UX Syllabus [#ux]

I’m writing a final year undergraduate unit on UX – it will be the first that that they have seen being that we are a hardcore engineering School – and I’d like your thoughts! Ignore the administrative stuff associated with work her in Manchester, but what about the unit content (both at the bottom)? Any suggestions for units that have already proved effective will be greatly appreciated!

It's on the Syllabus!

User Experience (UX or UE) is often conated with usability but takes its lead from the emerging discipline of experience design (XD). In reality, this means that usability is often thought of as being within the technical domain. Often being responsible for engineering aspects of the interface or interactive behaviour by building usability paradigms directly into the system. On the other hand user experience is meant to convey a wider remit which does not just primarily focus on the interface but other psychological aspects of the use behaviour.

In reality, user experience is very similar to usability, however, it found its roots within the product design community as opposed to the systems computing community of usability. The usability specialist would often be expected to undertake a certain degree of software engineering and coding whereas the user experience specialist is often more interdisciplinary in focus. This means that the user experience specialist may undertake design of the physical device along with its economic traits but may not be able to take that design to a hardware or software resolution. Indeed, user experience has been de ned as pertaining to the creation of the architecture and interaction models that impact a user’s perception of a device or system. The scope of the eld is directed at a ecting all aspects of the user’s interaction with the product: how it is perceived, learned, and used.’ therefore user experience is less concerned with quanti able user performance but more the qualitative aspects of usability. In this way it is driven by a consideration of the moments of engagement’, known as `touchpoints’, between people and the ideas, emotions, and the memories that these moments create. This is far more about making the user feel good about the system or the interface as opposed to purely the utility of the interactive performance.

In their paper, Law et al. interview 275 researchers and practitioners from academia and industry. Most respondents agreed that UX is dynamic, context-dependent, and subjective. The majority strongly agreed with the statements `Fleeting and more stable aspects of a person’s internal state (e.g.. needs. motivations) a ect a person’s experience of something’, `UX occurs in. and is dependent on the context in which the artefact is experienced’, and `Prior

exposure to an artefact shapes subsequent UX’; with a majority also weakly agreeing to `Designing (for) UX must be grounded in user-centred design’, `UX can change even after a person has stopped interacting with the artefact’, `UX is based on how a person perceives the characteristics of an artefact. but not on the characteristics per se’.

So it seems that there is broad agreement that UX is as more about a single speci c user experience – an experience that may also change – than it is about a generalizable result. This unit de ned UX slightly di erently from the combinatorial viewpoint in that we teach UX as an umbrella term used to describe all the factors that contribute to the quality of experience a person has when interacting with a speci c software artefact and focuses on the practice

of user centred: design, creation, and testing.

UX is not a simple subject to study for the Computer Scientist, it is an interdisciplinary subject which covers aspects of computer science, ergonomics, product design, sociology and psychology. As with other human sciences, there are no 100% correct answers, everything is open to error because the human, and the environment they operate within, is incredibly complicated. It is diffcult to isolate a single factor, and there are many extraneous hidden factors at work in any interaction scenario; in this case the luxury of a simple `yes’ or `no’ answer is often not available. The `up{side’ is that this level of complexity makes the study of UX incredibly interesting and incredibly challenging if done correctly; if you are up to this challenge thenthis is the unit for yo


The aim of the unit is to give the student: tools, techniques, and the mindset necessary to competently approach their rst user testing and user experience job. The unit is designed from a practical perspective and will enable the student to take up a junior role in a user experience department, or usability company, and provide them with the overview knowledge to communicate with others and make sensible suggestions regarding UX work. The unit is not

intended to be a comprehensive treaties of the subject – indeed this could not be accomplished in such a short space of time – however, it will provide the basis for the students future study within the domain.

Programme outcome Unit learning outcomes Assessment
A2 A3 A5 Have an understanding of the domain, concepts, and important and upcoming aspects of UX along with aspects of user interaction and cognition. In particular to have an understanding of the importance of Standards, Technologies, and Guidelines in the process;
  • Examination
C4 Have an understanding of relevant methods including experiment design, application, and the ethical issues surrounding such a design;
  • Examination
  • Individual coursework
A1 D6 Have an understanding of, and be able to select and apply, the relevant descriptive statistical tests associated with UX Engineering;
  • Examination
  • Individual coursework
B1 C4 Be able to analyse and critique UX work, experimental studies, and computer interfaces;
  • Examination
  • Individual coursework
B3 C4 Use analysis techniques associated with their knowledge of the domain to understand the problems associated with different designs, and suggests solutions for their resolution.
  • Individual coursework


The unit comprises twenty-one teaching sessions with one extra for the covering of revision topics. Students will be expect to devote further time for their own study and for the completion of their coursework { this is expected for all units and is detailed in the course / programme handbook. The twenty-one traditional lectures will be interspersed with four discussion lectures in which the material for the coursework will be discussed. The majority of this material will be covered by directed reading followed by discussion. Coursework work will take the form of a critique of the students previous Software Engineering HCI focused work, along with 4 x 200 word discussions of key UX topics.

The unit will progress as follows:

`Everything is Wrong!’:

1. What is UX? Why is it Important? What does the UX landscape look like? What will be covered in the unit? What will not be covered? How will you be examined and how will the work be presented?

2. Discussion Topic: Law, Effie Lai-Chong and Roto, Virpi and Hassenzahl, Marc and Vermeeren, Arnold P.O.S. and Kort, Joke (2009). Understanding, scoping and de ning user experience: a survey approach Proceedings of the 27th international conference on Human factors in computing systems, 1 (1), 719-728 :10.1145/1518701.1518813.

Developing with the User in Mind:

3. Methodologies and lifecycles; and

4. Requirements Elicitation & Analysis

User Centred Design / User Experience Design:

5. The UX Design Process; and the

6. Outputs of Design (Use Cases, Stories, Scenarios, Personas, Wireframes, Flows, Audits, and Mock-ups).

E ective Use:

7. People, Perception, Cognition, and Barriers; and

8. Accessibility Principles and Practice.Effcient Use:

9. Usability, Developing the Interface, and Standards and Guidelines; and

10. Discussion Topic: Smith, D. C., E. F. Harslem, C. H. Irby, R. B. Kimball, and W. L. Verplank. Designing the Star User Interface. Byte, April 1982.

Emotional Design:

11. A ective Computing; and

12. Discussion Topic: Norman, D A, Emotional Design: People and Things – abstracted at http://jnd.org/dn.mss/emotional design people and things.html.

Digital Umami:

13. Designing the Experience; and

14. Playfulness, Gami cation, and Funology.


15. Scienti c Method, Planning Experiments: Formative and Summative Investigations, Sampling,

Participant Selection and Recruitment, and Research Ethics; and

16. Qualitative and Quantitative Methods. Analysis and Reporting:

17. Analysis and Reporting; and

18. Descriptive Statistics.

UX in the Real World:

19. Real World Problems; and

20. Discussion Topic: Voice loops as cooperative aids in space shuttle mission control, Watts, Jennifer C. and Woods, David D. and Corban, James M. and Patterson, Emily S. and Kerr, Ronald L. and Hicks, LaDessa C., 1996.


21. The Unit Revision Lecture; and

22. Variance: Just in case something goes wrong or we take longer than expected to cover the topics.

Reading List

There is no single book covering all material and there is no need for the students taking the course to buy any book.


4 thoughts on “UX Syllabus [#ux]

  1. Very nice! Glad to have this course on board!
    I found some of the background confusing. A more didactic, less discursive, approach might be clearer, e.g., “In computer science, the study of usability or Human Computer Interaction has focused on blah balh blah often to the deliberate neglect of “design”. More recently, there has ben an increasing effort to bridge the two approaches under the heading of UX.

    Unlike traditional usabilitfy, the focus of UX tends to exclude implementational issues in favor of greater attention to all aspects of the final experience of the user…
    You might try a stronger hook, e.g., pointing out hte paradox of lots of Apple products, e.g., that they violate usability in favor of a global experience.

    Some typos:

    the use behaviour –> user’s behavior?

    “The scope of the eld is directed at a ecting all aspects of the user’s interaction with the product: :

    Eld? aecting?

    “and `Prior

    exposure to an artefact shapes subsequent UX’; :
    weird spacing

    “This unit de ned UX slightly di erently from the combinatorial viewpoint in that we teach UX as an umbrella term used to describe all the factors that contribute to the quality of experience a person has when interacting with a speci c software artefact and focuses on the practice

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