Click on the links below to see the description and requirements for each of the assignments in this course.

Semester project

Semi-structured observation

Project proposal

HelloWorld Application

Paper prototype

Poster/demo on project progress

Location and networking assignments

Semester Project

The semester-long project in this class consists of a path from ethnographic-style field work, to concept ideas, to a design, and finally to a resulting working system that creates a new experience for users on a mobile device.  Students should start by selecting a domain of interest (e.g. music playback/sharing, photo sharing, urban navigation, mobile health, fitness, education, etc.) and will conduct a rapid field study in this area to gain design inspiration.  In the analysis of this study, a concept for a final project should be chosen.  Good final projects have a larger scope and aim to create novel experiences in the world over simpler task-focused systems or mobile versions of web experiences.  Successful projects also take advantage of the unique aspects of mobile devices (context sensing, pervasive media capture, social connection, and near-always available internet).  Projects generally include a service component in addition to the mobile application.

Each group will do a ten minute final presentation (7 minute presentation, 3 minute question session). In this presentation, you will tell the story of the semester, describing the generative study, concept development, related work, design, usability, implementation, and final testing of your project.

Semi-Structured Observation

Goal: To develop understanding of area of interest and inspire design ideas for new applications.

Process: Come up with a few research questions. Observe people performing activities in your area of interest. If possible ask questions about their use that help you understand answers to questions. Write exact quotes or observations on post-it notes, a single idea to a note. Try to capture ~75 notes.

Examples of Notes

From a study on music use:

"Some of my CDs remind me of a time I had and I like to put it on and remember that time I had with it. Fall always gets me in the mood to play music I always listen to. Me and my sisters sitting on the porch and talking in our Nike sweatshirts. We used to play this song over and over when we went to her house."

"I often don't like listening to the old stuff because…it sometimes takes me back to somewhere I don't want to be..."

"She made this CD of music that related to them, she had this basket of CDs at the wedding and everyone took one and the bubbles..."

"Clock radio wakes me up as a routine every morning. I turn off my clock radio and turn on my stereo because it has better sound..."

Has CDs in a stack with no cases – sorts like playing cards.

For Next Class

Bring in raw data on ~75 notecards, each observation on a card – do not start any analysis.

In Class

We'll be performing an affinity analysis based on your observations to help inspire new ideas, solutions based in real world problems. From analysis, we'll create design ideas for your semester project.

Project Proposal

Written Proposal

Length: 10 page max (including figures, page count does not include "Front Matter"). Although a single student may be serving as editor and content gatherer, all students in the groups are required to author sections of the proposal related to their chief area of responsibility.

Front Matter

  1. Title page: name of project, names of team members, group email address, type of report (proposal), and current date.
  2. Abstract: one paragraph, ca. 150 words; state the problem, methods, expected results; no figures or references in abstract; do not use first person pronouns.
  3. Table of contents
  4. List of figures, if you have four or more. Figures should be numbered and labeled.


  1. Introduction: background motivation for the project. This section establishes the need for the project; state primary and secondary audience.
  2. Statement of objectives: the clear objectives set for your project, purpose of the service/site; its scope.
  3. Description of project: makes us "see" the project by describing proposed look and feel (use figures and flowchart), design strategies you will employ, technical requirements, tools needed and how you will acquire them, any platform/browser dependencies.
  4. Tasks and milestones: show a Gantt chart which divides the life of the project into definable tasks (vertical axis) over time in weeks (horizontal axis).
  5. Punctuate the horizontal axis with important milestones you are expected to meet.
  6. Roles each team member will perform.

Please Note: All figures are given a caption and a figure number (placed below the figure) and are referenced in the text ("See Figure 1"). Figures should be placed within the text as close as possible to the reference.

End Matter

  1. References (if applicable)

Oral Presentation

Time limit: 8 minutes (max.), followed by 7 minutes of Q & A.

Oral Presentation Format

  1. Introduction: background motivation for the project. This section establishes the need for the project and states the primary and secondary audience.
  2. Statement of objectives (be specific as possible)
  3. Description of project: makes us "see" the project by describing proposed look and feel, design strategies you will employ, technical requirements, tools needed and how you will acquire them; note any platform/browser dependencies.
  4. A preliminary mockup (can include visuals, wireframe, flowchart)
  5. Project timeline
  6. Gantt chart
  7. List of deliverables: what you can realistically finish by the end of the semester
  8. Project team roles
  9. Q & A

HelloWorld Application

Create an application that displays "Hello 21w.789" and has a button. When this button is pressed, the text should change to "Goodbye 21w.789".

Install this application on your group development phone and show it in class at the end of your presentation.

Paper Prototype

Each group should create a paper prototype of the system they plan to implement for their final project.  Each screen should be drawn on a separate piece of paper and any menus or overlays should be cut out of additional sheets of paper.  In addition, groups should identify 2-3 key "tasks" that they would like to use for the usability evaluation. In class, students will try "using" the paper prototypes from other groups and completing these key tasks.  In general, it is best to choose a few of the most common use cases as well as any that are proving difficult to design in order to get feedback and improve the design while it's still in paper form.  During the usability study, one member of your group should present the tasks and act as the "phone" changing overlays and screens as the user touches the screen.  The other member of your group should take notes.  The user should "think aloud" and verbalize what they are thinking while using the paper prototype and member of the project team should try to stay quiet and not direct the user.  Failure conditions should be defined (e.g. users have 2 minutes to complete each task) so that the study moves along and users are not overly frustrated.  At the end of the session when all tasks have been explored, the project team can ask the user questions about their thought process or interpretation of the interface.  Notes on the feedback obtained as well as the paper prototypes themselves are due in the following class.

Poster/Demo on Project Progress

Prepare a poster explaining your project, initial research investigation, and progress to date. Have a demo of the core use cases of your system working on the device. In class, we will rotate around (similar to usability evaluation) and comment on other groups' projects, get feedback from us.

Location and Networking Assignments

Location Assignment

The purpose of this assignment is to explore the properties of various location services that are available on the phone in real-world settings. You will be creating a small application and testing it and presenting the results in a short report.

You should build an application on your smartphone platform of choice that captures location (lat/lon) as well as accuracy error and logs it to a file. You should be able to run the application in three modes (wifi and GPS off, wifi on and GPS off, and wifi and GPS on). You should follow a route near your home or school in each of these conditions and save the log files. This route should include both indoor and outdoor locations.

Analyze the log files to find differences in error in each case. Try to discover why the error occurred and why it was greater in some places than others. Write 2 pages (including figures where necessary) describing your findings. Submit this text along with your log files for this assignment.

Networking Assignment

Goal: Measure the download speed and latency of downloading a file on multiple networks in multiple conditions.

Write a simple program that downloads your choice of a PDF (its size should be approximately half a megabyte) and records the latency (time until first byte is received) and the throughput (bytes/sec) for each 10 second interval.

Download the file on EDGE, 3G, WiFi, and 4G (if available on your device) networks in at least three different places. Try to pick different places (at home, inside a building on campus, outdoors, etc.). Most phones let you disable 3G in the settings in order to get 2G in the same location.

Write 2 pages on your results where you explain your methods, data observed, and any interesting findings. Submit this along with your log files.