Summer 2015 — Information and Computer SciencesUC Irvine

Informatics 131 Course Reference

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

Quick links: Slides Slides (4-up) Textbook Assignments Piazza Q&A (public) Email archive Resources

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 cover. 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; methods for designing systems and evaluating their usability; and the principles and guidelines the field has developed. 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 requirements and evaluation. Also of note are Informatics 133, the course in HCI programming, Informatics 134, the HCI programming project course, Informatics 143, on information visualization, and Informatics 153, on computer-supported cooperative work.

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 133—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 Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:00 to 3:50 p.m. in Engineering Tower 202.

The projection screen and audio of each class will be recorded and available through UCI Replay; after each class, you will receive electronic mail with the link for access. We must note, however, that this process is not 100% reliable; some classes may end up not being recorded. Moreover, in some classes we will be designing and critiquing our designs; being present to participate in those activities is an important part of the learning and counts towards the participation portion of your course grade.

Office hours: I will plan to be available to discuss course-related matters right after class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The TA will have scheduled hours as needed at a time and place to be announced. We'll also be happy to make appointments for other times during the week.

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 will never intentionally ignore a message, so if you don't receive a response, write again; sometimes overactive spam fiters snag a legitimate message. Using course-specific subject lines and your UCInet Email address will help your messages get noticed.

Email you send to is private between you, the TA, the reader, and me. We have also set up a more public discussion forum at Piazza has some advantages over the typical noteboard or discussion group; we'll use it this term and analyze its usability, too.

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; an archive of official course Email is available on your MyEEE page.

Textbook and course materials:
Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction, fourth edition, by Jennifer Preece, Yvonne Rogers, and Helen Sharp. The third edition is okay, too. The publisher's site contains purchasing options, including a rental e-book at a reduced price.

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. (This document and the following one are available on Amazon for $7 each; we'll be using them in the second half of the course.)

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.

Annals of Medicine: The Checklist, by Atul Gawande (The New Yorker, December 10, 2007). A broad, practical discussion of how people can better cope with complex systems (in this case, surgery).

Course structure:
Assignments (40% of the course grade, with later assignments generally weighted more heavily than earlier ones)
Class participation (15%). This mostly involves being present in class so you can take part in the in-class design and evaluation activities. Plan to attend every class meeting.
One midterm, given in class on Thursday, August 20 (15%)
One final exam, on Tuesday, September 8, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. (30%)

We determine final grades neither on a formal curve (with equal numbers of As and Fs, Bs and Ds, and so on) nor on a straight, fixed scale. Grades below C are rare in this course; they result mostly from not completing assignments or otherwise not being engaged with the course. We recommend that you focus not on letter grades but on learning what's necessary to earn high scores; the grades will follow from that.

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, get one. See
— If you prefer to read your electronic mail on an account other than your UCInet account, redirect your mail at
— Complete the Informatics 131 Questionnaire at (by 5:00 on Friday, August 7).
— Go to, log in with your UCInet ID, choose "Course Listing" and "Summer II 2015," click "Go" next to Informatics 131, and then click "List me for this course." You'll submit most of your work electronically; this step is necessary to set that up.
— Sign yourself up for Informatics 131 on

Good advice and helpful hints:

Check your electronic mail regularly; this is an official channel for course announcements. When sending course-related mail, start the subject line with "Infx 131" or "HCI class".

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. Note that missing a day of class in the summer session is like missing a whole week in the regular year. We will only take attendance occasionally; if you're not present one of those times, it counts for a lot.

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 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*


4 August Introduction to the course and HCI
Conceptual models and metaphors

6 August Cognitive foundations: memory, learning, vision, movement, language
11 August How interactions affect users; collaboration and social interaction; interaction styles
4, 5, 6

13 August Design process: needs and requirements, data gathering and analysis; prototyping
18 August Design process (continued) 7, 8, 9

20 August Midterm; Design process (continued) 10, 11
25 August Design process (continued); evaluation 12, 13, 14

27 August Evaluation (continued); interaction devices
1 Sept. Guidelines for hypermedia, feedback, errors, help, menus, forms, screens, typography
Other readings*

3 Sept. Users with disabilities; information visualization; PowerPoint issues; epilogue
8 Sept.
Final Exam, Tuesday 8 September, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

* Chapters shown are in the Preece/Rogers/Sharp text. Read the Tufte monographs and the Gawande article whenever you like, but before the last class meeting.

Acknowledgements: Alfred Kobsa and Nayla Nassif generously contributed materials to this course.