Human-Computer Interaction teaches the fundamental issues that underlie the creation and evaluation of usable and useful computational artifacts. Through lectures, assigned readings and design activities, students are to work in teams of 4-5 to design a solution for a real-world problem. The end result of the project is a high fidelity interactive prototype of a mobile application, targeted at solving a particular real-world problem. Over the term, students will iterate on the design of this application, by (i) conducting user interviews and identifying specific functionalities required for the successful adoption of a specific application, (ii) creating and prototyping the design of the application (low and high fidelity prototyping), and (iii) assessing the final design through the prototype evaluations.

See this rough guide of the list of topics covered. There is no midterm or final exam for this course. There is also no programming involved in this course.

Specifically, you will learn to:

In a typical year, CS449/649 is a highly interactive studio-style course, where students take part in design activities during class time. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, CS449/649 is re-designed to be an online course. All components---lectures (pre-recorded), exploratory user study (e.g., interviews and prototype evaluations), interaction amongst students, TAs and instructors---will be done online.


This year's project theme is Re-envisioning How We Live, Work and Play Beyond the Pandemic. In this design project, students are encouraged to identify a problem or opportunty that the pandemic introduced, and design an app to address the problem or capitalize on the opportunity. Student teams must select one of the project topics (e.g., B3) listed on the project page. The project consists of 4 key components: preparation, participation, process, and product. Each of the component is described in more details below.

1. Preparation

1.a Ethics Training (details). The TCPS 2 Tutorial Course on Research Ethics (CORE), also known as the TCPS2 tutorial, is mandatory for all researchers who intend to engage in research with human participants. Students must complete the ethics training course during the first week of the class. They are not allowed to interview users until the ethics training is completed.

1.b Team Building and Monitoring (details). The success of your project depends on your dedication towards teamwork. At the beginning of the course, the team will participate in a series of team building exercises (e.g., draft team contracts), and continue to monitor team health (through surveys) monthly throughout the term.

1.c Reading Reflections (details). There will be weekly assigned readings and videos that reinfoce students' understanding of UI/UX techniques and expose them to HCI research. Each week, students are expected to choose 1-2 of the assigned readings, and complete the reading reflection section of the design notebook for that week. The reading reflection should be short and concise, around 250 words max.

2. Participation

2.a Weekly Team Meeting (details). Unlike most courses, CS449 is a highly interactive course where much of the learning takes place when students work together on components of the project. Students are expected to attend a weekly team meeting at a pre-deteremined day/time as decided by the team.

2.b Small-Group Discussions (details). Throughout the term, project teams will be asked to present their work (e.g., challenge report, final project) to each other. Students who are not presenting are expected to attend these presentations, and provide comments and questions to generate meaningful discussions.

3. Process

3.a User Interviews (details). As part of the course, you will be asked to conduct an exploratory user study with 6-8 unique target users. The exploratory user study includes two types of user interviews: informational interviews and low-fi/hi-fi prototype evaluations.

3.b Documentation of Design Activities (details). Since the goal of this course is to teach the process of iterative design, the project groups will be asked to maintain an online design notebook, where they document the design activities and lessons learned. The design notebook helps the instructor and TAs to monitor the intermediate progress of the projects and to provide forehanded feedback on the next steps to ensure correct and effective work flow.

3.c Challenge Reports and Presentations (details). There will be 4 challenge reports (1-2 pages), once every two weeks, where the teams are asked to challenge and "poke holes" at their own assumptions about the users and the problems. In the challenge report, the team must describe their assumptions in the previous iteration, summarize whether their findings agree with or contradict their previous assumptions, and describe their plans for the next iterations. Each team must present one of these challenge reports in an online presentation. The presentation should be short (at most 5 minutes). The main goals of the presentations are to practice verbal presentations of the product design, to share with classmates the design challenges related to the design of their particular application, and to obtain additional feedback about plans moving forward.

3.d Buddy Team Feedback (details). Each group is assigned a buddy team. Your team is expected to provide the buddy team concrete suggestions during certain phases of design (e.g., draft of interview questions, feedback on high fidelity prototypes, etc) and the receiving teams should incorporate some of these suggestions in subsequent weeks into their evolving design.

4. Product

There are four final products: final prototype, demo video, final project presentation and blog post. These requirements are independent of any choice students may make regarding any intellectual property connected to their course projects. Please note that all final products will be posted on the course website and publicly available for viewing. Different from the rest of the deliverables, the final products are not graded by your theme's TA; the score for each of the final products is the average of the score from a random TA and from the instructor.

4.a Final Prototype (details). The final prototype is a high-fidelity, interactive, user-friendly prototype, containing features that are effective at addressing the target problem.

4.b Demo Video (details). The demo video should be 3 minutes in length, and showcases the final high fidelity interactive prototype of their application.

4.c Final Project Presentation (details). Each team will give a 5-minute online presentation about their design process and final producut to other students, and other potential stakeholders of the application.

4.d Blog Post (details). Each team should submit a polished and concise description of the design process that led to their final product, in the format of a typical blog post and based on the content of their design notebook.

CS 649 Additional Requirements

CS 649 has a separate marking scheme with weights distribution that differs from CS 449.

Research Proposal (details). Students taking CS649 are expected to learn, through reading, at least two different types of HCI methodologies, and individually produce a (at least) 6-page report that describes at least two research questions, one per methodology, that relate to their CS449/649 project/application, and provide a convincing argument on how and why these questions can be appropriately answered by the corresponding methodology/study design. They are also expected to submit a 2-page proposal draft.

Grading scheme

Specific grading guidelines for each deliverable are available on the Deliverables page.

Preparation (4%)
CS 449 CS 649
1.a: Ethics Training --- ---
1.b: Team Building and Monitoring 2% 2%
1.c: Reading Reflections 2% 2%
Participation (6%)
CS 449 CS 649
2.a: Weekly Team Meeting 4% 4%
2.b: Small-Group Discussions 2% 2%
Process (40%)
CS 449 CS 649
3.a: User Interviews 6% 6%
3.b: Documentation of Design Activities 10% 10%
3.c: Challenge Reports (4x) + Presentation 20% (16% + 4%) 20% (16% + 4%)
3.d: Buddy Team Feedback 4% 4%
Product (50% for CS449, 40% for CS649)
CS 449 CS 649
4.a: Final Prototype 20% 20%
4.b: Demo Video 10% 5%
4.c: Final Project Presentation 10% 5%
4.d: Design Process Blog Post 10% 10%
CS649 Only (10%)
CS 449 CS 649
Research Proposal (draft + report) NA 10% (2% + 8%)

Communication Protocol

If you have a question, ask on Slack first.
● You can ask your question in the public #question channel, especially if it is a question directed at other students.
● Your team will be provided with a private team channel, which the instructors and your project theme's TA will also have access to. You can ask your question in your private team channel, especially if it is a discussion about your team's project.
● You can ask private questions to a specific TA or instructor by direct messaging them. You can also send an email to
● If your question requires a face-to-face meeting to resolve, book a 15 minutes zoom meeting with the instructors or your project theme's TA using calendly. If you require 30 minutes, book two 15 minutes appointment back-to-back.

Online etiquette is important. While online chat tools, such as Slack, provide a convenient way for students to reach TAs/instructors and fellow students, do not expect instanteous answers. Keep your questions clear/concise and your comments professional. Be considerate of everyone.

Deliverables and Late Penalties

All deliverables are due 5:00 pm on the due date. Late penalties for all deliverables: -5% of the deliverable total for each additional day (5:01 pm to 5:00 pm).

IMPORTANT: If a deliverable was not submitted before the next deliverable due date, you will get 0% for this deliverable. Furthermore, you are not allowed to submit the next deliverable if the previous deliverable was not submitted. Failing to submit all the deliverables by the end of the term may result in failing the course.

Course Policies

Academic Integrity

In order to maintain a culture of academic integrity, members of the University of Waterloo community are expected to promote honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility. See for more information.


A student who believes that a decision affecting some aspect of his/her university life has been unfair or unreasonable may have grounds for initiating a grievance. Read Policy 70, Student Petitions and Grievances, Section 4. When in doubt, please be certain to contact the department’s administrative assistant who will provide further assistance.


A student is expected to know what constitutes academic integrity (check to avoid committing an academic offence, and to take responsibility for his/her actions. A student who is unsure whether an action constitutes an offence, or who needs help in learning how to avoid offences (e.g., plagiarism, cheating) or about “rules” for group work/collaboration, should seek guidance from the course instructor, TA, academic advisor, or the Undergraduate Associate Dean. For information on categories of offences and types of penalties, students should refer to Policy 71, Student Discipline. For typical penalties, see the Guidelines for the Assessment of Penalties.


A decision made or penalty imposed under Policy 70 (Student Petitions and Grievances) (other than a petition) or Policy 71 (Student Discipline) may be appealed if there are grounds. A student who believes he/she has grounds for an appeal should refer to Policy 72 (Student Appeals).

Note for Students with Disabilities

AccessAbility Services (formerly the Office for Persons with Disabilities), located in Needles Hall, Room 1132, collaborates with all academic departments to arrange appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities, without compromising the academic integrity of the curriculum. If you require academic accommodations to lessen the impact of your disability, please register with AccessAbility Services at the beginning of each academic term.

Intellectual Property

Students should be aware that this course contains the intellectual property of their instructor, TA, and/or the University of Waterloo. Intellectual property includes items such as:

Course materials and the intellectual property contained therein, are used to enhance a student’s educational experience. However, sharing this intellectual property without the intellectual property owner’s permission is a violation of intellectual property rights. For this reason, it is necessary to ask the instructor, TA and/or the University of Waterloo for permission before uploading and sharing the intellectual property of others online (e.g., to an online repository).

Permission from an instructor, TA or the University is also necessary before sharing the intellectual property of others from completed courses with students taking the same/similar courses in subsequent terms/years. In many cases, instructors might be happy to allow distribution of certain materials. However, doing so without expressed permission is considered a violation of intellectual property rights.

Please alert the instructor if you become aware of intellectual property belonging to others (past or present) circulating, either through the student body or online. The intellectual property rights owner deserves to know (and may have already given their consent).