Intro to HCI

Fall 2019

*Note that the course schedule is tentative.* Lecture slides will be posted after each class.

COMPSCI 325, 3 Credits, Fall 2019

Time: TueThu 10:00am – 11:15am

Location: Room S120, Integ. Learning Center

InstructorNarges Mahyar
Office Hours: Thursdays 1-2 pm (* no office hours on Sept 26 and Oct 24), Location: Room 322, Computer Science Building


Mahmood Jasim, email:, office hours: Mondays and Wednesdays: 10-11am, Location: CS207 (Cube 1)

Pooya Khaloo, email:, office hours: Tue 3-4pm, Thurs 4-5pm, Location: CS207

Graders: Yueying Liu, email:, and Sarah Bakhtiari, email:

Course Overview

Human-Computer Interaction design is “design for human use”. Computers are a ubiquitous part of many interactions in our lives, from the mundane everydayness of light switches and “smart” vending machines to entertainment and education to sophisticated instruments and complex energy and defense systems. In this course, we will challenge you to broaden your grasp of what a user interface can and should be, and try your hand at doing better yourself. It is a fast-paced, hands-on, project-based experience that will challenge many of your ideas of what computer science is and can be. It is designed around active lecture sessions supported by readings, working classes, and team projects, where students practice and explore the concepts introduced in lecture, and go well beyond them to learn and apply HCI techniques that build into group projects. More specifically, the course adopts a human-centered design (HCD) approach and teaches a highly iterative process called design thinking. The design thinking process draws heavily on the fundamentals of human-computer interaction (HCI) methods. I also cover design methodologies, evaluation methodologies (both quantitative and qualitative), human information processing, cognition, and perception.

There are several pop quizzes, one midterm exam, deliverables for one semester-long project, and a final demo session to showcase working demos of the projects. We will provide plenty of in-class time and working classes for the students to work on their team projects. No prerequisite is required.

Course Origins
This course was originally developed and taught by Prof. Joanna McGerener and Dr. Leila Aflattony at University of British Columbia  (UBC) as a new course in HCI on the Fundamentals of Designing Interactive Computational Technology for People (DFP).

Survey and research articles will be the primary text for the course, chosen from a collection of readings. There is no textbook required.

University policies and information


Accommodation Statement
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students. If you have a documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services (DS), you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course. If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements.

Academic Honesty Statement
Since the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty. Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Instructors should take reasonable steps to address academic misconduct. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible. Instances of academic dishonesty not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate department Head or Chair. Since students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of such standards is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent (

Inclusivity Statement
In this course, each voice in the classroom has something of value to contribute. Please take care to respect the different experiences, beliefs, and values expressed by the students, faculty, and staff involved in this course. My colleagues and I support UMass’s commitment to diversity, and welcome individuals regardless of age, background, citizenship, disability, sex, education, ethnicity, family status, gender, gender identity, geographical origin, language, military experience, political views, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and work experience (

WeekDateTopics and ReadingsLecturesDeliverables
1 Tues- Sept 3

Course Overview and Logistics-intro to Design Thinking

Reading #1. Norman, Donald A., Chapter 1. The psychopathology of everyday things.

Reading #2. Norman, Donald A., Chapter 6. Design Thinking. [Read p. 217-236]

Lecture 1 
 Thurs- Sept 5

Human-centered Design and HCI

Reading #3. Mackay, W. E. (1995). Ethics, lies and videotape…. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Denver, Colorado, United States, May 07 – 11, 1995). CHI ’95. ACM, New York, NY, 138-145. doi pdf

Lecture 2 
2 Tues- Sept 10

Field Studies – Observations

Reading #4. Blomberg, J., Burrell, M., and Guest, G. (2003). An ethnographic approach to design. Chapter 50.  In Jacko, J. and Sears, A. (Eds.) The Human Computer Interaction Handbook (pp. 964-986). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. [Read up to last column on p. 973] doi  pdf

 Lecture 3 
  Thurs- Sept 12

Field Studies – Interviews

Reading #5. Fontana, A. and James F. (1994). Interviewing: The Art of Science. In Denzin, N. and Lincoln, Y. (Eds.) The Handbook of Qualitative Research (pp. 361-76). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. [Read up to first column on p. 368] pdf

 Lecture 4 
3 Tues- Sept 17

Field Studies – Surveys/Questionnaires 

Reading #6. Hochheiser, H., Feng, J. H., & Lazar, J. (2017). Surveys. Chapter 5. Research methods in human computer interaction (pp. 109-133). Elsevier Science. [Read: p.105-128; skip examples if needed] 

Lecture 5


  Thurs- Sept 19

Working Class

 4 Tues- Sept 24

Affinity Diagrams

Reading #7. Holtzblatt, K., and Beyer, H. (2017). Contextual Design: Design for Life. Chapter 6The Affinity Diagram (pp. 127-146). Elsevier Inc. pdf

Lecture 6
  Thurs- Sept 26


Reading #8. Cooper, Alan, et al. (2014) About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design, Chapter 3. Modeling Users: Personas and Goal (pp. 61-99) John Wiley & Sons. [Read p. 81-97]

Lecture 7  
5 Tues-Oct 1

Qualitative Data Analysis

Reading #9. Guest, G., MacQueen, K. M. & Namey, E. E. (2012). Applied Thematic Analysis. Chapter 1. Introduction to Applied thematic analysis (pp.2-21). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. [Read p. 7-18]

Lecture 8


1st project Milestone
  Thurs- Oct 3

Design Requirements

Reading #10. Rogers, Y., Sharp, H. Preece, J. (2011) Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction. Chapter 10Task Description, Task Analysis (pp.373-388). Chichester, West Sussex : Wiley. [skip activities/assignments] pdf  Link

 Lecture 9 
 6 Tues- Oct 8

Conceptual Models

Reading #11. Jeff Johnson and Austin Henderson. (2002). Conceptual models: begin by designing what to design. Interactions 9, 1 (January 2002), 25-32. 

Reading #12. Supporting Communication and Coordination in Collaborative Sensemaking. Narges Mahyar, and Melanie Tory. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (VAST 2014), pp. 1633-1642, 2014.

Lecture 10
  Thurs- Oct 10

 Human Abilities and Sketching

Reading #13. Buxton, B. (2007). Sketching user experiences: Getting the design right and the right design. Chapter 13-17. Sketching interaction (pp.135-155), Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc.  [Read p. 135-151] Link 

Reading #14. Greenberg, S. (2011). Sketching user experiences: The workbook, Section 4. Snapshots in Time: The Visual Narrative (pp. 145-177), Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc. Link pdf

 Lecture 11 
 7 Tues- Oct 15

No class-Monday Class Schedule

 2nd project Milestone
  Thurs- Oct 17


Reading #15. Buxton, B. (2007). Sketching user experiences: Getting the design right and the right design. Chapter 35Interacting with Paper (pp.371-391), Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc. [Read p. 381-391; skim-through the rest]  Link pdf

Lecture 12 
 8 Tues- Oct 22Midterm  
 Thurs- Oct 24No class-Attending IEEE VIS conference  

 Tues- Oct 29

Guest Lecture (Mahmood Jasim)
Reading #16. CommunityCrit: Inviting the Public to Improve and Evaluate Urban Design Ideas through Micro-Activities. Narges Mahyar, Michael R. James, Michelle M. Ng, Reginal. A. Wu, Steven P. Dow,  ACM Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2018), 14 pages.
 Guest Lecture 
  Thurs- Oct 31

Working Class

 3rd project Milestone 
 10 Tues- Nov 5

Evaluation of Prototypes – Discount Methods

Reading #17. Wilson, C. (2013). User Interface Inspection Methods, Chapter 4.cognitive Walkthrough (pp. 65-79), Elsevier Inc. [Read p. 66-74] Link pdf

Reading #18. Wilson, C. (2013). User Interface Inspection Methods, Chapter 1. Heuristic Evaluation (pp. 1-31), Elsevier Inc.  [Read p. 14-29] Link pdf

Lecture 13 


  Thurs- Nov 7

Evaluation of Prototypes – Usability Testing

Reading #19. Dix, A. et al. (2004). Human-Computer Interaction, Chapter 9. Evaluation techniques (pp. 318-364), Pearson. [Read: p.343-362] pdf

Lecture 14 
 11 Tues- Nov 12

Working Class and Prototype Review

  Thurs- Nov 14Experiment I- Experimental Design

Reading #20.
 Hochheiser, H., Feng, J. H., & Lazar, J. (2017). Experimental research. Chapter 2Research methods in human computer interaction (pp. 25-44). Elsevier Science. [Read: p.25-41]  
Lecture 15 4th project milestone
 12 Tues- Nov 19Experiment II- Statistical Analysis 
Reading #21. Hochheiser, H., Feng, J. H., & Lazar, J. (2017). Statistical analysis. Chapter 4. Research methods in human-computer interaction (pp. 71-104). Elsevier Science.
  Thurs- Nov 21

 Guest Lecture (Pooya Khaloo)

 13 Tues- Nov 26

No class-Thanksgiving Break

  Thurs- Nov 28

No class-Thanksgiving Break

 14  Tues- Dec 3

History and Future of HCI

 5th project milestone 
  Thurs- Dec 5

 Working Class and Final Prototype Review

15  Tues- Dec 10

 2 Houre Demo Session (10 am-12pm) 


Project title: Designing a Human-centered Interactive Computational Technology


Throughout the course, we will explore and apply different methods that are appropriate for designing and evaluating an interactive computational technology that closely meets human needs. Examples of potential technologies are mobile applications, online platform, interactive 2D interfaces, interactive 3D devices, and so on. Your team will choose a topic from the list provided below which will seed your project. You will identify a clear problem to be addressed (or potential design opportunity), and will then create a working prototype that meets their needs, which you will evaluate. Following the design thinking process, there are approximately 6 project milestones, as well as a final demo session to showcase your working prototypes. Meeting the project milestones is crucial in completing the project successfully. 

Team formation:  

The first step in the research project is to form a team. There is not a lot of time for this, so you will need to move fast. You are free to work with whomever you choose, but you should strive for as multi-disciplinary a team as possible. Your team will choose a project topic listed in the project description. Groups will be set up for each team in Piazza. Once your team is formed, you will need to complete a team contract and submit it to gradescope. The due dates for these steps are noted in deliverables on the Schedule page.

Project Topics: 

Potential design problems/opportunities/situations: 

Category: Study

  1. An app dedicated to finding available study spaces throughout UMass – which floors of the libraries are less crowded and/or which classrooms are empty. 

  2. An app that shows the number of computers available in the library or whether the resources (printers/scanners) are functional. 

  3. An App to form and organize Study Groups. 

  4. Tool for real-time student-teacher interaction during (office hours/scheduled). 

  5. A tool for better future projection for UMass graduates dependant on their course selections and majors to guide new students. 

  6. An app to help students study effectively.

Category: Traffic

  1. Interactive campus map – with construction notifications, trash can locator, possible detours, and guidance to prevent getting lost inside the campus

  2. Bus scheduling and deployment tool – Maintain real-time bus schedules, tracking, collect metrics to better predict congested times and deploy extra buses accordingly.

  3. Campus congestion – Manage walkways between classes to reduce congestions


Category: Website and SPIRE Alternative

  1. Better scholarship website allowing filters based on the student profile

  2. Replacement for SPIRE that allows better navigation options

  3. Centralize school websites – Most professors have to use multiple different websites for the same class because of their different features.

  4. Tool for better class picker and schedule builder

  5. Gym class signups rework (IMLeagues)

  6. A tool for UHS appointment and waitlisting


Category: International and Out-of-State Students

  1. Information for students: which store to go to for buying a specific item.

  2. Information on non-academic activities such as banking, transportation, and housing.

  3. A chat application with a discussion board

  4. Anonymous emergency chat helpline

Category: Organization

  1. A tool for organizing clubs

  2. Campus event management app with student notifications 

  3. Tool for organizing information for on-campus resources (food pantry, care closet, stonewall center, etc.)

  4. A tool for planning trips


Category: Communication

  1. Tools for students to communicate with teachers

  2. Campus Watch: an app that allows people to report stuff around campus (such as fire drills, damaged utilities, etc.)

  3. Deliberation on Campus Constructions: An app where students can vote/give their opinions on certain campus renovations/construction projects before they take place

  4. An app for reliable services to find and review local musicians and bands

Category: Dining

  1. Interactive dining commons app with a map that provides the exact location of food being served on the menu.

  2. App for easy check-in/out to accurately keep track of the number of people currently in the dining hall.

  3. Online ordering at Blue Wall to reduce waiting at lunchtime


Category: Miscellaneous

  1. An app to use UCard as a digital ID.
  2. A service (like craigslist) for loaning and renting.
  3. Reduce energy waste in UMass – automatically turn off the lights or display possible power wastage areas.
  4. Cross application photo organizer.
  5. An app to track the number of people in the recreation center.


  • some of these would be difficult to observe in situ
  • some would involve participants who might be more difficult to access

Project Milestones: 

Please see course schedule for tentative dates for each milestone. A draft outline of what might be required for each of the milestones is given below. These will be refined and provided to you as you approach each milestone.

  1. Empathize You will employ different data collection techniques (interview, observation, and questionnaire) to gather data around your chosen topic and will synthesize the ethnographic data and preliminary findings. You will need to transcribe the data, highlight the key findings, and submit them as part of the deliverable. 
  2. Define In this stage, you will craft a meaningful and actionable problem statement or design focus through analyzing of the information gathered about user needs and context. In addition, you will develop a persona (or personas), which is a model of a user that focuses on the individual’s characteristics and goals when using an artifact. The personas should be based on thoughtful analysis of data you’ve collected through research you’ve completed with your participant groups.
  3. Ideate You will develop a conceptual design of your potential interactive computational system, considering your participant group requirements. You need to submit a design requirement document with detailed description of a system to be developed. This stage provides source material for building prototypes and innovative solution to the problem. Ideation is about incorporating volume and variety in concept generation through visual representations. So you need to sketch some ideas that represent the interactive computational system visually.
  4. Prototype Prototype creation requires an iterative process and can be created for the early exploration phase (low-fidelity artifact) or the final phase (high-fidelity artifact). At this stage, you will create a working prototype or prototypes (first iteration) of a computational technology according to your concept. The prototype(s) of your concept needs to detail how the concept will be experienced and used. The medium of the mock-up depends on the solution and may show an interface or a physical/tangible 3D mock-up. 
  5. Test You will test your prototype(s) with participants who are representative of the group of people you are designing for. There will be relatively informal usability testing, after which you may improve and refine further the prototype, followed by more formal experimental design, running the experiment, and doing the analysis. You will need to write up the experiment report, which includes the analysis, discussion and conclusions. 


Details and templates are provided in individual milestone descriptions.