ah teaches interface design (Aesthetic Assessment lecture)

Aesthetic Assessment

Lecture outline

More on affordances and heuristic assessment of interfaces. Lecture slides will be made available on the day of the lecture (June 1).

Exploratory research

We are looking to understand the context. For this course exploratory research is helpful in discovering context of use and user experience. Both of these help us define problems that may require solving or evaluative research.

What is our question?

Exploratory research questions should explore relationships, interactions, effects. For example:

  • What do existing voice chat features look like?
  • How might the purpose of use (i.e. school vs work) influence the user's actions?
  • How do users navigate this feature?

Evaluating sources

Consider a couple of things when evaluating our research sources:

  • Who: Is this person an expert? What demonstrates they are?
  • What: Is this relevant? Does it seem credible in relation to other sources?
  • When: How recent is this material?

Primary & secondary sources

Good research tends to involve both primary and secondary sources.

Primary sources help illustrate individual experiences or perceptions. These may include:

  • Photographs or video footage
  • Interviews or transcripts
  • Statistical data or empirical studies
  • Newspaper articles
  • Social media posts

Secondary sources help describe, summarize, or evaluate knowledge. These may include:

  • Books or magazines
  • Articles or essays
  • Documentaries or podcasts

Evaluative research

We are trying to assess an existing item. In the context of this course this will mostly focus on the usability of an interface.

In this course we will make use of Nielsen's 10 Usability Heuristics.


These are 'best practices' discovered over years of trial and error; or from research.

Visibility of system status

The system should keep users informed about what the system is doing.

An animation showing how Twitter indicates you are moving between sections while horizontally dragging the interface
An animation illustrating how when clicking on the icon to flag an email in Mac Mail there is no visual indication that it has been 'checked'
The Mac OS 'beachball' icon that keeps spinning when it is unclear how long a task will take

Match between system and the real world

The system should work with the user's language — words, phrases, and concepts.

An illustration of various gesture-based interactions such as touch, double-tap, pinch

Care of Touch Gesture Guide (Luke Wroblewski)

User control and freedom

Users make mistakes and should be able to easily exit from an unwanted action.

Creating a new twitter post showing a clear option to cancel

Care of Nielsen Norman Group

Consistency and standards

Ensure consistency within your design (internal consistency), and between your design and other products (external consistency).

Internal and external consistency


Inside one application or a family of applications under the control of a company (i.e. Adobe Creative Suite).


Established conventions in an industry or across applications at large (i.e. ctrl+c or command+c).

Two Photoshop colour pickers showing very different styles of colour picking

Error prevention

Aim for careful design which prevents a problem from occurring.

An animation illustrating a phone number being formatted as the user types it into the form

Recognition rather than recall

Reduce the amount of memory use. Make options visible and do not require the user to remember something between two states.

Flexibility and efficiency of use

Shortcuts for expert users allows an interface to cater to inexperienced and experienced users.

An animation illustrating a user moving components of an interface around to their needs

Aesthetic and minimalist design

Provide only the necessary content and visuals for the user to accomplish their goal.

Care of <a href="https://www.lukew.com/" target="_blank">Luke Wroblewski</a>

Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

Error messages should be understandable to the user and suggest solutions.

Two error responses, one providing a cryptic message and the other providing a clearer message with directions for the user

Help and documentation

It is better if documentation is not needed, but it may be necessary to help users complete a task.

P1: Features
Sketching exercise

Next labs

We will be setting up pre-scheduled times for you to meet with Ladan. Please check the announcement for your time.

Next lecture

Understanding Users

Looking at different types of users, their goals, and how we can understand them. Pre-recorded lectures and slides will typically become available the day after the lecture.