Course Information

The goal of this course is to give you hands-on practice with a modern human-centered design process while building a web application to serve a set of target users. Here are some logistics that will help us achieve this goal.

Design theme: Designing for Age 40+

The project theme for this quarter is designing for people age 40 and over. The older the target age group for your project, the more interesting your project can potentially become. We set the lower bound to age 40 so that you will likely need to find people outside of your immediate peer group to design for.

You can interpret this theme as broadly as you want, but we have one ground rule: do not create a project that is generally useful for most age groups, even though technically it would also be useful for age 40+. For instance, a food-ordering or ride-sharing app is not a good project idea since that commonly benefits many age groups. Better project ideas include apps designed for parents managing kids, for grandparents, for aging-related health-issues, etc. Have fun!

Computer Programming Prerequisites

Even though this course is focused on the interaction design process, in order to succeed in it you will need to do a fair amount of web programming. You will need to do frontend web programming; backend server-side programming is optional (but can make your project more compelling).

You must have taken CSE8A or CSE11 to enroll in this course. Students who have not taken CSE8A or CSE11 will automatically be dropped from the course and will not receive a grade.

All students will need to know web programming to complete the course project. While some teammates may do more of the programming, and others more user testing, everybody must make a meaningful contribution to programming their team's project.

Code of Conduct

Our priority is to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment so that all students can fully focus on learning. Thus, everyone involved in the course (staff + students) should agree to show respect and courtesy to each other. To make this commonsense phrase more concrete, we have adapted the following Code of Conduct from the Recurse Center:

This course is dedicated to providing a harassment-free learning environment and community for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, or anything else. We do not tolerate harassment in any form.

All communication related to this course, in person and online, should be appropriate for a professional audience including people of many different backgrounds. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate in this course in any context.

While this course as a whole is a professional community, it's also a community of friends. We ask you to be aware of the fact that conversations that may be appropriate within the context of a specific friendship or relationship with another member of the course may be inappropriate in a group conversation with classmates or staff members you don't know well.

Be kind to others. Do not insult or put down others in the course. Behave professionally. Remember that harassment and sexist, racist, or exclusionary jokes are not appropriate for this course.

Thank you for helping make this a welcoming, friendly community for all.

Team Formation

All work in this course will be done and submitted in teams of 3. It is your responsibility to form teams within your studio and by asking on Piazza; the staff will help out, but we will not proactively assign anyone to your team without your authorization. (However, if you have only 2 people on your team, then we may suggest a third person to add to your team so that it has 3 people.) If you cannot find a team by the Add Deadline, then unfortunately you cannot remain in the course.


Bring a laptop to lectures and studios for hands-on work. If your laptop's battery won't last the entire class, arrive early so you can sit near a plug. If you do not have a laptop, or yours breaks, you can borrow one from the UCSD Biomedical Library. Restrict your laptop use to class-relevant activities like doing the exercises or taking notes. Be respectful of your neighbors, so try to stay off Facebook, email, games, etc.; it distracts other students, not just you. We also assume all students will have access to a digital camera (e.g., on your phone) for assignments.

Code Labs

Each week, you will complete a code lab that will help you learn tools and techniques to design and implement interactive web applications. You should plan to attend in-class lab sessions on Fridays to complete labs, following along with the instructor. TAs will also be available during these sessions to help.

Labs will not count toward your course grade. However, we strongly recommend that you complete them since they will help you on your project, and exam questions will also be taken directly from the contents of code labs.


There is no final exam, but there are two midterm exams held in lecture (Exam 1 and Exam 2). The exams are closed-note; you may not use any outside resources.

What will exams cover? Anything covered in lecture, code labs, or the online videos linked from either is fair game for the exams. We often cover theory from lecture (e.g. heuristic evaluation, study design), and coding techniques from lab (e.g. version control, jQuery selectors, t-tests).

Regarding the code labs: you'll have to know how to read code on the exam, but you do not need to write code yourself from scratch. We won't grill you about some tiny nitpicky code construct that appears only on the corner of one slide in tiny font; the coding concepts that you will be tested on will often appear in multiple slides. If you are working your way through the labs (not simply reading what's on the slide), then you should have a good understanding of the required material for exams.

Weekly Assignments and No-Late Policy

In your weekly assignments, you will progressively design and develop an interactive web application, which will culminate in a final presentation at the end of the quarter. You should submit your assignments as PDF documents. Do not spend time "beautifying" your submission.

No late assignments will be accepted. This is because you will present your work in Wednesday studio every week, so you need to be prepared to participate. If there is a problem with the website that makes it so you cannot submit your assignment, you must message your TA on Piazza by 1:00am or else you will receive a grade of zero for it. You can do this only once.

Another reason for our no-late-assignments policy: Any of your team members can make a submission, so in case one or more members are out sick or are overwhelmed at the moment, the remaining members can be there to make up the work for a given week and submit the assignment. We give you enough advanced notice on due dates to plan around when some of you will be busy.

Studio Attendance and Participation

  • All studios are on Wednesdays in HSS 1346.
  • Starts on the hour and lasts 50 minutes. e.g., 10am–10:50am
  • Attendance is mandatory; show up on time to get credit.
  • You'll form teams of 3 for your project within your studio.

Design is a contact sport, and studio is where the action is. Sharing your work and discussing designs with others is an important part of design, and we do a lot of both in studio. Thus, studio attendance is mandatory. To receive credit for attending, you must arrive on time (no more than 5 minutes late), sign in, and stay for the entire session. Remember to sign in!

You are allowed two excused absences for the quarter without penalty; thereafter you will receive zero credit for any missed studio. To receive an excused absence, you must ask your TA in advance and receive written confirmation from your TA. Excusable absences include family emergencies, out-of-town job interviews, and presenting at a conference. It does not include wanting to leave early for a long weekend or vacation, or attending another class or campus event. Athletes who want to miss more than one studio to participate in athletic competitions must make requests during the first week of class.

Grading Rubrics

Each assignment comes with a rubric explaining how the course staff will grade your submission. These rubrics have been refined over many years to clearly describe what we think mastery of each assignment entails. True mastery in any field is a lifelong process. For this course, "mastery" means performing at the level described in the rubric. Review the entire assignment description, especially the rubric, before starting your assignment.

Teammate assessments

For each assignment, you will privately assess your own and your teammates' performance (called a "teammate assessment"). In general, everyone on the team will earn the same grade. However, if a majority of the team reports on their teammate assessments that an individual was more/less successful in achieving their goals, that individual's grade will be adjusted accordingly.

Grade composition and scale

Letter grade only: the "credit/no credit" option is not available.

Your course grade is out of 165 total points, comprising:

  • 8 weekly assignments (A1-A8): 107 points total, graded from rubrics
  • 2 in-class exams: 30 points (15 points each)
  • Studio attendance and participation: 20 points max (one unexcused absence: you can get a max of 15 points. two unexcused absences: max of 10 points. three+ unexcused: no credit for this part.) You'll receive the following fraction of your max based on your level of participation:
    • Low: minimal participation in studio & did not attend office hours (i.e., your TA rarely hears from you)
    • Mid: some participation in studio and/or attended office hours with meaningful questions
    • High: active participation in studio and/or attended office hours with meaningful questions
  • Code of conduct: 8 points. We expect everyone to get all 8 points here unless there is a violation of our code of conduct. We will inform you if you are at risk of getting points taken off here, so if you don't hear anything, you got all 8 points.

At the end of the quarter, raw point scores are translated into letter grades using the standard letter grade scale. Note that this is a minimum guaranteed grade that you will get. In rare cases when a student is near the borderline, we will consider raising their grade if there are exceptional circumstances (see next section).

For example (149/165) is 90%, so that would earn an A-. In this class, as with any, the grade you earn reflects your performance. There is no curve, so you are not competing with your classmates for a limited number of letter grades.

Do not ask the professor about grades

Do not email, Piazza message, or ask the professor about your grades. Everyone follows the same set of grading rules, which are set at the beginning of the quarter and clearly written. This class rewards high-quality, on-topic work that follows the rubrics.

At the end of the quarter, the entire staff meets to go over any special circumstances that may warrant minor grade adjustments. Please do not message us at the end of the term to dispute your grades. In the end, we will make final grading decisions that are the most fair for all students in the class, not just those who happen to be more persistent at arguing.

Regrade Requests

The teaching staff works extremely hard to grade fairly and return assignments quickly. We know you work hard, and want you to receive the grade you earned. Occasionally, grading mistakes do happen, and it's important to us to correct them.

If you believe there is an error in your assignment or exam grading, submit an explanation in writing to your studio TA on Gradescope within 7 days of receiving the grade. This explanation should list the score that you think is most accurate for each rubric item, and explain why that score is more accurate than the one you received. A second staff member will regrade the entire assignment to ensure quality, and their grade will be your final score (you cannot make any further appeals). Note that they do not simply regrade the items that you want; they regrade the entire assignment from scratch. Make sure that the staff has access to all materials needed (e.g., the version of your app as of the submission deadline, login information, images or physical copies of any materials shown in person but not submitted online). We will not accept requests made orally, via email, after 7 days, or with disrespectful language or repeatedly after denied requests.

There is no regrade procedure for the final assignment of the quarter due to lack of time at the end of the quarter before grades are due. (Note that in classes with final exams, you do not have an opportunity to ask for a regrade on the final exam either, so this policy is consistent with that fact.) But rest assured that we have a final in-person grading meeting where the entire staff meets to discuss each group's performance and takes that into consideration when assigning final grades.

If you hassle the staff with grading questions, that could automatically earn you a 0 score on that assignment. This regrade option should be used sparingly only in rare circumstances when you feel there has been a substantial error; for instance, we will not view it favorably if you request a regrade on every assignment without just cause.

Academic Integrity

The staff works hard to help you learn course concepts and gain the skills necessary to be an ethical member of society. We expect your help in achieving these goals. If you cheat, you not only fail yourself (in that you won't have gained critical skills), but you fail UCSD (by lowering the expected quality of our degrees). Thus, we have a personal responsibility to both you and to your fellow UCSD students – and we take it seriously. So don't cheat. We will submit an allegation report on anyone we believe to be not upholding our academic integrity contract. This is processed through UCSD's Academic Integrity Office.

Aside from being bad for you, cheating is also highly inconsiderate to your classmates, since all the time and energy that the course staff spends dealing with the paperwork of cheating cases means less time to devote to the vast majority of students in class who are doing good honest work.

As a reminder, the following is an excerpt from the UCSD General Catalog section on Academic Dishonesty:

No student shall engage in any activity that involves attempting effort, for example:

  1. No student shall knowingly procure, provide, or accept any materials that contain questions or answers to any examination or assignment to be given at a subsequent time.
  2. No student shall complete, in part or in total, any examination or assignment (including clicker participation) for another person.
  3. No student shall knowingly allow any examination or assignment to be completed, in part or in total, for himself or herself by another person.
  4. No student shall plagiarize or copy the work of another person and submit it as his or her own work.
  5. No student shall employ unauthorized aids in undertaking course work.
  6. No student shall, without proper authorization, alter graded class assignments or examinations and then resubmit them for regrading.