C SCI 4600 - Homework No. 2
C SCI 4600 -- The Human-Computer Interface
Spring Semester, 2002

Homework Assignment No. 2
Due: Friday, March 22, 2002

In his videotaped lecture, Microsoft's Tandy Trower gave us a wealth of excellent advice on how to create a well designed user interface, while noting that compromises are sometimes made--e.g., in order to be first to market. His "seven basic design principles" (to be followed) and "seven deadly temptations" (to be avoided) are summarized on the back of this handout. In this assignment, your mission is to explore the look and feel of two relatively simple software systems; the goal is to pay close attention to the attributes of the interfaces as you use this software, so that you will be able to assess and compare their strengths and weaknesses.

The game SnoodTM will comprise one software platform for this exercise. To download a free copy of the game to your computer, go to www.snood.com and click on "Free! Download Now!" If all you get is a white screen with the message "Redirecting, one moment please$\ldots$" you should click on the URL typing area in the location bar (so the cursor is blinking there), and then press ENTER. You will see a menu of download options. Most MS/Windows users will want to click on "Download Snood 2.4.5 without Gator & Offer Companion" and then follow the instructions to install the game (it will require just under 7M disk space). Play a few games at the various difficulty levels (use the game's built in "Help" option to learn how to play), paying attention to how you interact with the system. Feel free to explore--click on options and buttons to see what they do! You may get animated messages from time to time urging you to "register" the game for $14.95 but you can always click on "Not Yet" and then continue playing for free (although you will then be limited to just 30 games at certain skill levels, and to 15 puzzle levels).

The MS/Windows card game Solitaire will comprise the second platform for this exercise. To run the game click on "Start" and then select:

"Programs $\mid$ Accessories $\mid$ Games $\mid$ Solitaire"

from the cascading menu sequence. When the play window opens, you can select different versions of the game by choosing the "Options" entry from the pull down "Game" menu (e.g., standard, untimed, draw three). Use the program's built in "Help" system to learn how to play the game, if you're unfamiliar with it.

Now answer the following questions:

Describe the look and feel of each game's interface. What are the good and bad attributes of each, in your view? Are there some features which are better in one game, others which are better in the second? Was there some single unavailable feature you really missed in each game?
Discuss how well these games adhere to each of Trower's 7 basic design principles.
Even though you do not need to spend any money in order to complete this assignment, the author of Snood obviously believes enough people will love it that he will make (lots of) money; he is therefore willing to let you play for free as long as you like. Under the circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that he worked hard to create a compelling game--and the interface is after all an integral and even key component here. How well did he succeed, in your opinion? Explain!
Based on your experiences (in this exercise and elsewhere), do you think it would be appropriate to augment or modify Trower's principles--e.g., in light of technological advances since his talk was recorded in September of 1994?

Use MS/Word and other Office tools as needed to prepare your report, then e-mail it to me by the due date. CAUTION: Be sure to use the correct address when sending me attachments!

TANDY TROWER on "Creating a Well-Designed User Interface"



   $\bullet$     All actions initiated by user
$\bullet$     Minimize modal interaction
$\bullet$     Allow personalization/customization


   $\bullet$     Support direct manipulation
$\bullet$     Make representations visible
$\bullet$     Use familiar metaphors


   $\bullet$     Internal consistency
$\bullet$     External consistency
$\bullet$     Consistency with metaphor and conceptual model


   $\bullet$     K.I.S.S.
$\bullet$     Simple things simple
$\bullet$     Progressive disclosure


   $\bullet$     Support discovery
$\bullet$     Warn about potential data loss
$\bullet$     Make actions reversible or recoverable


   $\bullet$     Immediate cues
$\bullet$     Visual or auditory
$\bullet$     Appropriate to the task


   $\bullet$     Visual cues
$\bullet$     Graphic elements function intuitively
$\bullet$     Use an expert


   $\bullet$     Design for technology rather than the user
$\bullet$     Cool or sexy design
$\bullet$     Logical vs. visual design
$\bullet$     User input as right or wrong
$\bullet$     Featurism and over-extended basics
$\bullet$     Fix problems in the documentation
$\bullet$     Fix problems in the next release