Intro to UX Spring 2023

CompSci 490U Introduction to User Experience Research

As technology becomes more and more integrated with our work and life, it is increasingly critical to consider how we can better design technology to enhance the experience and behavior of its users. UX Research, or User Experience Research, is an interdisciplinary field that combines knowledge from computer science, design, statistics, and psychology to gather insights about the needs, attitudes, and behaviors of technology users to inspire and inform design. This course introduces you to the cycle of UX research and aims to prepare you to tackle real-world UX research challenges. You will learn about the principles and practices of UX research, how to conduct user experiments to explore user behaviors and motivations, how to use statistical software to analyze data, and how to present your findings in an effective manner.

Time: Tuesday 2:30PM – 5:15PM
Location: Lederle Grad Res Center A104A

Instructor: Cindy Xiong
Office Hours: Tuesdays 1:30-2:30 pm or by appointment
Office Location: LGRC A217E or via ZOOM (link provided upon request)

TA: Aimen Gaba
Office Hours: Thursday 1:00-2:00 pm or by appointment
Office Location: LGRC A221 or via ZOOM (link provided upon request)

Course Objectives and Learning Outcome

After completing this course, you should be able to:
1. Utilize concepts of user-centered design to identify user requirements and usabilities issues
2. Design usability research experiments to evaluate existing design or to identify design opportunities
3. Conduct basic quantitative data analysis to extract insights from research data
4. Effectively communicate data insights and research findings with audiences from diverse backgrounds


  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

Week 1: Intro

Feb 6   Feb 7
Lecture: Introduction
Lecture: User-Centered Design
Feb 8    Feb 9 Feb 10  

Week 2: Learning about Users
Feb 13  

Feb 14
Lecture: Needs and Use Cases
Lecture: Participants
Project Phase 0: Forming Groups

Feb 15   Feb 16  Feb 17
Assignment 1 Due: UX Around You
Week 3: Bleh Feb 20 

Feb 21
Instructor: bleh.

Feb 22
(Follows Monday class schedule)
Feb 23  Feb 24

Week 4: Learning about Design Feb 27  

Feb 28
Lecture: Visual Design Principles

Mar 1   Mar 2 

Mar 3
Assignment 2 Due: Use Case

Week 5: Scientific Method Mar 6 

Mar 7
Lecture: Research Methods
Lecture: Variable Relationships
Lecture: Experimental Design

Mar 8  

Mar 9 
Assignment 3 Due: Questions
Mar 10  
Project Phase I: Idea Proposal
Week 6: Break! Mar 13
(Spring Break)

Mar 14
(Spring Break)

Mar 15
(Spring Break)
Mar 16
(Spring Break)
Mar 17
(Spring Break)
Week 7: Research in the Wild Mar 20  

Mar 21
Lecture: Factorial Design
Guest Speaker:
Christie Nothelfer

Mar 22
Mar 23 

Mar 24  
Assignment 4 Due: Factorial Design
Week 8: Survey Design Mar 27  

Mar 28
Lecture: Survey Design
Lecture: Usability Evaluation
(Request Qualtrics)

Mar 29   Mar 30 

Mar 31  
Project Phase IIA: Experiment Design
Week 9: Making Inference Apr 3  

Apr 4
Lecture: Statistical Inferences Overview (Download R and R Studio)
Lecture: Comparing Samples

Apr 5

Apr 6 

Apr 7  
Assignment 5 Due: Basic Stats in R
Week 10: Data Analysis Apr 10

Apr 11
Lecture: ANOVAs
Lecture: Regression

Apr 12

Apr 13
Apr 14
Assignment 6 Due: ANOVA
Week 11:  Apr 17 Patriot’s Day Holidays   Apr 18 Patriot’s Day Holidays  

Apr 19

Apr 20 
Project Phase IIB: Revise Experiment Design
Apr 21

Week 12: Data Communication Apr 24  

Apr 25
Lecture: Chi-Square
Also: Project Info + Data Collection

Apr 26   Apr 27 
Project Phase IIIA: Data Collection Progress Report
Apr 28
Assignment 7 Due: Chi-Square and Regression
Week 13: Human Limitations May 1  

May 2
Lecture:  Guest Lecture from Professor Yuriy Brun on Preventing Undesirable Behavior of Intelligent Machines
Lecture: Data Visualization

May 3 May 4 
Project Phase IIIB: Submit Collected Data
May 5  
Week 14: Data Communication May 8

May 9
Lecture: Data Communication (Persuading Stakeholders)
Lecture: Plotting Your Data

May 10   May 11
Project Phase IV: Presentation Draft
May 12

Week 15: Presentation! May 15   May 16
Class Presentations Day

May 17
Assignment 8: Peer Critique Presentations 
(Last Day of Classes)

May 18   May 19
Last day to turn in extra credit materials. Final examinations begin.
Week 16

May 22

May 23 
Project Phase V: Submit Revised Presentation + Summary of Changes

May 24   May 25 (Semester Ends) May 26  

Course Activities

Class Participation (5%)
You are expected to engage in class discussions in addition to attending classes. We will spend 10min every class doing a design activity. This is meant to encourage you to think creatively. Turn in the design activity to get participation credit. If you have to miss class, you can still turn the design activities in for half credit. You are permitted 3 freebie absences/missed designed activities. No questions asked.

Assignments (50%)
There will be eight assignments that require you to apply the materials you learned in class to a real-world scenario. Creativity and ambition count – please don’t recreate something similar to what we showed in class with minimal changes. All assignments will be weighted equally. Assignments will be accepted up to 48 hours after the due time, with a 10% penalty if turned in within the first 24 hours and an additional 10% penalty if turned in within the second 24 hours. Beyond 48 hours, late assignments will not be accepted. However, the two assignments with the lowest scores will be automatically dropped.

Project (45%)
You will design an experiment to evaluate and compare the effectiveness of two tools that can be used to accomplish the same task, report how their usabilities differ, and suggest improvements. You will collect and analyze your own data, and create a visual presentation, in groups of 2-3 people, to report your findings. The presentation must contain at least one statistical model and at least 2 substantial visualizations. You will use the data and visualizations to support a hypothesis or argue for a solution to a problem. During the final weeks of this class, you will present your findings to the class. The presentation will be graded by both the instructor and your peers on its clarity, design aesthetics, and creativity. Detailed Project Grades Breakdown:

Extra Credit (~2%)
Method 1:You can participate in HCI-related research, either as a researcher or a participant, to earn extra credit. Ask us about opportunities to participate in research studies. Receive 2% extra credit for participating in a research project, up to 2 projects. What to Submit: Write a short summary of the study you participated in, who conducted it, what the goal of the study is, and what you liked and disliked about the study from a UX perspective.

Method 2: You can also earn extra credit by attending one relevant research seminar talk in CICS and writing a short reflection for up to 3% extra credit. I will be forwarding links to relevant CICS seminar talks. What to Submit: 200 words, summarize your key takeaways from the talk, how this work might be useful to your life, and what you liked and disliked about how the presenter delivered the materials.  

A ≥ 93
A- 90 – 92
B+ 87 – 89
B 83 – 86
B- 80 – 82
C+ 77 – 79
C 73 – 76
C- 70 – 72
D+ 60 – 69
D 50 – 59
F < 50  

Attendance and Class Policies
There is no required attendance policy. However, note that you will not receive class participation credit for the days you missed. We will set up zoom sessions for those who cannot attend in person. Late arrivals must enter the classroom quietly and discreetly. Students who cannot attend class are responsible for any material covered during their absence.  

Assignments Policies
Students may collaborate and consult outside sources when doing assignments. Assignments will be accepted up to 48 hours after the due time, with a 10% penalty if turned in within the first 24 hours and an additional 10% penalty if turned in within the second 24 hours. Late assignments will not be accepted. However, the two assignments with the lowest scores with be automatically dropped.  

There are no exams for this course.  

Communication Policy
The instructor and the Teaching Assistant will only respond to course-related comments and inquiries via Slack, and will not respond to them via email (unless it pertains to troubles with Slack). The instructor and the Teaching Assistant will check Slack channels daily Monday through Friday to answer questions and address concerns.  

Accommodation Statement
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students. If you have a documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services (DS), you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course. If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements.  

Academic Honesty
Since the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all students at the University of Massachusetts. Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty. Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible. Instances of academic dishonesty not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate department Head or Chair. Since students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of such standards is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent. Further details can be found here:

Inclusivity Statement
In this course, each voice in the classroom has something of value to contribute. Please take​ care to respect the different experiences, beliefs and values expressed by students and staff involved in this course. We support UMass Amherst’s commitment to diversity, and welcome individuals of all ages, backgrounds, citizenships, disability, sex, education, ethnicities, family statuses, genders, gender identities, geographical locations, languages, military experience, political views, races, religions, sexual orientations, socioeconomic statuses, and work experiences.  

Title IX Statement
UMass is committed to fostering a safe learning environment by responding promptly and effectively to complaints of all kinds of sexual misconduct. If you have been the victim of sexual violence, gender discrimination, or sexual harassment, the university can provide you with a variety of support resources and accommodations If you experience or witness sexual misconduct and wish to report the incident, please contact the UMass Amherst Equal Opportunity (EO) Office ([email protected] | phone: 413-545-3464) to request an intake meeting with EO staff. Members of the CICS community can also contact Erika Lynn Dawson Head, director of diversity and inclusive community development ([email protected] | 860-770-4770).  

Learning Support
There are also a range of resources on campus, including:
UMass Libraries:
Writing Center –
Learning Resource Center –
Assistive Technology Center –
Disability Services –
Student Success –
Center for Counseling and Psychological Health (CCPH)
English as a Second Language (ESL) Program –
CMASS Success Coach Program –
Single Stop Resources –