INFO 251-10
Web Usability
Spring 2020 Syllabus

Diane K. Kovacs

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning January 23rd at 6 am Pacific Time unless you are taking an intensive or a one-unit or two-unit class that starts on a different day. In that case, the class will open on the first day that the class meets.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

Through examination of theory, methodologies, and real-life cases, Info 251 offers a user experience (UX) framework for developing information systems. Students will learn the principles of user-centric design and style for particular circumstances and populations. (MLIS Electives.)

Course Requirements

Course Format
This course will be taught online using Canvas -  and once or twice monthly Zoom meetings for discussion, questions, and some lecture, as well as possibly some guest speakers. Zoom meetings are optional attendance but required listening to the recordings.

Primary/Technology Requirements
The primary course requirements are that students will:

Assignment Due Dates

(Dates in this document are subject to change with fair notice. See below.)

Grading Policy:

Class participation, readings, and recorded lectures are key in this course. 

Class participation is cultivated through asynchronous guided conversations (6 in Canvas) and optional attendance required listening to the recordings Zoom meetings. Guided conversations are guided by relevant questions that require you to self-reflect on the readings, recorded lectures, and your other relevant experience participating as a learner, a user, and as a user-centered designer. Points are awarded for posting and then for responding intelligently to at least two classmates' in your assigned small groups. See the Assignments list below.

Readings and recorded lectures also provide background and foundational information that students will need to complete the learning activities and the Usability Project work.

In addition to the guided conversations, there are quizzes on the readings, recorded lecture content, and the Zoom meetings for each topic.

It is important to express your own opinions while also being respectful; suggest constructive ideas for improvement while evaluating other students’ work; pose relevant questions; compare and contrast ideas; share and critique resources; communicate.

Optional Attendance/Required Listening to the Recording Zoom meetings Discussion/Lecture sessions scheduled as follows:
(This will be subject to some possible changes and additional optional online meeting dates depending on availability of guest speakers etc.)

  1. Monday, January 27 at 7 p.m. PT-8 p.m PT (10 p.m. - 11p.m. ET) - Attendance strongly encouraged for first class information
  2. Tuesday, February 11 at 7 p.m. PT-8 p.m PT (10 p.m. - 11 p.m. ET) Usability Project Choices
  3. Wednesday, March 11 at 7 p.m. PT-8 p.m PT (10 p.m. - 11 p.m. ET) Practical Usability Test Methods
  4. Monday, April 6 at 7 p.m. PT-8 p.m PT (10 p.m. - 11 p.m. ET) Usability Project Draft and Peer-Reviews
  5. Thursday, April 30 at 7 p.m.PT-8 p.m PT (10 p.m. - 11 p.m. ET) Usability Project Draft Final Work

Assignment Basic Format Guidelines

Include in each assignment:

  1. Course name
  2. Name of the assignment
  3. Your first and last name
  4. Date
  5. Use .doc, .pdf, or .txt or other universally readable format. Links to Google drive or similar hosting sites work as well.

Full assignments details and instructions are on the Canvas course pages. Assignment points total 1000.

Class Participation (Readings, Recorded Lectures, etc.): (375 points) (Supports CLO #1CLO #4CLO #5 CLO #6CLO #7, CLO #8CLO #9.)

  1. Entry Behavior and Learner Characteristics Survey. 25 points. Due February 2.
  2. 6 Guided Conversations on the readings and recorded lectures. 25 points each (150 points total). Due the last day of each Topic period.
  3. 6 Quizzes on the readings and recorded lectures 25 points each. (150 points total). Due the last day of each Topic period.
  4. 5 Zoom meeting follow-up Quizzes 10 points each (50 points total). Due the last day of the topic period in which the Zoom meeting is scheduled.

Usability Method Practice Activities: (250 points)

  1. Usability Practice Activity 1. Basic Accessibility Validation and Usability Testing. (50 points). Due March 1.
    Supports CLO #1, CLO #3 and CLO #4.
  2. Usability Practice Activity 2. User Stories and Personas. (100 points).  Due March 15.
    Supports CLO #3CLO #4CLO #5 CLO #6CLO #7, CLO #8CLO #9.
  3. Usability Practice Activity 3. Card Sorting and Sketching/Storyboarding. (100 points). Due March 29.

Usability Project: (375 points)

  1. Usability Project Start: Choose your Usability Project Web Site(s). (25 points) Due February 16.
  2. Draft Usability Project and Peer-Reviews. Post draft project work by April 12 (50 points). Peer reviews due April 19. (50 points). (100 points total).
    Supports CLO #1CLO #4CLO #5 CLO #6CLO #7, CLO #8CLO #9.
  3. Final Usability Project (300 points) Due May 11. (May be revised and resubmitted if submitted on time.)  
    Supports CLO #1CLO #4CLO #5 CLO #6CLO #7, CLO #8CLO #9.


Required Textbooks:

Recommended Textbooks:

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 202

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Critique and improve Web sites, software, and other library-related systems.
  2. Master rough sketching, rapid ideation, and prototyping.
  3. Refine interaction designs by studying the user's experience in a structured setting.
  4. Apply the principles of heuristic evaluation to iterative design.
  5. Explore and implement affective computing, aesthetics, and narrative in computer interfaces.
  6. Apply theoretical and practical principles of design, usability, and accessibility.
  7. Reapply the fundamentals of good design to other interactive media besides the Web.
  8. Create designs that use familiar information architecture and navigation elements to meet specific needs.
  9. Create strategies for maximizing usage by recognizing when designs deny access to people with certain disabilities.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 251 supports the following core competencies:

  1. E Design, query, and evaluate information retrieval systems.
  2. G Demonstrate understanding of basic principles and standards involved in organizing information such as classification and controlled vocabulary systems, cataloging systems, metadata schemas or other systems for making information accessible to a particular clientele.
  3. H Demonstrate proficiency in identifying, using, and evaluating current and emerging information and communication technologies.


Required Textbooks:

  • Krug, S. (2014). Don't make me think, revisited: A common sense approach to web usability. Peachpit. Available through Amazon: 0321965515arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Lynch, P., & Horton, S. (2016). Web style guide: Foundations of user experience design (4th ed.). Available through Amazon: 0300211651arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Mathis, L. (2016). Designed for use (2nd ed.). The Pragmatic Bookshelf. Available through Amazon: 1680501607arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbooks:

  • Greenberg, S. (2012). Sketching user experiences: The workbook. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Morgan Kaufmann. Available through Amazon: 0123819598arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Lichaw, D. (2016). The user's journey: Storymapping products that people love . Rosenfeld Media. Available through Amazon: 1933820314arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Norman, D. (2013). The design of everyday things: Revised and expanded edition. Basic Books. Available through Amazon: 0465050654arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Rosenfeld, L., Morville, P., & Arango, J. (2015). Information architecture: For the web and beyond (4th ed.). O'Reilly Media. Available through Amazon: 1491911689arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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