DTC 478 Usability and Interface Design focuses on the overlay of design, content, users, and situation in order to promote efficient and effective utilization of interfaces for various desktop and mobile devices. Students learn to conceptualize, critique, analyze, evaluate, and design usable interfaces for various digital media devices and/or various specific purposes. Previously taught: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009.
Usability and interface design is the study of how we design, build, and then actually use digital interfaces. The desired outcome is the smooth and easy use of such interfaces, not a sense of hopeless frustration when they do not work as designed or desired. Good usability and interface design promotes satisfactory results and a sense of empowerment.
To achieve this outcome we need to think about two forms of design. The first, "design" (with quote marks), deals with aesthetic and visual decisions about how an interface looks. This approach, we might call it aesthetic, graphic, or visual "design," should be familiar from other DTC classes.
The second form, design (no quote marks), deals with how an interface (or anything else) works, and especially whether it works in support of the user achieving a specific purpose. A well-working interface does not just happen. It requires conceptualization and development. This is the stuff of usability and interface design.
DTC 478 Usability and Interface Design focuses on designing (no quotes; second conception of design) interfaces for digital devices that promote their effective and efficient utilization as information portals by users. In short, we are more concerned with how an interface works (conceptual design), than how it looks (visual design).
A formula for this approach is: Audience + Purpose = Design. Note that design (conceptual design) follows after we learn as much as possible about who will use the interface, why, and for what purpose(s).
Usability is often considered the style of an interface, its aesthetic and visual appeal. Well-styled (good looking) interfaces are thought to work better. But, more than how an interface looks, usability is about whether that interface can be used for its intended purpose without difficulty and/or frustration. By examining how to effectively conceptualize, design, and build digital interfaces we are better prepared as creators and consumers of information. This rationale connects with the "Learn. Think. Build." focus of the CMDC program.
(LEARN) How do users (ourselves included) respond to interfaces and their design? What new / changed considerations emerge when we consider design for effective utilization rather than aesthetic, visual appearance?
(THINK) How do we design and assess the usability of interfaces? How do best practices of designing for usability adapt to changing interfaces promoted by converging digital media platforms and devices?
(BUILD) How do we assure usability throughout the design and building process? How might awareness of usability influence our future approaches to conceptualizing, building, and critiquing interfaces?
The framework for this course is interface, design, and usability.
Interfaces are portals between a variety of users in various situations and collections of digital data or information. An interface is the site of interaction between users and information, problem solving, successfully accomplishing a task. Interfaces offer / promote affordances rather than specific action. Interfaces should anticipate complexity (the relation between conception and execution) so there is always room for interpretation. Interfaces, ideally, will strive for the ambiguity of multiple views.
Design seeks to facilitate the role of interfaces. For this course, our concept and use of design is different from "design" or, "styling" practiced in other classes in that it is meant to be functional, to be used for specific purposes to foster specific communication, or elicit specific responses, rather than promoting appearance or aesthetics. (See Design Council: Design vs. styling). Design is a medium through which communication is conveyed and response is sought. Design (conceptual) versus "design" (visual) will present some challenges.
Usabilty is the effectiveness of our design, not how an interface looks, but how it works with regard to its target audience and purpose.
DTC 478 Usability & Interface Design is envisioned as a series of lectures, discussions, collaborative workshops, individual and collaborative course projects, and presentations. We will read and discuss theoretical approaches and apply them to practice through different projects. The goal is to provide you a teaching / learning environment where you can work through challenges, complete projects, and document your program learning.
Goals and objectives
Goal 1: Facilitate collaborative inquiry and learning via activity-centered projects with students
Objective: Provide transformative opportunities for students to learn via hands-on doing.
Goal 2: Encourage students to think critically and theoretically about their creative practice
Objective: Examine practices compared to desired results, questioning how digital media can be used most effectively to expand narrative and storytelling opportunities. Through systematic inquiry, students devise and test new procedures, solutions and applications for a developing body of knowledge.
Goal 3: Provide opportunities for students to create their own knowledge and develop problem-solving skills
Objective: Facilitate awareness of available resources that help shift student learning and practice from "thing" to "community" orientation.
Course schedule FALL 2017
NOTE: Subject to change.
Fall 2017 schedule information to be added . . .