Course Description

From the Catalog: Students in this course will learn the importance of human-computer interaction design and the effectiveness of user-centered design. The course will cover a survey of methods frequently used by the HCI profession, such as usability testing and prototyping, as well as general design principles and how to use design guidelines. A particular emphasis will be placed on usability for Web site engineering, and students will apply knowledge from the field in the design and construction of user-centered Web sites.

Extended Description: Additionally, this course favors a mobile-first approach to responsive web design and development, with special attention to the challenges of designing touch-screen interfaces. Students will learn test-driven development methods supported by prototyping, rapid iteration, version control, and low-stakes user-testing. The design principles the course will emphasize include color, rich web typography, and responsive grid-based page layout, executed in modern CSS (Flexbox and Grid).

Accessibility, progressive enhancement, and inclusive design will be treated as guiding principles throughout the course. Student work is organized around active participation in electronic discussions, and three major projects, completed both individually and in teams.

Course Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, successful students will be able to:

Course Objectives

Students completing this course will learn to:



  • Butterick, Matthew. Butterick’s Practical Typography, 2nd ed. 2021. Open access (web).
  • Clark, Josh. Designing for Touch. New York: A Book Apart, 2015. $15 (eBook), ISBN 9781937557287
  • Jehl, Scott. Responsible Responsive Design New York: A Book Apart, 2014. $15 (eBook), ISBN 9781937557164
  • Kalbag, Laura. Accessibility for Everyone. New York: A Book Apart, 2017. $15 (eBook), ISBN 9781937557614
  • Krug, Steven. Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 3rd ed. Berkeley, CA: New Riders, 2014. $36 (eBook), ISBN 9780321965516
  • Samara, Timothy. Making and Breaking the Grid, 2nd ed. Beverly, MA: Rockport Publishers, 2017. $37 (paperback), ISBN 9781631592843



  • A blank, bound sketchbook of 100 pages or more
  • A wide-tipped black marker, like a Sharpie
  • An email account that you check daily
  • A browser- or cloud-based bookmarking scheme to aid your information management
  • A Basecamp account (invite will arrive via email); Basecamp, not Blackboard, will be where we coordinate our work and communication during and outside of class.
  • A GitHub account (see note about anonymity in the course technology policy below)
  • A personal computer, running a Unix-based operating system, such as Linux, BSD, or MacOS. A Linux running virtualized on Windows is fine, but Windows itself is not—you will need access to a variety of dev tools that are hard to come by on Windows. Your computer should also have the following software installed:
    1. A plain-text editor capable of syntax highlighting and configured for UTF-8/Unicode character encoding and Unix-style line endings (LF), entabbed with spaces (two spaces per tab)
    2. Firefox Developer Edition (free)
    3. Git (free)
    4. Node.js (free)
    5. Image-editing software (such as the free and open-source GIMP)
    6. As many different browsers as your operating system supports (e.g., Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Vivaldi; all free)

Special Needs

I make it my very top priority to create courses that are welcoming and accessible to all students. I will make additional reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. In order to receive accommodations, students must obtain a letter of accommodation from the Center for Disability Resources. The Center for Disability Resources is located in IIT Tower, 3424 S. State Street - 3F3-1 (third floor, in the northwest corner across from the Student Health and Wellness Center). Contact the Center by telephone at 312-567-5744, by TDD at 312-567-5135, or via email at

Students who have any difficulty, either permanent or temporary, that might affect their ability to successfully participate in and complete the class should contact me privately at the start of the semester or as a difficulty arises. That includes difficulties with housing, internet access, and anything that otherwise compromises your sense of safety, security, and support—especially if it impacts your ability to complete this class. Please reach out.

I will adjust methods, materials, or deadlines as necessary to ensure equitable participation for all students.

Mental Health and Well-Being

It’s no secret that attending school while managing and balancing other life concerns is incredibly stressful and at times completely overwhelming. And that’s when there’s not a global pandemic raging, disrupting all aspects of our lives. All of us, no matter how outwardly strong, successful, or put-together we might appear, struggle sometimes.

Illinois Tech provides all students with a variety of free counseling services. I encourage all students to seek support and help from the Counseling Services unit of the Student Health and Wellness Center. Students facing a crisis situation, especially outside of the Counseling Services unit’s operating hours, may wish to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Student Health and Wellness Center maintains a list of other emergency resources worth bookmarking.

Illinois Tech’s Policy on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

Illinois Tech prohibits all sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and gender discrimination by any member of our community. This includes harassment among students, staff, or faculty. Sexual harassment of a student by a faculty member or sexual harassment of an employee by a supervisor is particularly serious. Such conduct may easily create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.

Illinois Tech encourages anyone experiencing sexual harassment or sexual misconduct to speak with the Office of Title IX Compliance for information on support options and the resolution process.

You can report sexual harassment electronically at, which may be completed anonymously. You may additionally report by contacting the Title IX Compliance Coordinator, Virginia Foster, at, or the Deputy Title IX Compliance Coordinator, Molly Fleck, at

For confidential support and reporting, you may reach Illinois Tech’s Confidential Advisor (Resilience) at 773-907-1062. You can also contact a licensed practitioner in Illinois Tech’s Student Health and Wellness Center at or 312-567-7550.

For a comprehensive list of resources regarding counseling services, medical assistance, legal assistance and visa and immigration services, you can visit the Office of Title IX Compliance website at

Attendance & Participation

Your active participation on Basecamp is required both for your own success and for the success of the class as a whole. Attendance at live class meetings does not impact your participation grade, but I do hope that everyone who is able joins those meetings, either in person or via Google Meet.

I do not squander students’ time with reading quizzes (I am way more interested in giving you the opportunity to ask questions about the reading), but I do assign a lot of reading. Seriously, ask around. And I expect you to be prepared to discuss that reading on the Reading Discussions board on Basecamp.

In your reading-discussion posts, be sure to highlight your questions about the readings or on topics related to the readings. If you have no questions, you probably didn’t read very carefully. None of the assigned readings are easy. If you genuinely have no questions, you had better dazzle us all with your fresh insights and superior analysis of the readings. Under no circumstance should you post a summary of the reading. No one wants to read your summary. And no one will respond to it either. Neither will the instructor. So ask questions.

Beyond the reading discussions, there will be weekly threads on the Questions & Answers board, too. Take advantage of those. Any question related to the course, however tenuously, is fair game. You are also 100% welcome and encouraged to start your own discussion thread if you have a large or complicated question—or just don’t want to risk your question getting lost in the shuffle.

Additionally, you should be posting to Basecamp about your individual and group progress, questions, and challenges as you complete the course’s major projects. You are also responsible for responding to the work and questions of others in the class. Yes, you might not yet be an expert in this material (that’s why you’re in the class, right?), but you have a lot to offer in terms of pointing to readings, course videos, or just spotting typos and goofs that make their way into the code of every developer, regardless of experience. Learning happens through discussion, not by sitting quietly and feeling overwhelmed.

Participation Grades

Students intending to earn an A for Participation should be posting substantively on the Discussion & Announcements Basecamp four times or more per week (64+ posts over the sixteen-week semester), with contributions appearing multiple days per week, all semester long. Students earning a B will post three to four times (at least 48 posts for the semester), and students earning a C will post two times, every week (at least 32 posts). Fewer than an average of two discussion contributions per week will result in a failing Participation grade.

Participation points are incredibly easy points to earn, and likewise incredibly easy points to miss out on. They will be tallied at three checkpoints this semester: sometime around Week Four (20% of the total participation points), sometime around Week Nine (40% of the total participation points), and sometime around Week Fourteen (the remaining 40% of the total participation points; 20% + 40% + 40% = 100%).

Sometime around… means plus or minus one week. The exact date will not be announced ahead of time, and point-totals for the percentage in question will not be adjusted after the tally. So if you’re the kind of student who’s only motivated by points, there’s your reason to stay on top of Basecamp. For everyone else, good discussions rely on both timeliness and interesting content. No one wants to be notified about, let alone read, a random post about stuff we read seven weeks ago, and no one posting such a thing will earn credit for it, either.

Class Meeting Expectations and Etiquette

In-Person Meetings

If you are able to attend our class meetings on the Mies Campus, here are some important but simple guidelines:

  • In keeping with the University’s masking policy, everyone in the classroom, including all students and the instructor, must wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. Changes to University policy will be reflected here.
  • If you are sick or even just think you’re sick, stay home. You can watch class live via Google Meet or later on YouTube. Stay home. There is no penalty for missing an in-person class, and definitely no reward for trying to be heroic and showing up if you’re unwell. Seriously, stay home. Your health—and the health of those around you—is the top priority. So again: stay home. But do check in with me so that you keep on track as you are able.

Online Meetings

If you are able to attend our class meetings via Google Meet, or if our class has any online-only meetings, here are just a few simple guidelines:

  • You do not have to broadcast your camera. For any reason. The choice is yours. It’s helpful for me to be able to glance at faces and see how at least some of you are reacting, but it’s totally up to you whether to broadcast your camera or not.
  • Please mute your mic if you’re not speaking. Self-explanatory. Muted mics cut down on ambient noise and occasional echo that can be real problems for people who have hearing difficulties. I encourage you to turn on the live closed captioning when we’re in Google Meet, too.
  • Neither you nor our Meet room will appear in class videos. I will always teach class with our Google Meet room on a second screen that will not be recorded. If you opt to speak, your voice may be in the video, of course. But you also have the option of messaging in the Meet room by text; I will keep an eye on that as class is going, in case you wish to raise questions, drop a corny joke, or ask for clarification that way.
  • If my Internet connection fails, I will still record and post class. That kind of thing does happen: sometimes before class, sometimes during. If I’ve got Internet troubles, I’ll try post to Basecamp somehow and let everyone know what’s going on.
  • All class meetings will be posted to YouTube. You’ll be able to watch class on your own time if you’re unable to attend the live class. I invite students to contribute markers to index the videos on YouTube, too, to help anyone who needs to go back and find and rewatch something. Again, I will take great care not to accidentally record our chat room. I will share a playlist link for all of our videos on Basecamp and on the course website.

Assignment Submission

All major projects for this course will be submitted initially in draft form via Basecamp for instructor and peer feedback.

If you do not post a draft by the stated deadline for each project, you will receive a zero for the entire project. Because drafts are by their nature imperfect and incomplete, there is no excuse for not at least posting whatever you have by the deadline. Learn to start early and work as you have time. You will get feedback from me and from your peers at the draft stage—at which point you’ll actually have time and opportunity to act on that feedback. Put simply, draft submission is in many ways more important than the final-project submission. Plan accordingly.

Some project deliverables, such as final versions of projects and critiques of team members, will be submitted via email. See each major project’s description for exact submission requirements and instructions.

Weekly work should be pushed to GitHub and posted about on Basecamp, as described in the weekly work’s instructions.

Late Work

All work must be submitted before the date and time specified in each project description. Weekly work, including reading discussions, is due by the start of the first class meeting each week. The deadlines in this class, including for draft work, are no different from exam dates in classes that have exams. I expect you to do your best to treat them accordingly.

If you believe you are in danger of missing a deadline, you must contact me ahead of the deadline so we can work something out. To receive an extension, you must have some work completed to show at the time you request an extension. If you have nothing to show, you will not receive an extension. If the deadline has already passed, you will likewise not receive an extension.

Grading Policy

Lowest A, 90 points; B, 80 points; C, 70 points; D, 60 points.

Extra Credit

Everybody knows that professors sit atop a mountain of extra-credit points, just waiting to distribute them to students who screwed up when it came time to earn the run-of-the-mill credit in the class. As a bonus, that extra credit is just extra, extra sweet. Way better than just doing the actual credit-bearing work of the class. Amiright?

Bad news: there is no extra credit in my classes. Period. Tell your friends: Stolley is a big mean jerk, keeping all of that extra credit for himself. Like he even needs it.

If you’re the kind of troubled student who really loves extra credit that much, create your own: consider yourself as having a zero-point, failing grade in this class. Tough news on the first day, I know. Your grade is in real, serious trouble. Is there anything you can do to possibly pass? Yes! It’s your lucky day: There are 100 points of “extra” credit for you to earn, all enumerated above: three projects, production problems, and participation. You can do it, champ! Earn those points!

Grading Criteria

Technology Policy

Technology is an essential part of this class. You are just as responsible for learning to configure, command, and troubleshoot various technologies as for any other course content. Difficulty with technology is not an acceptable excuse for being unprepared for class or for submitting late, incomplete, or substandard work.

If you are having trouble with technology or any other material covered in this course, it is your professional responsibility to find supplemental materials to troubleshoot and solve your problems. Ask questions on the weekly Q&A threads on Basecamp, too. Just make use of the search feature on Basecamp first: it’s entirely possible that someone has experienced your same difficulty and gotten an answer from someone else in the class or the instructor. Don’t earn yourself a reputation for asking the same question that’s already been asked and answered. And yes: you absolutely should monitor the Q&A threads. You’ll find students asking questions that might not have even occurred to you.

You are discouraged in the strongest possible terms from using Windows in this class. Running Windows in a development class is like showing up to a cooking class with an Easy-Bake Oven. Windows is not suited to professional development, other than perhaps developing Windows applications. This class uses professional-grade, POSIX-compliant environments and tools. If your operating system doesn’t support something as basic and ancient as the ls command, you need to get an operating system that does. Immediately.

If you think you know better and opt to run Windows, you are 100% on your own when it comes to getting the required tools and technologies to run on your machine. And even if you’re successful at that, know that by continuing to use Windows, you are hamstringing your education and growth as a developer—as well as your future career prospects. Dual-boot into or at least virtualize a POSIX-style operating system.

Git and GitHub

We will be running a number of important tools from the command line in this class. That includes Git. You must make all commits and manage branches, etc. from the command line. It is neither good nor acceptable professional practice to use GUI-based Git software or to make commits directly on GitHub itself. Your primary interactions with GitHub will be pushing, fetching, and pulling via the command line.

Speaking of GitHub, I have asked you to sign up for a GitHub account for this class. Note that GitHub accounts are public, as are most social-type accounts. To protect your privacy you are certainly allowed to use a pseudonym/alias for GitHub and any other similar account. That being said, you might want to think about the high value of establishing GitHub and other accounts under your own name or professional alias. Public accounts where you conduct yourself professionally might well be an asset to your online presence, improving the search results that future schools or employers turn up when they look for you on Google and elsewhere.

Academic Integrity

As with all courses at Illinois Tech, you are expected in this course to uphold the Code of Academic Honesty as described in the Illinois Tech Student Handbook.

All work you submit for this course must be your own original effort. That includes all code, scripts, stylesheets, data structures, and visual designs.

Any use of open-source code libraries and media not of your own making, as well as summarizations and quotations of text, should be clearly cited as legally and ethically warranted and rhetorically appropriate. Accessing, storing, disseminating, and otherwise making use of data from third-party sources must conform to the source’s terms of service, licensing, and other applicable legal and ethical restrictions.

If you are at all uncertain as to whether you are submitting work that in whole or in part may violate the Code of Academic Honesty, please contact me well before the work is due to discuss it.

The consequences of academic dishonesty are severe. Any student found in violation of the Code of Academic Honesty will earn a zero on the project in question, and may be subject to expulsion from this course with a failing grade. I report all incidents of academic dishonesty to the Chair of the Information Technology and Management Department, who may take additional disciplinary action, including reporting violations to the Dean of the College of Computing as well as the offices of Undergraduate or Graduate Academic Affairs.

Course Information


Teaching Assistant