Summer 2007 — Information and Computer ScienceUC Irvine

Informatics 131 Course Reference

Instructor: David G. Kay, 5056 Donald Bren Hall (

Quick links: Lecture slides Textbook Assignments Email archive

Course goals: The first 40 years of computer science were concerned mainly with computers themselves—making them faster, smaller, more reliable, and better understood mathematically. Perhaps that's still the main concern of the field as a whole, but today computer scientists devote increasing attention to computers in their real-world context, which usually involves the people who use them.

Computers may be complex systems, but human beings are even more complex, and when we try to understand how computers and people work together—well, there's a lot to learn. This course will introduce the broad field of human-computer interaction (HCI): The psychological underpinnings of cognition and perception; the variety of interaction devices, media, and styles; and methods for designing systems and evaluating their usability. The success of most systems today, especially consumer products, depends largely on HCI decisions.

This course is also the prerequisite for Informatics 132, the project course in HCI.

Prerequisite courses and concepts: The prerequisite for Informatics 131 is one course in computing and upper division standing. The course will not require any significant programming—that's for Informatics 132—but we do expect each student to be able to write clear, cogent, grammatical English at an upper division level because much of the work in this course will involve describing and justifying the design decisions and evaluation judgements you make. We also expect you to have these basic computing skills: Searching and browsing the Web, reading and sending Email, downloading files, viewing and printing PDF (Adobe Acrobat) documents, and creating or saving documents for Email and other purposes in plain ASCII text form (not HTML or Word attachments).

Meeting place and times: Lecture meets Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8:00 to 9:50 a.m. in Engineering Lecture Hall 110. There is no scheduled discussion section.

Office hours: I will be in or near my office during these scheduled hours, during which course-related matters will have first priority: Mondays from 10:00 to 10:30 and Wednesdays from 12:30 to 12:55. Of course emergencies may come up, but I will try to give advance notice of any change. If I'm not immersed in something else, I'll be glad to answer short questions whenever I'm in my office, so feel free to drop by any time. I'll also be happy to make appointments for other times during the week. The quickest and most effective way to reach me is by electronic mail.

Questions and announcements: You can usually get a response to your course-related questions within a few hours (perhaps a bit longer on the weekends) by sending electronic mail to the address

We may also send course announcements by Email to the official course mailing list, so you should check your Email regularly. Note that this mailing list goes to the Email address that the registrar has for you (your UCInet ID). If you prefer to read your Email on another account, you should set your UCInet account to forward your Email to your preferred account (you can do this on the web at Don't let this slide; if you miss official announcements, your grade could suffer.

This course has a home page at; holds an archive of official course Email. If there's interest in setting up a Note Board for semi-public communication among students, let us know.

Textbook and course materials:
Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction, second edition, by Jennifer Preece, Yvonne Rogers, and Helen Sharp.

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within, second edition, by Edward R. Tufte. This short monograph takes a critical look at the use of PowerPoint, a pervasive means of presenting information.

Visual & Statistical Thinking: Displays of Evidence for Decision Making, by Edward R. Tufte. This reprint of Chapter 2 of Tufte's book, Visual Explanations, describes two situations where the way information was presented had life-or-death consequences.

Course structure:
Assignments (40% of the course grade, with later assignments generally weighted more heavily than earlier ones)
Class participation (15%)
One midterm, given in class on Wednesday, July 11 (15%)
One final exam, on Wednesday, August 1, from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. (30%)

We will guarantee that overall scores over 90% will receive an A- or better, scores over 80% a B- or better, and scores over 70% a C or better, but the actual grade cutoffs may be lower.

We're required to say that in unusual circumstances, these criteria could change, but we do not expect that to happen.

Special needs: Any student who feels he or she may need an accommodation due to a disability should contact the UCI Disability Services Center at (949) 824-7494 as soon as possible to explore the possible range of accommodations. We encourage all students having difficulty, whether or not due to a disability, to consult privately with the instructor at any time.

What you must do right now to get started in Informatics 131:
— If you do not have a UCInet ID (an account on the EA system for Email), get one. See
— If you prefer to read your electronic mail on an account other than your UCInet account, redirect your mail at
— Log on to, choose Surveys, and complete the Informatics 131 Questionnaire (by 5:00 on Wednesday, June 27).
— If you aren't yet officially enrolled in the course, check the course Email archive regularly (see above) so you can keep up with official announcements (which may include announcements about enrollment).

Good advice and helpful hints:

Check your electronic mail regularly; this is an official channel for course announcements.

Attendance in class is essential; concepts and issues that come up in class will find their way onto the exams and class participation in various forms counts towards the course grade.

Always keep your own copy of each assignment, both electronically and on paper; if an assignment should get lost in the shuffle (or if a file server in the lab should crash, which has happened in the past), we'll expect you to be able to supply a replacement easily.

If you find yourself having trouble or getting behind, speak with the instructor. But never take the shortcut of copying someone else's work and turning it in; the consequences can be far worse than just a low score on one assignment. The ICS department takes academic honesty very seriously; for a more complete discussion, see the ICS academic honesty policy:

Approximate course outline:
Week Date Topic Readings*


25 June
Introduction to the course and HCI

27 June
Conceptual models and metaphors


29 June
Cognitive foundations; collaboration and communication
3, 4


2 July
How interactions affect users; interaction styles
5, 6

4 July
— Holiday —

6 July
Menus and forms


9 July
Direct manipulation

11 July

13 July
Design process; needs and requirements
9, 10


16 July
Design process (continued); data gathering and analysis
11, 7, 8

18 July
12, 13

20 July

More on evaluation

14, 15


23 July
Screen elements, layout, typography

25 July
Hypermedia systems and navigation

27 July
Users with disabilities; information visualization; case studies


30 July
PowerPoint issues; epilogue and review

1 August
Final Exam

* Chapters shown are in the Preece/Rogers/Sharp text. We'll let you know when the Tufte and other required readings are timely.

Acknowledgements: Alfred Kobsa and Nayla Nassif generously contributed materials to this course. In particular, Prof. Kobsa's original slides are available on line at Please send any comments or questions to rather than to Prof. Kobsa directly.