Programming Usable Interfaces

Phew, got that out of the way… (see below)

Now, let me talk about the other stuff from last semester. I feel a bit ashamed that the first time I talk about these classes is when they’re actually over. :)

The class that got me my best grade (Programming Usable Interfaces) is actually the least interesting class to talk about. Basically, the class is about rapid prototyping. Conceptually, it is not too hard, since we get assigned a rather limited interface design problem (a copier, an ATM, an information kiosk) that we have to “solve”. The hard part is that we get one week to make a paper prototype and two or three iteration in Visual Basic or Flash. These iterations are interleaved with short think-aloud user tests that help find improvements on the system.

In these design cases, coming up with something is not the focus (that’s why we only get “small” problems), it’s more about improving what you made based on user feedback. This is typically something that is not hard, but really useful to do several times over and over again to become really good at it. Because if you’re designing interfaces, you’re gonna do this a lot.

So if it isn’t hard, what makes this course take up so much time? Well, the fact that you have to move quickly and find users to test with. But also the fact that you have to code your program in a way that it can easily be changed based on user feedback. Writing extensible code takes time, and that’s something you don’t have when you make so many iterations in one week!

Leave a Reply