Affordances and User-Created Artifacts

A great example of user created artifacts that I noticed this week is the labeling of a mixing board. Mixing boards allow for different sound sources to be modified then combined to a central output. This is extremely helpful, if you have multiple mike sources on stage and would like to dynamically change their sensitivity throughout a performance or talk.

This is a standard mixing board. Notice how all the sliders look the same and there is no default place for labeling inputs.

Although the slider design affords pushing and pulling, it nevertheless looks identical regarding of the input source. Therefore, AV people often will have to hand label each input using tape. This user-created artifact is easy to implement while allowing unlimited flexibility for the next job where the inputs might change.

An example of hand written labels for the mixing board’s inputs. These are commonly known as scribble strips.

Evaluation of the SmartPark system

Conducted by Sruthi Iyer and Siroberto Scerbo on April 24, 2013

Executive Summary

The SmartPark system improves conventional university parking services by identify unoccupied parking spaces around campus through continuous automated monitoring;  and provide users with information on time-sensitive parking restrictions for occupied spaces via mobile-friendly web services. The goal is to managing the parking experience at Virginia Tech by providing permit holders a rapid and a less stressful parking experience.

We performed a formative evaluation on a high level prototype using standard usability heuristics to determine areas that needed to be addressed. From this evaluation, we found over twelve different problems for both the mobile and kiosk versions of the software and arranged the findings in a cost-importance table. In total, we found five high priority items for the kiosk and another five high priority items for the mobile version.


This evaluation is of the SmartPark system high level prototypes for both the mobile app and standalone kiosk. The SmartPark system improves conventional university parking services by identify unoccupied parking spaces around campus through continuous automated monitoring;  and provide users with information on time-sensitive parking restrictions for occupied spaces via mobile-friendly web services. The goal is to managing the parking experience at Virginia Tech by providing permit holders a rapid and a less stressful parking experience. It is ment to be used by all Virginia Tech permit holders–student, faculty, staff, etc.–at specified kiosks or on a mobile device.

For this evaluation we were provided a series of tasks representative of common user work tasks for this system. As this is a formative evaluation not all aspects of the prototype were working, so we evaluated logging in, finding current parking spaces, adding time to a metered spot, and finding where to park and what the associated rules for that lot are.



This evaluation was conducted by two usability engineering students, one female and one male, in computer science. Both participants have technical expertise in coding, and experience using heuristic methods for evaluation.


As mentioned previously, we were given tasks by our client that represented frequent work tasks for users. Below are the tasks broken up by system:


  • Register as a new user into the system
  • Login
    • Login by scanning your ID
    • Login as a visitor
    • Login as a student
  • Figure out where you are parked.
  • You are parked in a metered spot, add 45 minutes to your meter
  • Print out a map of where you are parked
  • Find where you can read about how to appeal a citation
  • Find out where you can park if you’re a commuter, graduate, or resident parker
  • Find out where near Durham hall you can park

Mobile App

  • Register as a new user into the system with a commuter graduate permit
  • Login as a Virginia Tech student user
  • Figure out where you are parked
  • Find out the parking rules of the spot you are parked in
  • Add 45 minutes to your metered spot
  • Figure out what lots you can park in
  • Find a location by an address
  • Find out where you currently are on campus (not your car).
  • Find the open spots near a building whose name you know, but whose location you don’t know.

Evaluation Design

For this evaluation we performed each task in succession, using a usability heuristic evaluation to determine areas that need to be addressed. Once we had a sufficient number of problems we ranked them and created a cost-importance table.


Here is the final cost-importance table derived from our evaluation.

Problem Group Problem Imp Solution Cost Priority Ratio Priority Rank Cumulative Cost
Kiosk Can’t login as student or visitor M Have option of scanning or logging in as student/visitor 4 M 1 4
Search for location enters infinite loop. No way to enter home screen M Fix bugs with respect to what each button does 4 M 2 8
System allows person to register without selecting permit type 5 Don’t have the “Register” button until all fields have been entered 1 5000 3 9
“Search for Location” and “Where can I park” sound like options that perform similar tasks 5 Clear descriptions of what each task does 2 2500 4 11
After making payment, goes to screen with general information and comes back to payment screen. Don’t know if I paid successfully or not 5 Give a payment confirmation screen with continue button to take to home screen and separate button to view General Information 3 1667 5 14
Cross button not clearly visible on “View Map of Campus” 1 Have Back button 1 1000 6 15
Smart App On entering this email id and password, clicking on Continue doesn’t redirect to any other screen M Take back to home page/main menu 2 M 1 2
Can’t reach screen to make payment on the meter M Give payment options for after parking is done 5 M 2 7
In “Where can I park” option, shows red crosses and green ticks. I don’t need to see where I can’t park 5 Only show where one can park 3 1667 3 10
In “Where can I park” option, one can click on red crosses and not green ticks. Confused as to where I can park 5 Don’t show any marks of where one can’t park 3 1667 4 13
When I click on a location in “Where can I park” asks for email and password though already signed in 5 Take back to home page/main menu 5 1000 5 18
After selecting “Search for Location” and “Current Location” after that, there is a Continue/Cancel option 1 No need for such an option. Just take to screen showing the current location after this button has been clicked on 1 1000 6 19
Within “View map of campus” first there is a Back button then a Home button in different areas of the screens 3 Make Back button or Home button consistent across all screens and in the same location on the screen 5 600 7 24
On “Your Car Info” there is a small magnifying glass icon which indicates a zooming feature on the map but actually opens a search bar. I don’t need a search bar for looking at “My car info” 1 Remove this icon or have a zoom in feature 3 333 8 27

Sketching an Emotional Usage Experience of a Mobile Device

There are two ways that I personally interact with my cellphone that produces an emotional response. The first is adding symbols to a contact to denote a special connotation.

This the contact card for my girlfriend Kate.

This the contact card for my girlfriend Kate.

An example of this is the heart shape for my girlfriend Kate. Since my phone currently doesn’t support symbols, I created it with the less than character and the number 3. This symbol brings me great joy whenever I look at my phone for a missed call or a text message on the home screen.

Text message from Kate.

Text message from Kate.

I often notice the symbol first and immediately know that the message is from her, making it more special. Another way that I personalize her message, which is great for not having to look at the screen, is customizing her ring tone and text message tone and vibration pattern.

Custom tones and vibration patterns for both calls and text

Custom tones and vibration patterns for both calls and text

I often will send her a text before something important, like a talk or presentation. During the presentation, I receive her text message (which I know because of the vibration pattern), and a feel a sense of calm and reassurance.  This emotional response wouldn’t be as strong if I didn’t know who was actually text messaging me.

Persona – DJ Rocksteady

The product is a digital club that provides a real-time music sharing. Similar to a physical club, there are different “rooms” or genres that users can enter and either be DJs or listeners. DJs provide music for the room, from the turntable library, and get rated per song by the listeners. If the room likes the DJ’s choice, he / she continues to play from their queue, if not, the song cuts out and the next DJ starts. This means that all music provided is chosen by a person, rather than an algorithm. Listeners, in addition to voting, can post comments that display above their avatar in the room. This helps make connections to new users and potentially create conversations with people who share similar tastes in music. However, it also allows for a richer interaction by providing character customization and a visual indicator of how popular a room is. In addition to these visual comments, there is also a public and private chatting service available between all users.

User characteristsics

Some of the users characteristics I expect to see for this product are:

  • enjoys music
  • range of music knowledge
  • average person
  • unsatisfied with current radio applications (pandora, spotify, etc)
  • like social aspects of music
  • wants to listen with a group a friends who may not be collocated
  • wants to meet people with similar music tastes
  • aspires to a be a DJ
  • a wide range of ages and lifestyles

The persona – DJ Rocksteady

Kevin linden is a 14 year old freshman in high school living in a small rural community. He participates in the school band, and has recently become interested in recording and mixing music. He often shares his creations and mashups with friends and the world via YouTube.

Looking to take his craft to the next level he has started soliciting his viewers for feedback. Unfortunately, he isn’t able to get much through the largely unrelated comments on his YouTube channel. Another option would be to try his hand at playing his music for live audiences, but he doesn’t have many choices in his small town and is too young for most clubs / bars. The nearest opportunity is a bowling alley over an hour away, but without a drivers license he feels bad pestering his parents to drive him and his friends back and forth.

Design process

To come up with the persona of Kevin, I looked for a situation in which turntable would really make the persona happy and could showcase something unique compared to other competing products. I also wanted a persona that was relatable to the design team. Kevin is just a kid with a dream to make it big–which is an idea that most people can relate to, especially designers.

Developing Kevin

I started developing Kevin by first brainstorming potential users, I thought of the different roles and the people that would fill them. From there, I looked at the different user characteristics and determined which ones I found most impactful and unique to turntable.

I ultimately choose Kevin, because he hit many different characteristics that differentiated turntable from other music sharing services such as spotify or pandora–which shows the need for this type of service.

Hierarchical Task Inventory

3DUI Research Website

For this assignment I investigated the usage of my research website, and modeled the task structure below. I have experience using this system, because I was the person who designed the system. There are two roles, the students and the admin / faculty. The students are technically a subset of the admin / faculty but I modeled them as a separate branch.

Hierarchical Task Inventory

Hierarchical Task Inventory for 3DUI Research Website

Hierarchical Task Inventory for 3DUI Research Website

Why I love the new SC2 Inteface

Overview and UI Goals

Starcraft 2 (SC2)  is a real-time strategy game, set in outer-space, where players control one of three races in battle. Players have the option of playing against both the computer and other human players in many different ways. The main goal of the main UI is to allow people to quickly and correctly select the play style that they are interested in. Here is a list of the play options currently available and whether they count towards a player’s public rank:

  • Campaign single player – unranked
  • Multiplayer with computer and/or human allies vs computer and/or human opponents – unranked
  • Mulitplayer with two, three, or four human allies vs the same number of human opponents (1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 4v4)- ranked or unranked
  • Multiplayer with multiple human opponents every person for themselves (FFA) – ranked
  • Arcade multiplayer with multiple human opponents in a campaign style of play – unranked

Heart of the Swarm (HoTS) Beta Interface


Screenshot2013-02-03 15_46_47

Heart of the Swarm landing page

As you can see from the list above, the the player is basically split between single, multiplayer, and arcade play options. Therefore, it is a reasonable approach to make the initial action of the player to select what type of play option they want so they know all future decisions will be in that context. In the beta, these choices are presented immediately to the player on the landing page along with important news, and chat rooms (which helps facilitate group play and community building).

Screenshot2013-02-04 16_04_54

Wings of Liberty landing page

Although this may seem intuitive that is not the case with the current incarnation of the UI. In Wings of Liberty (WoL, the current expansion) the player has only quick access to “Starcraft” (a terribly in-descriptive button) or “Arcade” from every page.  The majority of the landing page is taking up by the player’s current campaign mission and a little bit by news. In order to get to the other play styles, players go to the “Starcraft” screen, which lists all the single player and multiplayer play options. There is also a quick menu, which has a list of play styles and their hotkeys listed. I personally don’t use this menu as often as I should, and find myself going through three pages to get to the menu I want rather than two as I do in HoTS.

Screenshot2013-02-04 16_05_01

Wings of Liberty Quick Menu

Although HoTS doesn’t have single player mode available, since it is still in beta, I hope they don’t automatically place campaign information on the landing page. There are lots of players who don’t even play the campaign and simply play online. The multiplayer community is strong and competitive enough, that I would hope that the landing page would serve as quick launch for a player’s most recently played mode. For example, if the last play option I played was 2v2 multiplayer, I would want to see that on my landing page with my default settings (race, map preferences, etc). That way, the game would feel more tailored to my play style and would require less clicking around to get to the features I am interested in.

The revamped multiplayer menu system

Since HoTS doesn’t have single player, I am going to look at the multiplayer menu system only. The first important thing to note is that HoTS makes a big terminology differentiation in terms of multiplayer that was once obfuscated from the player.  They have divided the multiplayer option into “Matchmaking” and “Custom Game”. This simple terminology change is brilliant, and increases the usability for new players. First, I will discuss the “Matchmaking” menu then go into why this change is helpful.

Screenshot2013-02-04 17_18_29

Heart of the Swarm “Matchmaking” menu

The “Matchmaking” menu brings some much needed changes to SC2. In particular, it lists all play styles in a way that doesn’t require players to changed pages, much like a Javascipt navigation menu in modern web design.  With the new page layout, players can see all play option at the top and see the details of a selected option at the bottom.

Screenshot2013-02-04 16_05_06

Wings of Liberty “Starcraft” menu

In WoL players first have to go the “Starcraft” page from which they can choose which play option they would like, which loads on a new page.  This means that if players wanted to play quick match, yet they accidentally clicked cooperative game, they would have to select “Starcraft”, wait for the page to load, and then choose the right option. This new way has three great advantages. The first is for novices who may not know what all the play options mean. They can quickly check out each option without have to go back to the entire listing. The second advantage is that current players won’t have their workflow completely changed – they select multiplayer then they choose their play option. (The menu time to get into the game hasn’t changed for established players.) The last advantage, is that players have all play options constantly visible to them, which may encourage players to try different play modes. In WoL, if a players breezes through the “Starcraft” screen, they may never really take the time to check out the other play options. Where as in HoTS they are hanging out up top saying “try me”. One thing I do like about the quick match screen in WoL is the very graphic representation of all the races. It seems a bit more polished than the HoTS button interface (I assume HoTS will have something similar once the beta phase if finished).

Another great change to the play option listing, as you may have noticed, is the names. Finally, we have more descriptive names which makes it easier for novices to know what exactly they are signing up for. In WoL multiplayer, there is cooperative, quick match, and custom game play options. Cooperative, has now been changed to versus A.I., which is more descriptive in many ways.  For one, quick match can be cooperative, so the name cooperative is misleading. The main difference in cooperative mode is that players are playing against the A.I., so why not call it that. Quick match, which is a ranked style of play, has now become ranked and unranked. Now you may think, why has it been changed to both, wasn’t it only ranked in WoL?  The explanation for this goes back to the “Matchmaking” vs “Custom game” terminology.  Quick match got its name from the fact that a player doesn’t have to choose a map, game setting, or find players manually to play. In WoL this ment ranked ladder play, where players are placed into leagues and compete against similarly skilled players. In HoTS, since the initial choice of “Matchmaking” has made it clear, a more descriptive name of ranked or unranked can be used. This simple change in the parent level has made for a new feature (unranked quick matches) as well as cleared up a very vague terminology from WoL. This leaves custom game, which has been kept the same as before but one level up, which I think works better than having it with the rest of the multiplayer games. The reason being that the majority of players probably play games where SC2 matches the opponents automatically. Custom games are usually used by professional gamers in tournaments or in practice, since it is the only way to ensure their opponent.

Next Match PLease!

Screenshot2013-02-03 16_04_58

Heart of the Swarm post game review interface

Another great feature of the HoTS multiplayer UI is the post game screen. In SC2 players have to master 4 areas to be successful: economy, production, army control, and overall strategy. Therefore, for players to get better there has to be some type of post game analysis that helps them identify their weak points. Economy and production post analysis reviews are usually displayed in graphs or stats about how much money was in the bank, how much was collected, and how many units were produced. This is pretty straight forward in terms of seeing where a player was lacking. Army control and overall strategy however are much more difficult.  The only way to do this is through watching replays of previously played matches and determining the point of failure.

Screenshot2013-02-04 16_37_39

Wings of Liberty post game review interface

HoTS post game review provides players with not only the graphs and stats from WoL, it also provides a direct access to the replay – a much needed feature for almost all players. Even more excitingly is that the “watch replay solo” buttons turns into a “watch replay as a team” button if it was a cooperative game.  That way players can control the same instance of the replay so they can better discuss their results. This team replay feature doesn’t exist in WoL so it is unfair to compare the two in terms of functionality, however, providing this common ground among teammates is brilliant. Another great feature that was added in HoTS was a subtle way of alerting players when they had beaten their previous average.  This is a great way of showing players when they are progressing, so they can adapt strategies for future success. Another tool to assist in understanding strategy is the “map info” button, which provides the player with details about the map the match was played on. There is community feedback, and chat rooms associated with each entry to discuss strategy and exploitable aspects of the map. Last but not least, I love the “Play again” button. As many avid SC2 players will attest, it is very difficult to only play one game (especially if you lose). The “Play again” feature assumes players are playing the same type of game and simply re-enters them into the matchmaking queue immediately.

In WoL, the post game review UI is very minimal. There is all the stats information, minus the better than average alert, but the only way to get to the reply is to go to the replay screen (the camera button under “Arcade”) which list all the replays, then select the last game. This is a very clunky interaction that hinders people from looking at their replays, rather than encourage them. The other annoying thing is when players want to play again, they have to go back to the quick match screen, and select find match again, even if they want to play with the same options as before.

Bringing people together

As I mentioned earlier the main HoTS landing page has a section dedicated to group chats. Although the chat system is similar to other main stream chat clients there are two ways people can find one another. The first is by knowing their username, whether through asking another player in real life of having played with them in game. The second is through group chats, which are basically chat rooms with a common interest. Since directly connecting with real life players, or previously played teammates is much easier, I believe the HoTS interface is looking to attract more people to the group chat functionality. The SC2 community is quite vibrant, so by adding emphasis on group chat through the landing page, I believe more people might participate in deeper conversations in game rather than through message boards alone (this is also supported though new features where groups can post news and show rosters of all members).

WoL obfuscates group chat by not only having it is a separate button next to the buddy list, it also requires players to know the the group name to join. By having highlighted groups and richer group pages, I hope HoTS will begin to foster the community in-game as much as it has out-of-game.

 Wrap Up

The HoTS interface brings some great and needed changes to SC2. I am glad to see Blizzard (makers of the SC2), working as hard on the interface as they have on all the new units and levels for this expansions. I hope to see the interface become more polished with added bells and whistles once the game is officially released and I look forward to the third expansion in the coming years!