In the first phase, you proposed an idea that forms the basis of a course project.
In this phase, you will perform a task analysis of your idea, generate some rough early sketches of your idea, and create and evaluate low-fidelity prototypes based on the task analysis.
Fundamentally, this means that you begin the design process by getting to know the intended users, their tasks, and the working context of their actions. Only then do you consider what the actual system design should look like. You base the design on real people, real tasks, and real needs. User centered system design is not an academic process where some cookbook formula can be applied. Nor is it an intuitive process where a programmer can sit in their office and think they know the user and their tasks. Rather, it is a hands-on process that requires you to go out and identify actual users, talk to them about what tasks they are trying to do, and understand the entire context of their work. You then base your designs on this information. Because your initial designs will be crude and problem-prone, you will have to identify potential usability problems by continually evaluating your design and by crafting new designs. This is iterative design.
In this assignment, you will begin your iterative design of your idea using task-centered system design methods. The immediate purpose of this assignment is to give you experience at:
The outcome of this assignment on task-centered system design is a design portfolio containing:
Your group will deliver a system design and discussion portfolio. The portfolio will include the following sections.
Section 1: Tasks and requirements (5-10 pages)
Section 2: Sketches of design alternatives (no page limit)
Section 3: The first prototype, task-centered walkthrough, informal user evaluation (an annotated design + several pages)
A note on the Portfolio. The portfolio is intended to document the progression of your design, beginning with this phase, and continuing through the next phases. Your portfolio must be neat, well-organized, and visually appealing. Portfolios should be constructed out of a 1" or smaller 3-ring binder (the professor will not appreciate having to carry around larger binders :) Your portfolio should also use titled section separators (the index kind) to separate the major sections. The cover of the portfolio should include your group name, the names of the group members, and the title of the project. The first page should be a table of contents, which will grow over time. You will add to this portfolio as you complete each phase of the project. You should include references to published material and pointers to online information if pertinent.
You should include your marked project proposal in your portfolio as well, so the reader understands the progression of your entire project.
A note on the grading. Grading will be based upon the
sophistication and maturity of the work, the elegance of the designs, the
logic of the written presentations, and the completeness of the work.
Step 1. Generating a list of expected users and an initial list of tasks. In this step, you interview knowledgeable people about their real-world tasks and observe them doing their tasks. Your goal is to generate an initial list of concrete task descriptions (see Appendix 1 below).
Depending upon your situation, you may or may not be able to access your real users in the short time available for this exercise. Consequently, each team should select the approach below that best fits their constraints and team membership.
For whatever approach you chose, do the following steps. If you have a user and/or representative, you will work with them. If you are "making it up", try to imagine as realistic a situation as possible.
At this point, you will have a set of concrete, detailed examples of tasks that people now perform, or would want to perform on your system. Each task description should have the attributes described in the appendix.
Step 2. Validating the tasks. The next step is to get a reality check of your task list. Have end-users and/or client representatives review your tasks. They should check to see if the set of people are representative of potential end-users of your product, if tasks capture the variations of those done by real people, and if details are realistic (they will be, if they are based on real users!). You should ask for details that were left out of the original task description, get corrections, clarifications, and suggestions, and then re-write the task descriptions.
Note: This step is critical if you used a user representative or just yourselves instead of a real client. While it may not be possible for you to interview and observe many real clients, you can probably get one to comment on a compiled list of prototypical tasks.
Step 3. Deciding upon key users and a tentative list of requirements. The task examples will provide clues on specific system requirements that you could use to design your system as well as who your target users will be. Because it is unrealistic to meet all requirements and address all users, it is your job to prioritize them. From the task examples (and possibly by further discussion with end users), decide upon the major system requirements and prioritize them into a) absolutely must include; b) should include; c) could include; and d) exclude. Similarly, decide upon what kind of users you must address, up to those you will exclude.
Step 4. Brainstorm design alternatives. From the task examples and requirements, your team should roughly sketch out several competing interfaces.
Step 5. Develop low fidelity prototypes. Discuss and choose the most promising of your interface sketches, and develop a horizontal low-fidelity prototype using storyboards or Pictive methodology (you can try a different method for each prototype!) that demonstrates how the interface fulfills the requirements.
Specifically, use the key users, their tasks, and the prioritized requirements as a type of requirements document to help you brainstorm prototypes that illustrate how your system would appear to the user. You should not be concentrating on prettiness or completeness; rather, you are trying to show the overall interaction style of your system. Each prototype should contain the core screens that illustrate how the system will work as a whole, including a sample interaction based upon some of the key tasks.
Hint: To get diversity, each group member may want to try to create a few rough sketches before gathering as a group. You should also realize that some people may be better at this than others; this is not supposed to be a competition!
Step 6. Task-centered walkthrough. Test the prototype(s)
for usability bugs (problems, faults, weaknesses) by performing a task-centered
Step 7. Evaluation with users. Select the most promising of your
prototypes and perform an informal evaluation with two (or more) real users.
Test the prototype for usability bugs (problems, faults, weaknesses).
Good task examples:
Example task description for a clerk in a video store, including discussion. The eventual system will assist the clerks to perform their tasks.
George Marlay, a regular video store customer, approaches Mary and asks if they have the Frankenstein comedy video. She asks if he means "Young Frankenstein" by Mel Brooks, and he say yes. She then directs him to the shelf where the video is expected to be. George retrieves the video card and brings it to the front desk. Mary asks for George's membership card, but George has forgotten it. Mary then looks up his membership number. Mary checks out the video, but reminds George that he has not yet returned the video "Brazil", which is now a day late. George says that he will bring it in later today, and leaves with the video.
Discussion. This task contains many typical clerk activities, which deals with vague requests about video titles, the location of the video in the store, forgotten membership cards, the video checkout activity, as well as reminders to customers about late videos. Most these tasks are frequently done, and important.
Mary Farness, an experienced full-time clerk at the video store, opens the store in the morning. She begins the day by checking in all the videos returned in the night video slot, which typically number between 90 to 150 videos <should have a list of these, including identifying text or other marks used to check these in>. She pauses her task whenever customers ask for her services. She usually checks in ten videos, and then re-shelves them before going onto the next ten.
Discussion. In this case, the "user" is the full time person who normally carries out this task. We expect them to be typical of an experienced clerk who will know the process well, and who will become well practiced at using the target system. The task is routine and frequently done.
Anil, a part time clerk who works the telephone, comes in for an hour every third evening. His job is to search the rental records to find customers who are at least one day late on their video returns. For example, he phones Bob Jakobs, who is two days late. Bob answers, and Anil identifies himself, tells him that he still has the video "Volcano", and reminds him to return the video. Bob says he will bring it back in an hour or so, and Anil crosses his name off the list. He then phones Ania Sliven, and says (more or less) the same thing. However, Ania says that she has already returned the video the day before. Anil puts her on hold, runs to check the shelf and finds the video there. He apologizes and hangs up. He then phones Ang Lee, but there is no answer. He makes a note that he should try this person again later. He continues in this manner. When he has finished the list, he starts again on those who have not answered.
Discussion. This task identifies a specific activity that is less frequently done but still quite important. It also indicates that a non-regular staff member may be doing this task.