Before implementing a graphical interface, it is always
a good idea to 1) perform an analysis of the set of tasks that the
interface is expected to perform, 2) develop some type of specification
document that details the tasks and how the interface will implement
them, and 3) draw sketches of the proposed interface and show
them to a number of potential users to get their feedback. Usually
the process of drawing the sketches is an interative process that
is repeated a number of times before a prototype is implemented.
The advantage of drawing sketches before implementing the interface
is that it is much quicker to draw the sketches than to implement
the interface. The most obvious problems with the interface can
generally be caught with the sketches and only a minimal investment
of time is required to catch them.
In this assignment you are going to perform a simplified version of
this design phase. You will write a preliminary version of your user
manual, draw sketches of your proposed interface, and provide a timeline
for your proposed implementation. Your user manual
will represent your task description document and your sketches will allow
the TAs and myself to evaluate your proposed implementation and suggest
changes before you actually start the implementation.
The user manual should be written for a potential user and describe how to
use the interface. Basically it should provide a concise description of
the behaviors and features supported by the interface, and if necessary
a description of your application. For example, if you are implementing
a game, please describe the game, the rules, how it is scored, etc.
The user manual should be an 8 page or less
document, single-spaced, and use at least a 10 point font. It should be
well-written, well-organized, grammatically correct, and spell checked. Points
will be deducted if your manual does not meet these standards. Your manual
may refer to the sketches and the sketches will not count toward your page
count. If the manual refers to the sketches, please number the sketches to
make it easy for us to refer to them.
For this assignment you should draw a number of sketches of your
proposed graphical interface. I recommend hand drawing the sketches
because it will be much quicker and is the medium most designers use.
However, you can use a drawing editor if that's what makes you feel the
most comfortable. A set of example sketches will be handed out in class
as a guide in drawing your sketches. Some of the possible sketches that
you might draw include:
- A sketch of the initial scene. In other words, a sketch
of what the graphical interface
looks like when the application is first started.
- A sketch of a typical scene, or, if there is more than one
typical scene, then a sketch of all the typical scenes.
A typical scene is what the graphical interface
might look like after a number of operations have been performed.
- Sketches of hidden objects such as menus, dialog boxes, and error
- Sketches of how properties of graphical objects are linked to
application data. For example, suppose that the color of a film
object in a movie browser depends on the movie category it
represents (e.g., western, comedy, romance, drama). Then one
might sketch what the color of the film object will look like
for each movie category.
- Sketches of feedback objects or sketches of how
application objects will change their properties to show interim
feedback during an operation. Examples of feedback objects might
include a dashed line box moving across
the display to represent a move operation or selection handles
appearing over an object to
denote a selection operation. Examples of properties changing to
show interim feedback might include an object changing color,
changing font, going to inverse video, or changing line style.
The sketch of the initial scene should include the entire
interface. The sketches of typical scenes should include the main
display areas but might omit menus and pallettes if they are
the same as in the initial scene. The sketches of hidden objects,
properties of graphical objects, and feedback objects should only
include the objects in question rather than the entire scene.
Each sketch should include prose that describes the important aspects
of that sketch.
The issue of how many sketches to prepare is part of this assignment.
The sketches should adequately cover all the visual aspects of the
interface, but should not contain a great deal of redundancy. Your
sketches should also not attempt to illustrate the dynamic dialog
that occurs between a user and the interface. This dynamicism is better
captured either via a prototype or by actively sketching the dialog
with someone present and watching.
For this assignment you should also determine what errors your interface
will detect, what error messages it will present to the user, and how these
error messages will be presented (your sketches should include examples of
how error messages will be presented).
There will be three ``mileposts'' for this project, one in mid March, one
in early April, and one in late April when you hand in your final project.
For each milepost you will perform a brief demo of the interface for the
TA, and, if there are any interactive behaviors implemented, the TA will
experiment with the interface with you or your team present. You need to prepare
a document that presents a list of features that you plan to have implemented
for each of the three mileposts. You should only list the new features that
will be implemented for that milepost. As a rough guide, the initial scene
should probably be ready by the first milepost, about half of the interactive
behaviors should be implemented for the second milepost, and the remaining
interactive behaviors should be implemented for the final milepost. You need
to be specific about which interactive behaviors will be implemented for each
milepost. The error
boxes associated with the interactive behaviors should also be implemented
for the mileposts. You might very well have no interactive behaviors
implemented for the first milepost, although if you have a game, I would
like to see the initial scene for the game, such as the gameboard, and the
game pieces arranged in their initial locations on the gameboard.
What to Hand In
You should hand in the following four items:
- Your user manual,
- Your sketches,
- A list of errors you will detect and the error messages you will
display in response to these errors, and
- Your timeline.