CIS 732 Design of Interactive Systems
Syllabus 8/18/03
Murray Turoff

Information Systems Department
College of Computing Sciences
New Jersey Institute of Technology
University Heights, Newark, NJ 07102



This is a course in the design of Interactive Systems and Human Computer Interaction. It covers the some of the professional literature in this field and the “knowns, unknowns, and unk unks (Unknown Unknowns)” about design. The course emphasizes application areas that have a great deal of cognitive variability and diverse user populations and the use of protocol analysis for evaluating the usability of designs.

The course emphasizes understanding the functionality that will benefit the user both with respect to the application and to human cognitive abilities. We will go through the design process for a particular application area. Students as individuals or teams will do mock ups of elements of the interface design as part of their course work.

The student will be responsible for a final project dealing with the current professional literature in a specific area of interface/interaction design. An objective of this course is that the student be able to demonstrate they can learn current professional material from the research literature.

Actually doing design work is an important way to learn about the design process. You should skim Shneiderman at once and concentrate on guide lines relevant to your first design assignment. You will also find the required reading articles by Carroll and Mazur, Rolf and Nielsen, and Grudin to be very relevant to the first design major design assignment.

Recommended Prerequisite:

CIS 675 Evaluation of Information Systems. Experience in application design and development which involves working directly with users is helpful for this course and may be used as a prerequisite for CIS 732 for those not having CIS 675. Those not having above course or relevant work experience should notify me of their background and degree program. I welcome people not in IS or CS actively interested in the subject.
Undergraduate Students:

Reading Assignments:

You have to have all the readings done before the exam. The exam covers all the readings (books and articles listed below) and the lectures. The lectures are meant to provide material not found in the readings or to provide a different perspective from those found in the readings; therefore, they will not duplicate the material in the readings.



(Always use the latest edition of the main text book regardless of what edition quoted below)

Designing the User Interface: strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction by Ben Shneiderman, Addison-Wesley

This is the book that is considered one of the "industry" standards and it is written in a clear manner and very straightforward. There are a lot of good illustrations in the book as well. The author has a lot of useful material on his website as well:

The above book is easy to read and I will indicate which chapters to concentrate on for the exam.

The following book is only required for Ph.D. students and is recommended for anyone who thinks they might be doing research some day in the future. It is a wonderful history of the joint evolution of Cognitive Science and Information Systems.

Cognitive Psychology and Information Processing: An Introduction by Roy Lackman, Janet Lachman and Earl Butterfield, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1979. Required reading for Ph.D. students are: Chapters 5 to 9.

This book is history of the evolution of the shared theory in Cognitive Science and Information Systems which shows the continual exchange of knowledge of findings in these two fields. It should be read by every Information Systems student even if they are not interested in this course. It makes clear under what are the conditions and assumptions underlying the theories and what findings caused changes in theory. It also points out many missing understandings.

There is Draft Book material available on the instructor’s web site: under password control: by linking to the CIS 732 material. You will be provided access information in the class discussion board. It is critical that you go through the first five chapters of this draft in order to help you in your design assignments. My initial lectures follow much of these first five chapters.


Copies of the articles are available on line under password control and in some cases through the ACM and other digital libraries available to all NJIT students over the WEB.

Banbassat, I., and Taylor, R. N., (1983), Behavioral Aspects of Information Processing for the Design of Management Information Systems, IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, SMC-12(4), July/August, 439-450. Still a great summary of the problems humans have in dealing with Information Systems.

Brown, John Seely, and Newman, Susan E., (1985), Issues in Cognitive and Social Ergonomics: From our House to Bauhaus, Human-Computer Interaction, 1(4), 359-392. A conjecture about the fundamental problems that is becoming more and more relevant as the WEB becomes more pervasive and complex.

Carroll, J. M., and Mazur, Sandra A., (1986), Lisa Learning, IEEE Computer, 19(11), November, 35-49. A great detailed example of a protocol analysis.

Carroll, J. M., and Thomas, C., (1982), Metaphor and the Cognitive Representation of Computing Systems, IEEE Transactions on Man, Systems and Cybernetics, SMC-12, March-April, 107-116. The fundamental paper on the role of metaphors which is still not understood by most developers without any training in this field.

Coombs, J. H., Renear, A. H., and S. J. DeRose, (1987), Markup Systems and the Future of Scholarly Text Processing, Communications of the ACM, 30(11), November, 933-947. The fundamental concepts that led to the Web. This article is still relevant to considerations on the use of markup languages.

Conklin, Jeff, (1987), Hypertext: An Introduction and Survey, IEEE Computer, September, 17-41. The first paper to make clear the major problems in the use of the Web, long before the Web, multimedia, etc.

Grudin, Jonathan, (1989), The Case Against User Interface Consistency, Communications of the ACM, 32(10), October, 1164-1173. Critical to understanding that the design process is not always deductive but must also utilize direct empirical knowledge of users, their application, and their associated behaviors.

Melone, N. P., (1990), Theoretical Assessment of User-Satisfaction Construct in Information Systems Research, Management Science, 36(1), January, 76-91. Today there are many standard surveys organizations use based upon the body of work reviewed here; however, the people using these do not understand the limitations and still open issues relating to this form of evaluation of interaction systems.

Molich, Rolf, and Nielsen, Jakob, (1990), Improving a Human-Computer Dialogue, Communications of the ACM, 33(3), March, 338-348. An example of many simple design errors that often go undetected.

Norman, Donald, (1983), Design Rules Based on Analyses of Human Error, Communications of the ACM, 26(4), April, 254-258. A wonderful explanation of why users and students are not stupid. OR, why errors are normal behavior for a user and how the designer often causes the creation of errors.

Design Assignments and Process

You will be required to do two phases of an application design in this course. You may do these designs using HTML, MS Word, PowerPoint, Paint, or any other capability that does not require me loading any software package to be able to view the mock up the resulting interface. I am requesting that most of you be able to load your designs on your homepage so that as a class we can review a number of these as a class. Any NJIT student can have and set up their own homepage using NJIT facilities (see

For a design you are suppose to create a mock up of an interface design. This means that there is no program that operates to execute the actual functions depicted in the mock up. We are only concerned in this course with the design of the interface and not the implementation of the underlying software. Even if you have sophisticated software for prototyping do not spend time trying to create a working system. We have a lot to learn from just the design process and we do not want to be constrained in creativity by what some of these packages provide as fixed interface templates. This also frees your design talent so it is not inhibited by current hardware and software limitations.

Interface design has two important components: usability and utility. Designs are to be understandable and minimize learning problems. They must also be useful and satisfy the needs of the user and organization utilizing the system. Ideally, they should satisfy the current needs and future needs. The users may not fully perceive at the time the system is being created what their needs will be after experience with the system. It is the duty of the professional designer to be able to anticipate the evolution of the system and its utilization so that you are one step ahead of the user’s requirements.

For the first design assignment I will first pick a subset of the designs provided by the class members for formal review by the class as a whole. After we have done a review of those designs everyone will have one week to finalize their design in final form for grading. The final version will handed in floppies, attachments, or as websites. If you are providing a disk and make sure it is virus free.

The class is free to discuss the design requirements at any time during the assignment using the class conference and I will give some related discussion assignments dealing with understanding the requirements before we get to the actual design. The class will share ideas on functionality for the systems being designed. All the components of the design effort can be done as a team of three people or it can be done alone if you feel you would rather not work in a team. No two person teams are allowed. A team may have a private conference on our class Webboard to work together.

The nature of the application area will be presented in our class discussion shortly after the start of the class and I will provide some initial background material.


One of the first things we will do online is introduce ourselves, pointing out backgrounds and interests in the course. I suggest that individuals wait until this and the first formal discussion exercise is well underway before deciding on teams. In some cases, I may add students unable to find teams to existing teams.

Protocol Analysis:

I will be providing instruction on how to do a Protocol analysis and you will be given an assignment to do a protocol analysis associated with your design efforts. Be sure you read the "Lisa Learning" article before doing your protocol analysis. This will be a simpler version of the more complete protocol analysis process taught in CIS 675.

Review Article Assignment:

Each of you will find one article to review on-line for other members of the class. The choice of an article should be governed by its containing SIGNIFICANT results for designers of interactive systems that are not ALREADY COVERED in your books or required readings. Your review should highlight the insights from the article that will benefit your fellow students in trying to design interfaces. The choice of the article to meet this objective will be part of the grading. The requirements for your professional review are:

It must be professional article from a professional journal.
It must be published in the last five years.
The review will be graded in part, by how significant the article is for providing knowledge on HCI design.

If the article is not from one of the digital libraries available at NJIT to all students you must provided me a hard copy. Every registered student has access, even from home by installing the VPN package available to students from the Computer Services web site.

Note that all the articles chosen for required reading I consider to be highly significant for designers, even today. Note that I will define at great length in our discussion board what a professional journal is. I will also point out in more detail what should be in the review.

When you have determined what article you plan to review you should put the complete reference (author, title, journal, volume, issue, date, pages) in the class conference I will set up for posting your candidate for a review article. You should also include a one paragraph statement as to why you think it is significant and also include a link to the article if it is on the Web. This will reserve the article for you (first come, first served). No student can duplicate another student's choice. There will be another special conference where you will enter your final review. When you enter the planned article in the conference, you must hand or mail me a copy of the original article. If I do not reject that choice within one week of putting the reservation comment in the class conference, it is accepted as your review article.

The review should focus concisely on the following points:

Introduction: Objective of the article and what is the findings or approach that it is based upon.
Results: What are the important observations, conclusions, findings, etc? Include any important details relevant to the individual findings. How well are the results supported by data and observations?
Issues: What open questions or issues are still unresolved?
Critique: How confident are you in the results of the article and why?

Due date for article choice: by the sixth week of the course.
Due date for article review entered: By the eight week of the course.

Some appropriate journals where you will find articles are: Human-Computer Interaction, International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, Communications of the ACM, IEEE Transactions on Man, Systems & Cybernetics, Ergonomics, IEEE Computer, ACM Computing Surveys, Cognitive Science, Cognitive Psychology, and Human Factors.

Conference papers, book chapters, and certainly magazine articles are not acceptable.

You can choose an article that will be later used as one of the references in your final course project. Whenever you mention an article in the class discussion or in an assignment be sure to use the reference format illustrated with the articles in this syllabus.

Article references should always contain all the following information:

author(s) (last, first names), (year of publication), Title, journal name, volume, issue, month, page range (#-#) and web URL if appropriate.

Course Notes:

The notes for my overheads are available from my homepage by clicking on the CIS 732 link.


There will be an exam based upon the book, the assigned readings, and the lectures. This exam occurs about two-thirds of the way through the course. A main objective of the exam is to determine if you did the readings and understood them. The material covered in the exam will be your understanding of terms and concepts important to the design of systems. These are the things I would expect you to remember five years from now if you are involved in the design of interfaces or if your are responsible for determining if someone else's design is good or not. My lectures should give some further insight into the sort of things I consider important in the readings and lectures.

Asking questions on the readings in the class conference to solicit my view on concepts is one way you can also get a good indication of what I might consider important. If you do not ask questions, I can only assume you understood everything you needed to read.

Sample Exam Questions:

What are three types of errors that humans are prone to make as a natural part of their cognitive behavior? What specific steps can you take to minimize the occurrence of these errors or to minimize their difficulty for the user when they do occur? Or. what specific design guidelines apply to countering these errors? Associate steps or guidelines with the error type.

What are two major distinct differences possible in the design of an interface if: (a) all your users are experts in that application area, or (b) all your users are novices in the application area. Take as an example to illustrate the differences a system to do program coding.

Ph.D. Question: What factors or conditions influence a persons encoding of information in memory and their later ability to recall and utilize the information? How do you explain from you understanding of memory why different people may take the same word or phrase to mean different things?

In the class conference, you will be shown a complete earlier exam.

Exam Question Assignment:

Everyone in the class must suggest a potential exam question based upon the readings or the lectures. It should require a synthesis across different concepts and not be merely a repeating of what was heard or read. After the questions have been gathered, there will be a second part to the discussion requiring everyone to reflect on the questions presented. This will be explained later.

Discussion Questions

There will be a number of on line discussion questions. These are usually in two parts. Everyone first independently expresses their view and then all the views are exposed to the whole class. At that point, everyone must pick a view that no one has yet replied to and either lend support to it or argue against it. Once you have replied to an initial position you may discuss any other entry that already has at least one reply.

Course Project:

You will do a final report on some specific topic related to the design of interactive systems. The final report must be based upon ten or more professional paper references. This report is to cover recent findings in this topic area and potential research areas. The purpose of this project is to demonstrate that you can go into the current professional literature and learn on your own about some specific aspect of interface design that we did not cover in depth in class. This single course is only the tip of the iceberg.

This paper will be done as a professional paper. It can be anywhere from 15 to 30 double spaced typed pages for the typical Masters student. I would expect somewhat more from a Ph.D. student. It should utilize anywhere from 10 to 20 professional literature references. References should be noted directly in the text in the form (author, year). The back of the paper should contain a complete list of references with all the details on the reference (title, authors, year, journal, volume, issue, pages).

The easiest way to find current articles about a topic is to identify a classic paper on the subject that is five to ten years old and then go to a library that has the Citation Index. This may then be used to find recent papers that reference the older paper. The Shneiderman Book lists a lot of classic articles in different topic areas. There is s citation index on the Web for the computing literature and I will reference that in the course.

The final report itself will be due the last class meeting date before finals week. This should be handed in with a paper copy and placed as an attachment in a class conference set up for that purpose.

To choose a topic you must put in the class conference a comment that contains:

1) Title and Abstract
2) Top level outline for Table of contents of your report
3) Three to five professional literature references to go with the topic.

The first one to choose a topic, in the conference set up for that purpose, by supplying the above information has that topic and no other student may take it. You should have picked your topic no later then week ten of the course. I will deduct points from the grade if you do not pick your topic by the tenth week.

You will be required to enter a one to two page executive summary in a class conference set up for the purpose and also put your paper in as an attachment. This is for the benefit of the other students who might want to learn about the topic. You will also have to send or hand me a hard copy. Mailed copies need to be sent to my home address. In addition, a copy must be placed in “” which carefully checks for plagiarized material form anything on the web including all the projects in this course and similar courses at other universities from the past five years. You must put the report in your own words and any copying with out the use of quote marks will be considered cheating which means an automatic F in the course and filing an action with the dean of students.

There are samples of prior student projects on the CIS 732 website linked to my homepage.


Your participation in class discussion and/or discussions in the on-line conference counts for 20% of the grade. 10% is for your answers and replies in any assigned discussion on line. 10% is for spontaneous discussion such as answering another students question before I have to or volunteering insightful information that was not required.

Participation is not based upon quantity except in the negative sense (e. g., none is of course poor), but upon quality. Participation can be based upon asking good questions as well as having good insights. Participation considers your response to other students in the class and not just to items solicited by the instructor. I will usually delay responding to a comment or answering a question until there has been an opportunity for others in the class to respond. It may also be based upon describing relative experiences you have had in your own work or in providing references you have run across that might be useful to other class members. Helping other class members and thereby reducing the amount of writing I have to do is a very good thing and allows me to concentrate my effort on the insights that usually I can only make.

If there is something sensitive, you wish to say you may enter comments anonymously. Sometimes you may not wish to identify your company when describing a prior experience relevant to our class material. If you would like credit for the anonymous comment, you may message me that you were the author of the comment.


On-line assignments will be due the same time for all students and mail in assignments must be post marked on the due date.

Any physical mail should be sent to my home address as going through the university adds extra days to the physical mail.

Murray Turoff
19 Meadowbrook Rd
Randolph, NJ, 07869

Do not send or mail material in any way that I am forced to sign for it, as this would delay its delivery and cause me considerable inconvenience and lost time.

We will be using a Webboard system at you may go to that location, choose the CIS 732 board for the current semester and when you are asked for your log in and password you can click on the button to establish a new account. It is important that you use an email in filling out your profile that you will regularly use during the course as I will send any needed email to you using that. In addition, some company firewalls may prevent you from using Webboard till you get the domain approved for going through the firewall and setting cookies.

You may send me private mail using the address However, questions that would be interesting to other students should be entered in the conference and not sent as a private message. Only send me email mail if for some reason you cannot get into our discussion board or have a private problem or question you need help with. You can also put question in the conferences anonymously if you feel it might appear too simple.

The class conferences is the place to ask any questions you have on the readings or any points you want me to elaborate on. My lectures augment the readings and are different from the readings. Unless you ask questions, I can only assume you understood the readings or the lectures.

Travel or work commitments are not acceptable excuses for handing in assignments late. Neither are such things as lack of backup to a crashed disk. Late assignments will result in lower grades. If you have travel commitments, you have to do your assignment ahead. If you have to miss class, you should make arrangements with a fellow student to use his or her notes or review my video tapes which are accessible to any student in the library video room.

Other material:

The lecture notes and other material is on the CIS 732 link from my homepage: You will find there the PowerPoint slides for the lecturers which you might want to print to make notes on as you listen to the lectures.

Computer Mediated Communications:

You need to get familiar with using WEBBOARD and expect to check in at no less than twice a week. If you let weeks go by without checking in you will find it very difficult to keep up with the material that has been entered.

If you do not have an account yet on Webboard from another class, carry out the New Account process to get yourself an account as soon as possible. Be careful to use an email address for your account that you will always be checking because that is the only way I can send you important private messages. To change the current email you have you must contact the administrator and request a change. You are not allowed to change your email. Also, indicate when you have it a website location in that field.

Do not ask me questions in private messages unless you feel you would be embarrassed to ask them in front of the class. In addition, if it is truly something private you may ask me in private.

There will be a “Practice and Café” conference and you may use that to practice being used to the system and to try such things as creating attachments, etc.

The following conferences (titles) will be set up just for questions so that it will be easy for others to find questions and answers that might interest them later

Questions on Assignments
Questions on the Shneiderman book
Questions on Turoff's draft book
Questions on the Lachman book
Questions on the course lectures
Questions on required professional paper readings
Questions other than above

Expected Grade Point Distribution:

Project: 25%
Exam: 20%
Participation: 20%
Review article: 5%
Design Work: 20%
To be determined: 10%

I, of course, reserve the right to revise this if necessary.

Instructor Instructions:

One of the first conferences you will see on line is called “instructor instructions.” This is read only as only I can enter things and it will have all the “must read” material for the course entered as the course develops. In addition, the very first root item in any other conference will always be my explanation of how that conference is to be used. So these roots are also “must read” as well.

Final Comment:

This is a highly interesting topic and it can be a fun course if everyone does their part. I have been active in this field since 1958 and have had practical experience as an employee, designer, developer, manager, and consultant. I had 15 years of work experience with IBM, a non profit and government before I entered Academia and my vita is also accessible from my homepage. Some of my papers on my homepage are relevant to this course. I enjoy trying to guide students to a better understanding of this topic. You can expect to work hard in this course but also to learn a great deal. If you just wish a good grade with little effort this is not the course you should be in. However, if you do an honest effort to cover the course material and do the assignments you should be able to get a B in this course even if this subject is very new to you. Because of the wide differences of background, I have to factor in what your starting point is. The corollary is that a student with a lot of experience and current knowledge who chooses not to do much work in this course can get lower than a B!

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