Fall 2021

CS 3873: Intro to User Interface Design

Office: TSRB 332
Office Hours: Wednesday 3-4pm, or by appointment
Email: ledantec@gatech.edu

Class Meetings: Monday/Wednesday, 12:30–1:45PM
Location: Kendeda 152

Studio Meetings: Monday, Tuesday: 3:30–5:25PM & 5:00PM–6:55PM

Course Description

This course is an introduction to Human-Centered Computing and user-centered design process. You will be introduced to a number of different techniques and tools for understanding particular interaction design challenges, you will develop scenarios and storyboards, create low-fidelity prototypes, and iterate on those prototypes to create a final design project.

Course Objectives

This class is designed to help students develop and use critical thinking skills and evaluation techniques necessary to solve real-world problems related to the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI).

In completing this course you will:

  • Be knowledgeable about the history and intellectual traditions of human-computer interaction concepts and techniques.
  • Be able to access and distill primary research relevant to content area
  • Learn user-centered design techniques and distinguish when and where is most appropriate to use these methods. (Interviewing, ethnography, etc)
  • Gain experience as a designer of interactive technology by getting your hands dirty, prototyping interfaces and functions (but not programming or developing the back-end).
  • Practice qualitative and quantitative methods for user needs discovery and usability evaluation.
  • Demonstrate that design is a systematic and evidence-based process by working in the field
  • Design technology that is easy to use, useful, and supports users with varying levels of expertise.
  • Compellingly communicate design concepts and the rationale behind them
  • Create inventive design artifacts with an awareness of history, audience, and context


The total grade for the class will be based upon the following factors and weights:

Homework 30%
Project: Part 0 – Idea and overview of problem (part of HW grade)
Project: Part 1 – Project Requirements 10%
Project: Part 2 – Design Alternatives (includes Poster Session) 10%
Project: Part 3 – Prototype and Evaluation Plan 15%
Project: Part 4 – High-Fidelity Prototype / Final Deliverables 20%
Participation 15%


Class participation is mandatory. Participation in class discussion and in studio are imperative because they allow you to explore content and design process collaboratively. Participation in class also challenges you to continuously question, refine, and articulate your own ideas and interpretations.

Your participation grade is determined in part by attendance, active participation in class activities and critiques, and from peer evaluation at the end of the group project. NOTE: if you are “voted off” your group because you are not being responsive or productive you automatically get 0% for participation.


We are still navigating COVID. So this course remains CS 3873 Intro to User Interface Design and doesn’t become CS 3873 Weekly Superspreader, please wear a mask in class and in studio. Please get vaccinated. Please continue to surveillance test on a weekly basis. If you feel sick at all, stay home and join us virtually and communicate with your group, with me, and with your studio TA. Missing class or studio due to illness will not count against your attendance and participation.

More info on GT COVID guidance can be found on the Provost’s site.

Written Assignments and Project Reports

Written work is an important part of many of the evaluation components. Students are expected to use best practices when submitting written work. This means clearly citing material that is not your own, in accordance with the GT honor policy listed below.

Readings & Reading Responses

All readings are either directly linked below or available in Canvas.You are expected to read assigned material prior to class. The readings are an important part of course material and will support the lectures and class discussion. To help facilitate this, you will are to write a 300- to 500-word response for each assigned readings (not each individual paper, treat all assigned readings for a day as a unit). These responses should relfect on the week’s readings synthetically (no summaries!) and may bring in prior readings (more synthesis!) or outside material.

Each response should be posted to the assignment in Canvas by midnight the day the readings are assigned – Canvas should be setup to accept your responses, please let me know if not. Responses are graded on a 3-point scale (3 = exceptional, 2 = adequate, 1 = insufficient). I will drop your 3 lowest response scores.

Course Communication

We will have three main channels for communication. Questions and issues with any of the course material should start with your TAs during studio sessions. I will use Canvas for course-wide announcements and updates to assignments and project deliverables. Once we are underway, we will be using MS Teams for studio and project group communication and coordination. Finally, email is the best way to reach me and the only way to schedule additional office hours if needed.

Course Expectations and Guidelines

  • The Georgia Tech Academic Honor Code applies to all work submitted in this course.
  • You are expected to check your e-mail and Canvas daily. Important class announcements and information will be posted to Canvas. You are responsible for all materials posted.
  • Grades will be posted to Canvas throughout the semester. It is your responsibility to keep track of your submitted assignments and grade progress throughout the semester.
  • All project milestones are due Friday @ 11:59 PM EST the week noted in the plan. In-studio or class presentations may occur before materials are due. Assignments can be turned in up to one week after the due date. Late assignments will be penalized 10 points per day.
  • Appropriate online behavior is expected at all times. This means that you should be respectful of your classmates, your TAs, and your instructor.

Course Schedule

What follows is an outline for the semester. As the semester progresses, we may adjust dates and materials.

Week 1 Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction

Administrivia and what is HCI and UCD


No studio first week.

HCI Research 

Creswell, “The Selection of a Research Design”
How to Begin Designing for Diversity

Week 2 Good Interaction Design & Design Process

Buchanan, “Good Design in the Digital Age”
A brief history of how racism manifests itself in design and how we can learn from it.


Individual introductions, studio overview.
Brainstorming & Critique
Project themes: distance, justice, connection, safety, care
Project groups assigned

Understanding People

Wixon et al. 1990. Contextual Design: An Emergent View of System Design

Week 3 Labor Day

No class/studio

Writing Center Workshop

Guest presentation on report writing.

Project Part 0 Due Midnight Friday

Week 4 Interviews & Surveys & Contextual Inquiry

Flick – Chapter 13
IxD Foundation: Contextual Interviews (Read full article)


Formulate Fieldwork Plan

Task Analysis

Edmondson and Meech, Putting Task Analysis into Context

Week 5 Personas & Scenarios

Pruitt and Grudin, “Personas: Practice and Theory”
Carroll, “Five Reasons for Scenario-Based Design”
Ethics and the User Experience – Ethics and the Individual


Create Personas & Scenarios

Doing Synthesis: Generating Concepts

Kolko, “Abductive Thinking and Sensemaking: The Drivers of Design Synthesis”
Design Thinking Is Fundamentally Conservative and Preserves the Status Quo

Week 6 Doing Design Synthesis: From Concept to Prototype


Begin project prototypes
Project Part 1 Presentations / Deliverables Due Midnight Friday

Modes & Metaphors

Norman 1988 Psychology of Everyday Things, Chapter 1

Week 7 Poster Session

Schedule TBD


Work on prototypes

Poster Session

Schedule TBD

Week 8 Fall Break

No class/Studio

Studio Day – Virtual (BOR is kicking us out for their campus visit)

Feedback Synthesis

Project Part 2 Due Friday Midnight

Week 9 Prototyping

Lim, Stolterman, and Tenenberg “The Anatomy of Prototypes: Prototypes as Filters, Prototypes as Manifestations of Design Ideas”
Lichter “Prototyping in Industrial Software Projects – Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice”


Work on prototypes

Studio Day

Greenburg et al., –The Narrative Storyboard–
Warfel, Prototyping, ch. 1–3.

Week 10 Usability Testing

Dumas and Redish 1999. A Practical Guide to Usability Testing
Gergel and Tan. “Experimental Research in HCI,” in Ways of Knowing in HCI


Work on prototypes

Studio Day
Week 11 Evaluation Techniques

How to Conduct a Heuristic Evaluation
10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design
Severity Ratings for Usability Problems


Evaluation Planning/Testing

Studio Day

Evaluation Planning/Testing

Week 12 Evaluation Analysis


Evaluations Continued

Studio Day
Week 13 Future of UCD / Industry Panel


Evaluation Presentations
Project Part 3 Due Friday Midnight

Studio day
Week 14 Studio Day


Work on final prototypes

Thanksgiving Break

No class

Week 15 Studio Day – Virtual


Work on final prototypes

Studio Day – Virtual
Week 16 Studio Day – Virtual


Work on final prototypes

Final deliverables due by midnight December 10

General Class Policies

It is important to keep in mind that this class focuses on the principles and processes of information design, not on technical skills; it is therefore up to you to develop and/or hone your facility with Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop.

Students whose work meets all criteria outlined for an assignment will receive a grade of C; students whose work meets all criteria and shows additional sophistication, thoughtfulness, research and creativity will receive a grade of B; students whose work meets all criteria and goes well beyond the expected in terms of sophistication, thoughtfulness, research, and creativity will receive a grade of A; students whose work fails to meet to all criteria outlined for an assignment will receive a grade of D or F.

Two points will be deducted for all typographic, spelling, and grammatical errors in all writing assignments.

Late assignments will not be accepted. Presentations must be given on the designated day.

Lectures will not be posted. It is your responsibility to take notes and remain attentive in class.

If you have questions or concerns about this or any other course policies stated in this syllabus, class assignments, email correspondence, or announced in class, please speak with me in class, during office hours, or via email as soon as possible so that we can discuss your concerns.

Debate, Diversity, and Respect

In this class, we will present and discuss a diversity of perspectives. Although you may not always agree with others’ perspectives, you are required to be respectful of others’ values and beliefs. Repeated inappropriate or abusive comments and/or behavior will be cause for disciplinary action. If you feel that your perspectives are being ignored or slighted, or you in anyway feel uncomfortable in the classroom, please contact me immediately.

The Communication Center

The Communication Center is located in Clough Commons, Suite 447. It is an excellent resource for any student (undergraduate or graduate) who wants help with a communication-related project. You can visit the center for help at any stage of the process for any project in any discipline. The knowledgeable and friendly tutors are available to help you develop and revise your projects. They are not available to “fix” your projects. Please do not ask the tutors to proofread or edit your projects.

For information on making an appointment please visit their website. If you need assistance with the appointment system, you can call 404-385-3612 or stop by the center.

All services are free and confidential.

Students with Disabilities

Students should self-report to the Access Disabled Assistance Program for Tech Students at:
220 Student Services Building
Atlanta, GA 30332-0285
404.894.2564 (voice) or 404.894.1664 (voice/TDD)

Scholastic Dishonesty and Academic Misconduct

This class abides by the university’s policies relating to plagiarism, scholastic dishonesty, and academic misconduct. Per the Georgia Tech Code of Conduct, plagiarism is defined as:

  • Unauthorized Access: Possessing, using, or exchanging improperly acquired written or verbal information in the preparation of a problem set, laboratory report, essay, examination, or other academic assignment.
  • Unauthorized Collaboration: Unauthorized interaction with another Student or Students in the fulfillment of academic requirements.
  • Plagiarism: Submission of material that is wholly or substantially identical to that created or published by another person or persons, without adequate credit notations indicating the authorship.
  • False Claims of Performance: False claims for work that has been submitted by a Student.
  • Grade Alteration: Alteration of any academic grade or rating so as to obtain unearned academic credit.
  • Deliberate Falsification: Deliberate falsification of a written or verbal statement of fact to a Faculty member and/or Institute Official, so as to obtain unearned academic credit.
  • Forgery: Forgery, alteration, or misuse of any Institute document relating to the academic status of the Student.
  • Distortion: Any act that distorts or could distort grades or other academic records.