name, but demographics characteristics) What is their background? What was the environment? [1% of the grade]
  • What was learned from the research? [1% of the grade]
  • What tasks, problems, or opportunities were uncovered? [1% of the grade]
  • Were there difficulties establishing rapport or getting the desired information? [1% of the grade]

At the end, the pdf document should also include a discussion of the high-level themes and problems that the participants shared. Do these themes or problems suggest tasks that are important to design for? [1% of the grade]

NOTE: If it is hard to identify high-level themes, problems, practices at this point, it is possible that additional understanding through more design research needs to be done. Students should ensure that their design research has provided insights and perspectives needed to proceed to the next stage of the project.

Assignment 1c: Design Ideation (5%)

For this assignment, each group should prepare a pdf document (with the students’ name and netid at the top) that describes their process to narrow down the design:

  1. Students devise six tasks that are integral to the overall design goal based on what has been learned about the chosen problem thus far. The six tasks should be real-world tasks and span a wide range of functionality and difficulty. Each task should be described in text (one paragraph) and in detail. The description of each task should convey a problem, say what is accomplished, with what goal, and how difficult the task is (from easy to hard). [2% of the grade]

  2. Students brainstorm and sketch distinct designs for their interface in order to explore the design space. More specifically, each student in the group should propose one design that addresses at least four of the six tasks from the chosen set (point 1 above). For each of these initial designs, the report should include:

    • the high-level idea of the design (one paragraph, including the name of the student who worked on this design)
    • legible images of sketches on paper of the key aspects of the design (not digital mockups). The sketches can be storyboards of scenarios.
    • how to complete each of the four selected tasks with the design (one or two sentences per task describing each the steps)

    [2.4% of the grade, with 0.6% given for designs that demonstrate significant consideration of substantially different approaches to your problem.]

Assignment 1d: Prototype (5%)

The goal of the fourth assignment is to refine the chosen design through prototyping. The students choose one design (based on the ideas from Assignment 1c) to keep developing during their design process, and create a low fidelity prototype of this design. The assumption is that students will make simple wireframe prototypes using Adobe Xd, but other types of low fidelity prototypes are allowable provided there is a good rationale given the chosen design. The prototype should support testing of at least two primary tasks (out of the original six proposed in Assignment 1c).

The submission for this asssignment is a pdf document (with the students’ name and netid at the top) that shows the prototypes, including:

  • An overview image of the entire prototype.
  • Detailed images showing how the prototype supports the two primary tasks. For wireframe prototypes, the images should provide a walk through the two tasks.
  • A link to the prototype in Google Drive (make sure the file is shared with anybody who has the URL). For prototypes that are not digital wireframes in Adobe Xd, provide a link to a folder in Google Drive that has visual documentation (images or any other relevant material) for the prototype.

The assignment will be graded based on the overall completeness and appropriateness of the prototype [2% of the grade], as well as the documentation of each task [1.5% per task]. If a medium for prototype other than Adobe Xd is used, a clear rationale should be provided in the submission.

Assignment 1e: Heuristic Evaluation (5%)

Pairs of students help evaluate each other’s prototypes. More specifically, a member of one group would provide heuristic evaluations for a member of another group, and receive evaluations from that other person as well.

The submission for this asssignment is a pdf document (with the students’ name and netid at the top) that documents changes resulting from the inspection-based analysis. The document should include a list of the members of the team that conducted evaluations (the expectation is that at least N evaluations would be conducted, where N is the number of members of the group). Also, the document should include a table or list of the results from the evaluations. For each identified issue, include in the report:

  • the name of the person(s) that identified it,
  • an image of the relevant portion of the prototype,
  • a text description of the identified issue (including the heuristic that is violated),
  • the severity of the issue (0 for no problem to 4 for usability catastrophe), and an image and explanation of the revision of the prototype that was implemented.

At the end of the report, include a new overview image to the updated prototype and a link to the new version (e.g., in Google Drive).

The assignment will be graded based on having at least two heuristic evaluations from students outside of the group [3% of the grade], and the revisions made to the prototype [2% of the grade].