User Experince Design and Usability

Welcome to the course User experience Design and usAbility (UDA) DVA451. Make gorgeous stuff that works. This course is part of the Professionals Master Program for Software Engineering (PROMPT).

Study Guide

The UDA course focuses on the process of designing digital artifacts, specifically how artefacts should be designed and developed so that they have desirable use qualities and good usability. Particular emphasis is on the users' experience of the digital artifact. Methods in experience design: design methods in the creative phase, concept development, interaction techniques and evaluation techniques are introduced and applied. The course includes practical design work through workshops and projects.

Sketch of a Slider
Sketch of a Slider

One fundamental principle for university education is that the student is responsible for the learning. In this course, you learn by doing. You initiate and perform a design project. In this project, you practice the methods and techniques for user experience design and usability. You will also consider ethical aspects, social aspects, sustainable development and norm criticism in your designs. You will also encompass an overview of current research in the area for reference in your design, critique and reflections.

The educational activities are connected to the learning outcomes and examination. This is known as constructive alignment (Biggs and Tang, 2011).

Learning Outcome

The course learning outcomes are summarised below. After taking the course the student should be able to:

  • demonstrate the ability to follow a design process to design interactive digital artifacts with focus on user experience and experiential qualities
  • demonstrate the ability to perform user studies to evaluate a design
  • exhibit - through literature studies and practical work - how the design work is based on scientific contributions in the field
  • design and develop interactive prototypes and digital artifacts with focus on user experience and use qualities
  • show ability to make assessments with regard to sustainable development, or scientific, social, ethical aspects of, or norm criticism in experience design
  • use basic concepts from philosophy and philosophy of science related to experience design
Sketch of Symbols

Sketch Collage

Design Project

To reach the learning outcomes students will engage in a number of activities revolving around an individual design project that they will work on during the course. Each student chooses a topic/domain/issue to address for their project that is relevant for their own situation. During the course the topic/domain/issue is explored and addressed through designerly methods and a solution/artefact is designed. The chosen topic could for instance be related to issues and/or opportunities at the student's place of work.

Double Diamond Process

While each design project is unique, typical activities include:

  • Investigating the current state of the art within a domain
  • Exploring existing concepts or principles for interaction in that domain
  • Discover and sketching out possible new concepts, metaphors, or principles for interaction
  • Generating and define a design proposal with a clear interactive scenario that suggests how the student envisions the design adds value by addressing new needs or improving on state-of-the art solutions by e.g. providing a better user experience.

Furthermore the design solutions should fulfill at least the following requirements:

  • The design that you present should include some form of interactive technology and clearly address the chosen issue/topic/theme
  • The prototypes have to go through iterations of refinement after feedback from users
  • The design should be presented and delivered in the form of working interactive digital prototypes, meaning that the prototype should be polished and functional enough so that it is possible to experience what interaction with it would be like when fully implemented.

During the course it is important that students continuously present their progress and shows how you they approached the different tasks and addressed feedback given by teachers and peers throughout the course at the design crit sessions (see below).

Process and Deliverables

Design is an iterative process that relies heavily on feedback from others (users, teachers, peers) to ground design proposals in real needs and experiences. During the course students will therefore engage in regular critique sessions, where they present the current state of their project to teachers and peers and receive constructive feedback.


Video handins/interaction critique

During the course students are required to make 4 video handins that are maximum 3 min each illustrate the most important aspects of the interaction design in its current state in an attractive and pedagogical manner. Use a voice over track in combination with text to describe relevant aspects of the design. Share the video via online services such as Vimeo or YouTube.

In addition students are required to perform a critique of two other students' design work as illustrated by the video and judge the work based on existing interaction design standards, state-of-the art, and other perceived subjective and objective qualities of the work including experiential qualities, as outlined by e.g Bardzell (see below). Hand in a document for each reviewed project that summarises the critique. The critique handin should be approximately one page or 500 words. Share the documents via the prepared folders at Google Drive.

What should I do?

Here follows a rough guide to what you need to do in the course.

Start with a design thinking exercise:
  • Read Chapter one of Cooper et al. (2014) for preparation
  • Take a picture of an everyday thing. Something simple: a door, light switches, a water tap, a kettle or something more complex: coffee machine, and microwave.
  • Reflect on how they communicate their function to you. Are they easy to use, and why or why not? What do they make you feel, and why?
  • Make a couple of sketches in which you change the way the things communication. For each sketch focus on one aspect, for instance improve the ease of use, or change how you want the users to feel, or for instance make them impossible to use.
  • Reflect on you sketches. Do the sketch communicate you intention. Motivate why or why not.
  • Share your work via Google Drive preferably as Google Docs documents
Write a project topic description:
  • Read Design Council. (2007) for preparation
  • Present a topic for your work. You may discuss the problem space; the needs, wants or desires you want to adress; or the simply you initial design idea.
  • Share your work for peer review via Google Drive preferably as Google Docs documents
  • Identify a problem space. It may be a your own unique idea, something that interests your employer or its customers, there may be a need you have identified or want to criticize in the surrounding community.
  • Explore the problem space using one or more of the various methods presented in literature. Justify your choice of method.
  • Sketch potential solutions using pen and paper. Sketches can be arbitrarily coarse; think boxes, arrows, stick men, or doodles; but should fill a communicative function. That is, they should say something to both yourself and others.
  • Summarize and evaluate what you have learnt about the problem space, and the solution space.
  • Based on what you have learnt desing at least one design concept/prototype.
  • Evaluate your design(s) qualitatively using any method from literature.
  • Adapt your design(s) and select one or merge your concept prototypes based on the feedback you have received.
  • Explore which materials and techniques you can use to realize an interactive prototype of your design.
  • Explore the solution space by building and testing different ways to realize your solution, e.g. it may be a screen based prototype or a physical artefact etc.
  • Make sure to pay attention to the prototypes experiential qualities. One of the difficulties at this stage of the design process is to simultaneously solve technical problems and retain experiential qualities.
  • Finish your design and explain why it is completed.
  • Prepare and conduct a small-scale field study of your prototype where it is used by someone else than yourself.
  • Reflect on whether your prototype has more general characteristics and qualities that could be useful in other contexts and domains.

Self-reflection handins

Based on the design work summarised in each video and the two accompanying critique documents, students are required to hand in 2 written reflections. The first text covers the discover and define phases of the process, and should be approximately one page or 500 words. The second text reflectes the entire process with emphasis on the delvelop and define phases. This text should be twice as long as the first, i.e. around 1000 words. The reflections should clearly show what the student has done to make progress in their design work and where relevant address including but not limited to:

  • how the work relates to state-of-the art
  • how the initial idea was generated
  • how the work is grounded concept in needs/wants
  • what was learnt from the feedback received from peers and others and how that has changed the direction of the project
  • technical requirements of the project
  • how the work should be evaluated

Share the links of the self reflection documents with the course teachers only.


Date Activity
28 Aug. 2017 13:15 - 15:30 Rollcall Google Hangouts
 4 Sep. 2017 Initial Design Critique and Design Thinking Exercise Deadline
 8 Sep. 2017 Project Topic Description Deadline
11 Sep. 2017 Project Topic Description Peer Review Deadline
14 Sep. 2017 13:15 - 15:15 Supervison 1 Google Hangouts
21 Sep. 2017 14:30 - 16:30 Supervison 2 Google Hangouts
27 Sep. 2017 Discover Video Deadline
29 Sep. 2017 Discover Video Critique Deadline
 9 Oct. 2017 15:15 - 17:00 Supervision Google Hangouts
13 Oct. 2017 Define Video Deadline
16 Oct. 2017 Define Video Critique Deadline
19 Oct. 2017 Discover and Define Reflection Deadline
23 Oct. 2017 Discover and Define Reflection Peer Review Deadline
30 Oct. 2017 19:00 - 20:30 Supervision Google Hangouts
 8 Nov. 2017 Develop Video Deadline
10 Nov. 2017 Develop Video Critique Deadline
20 Nov. 2017 15:15 - 17:00 Supervision Google Hangouts
29 Nov. 2017 Deliver Video Deadline
 1 Dec. 2017 Deliver Video Critique Deadline
 8 Dec. 2017 Project Reflection Deadline
12 Dec. 2017 Project Reflection Peer Review Deadline
14 Dec. 2017 13:15 - 15:15 Course Ending Google Hangouts


Rikard Lindell - Mälardalen University (MDH)
Jarmo Laaksolahti - Swedish Institute of Computer Science (SICS) RI.SE


Course Literature

Cooper, A., Reimann, R., Cronin, D., & Noessel, C. (2014) About face: the essentials of interaction design. John Wiley & Sons.

Reference Literature

Bardzell, J. (2011) Interaction criticism: An introduction to the practice. Interacting with Computers, 23(6), 604-621.

Biggs, J.B. and Tang, C. (2011) Teaching for quality learning at university what the student does. 4th edn. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill/Society for Research into Higher Education/Open University Press.

Binder, T., Löwgren, J. and Malmborg, L. (eds.) (2008) (re) searching the digital Bauhaus. United Kingdom: Springer-Verlag New York.

Buxton, B., Greenberg, S. and Carpendale, S. (2011) Sketching user experiences: The workbook. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers In.

Design Council. (2007) Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands — A study of the design process

Harvard, Å., Ilstedt Hjelm, S., Johansson, U., Nino, E., Svengren Holm, L., Ullmark, P., Westerlund, B., (2007) Under ytan : en antologi om designforskning. Raster förlag Stockholm

Hanington, B.M., Martin, B. and Hannington, B. (2012) Universal methods of design: 100 ways to research complex problems, develop innovative ideas, and design effective solutions. United States: Rockport Publishers.

Lidwell, W., Holden, K., Butler, J. and Elam (2010) Universal principles of design: 125 ways to enhance usability, influence perception, increase appeal, make better design decisions, and teach through design. 2nd edn. United States: Rockport Publishers.

Löwgren, J. (2007) Interaction design,research practices and design research on the digital materials, Originally published in Swedish as "Forskning om digitala material", in Harvard, Å., Ilstedt Hjelm, S., Johansson, U., Nino, E., Svengren Holm, L., Ullmark, P., Westerlund, B., (2007) Under ytan : en antologi om designforskning. Raster förlag Stockholm.

Saffer, D. (2009) Designing for interaction: Creating innovative applications and devices. 2nd edn. Berkeley, CA: New Riders Publishing.

Wikberg-Nilsson, Å., Törlind, P., Ericson, Å. (2015) Design Process och metod. Studentlitteratur Lund