Analysis and Redesign Essay

One of the best ways to learn design is to analyze, critique, and fix an existing design that isn’t working as well as it should. That’s what you’ll do for this assignment: find something that isn’t working well, figure out why it isn’t working well, and then redesign it to make it better.

Choose Something to Analyze and Fix

Start by choosing a software user interface or physical artifact that you or others find difficult or frustrating to use. It could be something people consistently misuse, something that few people can figure out how to use properly, or something that simply fails to meet the needs of its stakeholders. It must be something of sufficient complexity: you will need to identify and fix at least 2 significant usability problems. And it can’t be something we already discussed in detail during class (e.g., no doors, light switches, or anything simple like that). If you are unsure if your choice will qualify, feel free to run it by your TA first.

Start your paper with a section that briefly describes the device you selected, and in very general terms, why you selected it.

Identify and Research the Stakeholders

We can’t evaluate a design, nor fix it, if we don’t know who we are designing for. So the next step is to identify who the direct and indirect stakeholders are for the device/system you are analyzing. Recall that direct stakeholders are those who directly use the device/system, while indirect stakeholders are those who don’t directly use it, but are nevertheless affected by its use. Identifying relevant indirect stakeholders can sometimes be tricky, so think broadly and feel free to ask your TA for guidance if you are unsure.

After you identify the stakeholder groups, spend some time researching their primary motivations, goals, and values in the context of this design. For direct stakeholders, determine why they want to use this device/system, and what they hope to accomplish by using it. For indirect stakeholders, determine what values they want to uphold or what detrimental effects they want to minimize as this device/system is used by others. For both, why are they unhappy with the design and in general, how does it fall short?

Add a section to your paper in which you list your direct and indirect stakeholder groups, and for each, answer the following questions:

  • Why do you think these people are a direct/indirect stakeholder group for this design?
  • How did you research this group? List specific research methods you used (interviews, observations, surveys, review of online discussions, etc.)
  • What did your research reveal about their primary motivations, goals, and values?
  • In general, how is the current design not satisfying their primary motivations, goals, or values?

Remember to include citations for any statistics your include, or non-obvious claims you make. You may use any citation format you wish as long as it’s clear and consistent.

Analyze and Critique the Design in Detail

The next step is to dive into the details of the design to determine exactly why it is not satisfying your stakeholder groups. Analyze the overall user experience as well as the detailed interaction design. If a software user interface is involved, analyze it according to the principles you read about and discussed in class. Consider how accessible the design is for people with varying levels of ability. If relevant, also consider whether the security of the system adequately addresses your stakeholders’ goals and values.

Add a section to your paper in which you discuss the various problems you discovered. Include at least 2 significant problems, and for each, explain in detail why you think it is a problem. If it’s an interaction design problem, be sure to use the interaction design vocabulary to explain what’s wrong. If it’s a UI problem, reference the relevant UI design principles. Include pictures or screenshots that illustrate the problem.

Fix the Design

Lastly, add a section to your paper in which you propose changes to the design that fix the problems you analyzed, for the stakeholders you identified. Make sure your solutions tie back to the problems and stakeholders you analyzed in the earlier sections.

Include drawings or mock-ups of your proposed changes in your paper. For example, if you found problems with the UI design, include sketches of a better UI and describe how your new UI better adheres to the UI design principles. If you found problems with the interaction design, include sketches of a better design that address those problems, and use the interaction vocabulary to explain why it’s better. Scan or photograph these sketches and include them directly in your paper so that we can better understand your redesign.

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