Designing Interactive Systems (Winter 2021) 



  Class Information: Aachen

Lab Mon, 14:30 - 16:00
(starting 18.10.2021)
Lecture Wed, 10:00 - 12:30
(starting 13.10.2021)
Language English
Credits 6

  Class Information: Bonn

Lab Tue, 13:00 - 14:30
(starting 19.10.2021)

Wed, 10:00 - 12:30
(starting 13.102021) Zoom

Language English
Credits 6

 Preliminary Exam Dates

Midterm Exam 01.12.2021
1st Final Exam 15.02.2022
2nd Final Exam 09.03.2022


  • Oct 13, 2021: You can join the  first lecture using the following link: This link will only be valid today. For future lectures, you will find a link in RWTHmoodle as soon you have access. 
  • Oct 11, 2021: We have received a record number of signups, and we think every CS student greatly benefits from understanding the fundamentals of usability and Human-Computer Interaction. To give everyone the opportunity to take this class, we have decided to lift the limitation of 120 seats this semester. We need to change some aspects of the class to make this possible. Details are explained during the first lecture.
  • The lecture will be recorded. We will only record the presenter and not the students. However, if you ask a question your voice will be in the recording. Therefore, have a look at the declaration of consent regarding lecture video recordings
  • The Zoom link for the first lecture will be provided here shortly before the class commences.
  • In the first lecture, we will do some in-class experiments. For this, download this zip and print out the experiment sheet (pay attention that the scale is 100% in your printing dialog).

2-minute class overview by Prof. Jan Borchers


This class introduces you to the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and user interface design. Specifically, it covers the following topics:

  • Fundamental concepts of human cognition, such as perception and memory performance.
  • Models of interaction between people and their environment, such as affordances, mappings, constraints, slips, and mistakes.
  • Milestones in the history of Human-Computer Interaction.
  • Principles of design thinking and iterative design.
  • Techniques for prototyping user interfaces.
  • User studies and evaluation methods.
  • Golden rules of user interface design.
  • User interface design notations.

After this class, you will know how user interfaces have evolved over the past decades, and what constants of human performance need to be considered when designing them. This class forms the basis for the classes “Designing Interactive Systems II” (which looks at more technical aspects of user interface development), and “Current Topics in HCI and Media Computing,” as well as the “Post-Desktop User Interfaces” seminar and other courses from our research group. You will be able to apply design thinking methods for iterative design, prototyping, and evaluation to design usable, appropriate user interfaces in a user-centered fashion. All assignments are group-based to foster collaboration skills, and project-centered to strengthen organizational skills, conflict management, and presentation skills. Learning to think in designers' terms is a crucial competence for computer scientists working on user interfaces, a job that requires collaboration in interdisciplinary teams.

This class is limited to 120 seats We lifted the limit on the number of seats for this class this semester to offer everyone a chance to take it. You still need to register and sign a Declaration of Compliance to obtain a seat in this course; see sidebar.


You will need to create and edit videos for assignments and the project during this class. We don't teach video editing or provide video editing software; you will find these resources readily online.


Prof. Dr. Jan




  • Course Introduction, Fitts' Law, The CMN Model

    • Lecture 1

      Wed, Oct 13

    • Lab 1

      Aachen: Mon, Oct 18
      Bonn: Mon, Oct 19

  • Gestalt Laws, Information Content, Visibility, Affordances

    • Lecture 2

      Wed, Oct 20

    • Lab 2

      Aachen: Mon, Oct 25
      Bonn: Mon, Oct 26

  • Mappings, Constraints, Seven Stages of Actions

    • Lecture 3

      Wed, Oct 27

    • No labs this week
  • Knowledge in the World and Head, Mistakes, Slips

    • Lecture 4

      Wed, Nov 3

    • Lab 4

      Aachen: Mon, Nov 8
      Bonn: Tue, Nov 9

  • Visual Design

    • Lecture 5

      Wed, Nov 10

    • Lab 5

      Aachen: Mon, Nov 15
      Bonn: Tue, Nov 16

  • History of HCI 1: From Abacus to Macintosh

    • Lecture 6

      Wed, Nov 17

    • Lab 6

      Aachen: Mon, Nov 22
      Bonn: Tue, Nov 23

  • History of HCI 2: Visions, UbiComp, Phase of Technology

    • Lecture 7

      Wed, Nov 24

    • Lab 7

      Aachen: Mon, Nov 29
      Bonn: Tue, Nov 30

  • Midterm

    • Midterm

      Wed, Dec 1

    • Lab

      Aachen: Mon, Dec 6
      Bonn: Tue, Dec 7

  • DIA Cycle, Observing Users, Brainstorming, Storyboards

    • Lecture 8

      Wed, Dec 8

    • Lab 9

      Aachen: Mon, Dec 13
      Bonn: Tue, Dec 14

  • Prototyping

    • Lecture 9

      Wed, Dec 15

    • Lab 10

      Aachen: Mon, Dec 20
      Bonn: Tue, Dec 21

  • Evaluation

    • Lab 10

      Aachen: Mon, Jan 10
      Bonn: Tue, Jan 11

    • Lecture 10

      Wed, Jan 12

    • Lab 12

      Aachen: Mon, Jan 17
      Bonn: Tue, Jan 18

  • GOMS, Interface Efficiency, Ten Golden Rules

    • Lecture 11

      Wed, Jan 19

    • Lab 12

      Aachen: Mon, Jan 24
      Bonn: Tue, Jan 25

  • Ten Golden Rules (ctd.), Responsiveness, Latency

    • Lecture 12

      Wed, Jan 26

    • Lab 12

      Aachen: Mon, Jan 31
      Bonn: Tue, Feb 1

  • Interaction Design Notations

    • Lecture 13

      Wed, Feb 2

  • Final Exams

    • Final Exam PT1

      Feb 15

    • Final Exam PT2

      Mar 9



Your overall grade will be calculated from your grades (not points!) as follows:

Project 30%
Midterm 30%
Final Exam 40%

Fields of Study

  • Computer Science (B.Sc.), (M.Sc.)
  • Media Informatics (M.Sc.)/Multimedia-Benutzung und -Wirkung/in Aachen (mandatory course)
  • Software Systems Engineering (M.Sc.)/Areas of Specialization/Media Computing and Interactive Systems
  • Technical Communication (B.Sc.) (mandatory course)
  • Computational Social Science (M.SC)

Course Allocation and Registration Guide

Number of SWS: V3+Ü2
ECTS Credits: 6
Course language: English for all lectures, assignments, and exams

We only have 120 seats are available for this course. Due to a record number of applications, the seat limit has been lifted this semester to give everyone a chance to take this class. However, to take this course, you still have to complete the following steps:

  • Register for the course in RWTHonline by Wednesday, October 13.
  • Sign the pdfDeclaration of Compliance and hand it in before 11:59 on Wednesday, October 13. For this, send the course supervisors an email with the subject "[DIS21] DoC <your full name>.

We will announce who has been selected for the course by email at the end of the week.

Reading Material

We highly recommend that you buy Norman's book since you have to read it for the class during the first few weeks. From the Dix et. al., and Schneiderman books, you just have to read some chapters. You can find these books in the library.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

All Projects from Winter 2021

Lecture Zoom Recordings Declaration of Consent

The lecture might be recorded. We will only record the presenter and not the students. However, if you ask a question your voice will be in the recording. Therefore, have a look at the declaration of consent regarding lecture video recordings


Group #
Project topic
  How Can We Use a Car While Not Using It?
  Making Mopping Fun
  Motivating Students to Stay Focused During Lectures
  Spy App: Mindful Use of Technology
  Making Chores Fun
  CookSpot: The Cooking Spotlight
  Mindful Use of Technology
  Making Chores Fun – Throwing Board
  Helping You Reminding Your Flatmates of Their Tasks
  Helping Activists Escape Their Bubble
  Making Game Streams Interactive
  Bonfire: Connecting People on the Go
  Reward Pedestrians for Being More Observant in Traffic
  Connecting Spatially Separated Teams
  Better Betting: An Overlay for Betting on Stream
  Waiting for the Laundry Turned a Game
  Preventing Spoilage of Forgotten Food
  Making Shopping Fun
  Stationary Car
  Visibility in the Kitchen
  Include and Motivate Participants of Teambuilding Events
  Finding Activities for Team Building Experiences


Group #
Project topic
1 Carcuum
2 Act n' Play
3 Smartypants
4 Konmari Katze

Previous Offerings

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