-- Main.llyons - 20 Jan 2010

Assignment 1

I'll post some of the questions we've gotten, & responses:

Question Answer
Now I have a quick question on homework 1. You said that we can pick any interface, we like. So I picked a website as an interface. I picked an existing website which is www.mapquest.com. Then I based a research question around that website, like "How easy or quickly can the user start their location search." Am I doing the assignment correctly is this how I can go about doing the entire assignment? Any feed back would be great. mapquest is a great idea! I'd suggest a slightly different question, though - I'm guessing you want to know how long it takes to get through a search. This is ok, but think about it in terms of what that means - it might not mean anything at all. For example: if you find out that the answer is 45 seconds on average, what does that tell you? What does that suggest to you as an HCI designer? Now, if your goal is to meet a benchmark - say, "everyone can find their location within", umm, let's say, "35 seconds", then you'd know something - you'd know that with an average of 45 most people don't meet your benchmark. But choosing a benchmark is not an arbitrary thing, and is really hard for HCI researchers to do. i.e., why choose 35 seconds? There needs to be a rationale. That said, many companies have an easy time creating rationales, because they're trying to make products that compete in the marketplace. If I'm trying to sell you, a grocery store owner, a new self-checkout system, I probably need to prove to you that it's as fast or faster than having a real human cashier do the transaction. I'd ask you what the average checkout speed is, averaged over the # of grocery items purchased, and if you didn't know, I'd measure it myself, and use that figure as my benchmark. Make a bit more sense I hope? But since you aren't really trying to sell Mapquest to anyone, it's harder for you to find a benchmark that would mean anything.

Another idea: use a comparison. Compare the time it takes to get directions useing Mapquest versus the time it takes to get the same directions with google maps. Then google maps is sort of like your benchmark. Or instead of measuring time you could measure the # of steps.

The reading assignments for the past few days should really help you figure this out - they are easy to read and have lots of examples. Good luck, and I hope that this helps.
how should be form a participant group? I said my requirement would be a group of people who have knowledge of ineternet explorer, who travel a lot, and from various age group. Now my participants are not limited to these but would definitely include these and more, say around 10-15 participants it depends on what your question is. Given what I wrote you just a moment ago, it depends. If you compare mapquest against google maps and you're timing people you need to think about whether or not your users have experience in using either mapquest or google maps, because if they are really really used to using one interface (say, mapquest) it will seem like that interface is better, even though that might not be true since the only reason they are faster is that they have a lot of practice. So you would need to think about how you could select people with certain experience levels or, if that is too impractical to do, how you could account for experience when you analyze your data (for example you could ask people to rate their levels of expertise with the 2 interfaces or ask them to say how often they use each of the interfaces, and use that information to help understand where you might be getting funny dips or bumps in your timing data).
When we talk about an interface, does it only have to be software based? For
example what I was planning on writing was about creating a machine in
Metra Train stations where the passengers have to put in their tickets
into that machine which checks their tickets and then onlyt they can
get in the train and not an actual person checking their tickets
during the ride. Almost like how CTA does it. I don't know if I am
making sense. Will this work? If not can you give me more insights
about how to pick a topic?
Because this is a CS class you should probably stick to a in interface that has a software component, even if the user is mostly interacting with physical items. Although there is a computerized component to the CTA ticket-taking machines, the interaction with that component is the least of a usability engineer's problems - for example, the size and shape of the card, the necessary orientation of the card, and the design of the rotating metal arms are probably more influential on the systems usability than the software is (which just reads a magnetic stripe). For this course, I'd like you to pick something where there is at least a hope of improving the usability by altering the software component. For example, an ATM is similar in that many have users interacting with physical items (buttons), but small changes to the software part can dramatically improve usability. A good example was when ATMs first introduced the "Fast Cash" or "Fast Withdrawal" option - previoulsy users had to go through several steps to take out money, the most-commonly-used feature of ATMs. Someone had the bright idea to make the most-common use path more efficient, and voila, Fast Cash was born. I hope that helps.

Also - you should chose an already existing interface. Don't create one - we'll do interface design later in the term.

The point of this assignment is to show that, once you've chosen a problem or question, you can select a good usability assessment method to address that problem or question. How do you choose a question?

My advice is to think about a piece of software that you use every day, perhaps one that gives you trouble. One example I gave in class was how to use a smart phone to find a good restaurant nearby: there are several apps that could be used, how would I find out which one is the most efficient to use? Another example: I regularly have a hard time figuring out where various options are in MS Word menus. Is there a beter way to organize the menus? How would I investigate this question?

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Topic revision: r1 - 2010-01-20 - 15:36:00 - Main.llyons
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