Cmsc434-0101/838s Human Factors in Computer and Information Systems




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CMSC434-0101/838s Human Factors in Computer and Information Systems

Computer Science Department, University of Maryland

Exam 2, Spring 2002

Professor: Ben Shneiderman

TA: Haixia Zhao

Note: 1. This exam is closed book, closed notes, 75 minutes

2. Please keep in mind that the neater your handwriting is, the happier and more
sympathetic the grader will be.

The answer given below is just for grading reference. It may not be the only correct answer or the best one.




  1. (a) (15 points) A telephone-based menu system is being designed for a magazine subscribe/unsubscribe service system. There are 7 magazines available: National Geographic, Travel and Leisure, Entrepreneur, Time, Golf, US News and World Report, and Fortune. Describe three reasonable orderings of the voice menus and justify each.

Alphabetical; Categorized; Descending popularity; Any other reasonable ordering


(5 points each)
(b) (10 points) Some designers suggest that speech recognition be used in the system, so users can interact with the system by speaking instead of pressing buttons on the dial pad. Give two arguments for and three arguments against the proposal.
Advantages: (2 pts each)

Disvantages: (2 pts each)



  • demands of user's working memory

  • background noise problematic

  • variations in user speech performance impacts effectiveness

  1. (a) (15 points) Give the five guidelines that are recommended as the bases for preparing system messages.

(3 pts each)


Be specific and precise, constructive guidance and positive tone, user-centered style, appropriate and consistent physical format, consider multiple levels of messages, etc.

(b) (15 points) Find the problems in each of the following error messages produced by a source code compiler. Briefly state your reasoning and suggest a better message.

(3 pts for each message. )


  1. SYNTAX ERROR

Too vague, not constructive.

“;” EXPECTED AT THE END OF LINE 135



  1. INCORRECTLY FORMED RHS OF EXPRESSION. BAILING OUT ON LINE 6.

Unknown abbreviation, unfamiliar terms, hostile

RIGHT-HAND SIDE OF EXPRESSION ON LINE 13 DOES NOT MATCH GRAMMAR



  1. ILLEGAL OPERATION. PROCESS KILLED!!!

Vague and hostile.

OPERATION ENDED DUE TO UNKNOWN COMMAND: LLS



  1. (15 points) Microsoft used anthropomorphic design in their Office package (see the example below). Point out two disadvantages associated with such design. What are the guidelines for avoiding such design? (Give four guidelines)

Disadvantages (2 out of the following, or something similar, 7 pts total)

    • Attributions of intelligence, autonomy, free will, or knowledge to computers can deceive, confuse, and mislead users.

    • The differences between people and computers need to be clarified.

    • An anthropomorphic interface may be anxiety producing for some users.

    • Users may need the feeling of accomplishment and mastery

Guidelines (4 out of the following, 2 pts each)

  • Avoid presenting computers as people.

  • Choose appropriate humans for introductions or guides.

  • User caution in designing computer-generated human faces or cartoon characters.

  • User catoon characters in games or children’s software, but usually not elsewhere.

  • Design comprehensible, predictable, and controllable interfaces.

  • Provide user-centered overviews for orientation and closure.

  • Do not user “I” when the computer responds to human actions.

  • User “you” to guide users, or just state facts.



  1. (30 points)Your documentation team has developed an online help support for Instant Messenger. You are hiring a usability testing firm to evaluate the online help and recommend improvements. Prepare a one-page (300 words maximum length) contract that specifies how you want the usability test to be performed and what reports you would like. Your schedule gives them one week to prepare the study, one week to run it, plus one week to write up the final report - fill in the details of your requirements, such as the number of subjects required, test plans, types of reports, and so on.

Your answer should mention several stages: plan making; pilot test; real test and final report.(10 pts). Your answer should mention proper materials needed in each stage and the types of reports for each stage.(10 pts) Your answer should have some important details about the requirement, such as the number of subjects required, and even some proper tasks for this specific case, what should be in the reports, and so on. (10 pts)





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