Copyright Chris Johnson, 1999.

Human Computer Interface Design Using Java

Open Assessment 1999-2000

A. Introduction

The Internet is now being accessed by more and more diverse sections of the population. Unfortunately, many existing sites provide only limited support for these new user groups. There are few on-line resources that are specifically devoted to more elderly users. Similarly, relatively few sites are devoted for younger generations of computer users. In pragmatic terms, this represents a considerable opportunity that has yet to be fully exploited.

B. Your Task: Digital Toys

Global Educational Enterprises Korporation has asked you to develop a digital toy. By a digital toy they mean an interactive web page that is intended to entertain, amuse and inform its users. The toy is intended to appeal to children from 3 to 6 years of age. It will join a collection of similar toys that will be presented on the company's site. These pages will eventually also host advertising and marketing information about more conventional products for children and their parents.

C. The Design Brief

Your design must attract and maintain the attention of its users. Any gimics or gratuitous features, such as cartoons or audio feedback, should not impair the long term appeal of the toy. We want children to keep returning to the site. Such novel features must be carefully justified in the briefing document that should accompany the toy (see below). It is also important that your design be as innovative as possible.

You must pay careful attention to the design challenges of product development for this user population. A useful starting point would be the children's section of a public library (eg Hillhead Library on Byres Road or Glasgow's Mitchel Library). There are also a small but growing number of similar sites such as and You may also justify your design in terms of the child development literature. Some of this is available through on-line resources. For example, you may choose to design a toy for children with particular learning disabilities. Furrther information is available via the education sections in the University library.

There is also a growing body of research on the effective use of games and play in learning. For example, Maria Klawe's paper entitled Is Edutainment an Oxymoron. There is also a briefing by Philips on product development for girls. Finally, there is a recent interesting paper on the effects and effectiveness of web advertising on teenagers. These are only starting points to help you design your toy - please look more widely for references and research in this area.

You must focus your development activities by making a number of important design decisions that MUST be documented in your final report:

  1. what makes these potential users different from other Internet users?

  2. what makes games fun for children in this age group (dont just base your analysis on introspection)?

  3. what media will your site support and how will it be maintained?

The second stage of the project involves the development of initial designs and presentation formats. These should be as INNOVATIVE as possible. GEEK will not accept any toys with a violant or "anti-social" content or which infringe copyright.

The third stage involves implementation. It is VERY important that your web pages are well documented and easy to maintain. Your solution must make use of AWT or JFC/Swing.

Finally, summative and formative evaluation must be conducted to test out your ideas. You must use a recognised technique described in the lecture notes and you must document your results in the final report.

D. Assessment Criteria and Submission Details

This exercise is degree assessed. It contributes 30% to the total marks associated with this course. The body of the report should not exceed twenty A4 pages. The report must be printed out and must be submitted in a secure binder (i.e., one that will keep the pages together and in the correct order). It must include:

  1. A title page containing the name of the student as well as their contact details (email address etc);
  2. A table of contents and appropriate page numbers;
  3. A section on the design of the system. This should include some consideration of alternative approaches and a considered justification of the reasons why you build the system in the way that you did. (You might use the Questions Options and Criteria - QOC diagrams that have been mentioned in the lectures);
  4. An implementation section. This should describe the techniques that you used during the development of your system. You can assume that the reader is familiar with AWT and Java. Please only mention areas of the code that are particularly complex or that require further work;
  5. An evaluation section. This must consider both formative and summative testing. Formative evaluation might include user testing of pencil and paper prototypes and of partial implementations. Summative evaluation describes the testing of the final system.
In addition to the twenty pages associated with the body of the report, you may also include appendices. These should contain:
  1. the listing of any code used during the implementation together with suitable acknowledgements for the source of code that has been borrowed from other programmers;
  2. internal documentation (maximum two sides). These are notes that are intended to provide guidance for the programmers who must maintain or develop you system. They should briefly describe the classes that you have implemented or re-used from other sources. They should also take the reader through any particularly significant methods (eg, event handlers) that are used.
  3. external documentation (maximum two sides). In most cases this may simply be a print-out of a help page that should be designed either for the children or for their parents/carers. You should not assume that these people will have any knowledge of Java.
It should be handed in at the start of the lecture on Tuesday 14th March 2000. Extensions will only be granted in exceptions circumstances and they should be requested prior to the deadline. Extensions for medical reasons should be reported as soon as possible and will only be granted if supported by forms from a medical practitioner. Extensions for equipment failures may be granted provided that you let me know as soon as they occur; so that I can make sure they get fixed as soon as possible. Please make sure that you keep back-up copies of all of your work towards this exercise.

The following marking scheme will be applied:

All solutions must be the work of the individual submitting the exercise. If any code or design ideas are borrowed from course notes, books or other students then those sources MUST be clearly acknowledged. All questions about this exercise should be addressed to Chris Johnson.

Important: you must ensure that any media which you use in your prototype has been placed in the public domain and DOES NOT infringe copyright.

E. Summary

This exercise provides you with a realistic design task. You are designing a product that has the potential to be of practical benefit beyond the duration of your course. I will retain the best solutions on the Departmental web site.

You have a wide range of possible options and your task is to choose the best one that you can come up with. Please remember, however, that you have limited time and resources to complete your work. The marks will be based on the written submission. However, everyone will also be expected to present their solution during the final practical session of this course (Tuesday 14th March). An international panel of HCI experts will be asked to judge the best design solutions and prizes will be awarded to the winner and runners up. If possible, I will also try to arrange for a panel of potential end-users to evaluate your designs.

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