CMPE 233:

Human Factors

Jump to: Syllabus Suggested readings

What is the course about?

Human Factors studies people's mental and physical capabilities, environments in which they function, and jobs they perform. This understanding is important to enable engineers and designers to develop and evaluate systems that can optimize human well-being and overall system performance as well as minimize the risks associated with human error.


When and where?

Porter Acad 250, Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:00-5:45 PM


  • Mid-term exam (W1-5 material): 30%
  • Group project: 50% - developing a GUI blooper and observing how much effort users need to take to become skilled at using it
  • Homeworks: 20%
  • Syllabus

    1. Historical foundations. Biological basis of psychology and sensation. Human Information Processing. Week 1 slides.
    2. Visual system: sensation vs. perception (depth perception, motion perception, and pattern recognition), color vision, visual search, perceptual speed, perceptual organization, visual display. Week 2 slides.
      Homework 1 (Worth 10%, due Tuesday Jan 20, 2009 at 23:55 if by email, or in class if in hardcopy):
      • Choose a user interface, it can range from your favorite website to the interface you had designed/used (e.g. Flash, Director, Word, a Bioinformatics software application, etc).
      • Critique this interface in relation to 2 of Gestalt principles and sketch an improved version. Argue why the improved version is better than the original version in terms of the 2 Gestalt principles you chose.
      • Critique the screen layout of the interface and sketch an improved version. Argue why the improved version is better than the original version.
      • Critique this interface in relation to one of the following aspects (whichever is appropriate): color, text, icon, or accessibility. Sketch an improved version and argue why the improved version is better than the original version.
      Something different for Thursday, January 13, 2009 - all about Gestalt Principles:
      • Google search a paper in the domain that you are interested that applies Gestalt Principles. Here is an example (but please don't use this paper, as I am afraid there will be more than one of you doing that: Toward a theory of organized multimodal integration patterns during HCI
      • Create a 10 min presentation (ppt slides, send them to me by Thursday at 3 so I can load them to my laptop) summarizing the paper, focusing on how the Gestalt Principles were applied.

    3. Auditory and tactile systems: audition and touch, RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), designing for hearing and touch, haptic/tactile interfaces. Week 3 slides.
    4. Memory and attention: theories of attention, selective/divided attention, Multiple Resource Theory, reasoning, decision making, designing for memory. Week 4 slides.
    5. Performance measurement: Psychometric tests (Simple/Choice Reaction Time tests, digit/word span, other visuospatial and cognitive tests, etc), Fitts' Law, Hicks' Law, quantitative and qualitative methods. Week 5 slides.
      Homework 2 (Worth 10%, due Tuesday Feb 10, 2009 at 23:55 if by email, or in class if in hardcopy):
      • Read the paper on Perspective-based Usability inspection technique
      • Choose an interactive system but this time it must not be a standard website (online games or web-based application packages such as simulators are fine, but please try to broaden into, say, mundane technology such as cell phone, washing machine, etc).
      • Following the methodology described in that paper, report the problems your chosen system might have with novice users, expert users and in term of error handling
      • Recruit 3 expert users and 3 novice users of the system you chose.Ask them to evaluate the system individually. You are welcome to choose the evaluation method that you think is appropriate, but you need to report your justifications of your chosen method.
      • Discuss the differences and similarities of the problems you found using perspective-based inspection and those your users found

    6. Midterm exam - open note.
      Individual differences: novice vs. expert, personality trait, effect of practice, transfer of training, cultural differences. Week 6 slides.
    7. Workload management: mental workload, NASA-TLX (a subjective workload assessment tool), stress, fatigue and coping. Week 7 slides.
    8. Human error and reliability: system concept and human error, Human Reliability Analysis. Week 8 slides - Part 1. Week 8 slides - Part 2
      A good reading on Human Error: Perspectives on Human Error: Hindsight Biases and Local Rationality
    9. Ergonomics science in a glance: introduction to anthropometry, work physiology and biomechanics. Week 9 slides - Part 1. Week 9 slides - Part 2.
      Additional reading on biometrics by the International Committee for Information Technology Standards: Report on Biometrics and E-Authentication
    10. Futuristic human factors. Week 10 slides.


    Note: More will be added later in the quarter