CSE 171 Homepage
User Interface Design: Social and Technical Issues
Winter 2000

  1. 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! The lectures and the readings beyond the text are at least as important as the text.
  2. There will be short quizes at random times, which will count as part of your grade.


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.
Wednesday, 4:40pm - 7:30pm, Bldg U413, Room 1
Section ID 361154, Section A00
Teaching Assistant: Matt Ratto, office hours: Wednesdays, 2:15 - 4:15pm, MCC248
The Discussion Section is Monday, 10:10 - 11, Bldg U413, Room 1
Matt Ratto has a webpage for this class which you should consult for information about section content, rescheduling, TA office hours, etc.

Required Book

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

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. The third is new and I have not yet evaluated it.

Other Relevant Books

All of the books listed above should be on reserve in the Science and Engineering Library. The first book on the above "Other Relevant" list 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.
Additional Information

Grades will be based on the first two items below, especially the second; obviously your homework should reflect your familiarity with the readings, lectures, and class notes; items in "Class discussion" have been contributed by class members of CSE 171 or 271, possibly in previous years.

  1. Homework assignments
  2. Exams
  3. Reading assignments
  4. Class notes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
  5. Class email

Warning: This is 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 philosophy and cognitive science. There will be a little programming, and some mathematics will be needed.
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