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I am following the course Human Computer Interaction offered by Stanford University. It is taught by Scott Klemmer and is giving me very useful insights in interaction design to improve user interfaces.

The course consists of weekly video lectures and quizzes and a practical component in the form of assignments that are peer graded. I found these very helpful, to get feedback and inspiration from the work of others.

I started a project to find out how technology can help people to pack their bags. Inspired by my own fear to forget my keys when I leave the house. I want to share with you some of the fun I had in the early brainstorms and prototyping:

HCI Assignment 1 – NeedFinding

Packing a bag is something we do so often, that it turns into a routine, but one we are not very focussed on. Leading to doubt over whether we packed a certain item or forgetting to grab that important one item in our hurry to get going.

My goal is to find out how technology can help us to pack our bags.

I observed people packing their bag for a certain occasion to learn about the activity and possible breakdowns and workarounds that technology could play a role in.

Inspiration I found for developing a technology that could help people:

  • Key finders
  • Generate packing list online
  • RFID tags and readers (possible technology)
  • RFID reader for iPhone (possible technology)
  • X-ray baggage screening (inspiration for artwork)

HCI Assignment 2 – Prototyping
Storyboards had to be pen drawings. For digital storyboards, I prefer the Comic Life software.

I then built a sketch prototype with Balsamiq Mockups, a rapid wireframing tool.

HCI Assignment 3 – Start Building
Things started to be more serious and I had to build two versions of my app with Just in Mind
I learned the hard way that this was a lot of work. And that the hours you put in don not always get the reward you hope for. The peer-grading system disappointed me.
I spend hours grading and giving feedback to others, and received only very low grades for my own project. From which I learned one thing: not only in user interfaces, also in assignments you need clear design for the users. I failed to state my goal and background for my app, so my graders did not understand the point.
Luckily, I received great feedback through the coursera forum. I did decide to stop with the assignments and continue only with the quizzes and lectures, because I started my new job as a content manager.

If you want to know more about this Coursera HCI course, read Jodie Locklear’s blog article ‘H.C.I. – Honored, Compelled, Inspired.’.

Objective: Develop a tactile toy for children between 6-7 years to learn language. Allowing them to ‘catch’ and ‘order’ words. This is one of the results of an evening of brainstorming and paper prototyping:

Modular telescope prototype.

It is a tool that is made up of different modules, allowing the children to capture objects, showing them to their classmates and telling a story about them. Turning the closed tubes up and down facilitates guessing games based on the sound the caught treasure makes. Other parts allow the taking of photographs, or have a display to show the pictures that are taken. Combining different hollow containers (object in display-tube placed behind a window-part) creates a cumulative experience of several aspects of one object-word.

The module sizes allow the sliding of parts into each other, creating one single tube that can be easily carried with a strap on the back. Connecting the corresponding cylinders allows for the creation of a network (with branching elements) enabling a game of sending words (‘Chinese whisper’), sorting objects in different categories and racing games along the coloured path.

A great tool to create storyboards:

Comic Life by plasq.

Comic Life by plasq.

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