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: TuTh 2:30PM – 3:45PM
Location: Computer Science Bldg Room 142

Instructor: Cindy Xiong
Office Hours: Tuesdays + Thursdays 1:45-2:30 pm or by appointment
Office Location: LGRC A217E or via ZOOM (link provided upon request)

TA: Aimen Gaba
Office Hours: Fridays 10:30-11:30 am 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

Jan 24


Jan 25

Lecture: Introduction

Jan 26


 Jan 27

Lecture: User-Centered Design

Jan 28


Week 2: Learning about Users

Jan 31


Feb 1

Lecture: Needs and Use Cases

Feb 2


Feb 3

Lecture: Participants
Project Phase 0: Forming Groups

Feb 4

Assignment 1 Due: UX Around You

Week 3: Learning about Design

Feb 7


Feb 8

Lecture: Research Methods

Feb 9


Feb 10

Lecture: Visual Design Principles

Feb 11

Assignment 2 Due: Use Case

Week 4: Scientific Method

Feb 14


Feb 15

Lecture: Variable Relationships

Feb 16


Feb 17

Lecture: Experimental Design

Feb 18

Project Phase I: Idea Proposal

Week 5: Experimental Design

Feb 21


Feb 22

(No Lecture)

Feb 23


Feb 24

Lecture: Factorial Design

Feb 25


Week 6: Evaluation Methods

Feb 28


Mar 1

Lecture: Usability Evaluation
(Request Qualtrics)

Mar 2

Assignment 3 Due: Factorial Design

Mar 3

Lecture: Survey Design

Mar 4


Week 7: Statistical Inferences

Mar 7


Mar 8

Lecture: Statistical Inferences Overview
(Download R and R Studio)

Mar 9


Mar 10

Lecture: Comparing Samples

Mar 11


Week 8 

Mar 14

(Spring Break)

Mar 15

(Spring Break)

Mar 16

(Spring Break)

Mar 17

(Spring Break)

Mar 18

(Spring Break)

Week 9: Data Analysis

Mar 21


Mar 22

Lecture: ANOVAs

Mar 23

Assignment 4 Due: Basic Stats in R

Mar 24

Lecture: Regression

Mar 25


Week 10: UX Workshop

Mar 28

Assignment 5 Due: ANOVA

Mar 29

Lecture: Chi-Square

Mar 30

Assignment 6 Due: Questions

Mar 31

Guest Lecture (Ishaani, Amazon)

Apr 1

Project Phase IIA: Experiment Design

Week 11: Data Presentation

Apr 4

Assignment 7 Due: Chi-Square and Regression

Apr 5

Lecture: Data Visualization 

Apr 6


Apr 7

Lecture: Data Communication (Persuading Stakeholders)

Apr 8

Project Phase IIB: Revise Experiment Design

Week 12: Data Visualization

Apr 11


Apr 12

(No Lecture).

Apr 13


Apr 14

Lecture: Project Info + Data Collection

Apr 15

Project Phase IIIA: Data Collection Progress Report

Week 13: Human Limitations

Apr 18


Apr 19

Lecture: Plotting Your Data 

Apr 20

Project Phase IIIB: Submit Collected Data

Apr 21

Lecture:  Memory, Perception + Data Vis Workshop

Apr 22


Week 14: Presentations

Apr 25

Project Phase IV: Presentation Draft

Apr 26

Lecture: Cognitive Biases in Data Decision Making

Apr 27


Apr 28

Class Presentations Day 1

Apr 29

Assignment 8: Peer Critique Presentations Day 1

Week 15

May 2


May 3

Class Presentations Day 2

May 4

Assignment 8: Peer Critique Presentations Day 2
(Last Day of Classes)

May 5


May 6

Last day to turn in extra credit materials.

Week 16

May 9

Project Phase V: Submit Revised Presentation + Summary of Changes

May 10


May 11


May 12

(Last Day of Finals)

May 13



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. 

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.

Extra Credit (~5%)
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 in the HCI-VIS labs. 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, 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 ( | 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 ( | 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 –