Individual Project Proposal

Assigned: January 21
Due: January 28 at 9 AM

Your assignment is to tell us a little about yourself and then propose an idea that could form the basis of a course project for this semester. Your design should be based on consideration of a real group of users and their needs. This is an individual assignment and you should not discuss it with others in the course. We will be considering originality of the idea in grading this assignment. You will have a chance to do a group brainstorm a little later.

This assignment is 5% of your overall grade, which has been broken down into 30 points for grading. The breakdown of points is discussed below.

What to do:

  1. Write a very brief bio for yourself, describing your experience as it relates to this class.
  2. Write a short description of your project idea, covering the points in the writing outline below.
  3. Draw a sketch to illustrate what your idea might look like when implemented.
  4. Create a slide to show in class that describes your idea, and give a one-minute presentation describing the idea.

More details about all of these pieces can be found below.

Brief Bio (5 pts)
Write a one paragraph bio that tells me a little bit about yourself and describes your previous experience as it relates to this class. In describing your previous experience, you may find it useful to refer to the list of different types of expertise that are useful to a project group as given on slide 37 of Lecture #1. In particular, you should note if you have programming or graphic design experience, or if you have experience conducting user studies.

Project Idea (17 pts)
The theme for this semester is mobile, so it may be useful to start thinking about needs that users have when on-the-go. You might also consider ways in which interfaces on both smartphones and desktop computers interact.

Another possibility is to start with existing applications that run on desktop computers and think about what it would mean for those applications to be mobilized. Because one of the focuses of the courses is on browser extensions for mobile devices, it may be useful to look at the extensions currently available for the desktop Firefox web browser.

Overall, don't be too ambitious. You have limited time to work on the project and the goal of the course is to iterate, test and improve users' experience of your design, not to produce the longest list of features. Make sure you're realistic. This is an exercise in prototyping apps that could eventually be built, not in science fiction. Brainstorm! Your initial idea might have flaws, but a refinement of it might be excellent. Give every idea a chance, no matter how strange at first.

Writing Guidelines:
You will submit a project plan including both text and sketches (the proposal should be at most 4 typewritten pages in length). Your plan should follow the outline below and will be graded using the writing guidelines that follow:

Creativity (5/17)
The proposal should address a real user need. This need could be work related, but it could also cover health, lifestyle, or recreational needs. We will give extra points for new ideas that are not already being developed by other companies and groups. You should do a web search before submitting your idea. Make sure you include URLs for any project you find on the web that you think is related (even if it not exactly the same) as your proposed idea.

Writing (3/17)
The writing must clearly present the important facts and be terse and concise. The nitty-gritty details aren't needed at this point. The organization should follow the outline, and it's encouraged (but not necessary) to use the outline bullets as section headings.

Writing Outline:

Target User Group (3/17)
Your target user group should be sensible (people you have access to) and not trivial (ischool graduate students is not a challenge). Describe the user group in enough detail that you can easily separate the group from other types of people. Then include details about their needs and wants.

Problem Description (3/17)
The problem description should be short and specific about the high-level goals of the project. The problem should be described in terms of user activities and situations where the problem occurs, and what aspects of the situation might be improved with a technical solution. Avoid describing or suggesting a solution at this stage that will hamper your design thinking when you actually start solving the problem.

Problem Context and Forces (3/17)
The analysis section should give more background for the problem. What aspects of the situation might influence the problem solution? Think about location, time, environmental factors etc. Then think about aspects of the user group, their education, available time, motivation, values etc. What related or complementary solutions exist already?

Solution Sketch (5/17)
Give a very brief outline of the kind of solution(s) you are considering, and then briefly describe in words one possible solution. Also, make at least one sketch of what the UI to this solution would look like. Since your problem has barely been specified and you haven't done any user interviews, you probably don't have enough information to make many informed design choices. Where necessary, you should note the design decisions that you have made that would need to be re-examined as you get deeper into the design process.

Slide and Presentation (8 pts)
On January 28 we will have an in-class presentation session where each student will present their individual project proposal to the class. Because of the size of the class and the relatively limited amount of time that we have, each student will have at most 1 minute to present.

To facilitate this presentation, you must create a single slide to present your idea. This may be in the form of an image that can be scaled to the size of a PowerPoint slide, or you may submit a single slide in either ppt or pptx format. I will assemble these slides into a single deck before class and you will present from my laptop.

To keep things moving, I will clearly indicate to you when your time is running out and cut you off if you go more than 10 seconds over your allotted time.

How to Turn In:
Visit the Individual Project Proposal page on the Wiki. Create a new page for yourself that links from this page. Paste the text for your written proposal directly into your new page, embed any sketch images that you may have, and attach your slide. More directions can be found on the wiki page linked above.