CSE 271 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 additional readings are absolutely necessary.

Wednesdays, 1:25 to 4:15 pm, Room APM 3218
Section ID 402523, Section A00
There is no TA for this class
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. The third is new and I have not yet evaluated it.

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 your project.
Additional Information

Grades will be based on your project, and possibly a presentation of your project and one or more exams; obviously your project, presentation, and exams should reflect your familiarity with the readings, lectures and class notes; see the information on projects. There will be homework assignments, but they will not be graded; see me after class if you want feedback.

  1. Reading assignments.
  2. Class notes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, A.
  3. Homework assignments.
  4. Information on projects.
  5. The CSE 171 homepage has links to three quizzes and the final exam, and also to the quizzes, midterm, and final for an earlier version of CSE 171.
Your grade will depend primarily on the quality of project, possibly tempered by an assessment of your class participation.

Other Resources
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 cognitive science, sociology, and philosophy. There will be a little programming, and some mathematics will be needed. This course will be conducted as a seminar; we will discuss related topics 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: Wed Jan 23 20:19:00 PST 2002