Spring 2019 — UCLA Computer Science Department

Computer Science 188, Lecture 1
Human-Computer Interaction
Course Reference

Instructor: David G. Kay, 3531A Boelter Hall (dgkay@ucla.edu or kay@uci.edu)

Quick links: Slides: Complete/4 to a page Assignments Midterm Piazza Q&A (public) 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 does not focus on programming tools and methods for implementing interfaces. Of course that's a valuable topic, but ten weeks is barely enough for the topics and techniques we do cover. Once you know how to design and assess a good user interface, learning the libraries and tools for implementing them is relatively straightforward. Since nearly everyone in the class is an upper division student with a technical background, we will discuss technical issues and make technical arguments from time to time, but this course doesn't require particular software development expertise. 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.

Meeting place and times: Lecture meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:00 to 11:50 a.m. in Kaplan Hall 169. There are two discussion sections: Both meet Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. Section A, led by Youfu Li, meets in Boelter Hall 5419; section B, led by Nikita Sivakumar, meets in Boelter Hall 5280.

Office hours: Right after class on Mondays and Wednesdays, I'll talk with whoever wants to talk with me: on the spot, if it's something very brief, or on the way back to my office, or in my office. If that's not a good time for you, I'll be happy to make an appointment for another time. The quickest and most effective way to reach me is by electronic mail.

Questions and announcements: This course will have a Q&A forum on Piazza.com. That will be the fastest channel for getting answers to questions with answers applicable to the whole class, like course content or assignment requirements. We're all friends and colleagues here, but you may choose to post without your name being visible to your classmates. Piazza has some advantages over the typical noteboard or discussion group; we'll use it this term (and perhaps even analyze its usability). We will provide connection details soon.

Your TA has primary responsibility for your scores on assignments and exams; if you have questions about that, first contact your TA. For comments or questions that don't fall into the categories above, send Email to dgkay@ucla.edu. I 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 UCLA 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. If you miss official announcements, your grade could suffer.

This course has a home page at http://www.ics.uci.edu/~kay/ucla/hci/.

Textbook and course materials:
Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction, sixth edition, by Ben Shneiderman et al. Shneiderman was one of the first computer scientists to center his research career on HCI. This book is a comprehensive introduction, providing deeper coverage than we can in class. There are electronic versions available that are cheaper than the hardcopy. The sixth edition is significantly changed from the fifth.

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.

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 (45% of the course grade, with later assignments generally weighted more heavily than earlier ones)
Class participation (15%)
One midterm, given in class on Wednesday, May 1(15%)
One final exam, on Thursday, June 13, from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. (25%)

We will assign letter grades at the end of the course, after all the assignments and exams are scored. We will use neither a predetermined straight scale (because across-the-board "hard grading" might give people lower grades than they deserve) nor a formal curve (because that limits the number of high grades). You will receive feedback on your work and be able to see where your score lies in the distribution of scores for each item. If you're in the bottom quarter or so, you should change the way you're working in the class, checking with us as necessary.

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

Good advice and helpful hints:

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, 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 CS department takes academic honesty very seriously.

Approximate course outline:
Week Date Topic Readings*


1 April Introduction to the course and HCI

3 April HCI goals and principles



8 April Conceptual models and metaphors  

10 April Cognitive foundations: memory, learning, vision  


15 April Cognitive foundations: movement and language 9

17 April How interactions affect users; collaboration and social interaction 11


22 April Interaction styles 7

24 April Design process: needs and requirements, data gathering and analysis, prototyping 4


29 April Extended example  

1 May Midterm  


6 May Extended example (continued)  

8 May Evaluation



13 May Interaction devices 10

15 May Guidelines for hypermedia, feedback, errors, help 8, 14


20 May Guidelines for menus, forms, screens 12

22 May Guidelines for typography; users with different abilities 2


27 May — Holiday: no class meeting —  

29 May Information visualization 16, Other readings


3 June PowerPoint and other issues  

5 June Epilogue and Review


13 June Final Exam , Thursday, 8:00 to 11:00 a.m.

* Chapters shown are in the Shneiderman text. Read the Tufte monographs and the Gawande article whenever you like, but before the last week of classes.

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