Course Overview

Fall 2015
Location: MacMillan 117, 167 Thayer Street
Time: 6:40pm on Tuesdays & Thursdays

This course will cover concepts in human-computer interaction that focus on designing user interfaces. Topics include understanding when to use different interfaces, modeling and representing user interaction, principles of user experience design, eliciting requirements and feedback from users, methods for designing and prototyping interfaces, and user interface evaluation. Classroom time will be spent on lectures and hands-on activities, and students will complete assignments and readings outside the classroom. There will be ten weekly assignments and readings will be from a variety of sources that will be posted during the semester.

Students interested in learning the process behind building a user interface and gaining hands-on experience designing a user interface should take this course. Programming or web development experience is useful for some assignments, but alternate assignments will be available for those without programming experience. Nearly all course information will be available on the class website. The course is expected to require 8-10 hours/week of work outside class.

The course syllabus contains summary information on the course.

Hours & Emails
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Sunday
Nedi 10am-12pm (409) April & John 5-6:30pm (201) Marlena 6-7pm (271) Felege 3:15-4:15pm (227)

TA hours are held in various rooms in the CIT, noted in parentheses. If you want to meet with a specific TA not listed above, send them an email to make an appointment.

Email to reach all the TAs (most questions should be directed here). We encourage you to ask questions not specific to your personal situation on the Canvas discussion boards.
Email to reach the Head TAs, Grad TA, and Jeff (e.g. questions about grades, make up work).
Email Jeff for sensitive issues (e.g. feedback about course, disagreement with a TA).

Day Lecture Assignments due Readings due Labs **
Sep 10 Introduction Norman - Design Sep 16
Sep 15 History Journal (do weekly) Nov 25 Buxton - Input Sep 21
Sep 17 GUI
Sep 22 Input Input Sep 30 Dillman - Questions Sep 28 Axure
Sep 24 Natural
Sep 29 Understanding Personas Oct 7 Cooper - Personas * Oct 5 Balsamiq
Oct 1 Models
Oct 6 Analysis Rogers - Evaluation Oct 12 Invision
Oct 8 Affordances Analysis Oct 19
Oct 13 Usability Cooper - UndoSave * Oct 19 HTML/CSS
Oct 15 Evaluation PROJECT Dec 10
Oct 20 Navigation Sitemap Oct 26 Vignelli - Canon * Oct 26 Sketch
Oct 22 Interaction Redesign Nov 2
Oct 27 Visual Buxton - Sketching Nov 2 Illustrator
Oct 29 Layout Sketching (bring to class)
Nov 5
Nov 11
Nov 19
Nov 3 Prototyping Goffman and Eggers Nov 9 FramerJS
Nov 5 Sketching Evaluations *
Nov 10 Social XCode
Nov 12 Crits Development or Responsive Nov 23 Kramer and Adams Nov 18
Nov 17 Crits Responsive
Nov 19 Emotion Deception (images due Nov 25) Nov 25
Nov 30
Nov 24 HCI (supplementary) *
Nov 26 Thanksgiving (holiday)
Dec 1 Surprise Class
Dec 3 Project Presentation
Dec 8 Project Presentation
Dec 10 Project Presentation

* Reading includes a Staff Pick, which should be read but does not need to be addressed in reading comments.

** Refer to the Design Labs section for more information. Sign-ups are on Canvas.

Staff Picks
Assignments, Grading & Policies

Class Materials
Slides will be posted to the site just before class starts but may be available on Canvas beforehand. Assignments and readings are linked on the site schedule. The Canvas hand-in pages for completed assignments and reading comments are linked in the schedule under the due date.

Design Labs
TAs will lead multiple design labs throughout the semester, where students can gain experience with a specific interaction design tool or skill. They will be held outside of course lecture hours at various times and days of the week in the LIST Center Multimedia Lab. Labs are listed on the schedule next to the week in which they'll occur. Sign-ups are emailed on the Thursday before the labs at 9pm (they can also be found on Canvas). We suggest you learn about the different lab topics before signing up. Students are required to attend exactly two lab sessions.


  • 45% Assignments
  • 25% Project
  • 10% Design labs
  • 10% Reading comments
  • 10% Participation

Assignments are graded by undergraduate TAs. If you feel an assignment was graded unfairly, please bring your original assignment to the office hours of the Graduate TA and explain why you think your assignment deserved a better grade. The Graduate TA will make a determination about whether your score will be changed within a week.

Late Policy
Reading comments are due at 11:55pm on the due date listed in the schedule to give a chance for others to read your comment before the next class. No late reading comments will be accepted. Assignments are graded on a 20-point scale, and late assignments will have 4 points (20%) deducted from the grade for every week late (rounded up). So an assignment turned in 8 days late will have 8 points (40%) off.

Each student gets 3 late days that can be used to compensate for an assignment turned in one week late, missed in-class participation, or for a missed reading comment. These will be automatically applied at the end of the course. Note that each late day reimburses 1% of the total course grade. There are no benefits to having extra late days when the semester ends. Any further accommodation requires a note from the Dean of the College sent to the Head TA contact email.

Collaboration Policy
The Collaboration Policy explains the policies around working with other students or using outside-class resources for your assignment. It can be viewed in Canvas and is marked as an assignment worth 0 points. Your work will not be graded until you have agreed to the collaboration policy by submitting that assignment.


The schedule emphasizes user-related topics in the first half of the course, then design topics in the second half of the course.

Week Topic
Week 1


We start with an overview of the course, and highlight challenges in designing user interfaces.
Week 2

Interfaces Basics

We'll learn how we arrived at the traditional desktop interface, and the desktop metaphors the shaped the way many people use computers today.
Week 3

Input Techniques

We will dive into the details of computer input and direct manipulation to explore performance and human motor capabilities, and find out there's more to the mouse, keyboard, and touchscreen than meets the eye.
Week 4

User-Centered Design

Users become the center focus as we look at how to design for them from beginning to end.
Week 5

Understanding Users

To find out what users desire from an interface, we must first use techniques to gather data about how they might use it, and the interpret this data.
Week 6

Usability Evaluation

We learn about both formal and informal methods of evaluating user interfaces, including usability testing and user-free evaluation methods.
Week 7

Interaction Design

We look beyond just the interface to learn about the process of interaction design that involves modeling and representing users.
Week 8

Visual Design

We learn about fundamental principles of designing graphical user interfaces.
Week 9


We will use low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototyping as ways to iteratively improve the design of the interface.
Week 10

Interfaces for People

How does social behavior affect the interactions people have with interfaces? How do interfaces appeal to the emotional nature of users? We also explore issues surrounding making interfaces more accessible.
Week 11


This week involves an in-class activity where we get practice critiquing each others' interfaces from the Prototyping assignment using the traditional design crit process.
Week 12

Project Presentations

Students present their final projects in class.



  • Jeff Huang, 407 CIT,
    Office hours: Thursday 4:00-5:30pm

Teaching Assistants

  • April Tran (Head TA) : pdtran
  • Giselle Lillie (Head TA) : glillie
  • Arielle Chapin : abchapin
  • Felege Gebru : fgebru
  • Sharon Lo : sl285
  • Tushar Bhargava : tbhargav
  • Nediyana Daskalova (Graduate TA) : nediyana
  • Johnathan Bui : jqbui
  • Marlena Morshead : mmorshea
  • Sachin Pendse : spendse (On leave)

Frequently Asked Questions

I am a RISD student interested in taking the course. Can I take it?
Yes, there's a RISD form you will need Jeff to sign to enroll. Please refer to the RISD instructions.

Can I take the course as a capstone?
Yes, your final project needs to have a substantial software development component to it.

When is the last day of the course?
December 11, 2015 at the latest. There is no final exam.

Will there be a textbook for the course?
No, all readings will be made available on Canvas.

I will be missing class on [day]. How can I make it up?
If there is an in-class activity, one of your late days will automatically be applied. For medical/personal issues, you may ask the Dean of the College to send a note to the HTA email list to either get a late extension or do a makeup activity in place of an in-class activity.

I have a great solo idea for the project; can I do my project alone or in a group of 2?
We strongly encourage you to work in a group of 3-5 people, which will help you gain experience working with others and let you combine ideas.

Is there still room in the course? Can I take it as a non-CS concentrator?
Yes, the course is unrestricted until the end of shopping period.

I handed in my assignment at 11:59pm but Canvas marked it late. Can I have some leeway?
The due time is 11:55pm, with Canvas marking things handed in at 11:59pm as late (so there is a 3 minute grace period). We don't have a separate mechanism for tracking leeway so this will use up a late day.

How do I apply a late day to a late assignment, or a missed reading comment or participation?
They are automatically accounted for. No penalties are applied until the end of the semester.

How do I get access to Canvas if I'm a RISD student?
This happens automatically after RISD processes your paperwork. You can email the TA list for materials before that happens.

What are the A/B sites for the Analysis assignment?
Memphis Taxis Maryland Taxis Columbus Taxis Puerto Rico Taxis Puerto Rico Gyms Charlotte Taxis