HCI for Product Managers

Spring 2023
M/W 12:30-1:50 PM in 3SC 172
Picture of Adam Perer
Adam Perer
Picture of Gabrielle Augustin
Gabrielle Augustin
(Teaching Assistant)
Picture of Valeria Cordova Mulvany
Valeria Cordova Mulvany
(Teaching Assistant)

Additional course information available on Canvas.

Product managers are ultimately responsible for developing products that meet customer needs. The field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) has developed techniques to understand user needs and design human-centered technology that directly addresses those needs. In this course, students will learn and practice these techniques through a course-long project.

In this course, students will develop skills drawn from the field of HCI to research, ideate, evaluate and define a new software application, culminating with the presentation of a document specifying use cases and functionality. This course provides an overview and introduction to the field of human-computer interaction, focusing on how it applies to product managers.  Particular emphasis will be placed on what HCI methods and HCI-trained specialists can bring to design and development teams. The course will provide a hands-on introduction to proven tools and techniques for creating and improving user interfaces, such as Contextual Interviewing, Rapid Prototyping, Heuristic Evaluation, and Think-Aloud Usability Testing. Students at the end of the course will have learned how to perform some useful techniques and will have an understanding of systematic procedures for creating usable and useful designs and systems.

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Schedule and Readings

Subject to modification

Wed, Jan 18

Course Introduction Slides

Mon, Jan 23

Heuristic Evaluation Slides

Wed, Jan 25

Contextual Inquiry Slides

Mon, Jan 30

User Interviews Slides

Wed, Feb 01

Stakeholders Slides

Mon, Feb 06

Synthesis & Ideation I Slides

Wed, Feb 08

Synthesis & Ideation II Slides

Mon, Feb 13

Low Fidelity Prototype & Storyboard Slides

Wed, Feb 15

Guest Lecture by Max Friedman (Google) Slides

Mon, Feb 20

No Class Slides

Wed, Feb 22

Usability Testing and Think Aloud Slides

Mon, Feb 27

UI Design Slides

Wed, Mar 01

TBD Slides



None. Assignments will involve conducting interviews and observations, doing synthesis and analysis, ideation, paper prototyping, and implementing a prototype of a working design, using some computational medium. We will use the interactive design tool Figma for some assignemnts. No background in HCI is expected.

Required Textbooks

There is no required textbook for this course. Readings are drawn from a variety of books, readings and online postings, and will be provided by the instructor.

Amount of Work

This is a “6 unit” mini. As per university policy, this means that this course is expected to take students 12 hours per week, including class time. Surveys of previous students show that this is accurate.

How to Submit Assignments

All assignments must be turned in using Canvas.


The tentative breakdown for grading is below. As a reminder, here is the university policy on academic integrity.

There will be 6 assignments, each worth 15% of your final grade.  All assignments in this course are individual: you are required to do them by yourself. Each person must do their own work independently. Participation will comprise the remaining 10%:

  • Assignment 1: 15%
  • Assignment 2: 15%
  • Assignment 3: 15%
  • Assignment 4: 15%
  • Assignment 5: 15%
  • Assignment 6: 15%
  • Participation: 10%

Participation includes interaction during classroom activities, as well as sharing stories, questions and comments related to past and upcoming lectures.

Late Policy

Assignments are due before the beginning of class (12:30 PM ET) on the specified day. A penalty of 10 points out of 100 (one letter grade) will be immediately applied after the start time of class. An additional 5 points will be subtracted for each additional 24-hour period late.  You are responsible to confirm that your Canvas submittal was successfully uploaded.

Respect for Diversity

It is our intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, that students’ learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is our intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Please let us know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups. In addition, if any of our class meetings conflict with your religious events, please let us know so that we can make arrangements for you.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

If you have a disability and are registered with the Office of Disability Resources, we encourage you to use their online system to notify us of your accommodations and discuss your needs with us as early in the semester as possible. We will work with you to ensure that accommodations are provided as appropriate. If you suspect that you may have a disability and would benefit from accommodations but are not yet registered with the Office of Disability Resources, we encourage you to contact them at access@andrew.cmu.edu.

Health and Well-being

If you are experiencing COVID-like symptoms or have a recent COVID exposure, do not attend class if we are meeting in-person. Please email the instructors for accomodations.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help; call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at www.cmu.edu/counseling/. Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or in danger of self-harm, call someone immediately, day or night:

If the situation is life threatening, call the police. On campus call CMU Police: 412-268-2323. Off campus: 911.

If you have questions about this or your coursework, please let the instructors know. Thank you, and have a great semester.