Current Topics in HCI - Winter Semester 2004/2005

Assignment 1 - Modes
Due on Thursday, October 28, 2004 during the lecture


In this exercise, you will look at modes in an interface of your choosing.


Select a device that you use often in your everyday life but find the user interface particularly clumsy because of its unnecessary or inappropriate use of modes (for example, a VCR or a digital watch -- but don't use those examples since we've already gone over them in too much detail in class!)

Describe a simple scenario to show how you normally use this device. Describe how an unnecessary or inappropriate use of modes contributes to your usability breakdown.

As discussed in the lecture, interface design often involves trade-offs. Suggest one reason why the designers of your device may have chosen to design the interface in this particular way (e.g. to reduce user error, enhance security, etc...).

Based on your experience with this device, suggest an alternative design that you think would make your device more usable, and discuss its merits over the existing interface. What are some possible disadvantages to your new design?

Use sketches and/or pictures where appropriate to make your explanations more clear.

You may complete this assignment on your own or in groups of two. Please submit only one assignment per group. Be sure to include the names of all group members in your submission.


Your submission should be no more than 2 pages; submissions that significantly exceed this limit will be graded down, so try to be clear and concise in your discussion.

Hand in your submission before the end of the lecture on Thursday, October 28.


The assignment will be graded on the following rough scale:
  • 1.0 - exceptional work that clearly went above and beyond what was expected from the exercise
  • 2.0 - exercise was completed satisfactorily as per the assignment specification
  • 3.0 - exercise was completed, but has some problems
  • 4.0 - incomplete exercise
  • 5.0 - little or no effort was put into the exercise

Late assignments will be graded with a penalty of 0.5 per 24 hour period after the due date.

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