CMSC 434: Human Factors in Computer and Information Systems

Section 0301 SPRING 2001 Instructor: Bill Killam TA: Kartik Parija

This course deals primarily with human-computer interaction and covers a wide range of topics which includes software tools, usability issues, direct manipulation, command and natural languages and multiple-window strategies. A special emphasis is also given on Hypermedia and the World Wide Web. The course also includes a term project (to be handled in teams) which gives the student ample scope to design and evaluate an interface of his own.

Course offered by Department of Computer Science
University of Maryland
Spring 2001

Class hours: Tuesday & Thursday  8:00 AM - 9:15 AM
Room: CLB 0102


Announcements & News:

Updated: May 19th 2001:
A few small corrections were made in the grades list on the web. Most of you are unaffected.
Updated: May 17th 2001:
The final grades have been posted!!!So check it out at:[grades link]. We believe this is the final grade sheet. There are no more make up hw's being accepted.
We are still of course willing to hear from students who still believe that we have made a mistake in any of their grades.

Click here for earlier announcements ...

Office Hours:
Prof. Killam - by appointment 
Phone: (703) 729-0998 
Kartik Parija - by appointment 
Phone:  301-405-2775


Course Highlights:



Course Outline

Topics: Human factors issues in the development of software, use of database systems, and design of user interfaces for interactive systems.  Science base (theories, models, usability studies, and controlled experimentation), and software engineering with user interface development environments.  Issues include: command languages, menus, forms, and direct manipulation, graphical user interfaces, computer supported cooperative work, information search and visualization, World Wide Web design, input/output devices, and display design.

Homework: Critiques will be written for an experimental study and for a working system.  Students will implement user interfaces with modern software tools such as Visual Basic.

Term Projects: Controlled experiment with human subjects on a design issue (teams of 3 people).
   See past projects linked above.


Introduction, Theories
1, 2
Managing Design


Evaluation & Tools
4, 5
Experiment Critique

Due: Feb 15th; 11:59PM

Direct Manipulation
VB 1

Due: Feb 22nd; 11:59PM

Menus & Forms 
Exam 1-7

Due: Mar 9th; 11:59PM

Command & Natural Languages
VB 2

Due: Mar 8th; 11:59PM

Interaction & Response
 9, 10
Pilot Results
Airline Info

Due: Mar 15th; 11:59PM

S     P     R     I     N     G                    B     R     E     A     K

Style/Manuals & Help
Multiple Windows
Raw Data
VB 3

Due: Apr 12th; 11:59PM

Info Search


Draft Intro
Expert review

Due: Apr 19th; 11:59PM

Web 16  
Social Impact
Project due
 Exam 8-14

Due: May 10th; 11:59PM

Project Presentations all week
Day of Final Project Presentations      



              B. Shneiderman, Designing the User Interface, 3rd Edition,  Addison-Wesley, (1998)
              Recommended to review statistics: R. Runyon & A. Haber, Fundamentals of Behavioral Statistics, 8th Edition,    McGraw-Hill (1996).
              Recommended to learn Visual Basic: Wright, P., Beginning Visual Basic, Wrox Press, Chicago



               Final Grade: Exams (Midterm+Final): 25%   Homework+class participation: 35%  Term Project: 40%.

               Grading guidelines for VB Asignments:   Requirements (50%)    Interface design - Layout, text, buttons, etc.(50%)

                Late Assignments: For every day (24 hours) you are late, you will lose 10% of the total assignment value and after
                5 days (120 hours), you will be given a zero score for that assignment. Exceptions must be cleared with the Instructor
                prior to the assignment submission deadline. Remember, you are being given a chance to get 50% of your grade even
                after 5 days, so don't be surprised if we are not too keen on explanations unless they are of a serious nature.




Proposal One page: project title, list of team members (2-4 people), paragraph or two describing your project,  list of independent variables (and treatments for each) and dependent variables (usually performance variables such as time or errors, plus subjective ratings), your hypotheses, and number plus source of subjects.

Materials The first draft of the full set of materials you will need to run your experiment.  These may include instructions to the participants, background surveys, questionnaires, task lists, programs, etc.  If possible provide me a disk of your experiment or do a demo at my office.

References Hand in a one page list of references to the literature related to your experimental project with a sentence or two of how each relates to your project.  These should be as specific as possible and include previous experimental studies.

Pilot results One page: report how many pilot subjects you tested (should be at least 1-2 per experimental treatment), list the changes you made to your materials, and give the planned times for each phase of your experiment (beware of too short or too long).

Statistics  Create fake data that you would like to get from your experiment and format it properly for processing by a statistics package, spreadsheet, or programs you create.  Generate the statistical analysis, produce the tables (means, standard deviations, ranges, etc.) and figures (plots, bar charts, etc.) that you will use for your final report.  When you have your actual data it should be easy to simply re-run your analysis programs to generate your actual final report.  You are welcome to use whatever statistical package you like (SAS, SPSS, MyStat, PCStat, etc.) and get whatever statistical assistance you can find on campus or elsewhere.

Raw Data Should be a small number of pages, preferably one, with the raw data from your experiment.

Final Project This is it!  No excuses, no delays.  Everyone prepares their project on the class website.  Class presentations  - 10 minutes per project using PowerPoint or good slides.


Experiment Critique  

Read an experimental paper (Give title, authors, and source) and write a maximum of one page (one 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet of paper, 1 inch margins, single-spaced, 12 point type) review.

The first paragraph should describe concisely what was done and what the results were.  The second paragraph should point out the strengths and weaknesses of the paper, suggesting what might be done to improve the experiment, refine the theory, and/or validate the results.

You may read a paper from a published journal or from the SHORE website. I encourage you to find papers relevant to your planned project.  This is an individual effort.

Airline schedule information by phone and web  

Call the American Airlines Dial-AA-Flight system (1-800-223-5436) and find out the flight number and times for a flight closest to 9am on your birthday from Dulles to Dallas, and the price of an economy ticket.  Do this twice (or more if you'd like to try to get a minimum time):
    - time yourself in seconds
    - count the number of commands you enter (number of times you press *)
    - describe the differences in the experience form a usability perspective

  Time in Seconds Number of Commands
First Trial    
Second Trial    

Go to the American Airlines web site and repeat the task

  Time in Seconds Number of web pages
First Trial    
Second Trial    

Expert review  

Write a 2 page letter to the designers of some user interface - it could be one you know or one you wanted to learn.  Describe how and how long you worked with the system, and give some positive comments about what you liked.  Then describe major, middle, and minor suggestions for improvements.

You might organize your report by task domain problems (functions you couldn’t accomplish, incorrect outputs, poor metaphors, etc.), interface domain problems (flawed error handling, lack of reversibility or shortcuts, invisibility of options), and syntactic problems (misspellings, layout slips, wrong fonts, inconsistent commands, etc.).

You may want to include screen prints, error messages, or output samples as appendices.  A thoughtful letter might compare with other systems and give references to support your comments.


Visual Basic Project 1

Individual Project

The first project is to build an interface for an alarm clock, which allows users to set an alarm by time and days of the week. For example, you can have different wake up times on weekdays and weekends. You have the creative license to design an interface of your choice. The clock should also display the current time and date.



Visual Basic Project 2

Individual Project

Make a mockup (non-functioning prototype) of 1-4 screens needed to search a modest database of up to 1000 entries containing personal names, addresses, and phone numbers. When the user locates the correct entry, a single selection will automatically dial the phone number. users must be able to enter and edit entries.

Consider carefully the requirements and write them down and make a paper sketch for the system. Create a prototype with Visual Basic or a similar tool. Since this is a non-functioning prototype, the interface is critical so be creative.

Visual Basic Project 3

2-Person Team Project

 The final project is to build a fully functional video library interface. The main requirements are:

You have a free hand in the design of the interface, i.e. it may be a single form, multiple forms, etc.

You can have still/images associated with each movie information. Again, they need not be exactly representative. You can build your own images or grab one from the web.

You are advised to use Internet Explorer for opening/downloading the following files.

VB#3 Submission Information

You are to give me a demo of your project. Each group is going to have 15-20 minutes to show me their stuff. Contact me to schedule a time.  It would be a good idea to have both the team members present at the time of the demo, however if you feel one of you would be adequate in representing both your interests, please feel free to send a single member of your group. Please pick three slots from the list above and mail me your preferences as to first preference, second preference and third preference. Do not forget to include the names of both the team members in your mail.


Guidelines for Project Write-up



Title page: Title, Authors, Addresses, Electronic Mail, Addresses, and Date
Abstract: 100-150 word overview of experiment, results and discussion
Credits: Indicate who did what

1. Introduction (3-6 single spaced pages)
     Overview of the problem, possibly including:
           Review of commercial systems
           Discussion of extracts from relevant  textbooks
           Personal encounters with the problem
     Review of previous experiments
     Relevant psychological or other theories

2. Experiment (3-6 pages)
     2.1 Introduction and Hypotheses
             Independent and dependent variables
     2.2 Pilot study results
     2.3 Subjects
     2.4 Materials
             Training, tasks, questionnaires
     2.5 Procedures and problems

 3. Results  (2-5 pages)
     Objective report on what the numbers show
     Refer to Raw Data in Appendix
     Refer to statistics programs in Appendix
     Report Means and Standard deviations in neat tables
     Include graphs, plots, histograms, etc.

4. Discussion (1-4 pages)
     Interpret the results, Explain statistics, Account  for anomalies,  Describe subjects' comments

5. Conclusions (1-4 pages)
     5.1 Impact for practitioners
     5.2 Suggestions for future researchers
     5.3 Refine the theory or develop a new one
     Other suggestions

Acknowledgements  (a few sentences)
     Thanks to teachers, bosses, organizations, or friends who helped you conduct your experiment

References (5-20 references): Citations in a neat standard form

Appendices (5-200 pages)
     A. Experimental materials
          Programs, Instructions, Questionnaires, Test materials, Transcripts of sessions
     B. Raw Data
     C. Statistics runs from computer
     D. Experimental consent forms (one copy of form used)
     Photos of screen presentations


Guidelines for Classroom Presentation

Duration : 10 minutes
Questions: 2 minutes
Software: Powerpoint

Basic Outline

Slide 1) Title with names of group members
Slide 2) Independent and dependent variables, hypotheses, subjects

Show the experiment if possible, or use screen prints or videos

Slide 3) Results (table, bar chart, or graph)
Slide 4) Conclusions

Note: If you want to use another slide or two or need two slides for you results or conclusions that is fine.
Additional Suggestion: Please rehearse your talk.

Tentative Schedule:  We will try to get everyone in during regular class time - I'll pick teams at random to present so everyone needs to be prepared.