This course teaches the principles of constructing user interfaces. In this course you will learn how to actually implement user interfaces. Some attention is paid to issues of design and usability, but CS 449, HCI, provides more complete treatment of these topics.


This course provides an introduction to contemporary user interfaces, including the basics of human-computer interaction, the user interface design/evaluation process, and the architectures within which user interfaces are developed. Students implement and evaluate portions of typical user interfaces in a series of programming assignments.

Recommended Texts

Building Interactive Systems, 2010, by Dan R. Olsen Jr.

A copy is available on 3-hour loan at the DC library under call number UWD1512.

The Design of Everyday Things, 2013, by Don Norman.

A copy is available on 3-hour loan at the DC library under call number TS171.4 .N67 2013.

Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Guidelines, 2013, by Jeff Johnson


We'll be using an online tool named Piazza for all announcements, as well as questions and answers about the course material and assignments. You should have received an invitation email (or will shortly); when you register, please use an identifier that clearly indicates who you are for the purposes of the course.

All announcements, questions, and answers are on Piazza.


Lec 002: MWF 11:30-12:20 MC2034
Lec 001: MWF 1:30-2:20 MC2034


(all email addresses are


The instructor is responible for the course as a whole: lectures, setting assignments and exams, developing marking schemes and resolving issues related to the course.

Byron Weber Becker (bwbecker@)
Office Hours in DC 3105: By appointment

Instructional Apprentices

Instructional apprentices are responsible for helping the instructor develop assignments and marking schemes, helping maintain marking consistency, resolving mark appeals, etc. They will also each deliver a lecture.

Gustavo Fortes Tondello (gfortest@)

Alex Williams (a27willi@)

Teaching Assistants

Teaching assistants are responsible for marking assignments, marking exams, and holding office hours.

PhotoName (email)Office Hours
Haiyu Zhen (h2zhen@)Tuesday, 11:00 - 12:00, MC 4065
Dallas Fraser (d6fraser@)Wednesday, 3:00 - 4:00PM, DC 3139
Gustavo Fortes Tondello (gfortest@)Thursday, 2:30 - 3:30PM, MC 4065
Eldar Khalilov (ekhalilo@)Friday, 10 - 11AM, DC 3587

Instructional Support Coordinator

The ISC is responsible for long-term support for the course, maintaining the marks spreadsheet, coordinating accomodations (illness, alternate exams, etc), screening for cheating and dealing with the results.

Caroline Kierstead (ctkierst@)
MC 4009


There are four major assignments, each worth 10%, a midterm worth 20% (see schedule for date and location), and a final exam worth 40%. Final course grades will be calculated as follows:

   assignments = (A00*.01 + A01*.10 + A02*.20 + A03*.10)/.40
   exams = (.20*Midterm + .40*Final)/.60
   normal = .60 * exams + .40 * assignments
   if assignments < .50 or exams < .50
       grade = min(.47, exams, normal) * 100 
       grade = normal * 100 

Note: to pass the course you must pass the weighted average of the assignments and the weighted average of the exams.


Assignments are meant to provide meaningful, engaging experiences in constructing interfaces while giving you the opportunity to create applications you will want to share with others. There's lots of room for creativity in assignments and each will have a component for going above and beyond the basic assignment specification.

The assignments in this course require a significant amount of time. Do not underestimate the time it takes to code interactive applications.

Read the available information about academic integrity very carefully. Plagiarism detection software is used to screen assignments in this course to verify that students aren't sharing code in their assignments.

Detailed assignment descriptions and due dates are posted in the course schedule when available.

There are three assignments plus a bonus:

Assignment Policies

  1. Assignments will be done in Java and Android, and you can write code on any modern desktop platform (Windows, OS X, Linux). Exact details will be provided in the assignment specifications.
  2. Due dates are Fridays at 5:00 PM but not actually collected until 11:59 PM on the following Sunday.
  3. Submission must be via your Git repository.
  4. Assignments are your individual work:
    • You can use code examples provided in-class.
    • You cannot use code anyone else's code in your assignments (this includes current or past students of this course), and you are prohibited from sharing your code with anyone else in the course. You can discuss about how you accomplished something in general terms, but sharing code in any way is prohibited.
    • No external or third-party code is allowed in your assignments. You should not be searching for, and using, code that you find on the Internet (this includes GitHub, Stack Overflow and similar sites). It is perfectly acceptable to search for a general technique (e.g. how does this class work?) but you cannot use any third-party code in your assignments.
    • You should not make your code publicly available on any hosting sites (eg GitHub), even after the end of the term. There is, of necessity, commonality between assignments across terms and providing your code to another UW student may result in a cheating case being brought against both of you. If you wish to show your code to potential employers, you should post in a private/restricted repository instead.
  5. Grades are returned via a mark sheet added to your Git repository.
  6. Recognizing that you put in significant work on these assignments, you'll never get a zero for an honest mistake. However, to disencourage patterns that affect our marking efficiency, marks will be deducted if TAs need to modify makefiles or add missing files or submissions are emailed to the instructor, etc. The number of marks deducted will be proportional to the amount of extra effort required by staff to rectify your mistake.

Java Development

For assignments, we use Java SE 8 SDK (8u101 or later), which can be installed from the Oracle downloads site. An IDE is also recommended; either IntelliJ or Eclipse. For what it's worth, Byron switched from Eclipse to IntelliJ several years ago.

Git Setup

We will be using Git, a distributed version control system, for assignment submissions. You are expected to setup your account on the UW Git installation, and "push" your assignments to a private repository on that server to submit them. As per assignment policies described above, you are not allowed to post your assignments online in any other location until after the course is completed.

To access your private repository for this course, you need to git-clone the repo to your local machine.

The command looks like this (replace username with your Quest login name, e.g. mine is bwbecker):
git clone

To submit assignments, you need to 'git add' new files, 'git commit' changes and 'git push' to the server (push sends it to the server to be graded!). See Git slides for more information.


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. [Check 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, 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 check 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 is a ground. A student who believes he/she has a ground for an appeal should refer to Policy 72 (Student Appeals)

Students with Disabilities

The Office for persons with Disabilities (OPD), 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 the OPD at the beginning of each academic term.