WPI Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Computer Science Department

Sample Questions: Part 1

These questions cover approximately the first half of the term.

Lecture- & Book-based Questions

What is the "Heuristic evaluation" usability inspection method?

Give three other basic metrics, besides "Subjective Satisfaction",
that can be used to measure the quality of an interface design.

Explain why Consistent things are easier to learn. 

What's the connection between consistency, syntax rules, and

What is the relation between the degree of stimulation, or emotional
arousal, and the `rate of errors by user'?

Explain "locus of control" and its impact.

Explain the two meanings of "closure" that are relevant for HCI.

Name three things that might be gathered in a User Analysis.

Describe three basic things, in addition to frequencies, that you'd
find out about in a Task Analysis.

In a Task Analysis, why do you care about the frequency of occurrence
of an action?

Give two cultural differences that might affect the design of an
interface, and explain why.

What's the difference between a User's Mental Model and a Designer's
Conceptual Model? 

What would you expect to be in a Conceptual Model?

What is an Affordance?

Name the three processors in the Model Human Processor (the "Martian").

What is the general function of one of the three processors?

Name three of the memory levels in the Model Human Processor (the "Martian").

For the middle stage of memory:
   a. How many "things" can it store?
   b. What are those "things" called?

What is the simple form of Hicks Law, and why is it useful?

What three parameters does Fitts's Law relate, and why is it useful?

What does the Power Law of Practice describe? What is a more common
name for the curve it describes? 

In what situation can the following law be used, and what is it used for?
     T = ICH, where H = log2(n+1). 

If a member of your interface design group suggested using 10
different alarm tones for an industrial interface, where each tone
required a different response, how would you convince her or him that
this would be a very poor design choice?

What's the connection between the information and uncertainty?
What's the connection between the information and mental processing time?

Give an example of chunking.

What user type would most like menus, and why?

Describe one design choice for an interface that an Expert type of
user would love and a Novice would hate.

For the Novice type of user, describe three important characteristics
the interface should have and why.

How would you organize Help for an Intermittent User, and why?

Name and describe the levels in Foley & van Dam's  "4 level model"?

What are the levels in Norman's 7 stages of action model? 

Give an example of an error that corresponds to, and might be
predicted by considering, one level in Norman's 7 stages of action

What does GOMS stand for? Explain "O". Give examples.

A Transition Network (a kind of finite state automata) can be used in
many ways in HCI: for example in Task Analysis. What role can it play
in the GOMS model? 

What are two of the items included in the GOMS "keystroke-level"
model's detailed equation?  

What during interaction is Closure, what's its relationship with
memory, and why do we need to be concerned with it in interface

What's Syntax, and what's Semantics? 
Explain each using an icon-based interface.

One of Constantine & Lockwood's Usability (software quality) Metrics
is "structural", and concerns the visual appeal of the layout of an
interface. Explain the concept of what it measures, and what
measurements it includes to compute a value for the metric.

With regard to depth and breadth, what shape menu trees should you
provide, and why? What range of values are appropriate for depth and

Describe two criteria for ordering the items on a single menu. For
each, describe a reason for using that order.

Under what circumstances would it be acceptable to have 20 or more
items on a single menu?

For both of the following, characterize why they might be used, and
describe two strengths and two weaknesses of their use in an interface:
   a. Menus
   b. Fill-in Forms

If a designer has several alternative possible command names for an
action (e.g., swap, flip, switch), what's the most effective way to
choose one? What's the problem with that method?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of specifying command
arguments by keyword? (i.e., when compared to `by position').

How would you apply the 80/20 principle to task action frequencies to
affect the design of an interface? 

Explain how proximity can affect a user's interpretation of the
elements on the screen. Can you use similarity to get the same effect?


Explain Nielsen's usability principle "Recognition rather than

What role can Ergonomics and Psychology play in HCI?

What's a "natural mapping"?

Give one good thing about using an Interface Metaphor, and
       describe one objection. 

What's a mental model? 

What is anthropomorphism? Is there any single type of user that
       might react more positively to its use? 

Why is a spiral lifecycle model better than a waterfall one?

What's the value of prototyping interfaces?

What is a predictive model?  Is GOMS an example? 

What is low fidelity prototyping? Give an example. 

What's the difference between conceptual design and physical design?


When an interface has modes and certain commands in a menu are not
relevant, why is it bad to delete them from the menu in that mode? 
What's a better way to handle this?

A text-based data entry interface can be changed into a GUI interface
by using text fields for every entry that used to get a prompt. How
can that be improved to take advantage of GUI capabilities?

How would you use a command button as a toggle?

Why should you use a "wait cursor"? 

When displaying multiple windows is it OK to put them all at the same
screen position?  Should there be a single rule that determines their

Why not "speak geek" at the interface? 

What is a common problem with positioning a lot of radio buttons? How
can it be avoided?

How can you provide an initial value for an option menu (i.e., not
blank) without biasing the user?



[WPI] [CS]

dcb at cs.wpi.edu / Fri Sep 28 19:08:06 EDT 2012