CMSC 434 Sample Questions
These are based on things like contributed ideas for questions and
the style of previous exams I've given.
This is not exhaustive, but should provide
a sense of the types of questions that could come up
on the final exam.
Also, regarding these samples, exam questions could merge related concepts
into a single question with sub-parts, or might have a picture of something
or some interface and ask questions tied to that specifically.
- What is the idea behind Miller's 7±2 rule?
Explain whether or not it applies to menu design?
What are the three stages/phases of
the iterative design process from software engineering,
and how are/can they be utilized in the pursuit of "user friendly"
software in the context of our HCI topics and approaches?
- Explain the core principle of Fitts' Law.
What is the primary lesson interface designers have taken from
Fitts' law in general?
Where are the most accessible spots at which to put a button on a
computer screen for mouse users?
State whether or not you believe Fitts' Law also applies to each of
smartphones, tablets, and laptops with touchscreens,
and explain why.
- Give an example of a metric by which we can judge the success of a user
interface. Explain whether it is a qualitative or a quantitative measurement.
Give an example of how it could be used/measured in a realistic scenario.
- Give a realistic example of an effective data visualization technique
for a dataset that has multiple axes of data (possibly two, possibly more).
Explain why/how it works well, and draw an example of what it would look like.
- What does the term "direct manipulation" mean in the context of HCI and
how does it relate to information visualizations?
- How does motion and animation play a role in the design of modern
GUIs? What are the pros and cons of relying on animations?
- In the context of ethical studies, identify three things that you should
do before beginning an experiment with a subject.
- What is the "breadth -vs- depth" issue in navigation? Do the issues related
to this change if we are talking about local applications -vs- web pages?
- While the concept is called "buyer -vs- seller" there isn't always a literal buyer and seller. Give an example of a university website where there isn't a literal buyer or seller and explain who the "buyer" would be and who the "seller" would be, and why the seller still wants the buyer to visit and be happy.
- Describe the notions of
"internal consistency" and
in a way that clearly separates them. Give a practical example of each.
- Explain the concept of "platform consistency" and its connections to
both usability and marketing.
- Explain the difference between dependent and independent variables in
research, and provide a simple experiment with one of each, and how the
experiment would make use of them.
- Give a brief definition of both within-subject and between-subject testing.
Given three different button layout designs and 24 participants, explain how
you would make use of the participants to test the designs using those two
- Identify and describe two of Nielson's usability heuristics.
For each give an example of specific design decision in a realistic context
that would violate it and why.
- Imagine if a piece of software required you to type
the name of a program at the command line to have it start running.
Provide a fully formed heuristic evaluation entry to
describe this problem, with all of the elements it should have
(describe the problem, identify the heuristic it most violates,
explain the practical issues it will cause, give it a realistic
severity rating, and suggest a fix).
- What are some examples of quantitative user performance data that
can be collected as part of trying to test improvements to a GUI?
Are there any metrics of success that aren't quantitative?
Are there any "downsides" to this certain types of data collection?
- Within the concept of having a null hypothesis, explain what
the concepts of Type I and Type II errors are. Given an example
- In what context does the idea of "information scent" most apply,
and how can you provide a user with good information scent?
- Describe how an operating system could allow a user to delete 5
files using an Action-Object model, and then describe how it could
allow them to do it using an Object-Action model.
- Is there any way to deal with the fact that some people might
be naturally faster or slower at something when undertaking user
studies and/or research to decide the best way to do something?
- In the Belmont Report, explain what each of "Justice" and "Beneficience"
and "Respect" are about and why they form the fundamental principles of
ethical research, even in non-medical research.
- Give a realistic example of one way to use a design and/or visualization
techniques to make it easy for someone to spot all of the places where there
are intersections with curb cutouts for wheelchair access on a aerial map
of a city.
- Which effect (Hawthorne, Pygmalion, Clever Hans, or Von Restorff effect)
could come into play if a teacher tried a new approach to introducing a topic
and then wrote a new exam to test the students? Explain the effect you select
and why/how it could come into play in this situation.
- Of the list of properties of good information visualization
from class, which are the three you think are most important, and
why? Describe each and explain why having that property/quality is an
important part of displaying information.
- If you have a scrollable list of things on a smartphone, what
is an example of a navigational cue and what role does it play?
- How can grids help with consistency on a project with several
different people working on different parts of the system?
- What challenges could language and culture present to the
designer of an interface?
- Compare and contrast the benefits of (1) the think-aloud method
of user observation, (2) heuristic evaluations, and (3) the potential
future use of bot personas, all in the context of evaluation in the
iterative design cycle.