05-830, User Interface Software, Fall, 2004

Homework #1

Evaluate the Usability of a User Interface Tool or Toolkit using Neilsen's Heuristic Analysis

10% of grade. Aug 31 - Sep 7

User Interface tools are generally designed to be used by programmers, but programmers are people too! Pick a user interface tool or toolkit. It doesn't have to be an interactive tool -- you can evaluate a library or framework. For example, so candidate tools are: Visual Basic, MacroMedia's Director, MacroMedia DreamWeaver, Apple HyperCard, Java Swing, Microsoft Visual C++, Microsoft MFC, Metrowerks Codewarrior, PalmOS toolkit, etc.

Hopefully, everyone in the class can pick a different toolkit to evaluate. Some tools have many parts, so it is OK if different people do different parts of the same tool. For example, someone could do the Visual Basic language, while someone else does the Visual Basic wizards, while someone else does the Visual Basic resource editor, etc.

Write a heuristic evaluation of the tool using Neilsen's Ten Usability Heuristics. Note that the list of heuristics on the web site are slightly different than those in his book. To avoid confusion, please use only the ones that Nielsen lists on his web site. Your report should discuss both problems and things done well. You should include pictures or code or documentation snippets that illustrate each of your points. Each point should be annotated with the particular guidelines that are being violated or being followed. If violated, you might suggest a fix. You should try to come up at least 10 points that illustrate at least 5 different guidelines. 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).

In class, we talked about possibly using UAR templates (User Action Reports). This is a useful way to organize your findings. The template I have used is at:http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~bam/uicourse/20790summer04/UARTemplate20790.doc. A lecture that talks about how to fill them in is at: http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~bam/uicourse/20790summer04/cmuonly/eHCI08.userstudy.ppt.

Prepare a eight (8) minute presentation of your evaluation to be presented in class on Sep 7. Please make sure your presentation is only 8 minutes (so you should practice!). Prepare PowerPoint slides or a live demonstration to illustrate your points to the class and instructor.

If you are not familiar with Heuristic Analysis, read about it in Neilsen's text, chapter 5, and/or from the following resources:

Here is a tentative assignment of class members to tools, as discussed in the first class:

Student Tool
Peter Centgraf Macintosh Cocoa Interface Builder
Uri Dekel JFace
Yingdam Huang VC++
Jack Li Java Swing: pdf and ppt
Jeff Stylos Eclipse for Java
Karen Tang VB .Net
Justin Weisz Cocoa APIs
Terrence Wong GTK

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