05-830, User Interface Software, Spring, 1999
Homework 2,   Issued: February 1, 1999
Due: Mon, February 8


Homework 2

Heuristic Evaluation


In this assignment, you are to evaluate two applications (or a major pieces of an application, such as "the graphing subsystem in Excel"). You will evaluate them with respect to the guidelines in chapter 5 of Nielsen's book. You are basically to use the Heuristic Evaluation approach described in section 5.11. The applications can run on Unix, Windows or the Macintosh, and should be a widely-available, system with a graphical, mouse-based UI (therefore, you cannot evaluate the Unix shell).

1) Pick a computer application or piece of one that you think has a particular poor user interface. Using the heuristics to guide your analysis, describe why the interface is poor. For this part, you should choose three (3) of the following guidelines and for each discuss how some feature of your system violates the guideline, and then what you might do to fix it. Be brief, concise and specific. If a single design feature of your system seems to violate multiple guidelines, you should mention them all, but you should still try to find two other problems. I am looking for insight, subtlety and depth (thus saying "the system doesn't have good color choices because it doesn't use color" is pretty trivial and won't count for much).  It would be good if your report could show a picture of the application, so I can better understand your analysis.

  1. Good Graphic Design and Color Choice
  2. Less is More
  3. Speak the User's Language
  4. Use appropriate Mappings and Metaphors
  5. Minimize User Memory Load
  6. Be consistent
  7. Provide appropriate feedback
  8. Clearly marked Exits
  9. Provide Shortcuts
  10. Good error messages
  11. Prevent errors
  12. Minimize modes

2) Now pick a computer application or piece of one that you think has a particular good user interface. Using the heuristics to guide your analysis, describe why the interface is good. You do not need to use a particular number of guidelines, just enough to be convincing.  It would be good if your report could show a picture of the application, so I can better understand your analysis.

3) For one of your design problems from question 1, discuss why you think the designers of the system did not make the correction you propose. Does your proposed new design have additional problems and/or conflicts with other guidelines?

4) Briefly discuss at least one example of how the various guidelines might conflict with each other in general. That is, how trying to meet one guideline might cause your design to violate another.

This homework is worth 5% of your grade in the course. 


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