Syllabus for HCI 460

HCI 460 Usability Evaluation Methods

Fall 2009


Gavin Lew and Agnieszka (Aga) Bojko
Email: (both instructors will receive emails sent to this address)
Web page:
Office Hours: Wednesday 5pm - 5:45pm and 9pm - 9:45pm in Lewis 1111, Loop Campus

Course Meeting

Wednesday 5:45-9:00 in Lewis 1111, Loop Campus (or online)

Required Text

Optional Text


  • HCI 440
  • Elementary statistics (e.g., IT 223 or PSY 240)


This course surveys methods for evaluating usability of products and interfaces. We will discuss and practice methods such as heuristic and expert evaluations, cognitive walkthroughs, usability testing (formative and summative), surveys, eye tracking, contextual inquries, user modelling, KLM, and focus groups.


To learn how to:

  • Understand the role of usability evaluation
  • Establish appropriate evaluation objectives
  • Select evaluation methods that address evaluation objectives and take into account existing constraints
  • Articulate advantages and disadvantages of usability evaluation methods
  • Properly use various usability evaluation methods
  • Present results and prepare effective report


There will be three projects in this class. Each will have from two to four components:

PROJECT 1: Expert evaluation

a) Individual notes
b) Report

PROJECT 2: Formative usability study

a) Test plan
b) Participant screening questionnaire and moderator's guide
c) Conducting a test
d) Report

PROJECT 3: Quantitative comparison study

a) Test plan
b) Report


15% Project 1
25% Project 2
20% Project 3
10% Take-home midterm quiz
20% Final exam
10% Individual contribution to projects

Grading scale:

A 100 - 93%
A- 92 - 90%
B+ 89 - 87%
B 86 - 83%
B- 82 - 80%
C+ 79 - 77%
C 76 - 73%
C- 72 - 70%
D+ 69 - 67%
D 66 - 60%
F 59 - 0%

Tentative Schedule

Text Reading Due
(will be assigned a week prior to each class)
Exam or Due Project

Sep 9

Course overview, overview of usability evaluation methods, heuristic evaluation, cognitive walkthrough, expert evaluation



Sep 16

Expert evaluation continued; how to write good findings and recommendations

Rubin ch. 1, Lewis and Rieman ch. 4 (except 4.2)

Project 1a - Expert evaluation: individual notes

Sep 23

Formative usability testing: How to prepare a study

Rubin ch. 2, 3, 5.

Project 1b - Expert evaluation: final report

Sep 30

Formative usability testing: How to conduct a study

Rubin ch. 4, 7, 8.

Project 2a - Formative usability study: test plan

Oct 7

Formative usability testing: Moderating and note taking

Rubin ch. 9.

Project 2b - Formative usability study: participant screening questionnaire and moderator's guide

Oct 14

Teams will be conducting usability testing at 500 N Michigan, Ste 1610

no reading

Project 2c - Formative usability study: conducting the test

Take-home midterm will be distributed

Oct 21

Summative usability testing - Part I 


Take-home midterm will be collected

Oct 28

Summative usability testing - Part II


Project 2d - Formative usability study: report

Project 3a - Quantitative comparison study: test plan

Nov 4

Eye tracking; writing reports for summative studies



Nov 11

Statistics recap, focus groups for usability evaluation, remote unmoderated usability testing, longitudinal testing, evaluation of expert user interfaces


Project 3b - Quantitative comparison study: report

Nov 18



Final exam

This schedule is tentative and subject to change as the course progresses.

Course Policies

There is no formal attendance requirements, but all students are expected to either attend the live class or view the recorded online presentation. Furthermore, some class activities require active student participation. These activities include in-class exercises for the live students and comparable exercises for online students. While these activities may not be formally graded, successful completion of the course depends on student involvement. Failure to participate in these course activities could result in reductions to the contribution score or respective project scores. In addition, the Final Exam will cover both lecture and assigned reading material.

The projects will be completed in teams of three to four for the live section of the course and teams of two to three for the online section. While the team may assign a primary role to each team member, all team members are jointly responsible for the entire assignment. Generally, each team member will receive the same score on each project. However, in some cases, additional credit may go to those who make an exceptional contribution to a project and reduced credit to those who contribute little to a project. Any adjustment will be based on a variety of indications including team participation in class, contribution summaries in reports, and student feedback at the end of the quarter. At the end of the quarter, every student is expected to complete a form for assessing team members' individual contributions to the projects.

Exams can only be made up with a serious documented excuse (e.g., illness, death in the family). A make-up exam must be arranged as soon as possible and always before the student attends the next class meeting. Arrangements involving other excuses require prior permission from the instructors.

Late projects will be accepted without penalty until 2pm on the day following the due date. Projects turned in later than 2pm the day following the due date will not be accepted.

All grade challenges must be submitted in writing and include an explanation why the given score or grade should be reconsidered.

Individual assignments (Project 1a), midterm quiz and the final exam must be individual efforts. When re-using materials, citing examples or using quotes, you should always make it clear that you are relying on the work of others.

Additional Course Policies for the Online Section

The project on usability testing requires each online student to record and submit at least one video of a usability test that he or she conducted. For this, online students will either need to use a video camera or screen recording software. The instructors must be able to review the video using common computer software.

During the quarter, the live section will conduct in-class exercices. Some of these exercises may not be recorded, but online students will receive instructions for completing the exercises with the expectation that they do the exercises on their own.

Team presentations occur in the last week of class. Distance Learning students will create an online presentation.

School Policies

Online Instructor Evaluation: Evaluations are a way for students to provide valuable feedback regarding their instructor and the course. Detailed feedback will enable the instructor to continuously tailor teaching methods and course content to meet the learning goals of the course and the academic needs of the students. They are a requirement of the course and are key to continue to provide you with the highest quality of teaching. The evaluations are anonymous; the instructor and administration do not track who entered what responses. A program is used to check if the student completed the evaluations, but the evaluation is completely separate from the student’s identity. Since 100% participation is our goal, students are sent periodic reminders over two weeks. Students do not receive reminders once they complete the evaluation. Students complete the evaluation online at

Email: Email is the primary means of communication between faculty and students enrolled in this course outside of class time. Students should make sure their email listed under "demographic information" at is correct.

Academic Integrity Policy: This course will be subject to the academic integrity policy passed by faculty. More information can be found at

Plagiarism: The university and school policy on plagiarism can be summarized as follows: Students in this course should be aware of the strong sanctions that can be imposed against someone guilty of plagiarism. If proven, a charge of plagiarism could result in an automatic F in the course and possible expulsion. The strongest of sanctions will be imposed on anyone who submits as his/her own work any assignment which has been prepared by someone else. If you have any questions or doubts about what plagiarism entails or how to properly acknowledge source materials be sure to consult the instructor.

Incomplete: An incomplete grade is given only for an exceptional reason such as a death in the family, a serious illness, etc. Any such reason must be documented. Any incomplete request must be made at least two weeks before the final, and approved by the Dean of the College of Computing and Digital Media. Any consequences resulting from a poor grade for the course will not be considered as valid reasons for such a request.

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