ah teaches interface design (User Interface Thinking lecture)

User Interface Thinking

Lecture outline

An introduction to the course as well as getting you started on sketching interfaces. Lecture slides will be made available on the day of the lecture.

A sketch

User Interface Thinking

A laserdisc

The 'laserdisc' edition


There will be a weekly announcement posted to Canvas and to the announcements page. These will serve as our main 'what is coming up' notification.

Contacting your instructors

A friendly how-to

Andrew and Ladan are available via:

Please complete the timezone survey on Canvas to help us determine the most flexible set of office hours.

Email rules

Please allow up to 2 business days for responses. We do not provide design critique via email. Please arrange a meeting or attend office hours for design critique.

To make our responses faster, please include the following in your email:

  • Your full name.
  • The course number (IAT-334).
  • Your lab number.
  • A clear question.

Chat conduct

Please treat our online interactions the same way you would in-person interactions.

If you have concerns about anyone's conduct at any point, please direct message or email Andrew.

Zoom etiquette

As we will be doing a number of code tutorials and critiques on zoom, please:

  • Use headphones
  • Keep your audio and video muted unless needed
  • Bring any materials for critique ready as a web link

Some zoom sessions will be recorded. I will let you know when I am recording.


What to expect

We will follow this pattern unless we indicate a change in our weekly announcement.

  • 10:30-11:20 — a live sketching exercise or project critique on Zoom.
  • 11:20-11:30 — mandatory zoom break.
  • 11:30-12:20 — open time to:
    • do the reading/reflection,
    • ask a project (or other) question.


What to expect

Labs will run as pre-arranged times to meet with Ladan, please bring your materials as a web link.

Andrew will be available for project questions in another Zoom room during some lab times. Availability will be indicated in the weekly announcements.

Lab D103

Apologies Lab D103, your timing is a bit separated from the rest of the class. You will have no lab on May 13 to 'reset' the lecture/lab timing.


A reminder that this course expects about 6-9 hours of work outside of class. Because we have flipped portions of the class, you will be able to complete some of this work during lecture or labs.

If you ever have concerns with workload please email Andrew.


Our main course-site

Andrew opens up Canvas and briefly introduces it here.



  1. Features — 10% (Individual)
  2. Heuristics — 20% (Individual)
  3. Interface Proposal — 15% (Group)
  4. Interface Design — 25% (Group)

70% of your grade.

This course is software agnostic

While we may make suggestions, we will not be requiring any specific tools be used for the purposes of this course. You can choose your own preferred tools as long as they allow you to accomplish the requirements of a given project.


We have tried to minimize the required group-work in the course. If you have any concerns about completing a team project, please email Andrew.



Readings are available entirely digitally.

Please read these before the lecture. There will be time set aside in lecture for reading these if need be.


Those terrifying things

Reading reflections will be taking place for reading quizzes.

There are ten reflections available, and you are only required to complete five. Reflections are due before the following lecture.

20% of your final grade.

Sketching exercises

Sketching exercises are to help further explore your projects and practice your sketching. We will typically discuss some of the prior week's sketches at the start of lecture.

10% of your final grade.


This course has a zero tolerance policy for plagiarism on projects. If you are found presenting work that is not your own or resubmitting old work without notice, you will receive a failing grade on that project. No exceptions.

Late or problematic submissions

Late submissions receive 10% per day late.

Problematic submissions — i.e. we can't open the URL or the wrong files were submitted — receive an immediate 20% off plus late penalties on the resubmission.

Concerns with grades

Please notify Andrew of any grading concerns within 10 days of the grades being released. This can include just getting some further feedback and/or wanting to have something regraded.

Course overview questions?

If you have any questions that linger about the course overview, please feel free to email Andrew or ask during our lecture time.

A linux terminal window

Why do we need interfaces?

Tron: Legacy Boardroom Interface
A illustration explaining the content, user, business and interaction aspects of interface design and how they overlap

CUBI model

Meanwhile, in industry...

The reality is that there is usually an entire team working on an interface. As shown on the previous slide, this could involve:

  • Interaction designers
  • User experience designers
  • Researchers
  • Visual designers
  • Usability engineers
  • Developers
  • and more!

Interaction vs. experience design

Cage match

User experience designers (UX): Typically concerned with the big picture of a product; what a user needs and why they would use it.

User interaction designers (UI): Typically concerned with how users interact with the product; layout, flows, and responses of the system to user input.

Visual to interactive

In SIAT you will have spent time dealing with image, type, and space. Now we will be spending more time focusing on behaviour and interaction.

Universal is not so...

There is no such thing as an objectively good user interface. Quality depends on the context: who the user is, what [they] are doing, and what [their] motivations are. Applying a set of one-size-fits-all principles makes user interface creation easier, but it doesn't necessarily make the end result better.

(Cooper et al, 2007)

Moving to prototypes

As part of this course you will move from research, to sketching, to prototyping, to research, to sketching, to prototyping, to research, to sketching, to prototyping...

P1: Features

For lecture...

For this week's lecture time, please make sure you have:

  • A paper and pen, or;
  • a tablet and stylus.

Next week's lecture

Aesthetic Affordances

Considering guidelines and affordances in designing interactions.

Pre-recorded lectures and slides will typically become available the day of the lecture.