CSE 171 Homepage
User Interface Design: Social and Technical Issues
Spring 2001


New technologies provide the means to build superb new systems, as well as phenomenally ugly and awkward systems that still fully meet their performance and functional requirements. This course will explore several approaches towards a scientific understanding of basic issues of usability, representation and coordination that arise in interface design and related areas, such as how to best organize complex information in multimedia. There will be some focus on distributed cooperative work and on semiotics. See the course outline for more detail.

We distinguish the following levels for interface design issues:

  1. technology;
  2. ergonomics;
  3. individual psychology; and
  4. sociology, group psychology, and organizational issues.
The course will focus on the last two levels, especially the last, and in this regard will consider the following: We will examine a number of case studies, one of which is a system being built at UCSD CSE to support distributed cooperative software engineering over the web. A prototype of this system can be seen at /groups/tatami/kumo/exs/. Some issues here include: how to present proofs as webpages; how to make proofs easier to follow, e.g., by linking formal material to background material; how to motivate difficult proof steps; proof editors vs. proof browsers; direct manipulation vs. command line interfaces.
Notes: Be sure to check pages on this website frequently; important notices will be posted near the top of this homepage; homework and readings will be posted on their respective webpages, not given in class. You should reload all webpages frequently, because I may be editing the same page that you are reading! All webpages are subject to frequent and/or unannounced updates.

The class notes do not cover everything you need to know for this course, and their emphasis may not reflect the importance of material. The notes WILL NOT serve as a substitute for the lectures or the assigned readings! Moreover, the lectures and readings go beyond the text, and are at least as important as the text. In addition, there will be handouts, diagrams on the board, and possibly guest appearances at lectures. In short, all of lectures, notes, text, and other readings are absolutely necessary.

Tuesday, Thursday, 5:30 to 6:50 pm, Room WLH 2204
Section ID 402412, Section A00
There is no TA for this class, and hence no discussion section
My office hours: Wednesdays, 4:15 to 5:00 pm


The only required book is Shneiderman; other required readings will made available on the web or handed out in class.

This should be available through the UCSD bookstore; it seems to be the best text available in this field, but we will supplement it in many ways.

Recommended Books

Both of these should be on reserve at the Science and Engineering Library. The first is a colorful overview of an important and rapidly developing new field. The second takes a more "classical" approach grounded in cognitive psychology.

Other Relevant Books

The first book above is an amusing overview of some issues in design, while the second is a fascinating case history of a large design project that failed. The third book is temporarily out of print; it contains essays on various social aspects of computing. The book by Linde goes into stories in great depth, while the book by Turner discusses metaphor and blending in some depth. The book by Nadin treats the relevance of semiotics to design, among other things. The UCSD bookstore should have a few copies of the last book, for those who want to go deeper into the algebraic aspect of algebraic semiotics. We will use these books very little, but some of you may want them for further enrichment.
Additional Information

Since there is no TA for this course, grades will be based on exams. There will be quizzes in class at random times. There will also be homework assignments, but they will not be graded; see me during office hours if you want feedback. The items in "Miscellaneous" were assembled by the teacher for your interest and/or amusement.

  1. Reading assignments.
  2. Class notes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, A.
  3. Homework assignments.
  4. Miscellaneous.
Here are links to the first quiz, the second quiz, the third quiz, and the final exam. Grades will be based on 30% for quizes and 70% for the final exam (though I would like to reserve the right to change that if it will result in better scores for everybody).

Other Resources
Warning: This is not an easy course; it requires understanding complex and subtle concepts, and applying them to real examples. It is also neither a technical course in HTML, JavaScript, Java, XML, etc, nor a touchy-feely course in web aesthetics; rather it explores various principled approaches to user interface design. You are expected to already know (or be able to quickly pick up) HTML, and to be able to read intermediate level cognitive science, sociology, and philosophy. There will be some programming, and some mathematics will be needed. This course will be conducted in somewhat the style of a seminar; in particular, we will generally discuss the topics related to the readings under the assumption that you have already understood the readings. It may be easy to deceive yourself into thinking that you have understood when you haven't, so please take care.
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Last modified: Fri Jun 15 12:44:30 PDT 2001