HCI Course Part 1 - Needfinding

As I mentioned previously, during April & May 2013 I participated in Scott Klemmer’s Human-Computer Interaction course from Stanford Online.

In this course, you will learn how to design technologies that bring people joy, rather than frustration. Helping you build human-centered design skills, so that you have the principles and methods to create excellent interfaces with any technology. (more)

Over a series of posts I'll share some of my coursework with you. This is the first of the series. Read them all!

If you are serious about UX design I highly recommend Scott's course! Throw yourself into the course and you will learn tons from the experience.

Assignment 1 Needfinding

We began the class by selecting an activity that fell within one of three design briefs:

  1. Change: Use the power of new technology to create an application or service that facilitates personal or social behavior change.
  2. Glance: Find people and design a personal dashboard tailored to their needs.
  3. Time: Redesign the way we experience or interact with time.

Thinking about my own experiences trying to keep track of vehicle maintenance timetables on an older car I choose Change as my design brief:

For tasks that need to happen on a regular but extended time frame, how can we ensure that those happen as effortlessly as possible? It’s easy to remember to brush your teeth because you do it everyday. Car and home maintenance tasks should occur at regular frequencies to help keep our cars running smoother and our homes safer. But many of us have trouble keeping track of these longer term tasks. Can we use technology to help us keep up with these maintenance tasks easier?

Then we observed three (or more) people performing the selected activity, while noting breakdowns and interesting moments, and identifying user needs.

Here are the notes I made regarding one of the people I observed. As with all my work names are changed.


Sally is a psychotherapist who commutes daily to her office. Her kids are all grown up now and she often travels to other cities to visit them. She bought her car new within the last couple years.

Since Sally’s car is relatively new it has special lights on the dashboard display to tell her about maintenance due. When she turns on the car a little light that looks like a wrench comes on to tell her the car needs maintenance. There is a little display with a code to explain what maintenance is needed. Breakdown: Sally has to look in the owner’s manual to decode the message and figure out what maintenance is required. Since the car is new she takes it to the car dealership and has them do whatever is needed.

Sally's dashboard