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6.831 • User Interface Design and Implementation

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Fall Semester, 2006

AC1: Usability

Combination lock

1 Thinking About Usability

The point of this activity is to start thinking about what it means for an interface to be usable. At right is a familiar user interface design:

List some of the aspects of this design that have good usability, and some that have poor usability. Think about the definition of usability, and write down which aspect(s) of usability are involved in each good or bad point you cite. Two examples are shown below to get you started.

Good Bad
Textured grip is easy to turn, even when
you're sweaty from exercising (efficiency)
It's hard to learn the combination (learnability, memorability)

2 Solving Usability Problems

For at least 3 usability problems (found by your group or another group), propose design changes or alternatives that might solve the problem.

Problem Solutions
Combination lock with four dials Combination lock with one dial

3 Usability Measurement

Suppose you’re deciding between the two user interface designs on the right:

How would you measure the usability of these designs, so that you could compare them quantitatively? Consider at least 3 dimensions of usability.

Dimension Measurement