Students will be organized into groups of four or five, with each student adopting one or more roles. Roles can include the following, in no particular order:

  • Editor
  • Writer
  • Programmer
  • Producer
  • Technical architect
  • Multimedia designer (graphics, sound, video)
  • Project manager
  • Designer
  • Information architect
  • Storyboarder
  • Liaison
  • Content gatherer


The primary focus of the class is the development of the group projects. Projects definitely do not have to be Web sites, but they must make use of some kind of interactive, electronic communication medium. All project proposals must be approved by the instructors. Groups may choose a project of their own design or from a list of several suggested project ideas (below). Successful projects blend an interesting idea, rich content, thoughtful use of technology, and strong audience interaction.

  • Choose-your-own-adventure online books, other games
  • Online residential communities
  • Web site for an elementary school, with a focus on how teachers could use it to lighten their workload
  • Student/faculty portal
  • New innovative online services targeting the MIT community
  • Site for prospective and/or incoming frosh to communicate with current students
  • Site to facilitate mentoring between frosh and upperclassmen
  • Redesign of MIT's top-level home page


This document gives an overview of what is expected for each of the major student assignments in 21W.785. Students should follow this guideline closely when doing project work.

Relevant sections include:

Project Proposal Presentation Expectations

Students are required to create either a PowerPoint presentation or Web slide show with visuals to communicate their project proposal simply and directly. Time limit is 15-20 minutes (max.) The presentation should include:

  • Introduction: background motivation for the project. This section establishes the need for the project and states the primary and secondary audience.
  • 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, platform/browser dependencies.
  • A preliminary mockup.
  • Project timeline and/or Gantt chart.
  • List of deliverables: what you can realistically finish by the end of the semester.
  • Project team roles.
  • Q & A.

Written Proposal Expectations

In addition to the oral proposal, students are asked to submit a ten-page written proposal. 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

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


  • Introduction: background motivation for the project. This section establishes the need for the project; state primary and secondary audience.
  • Statement of objectives: the clear objectives set for your project, purpose of the service/site; its scope.
  • 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, platform/browser dependencies.
  • 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). Punctuate the horizontal axis with important milestones you are expected to meet.
  • Roles each team member will perform.
  • Overview of the technical implementation plans (if applicable)

End Matter

  • References
  • Dependencies

Final Oral Presentation Expectations (40% with final written report)

Students are also required to assess their project in a final oral presentation. The final oral presentation will be largely in the form of a progress report that details what you have done, what you have changed, how you attempted/reached your original goals, what the results of usability testing were etc. Another big part of this presentation is the project demonstration where students will show their final project to the class through a live online demo.

Time limits: 5 minutes speaking time per group member, 10-15 minutes for project demonstration, 5 minutes for Q&A.


  • State title of project and names of presenters.
  • Reiterate motivation, scope, and statement of objectives (tell us if your original objectives or scope of project has changed since the proposal, and why). Brief restatement of motivation; objectives are more important.


  • Current state of activities. Two key questions: What have you accomplished so far? What remains to be done?
  • State any changes in technical requirements for project development or for intended audience to view it.
  • Identify key problems encountered, and explain how they were solved. If problems were not resolved what effects did they have on the project and its design?
  • Management/group dynamics. How did you organize your project?
  • Changes in your proposed look and feel.
  • Changes due to results from usability testing.
  • PROJECT DEMO: show us the current state of the design. Explain changes from initial proposal.


  • Show the progress achieved by reference to a revised time chart.
  • Indicate what looming problems you expect and how you hope to resolve these crises.
  • Mention extensions to your project and possible future improvements.


  • Group members invite and respond to questions from the audience.

Final Written Report Expectations (40% with final oral presentation)

Students are required to write a 10-15 page final report that should build upon their final oral presentation, and fill in extra details about their projects.

Front Matter

  • Title page: name of project, URL, type of report, contributors, location, and date.
  • Abstract: ca.150 words, problem/need, methods, results/conclusions/recommendations (the whole report in miniature; no figures or references).
  • Table of contents (all headings in the report appear here).
  • List of figures & their corresponding labels (if more than four).


  • Introduction: background/motivation and intended audience(s) for your project. Leads to a statement of objective and general description of your overall design.
  • Technical approach: design choices; tools used; platform dependencies (if any); what you needed to implement the design. Accommodations for different browsers. Performance issues.
  • Description of design: (with figures in written report instead of demo as in oral presentation); overall metaphor for the design; look and feel; how it works; user scenario(s); navigation; links to sites and reasons for those links.
  • Evaluation of design in light of motivation: problems; what you had to leave undone; what didn't work and effects on project; studies of users; project management - were your time estimates realistic?
  • Conclusions/Recommendation for future work: what still needs to be done if the project were to be continued; how best to maintain the project.

End Matter

  • Acknowledgements (if any).
  • References: hardcopy and Web references.
  • Appendices (documentation of programming when appropriate - no need to print out code or Javadocs etc. - an overview of modules/classes designed will be sufficient).