05-436 / 05-836 / 08-534 / 08-734 Usable Privacy and Security

Observations of people using technology

Do this assignment with a partner, if possible.

Observe people in a public place using a computerized system. For example, you might observe people using a public transit ticket machine, a parking garage pay station, a hardware store self-checkout machine, a library self-checkout machine, or an airport self-check-in kiosk. Stay long enough to observe both experienced and inexperienced users using the system.

Alternatively, recruit a few people you know and observe them using a computer or computerized device (cell phone, microwave oven, etc.) to complete a task. Try to recruit someone who has used the device before and someone who has not.

What kinds of problems did people have using the system? What aspects of the system appeared to be easy to learn? What aspects of the system appeared to be difficult to learn? What aspects of the system seemed to frustrate experienced users? Most importantly, how might the design of the system be improved?

Write up a short report on your observations and recommendations to turn in. Include an appendix with photographs or sketches of key elements of the user interface you observed. The report should be 2-4 pages plus the appendix.