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Student and tutor module reviews

Interaction design and the user experience

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  • Points: 30
  • Code: TM356
  • Level: 3
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Student reviews

This module is more about the design and planning of a system/product than its creation. You are tasked with coming up with an idea and working through a number of design techniques to test your ideas and designs out.

There is quite a lot of reading involved in this module as you cover quite a few user-centered techniques.

This module has an exam, but if you study the past papers, it's possible to get an idea on the topics that are likely to come up and revise appropriately.

I had an excellent tutor, who was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the subject which always helps with the enjoyment of a module.

My advice would be to focus on the design; it does not really matter how your product turns out as long as you can demonstrate you have used the methods and have adjusted your design accordingly.

Samuel Walton

Course starting: October 2022

Review posted: August 2023

It's worth starting by emphasising that this module isn't about writing an app or producing a website - indeed time spent coding an app or website may well be wasted time. Rather it's about exploring and understanding what a good interaction with an 'interactive product' entails. A 'good interaction' combines the usability of the product (how easy it is to use and to learn) and the user experience (how enjoyable the experience of using it is). This in turn involves understanding the product's potential users, the activities they will undertake with it and the environment(s) in which it will be used. (An 'interactive product' could be an app or a website, or even a parking ticket machine or a supermarket hand-held self-scanning device).

This is achieved through a module-long project which entails producing an idea for an interactive product, eliciting user requirements for it from a real potential user, designing a prototype and reviewing the prototype/design based on usability testing, again with a real potential user.

It is essential to 'get' the purpose of the module at the outset and focus on that purpose, rather than hoping that simply producing a functioning app or website by the end of it will fulfil the aims of the course, without due regard to its usability or the user experience it delivers. It's all about understanding the iterative processes involved in devising, designing, testing and refining the product, rather than producing a polished, finished design (which there simply isn't time to do in the time available to complete the module). However, understanding the processes involved should help potential app or website developers to better understand what their product needs to deliver to be fit-for-purpose, pleasurable to use, and therefore well-received and successful. Put simply; it's about the journey, not the destination. This module can also be undertaken as part of a joint IT/psychology degree or a design degree, and this may help to give a further indication of its focus.

There is a lot of reading and less practical work than in other modules, which may not be to everyone's liking. Much of the reading is from a heavy textbook (both physically heavy and heavy going in places), and as the module progresses it's increasingly difficult to distinguish between material that is essential to learn and background knowledge. However there are some practical activities to undertake, and completing them is essential to producing good TMAs and preparing for the end-of-module exam.

Students also have the opportunity to compare and comment on some elements of each other's practical work through 'OpenStudio' (a bit like a forum which includes images as well as text), but I felt this was unpopular, underused and in any event I found it to be of little practical benefit to my learning or enjoyment of the module. Also, a number of students found that the feedback they received on their TMAs from their tutors lacked the detail and substance necessary for a level 3 module, and there was one TMA question that carried over 10% of the entire overall continuous assessment score (OCAS) that appeared to bear little relevance to the remainder of the module.

That aside, if you are interested in looking at the development of usable and enjoyable apps or websites (as well as other interactive products) from a completely different, user-centric standpoint, this module takes an in-depth, thought-provoking approach to the whole process.

Overall I found the experience both challenging and worthwhile.

Course starting: October 2021

Review posted: July 2022

Please note

Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.

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