Winter 2009 Informatics Department Bren School of ICSUC Irvine

ICS 4 Course Reference
Design and Usability for the Web

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

Quick links: Slides Textbook Assignments Email archive References

Course goals: Each of you is a consumer of web pages. Most of you are creators of web content in some form. Many of you will enter careers where you will specify or manage the presentation of information on the web. Yet few people have a concrete understanding of what makes some web sites more successful than others—more navigable, more comprehensible, easier to develop and maintain, less frustrating, less error-prone. This course will focus on the principles of human-computer interaction (HCI) as they apply to the design, development, and evaluation of web sites.

This course is not a course in implementation tools or skills. If you know how to use Dreamweaver or HTML, that's great, but it's not expected or required. We will concentrate on usability—how to evaluate the effectiveness of web sites and how to design them to be more effective.

Prerequisite courses and concepts: This course was designed for majors outside of the School of Information and Computer Science; it has no academic prerequisites. We do expect each student to be able to write clear, cogent, grammatical English; 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). If you need to brush up on any of these, let us know and we'll help.

Meeting place and times: Lecture meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 to 10:50 a.m. in ICS 253.

Office hours: You are welcome to drop by my office at any time. If I'm there and not immersed in something else, I'll be glad to chat about the course or other topics. I will definitely be in or near my office during these scheduled hours, when course-related matters will have first priority: Tuesdays from 11:00 to 11:30 and Wednesdays from 2:15 to 2:45. Of course emergencies may come up, but I will try to give advance notice of any change. I'll also be happy to make arrangements for other times during the week; "making an appointment" is no big deal (but if you make one, don't skip it without getting in touch). 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 will never intentionally ignore a message, so if you don't receive a response, write again; sometimes overactive spam filters snag a legitimate message. Using course-specific subject lines and your UCInet Email address will help your messages get noticed.

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:
User-Centered Website Development: A Human-Computer Interaction Approach, by Dan McCracken and Rosalee Wolfe.

We may assign other readings as the course goes on.

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 Thursday, February 5 (15%)
One final exam, on Thursday, March 19, 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 ICS 4:
— 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 ICS 4 Questionnaire at (by 5:00 on Thursday, January 8).
— Go to, log in with your UCInet ID, choose "Course Listing" and Winter 2009, click "Go" next to ICS 4, and then click "List me for this course." You'll submit most of your work electronically; this step is necessary to set that up.
— 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. When sending course-related mail, start the subject line with "ICS 4" or "Web 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.

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*


6 January

Introduction to the course, HCI, and definitions of usability

8 January

Overview of web operation
Overview of user-centered development



13 January
Human capabilities: perception, memory, attention
Mental models and metaphors

15 January
User analysis, task analysis, environmental analysis


20 January
— No class meeting —

22 January
Content organization: organizational systems and structures


27 January
Principles of visual organization

29 January
Web navigation strategies


3 February

strategies, techniques, interpretation


5 February


10 February Color
  12 February Typography 10
7. 17 February Multimedia 11
  19 February Information visualization  
8. 24 February Accessibility 12
  26 February Globalization 13
9. 3 March Personalization and trust 14
  5 March — No class meeting —  
10. 10 March Legal and social issues  
  12 March Future developments
Epilogue and review
Exam   Final Exam, Thursday 19 March, 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.  

* Chapters shown are in the McCracken/Wolfe textbook