6. HCI in the software process

EXERCISE 6.3 [extra - not in book]

(Cross-refer to Chapter 9, 14, 19) This is an extended assignment to develop a prototype groupware system and report on the design, implementation and evaluation of it.

The problem situation

XYZ Ltd. is a large company with many offices in the US and overseas, including sites in Edinburgh and Adelaide. It has a number of partly owned subsidiaries and works closely with several of its suppliers during the design and manufacture of its product line. It is becoming increasingly difficult for employees to trace the appropriate people within the organisation and in its closely allied companies.

Alison Zetici is responsible for corporate communications and has decided that a company-wide system is needed. This will be some form of contact database which would list both internal employees and also external contacts. The employee information can be maintained centrally, but individuals within the company will have to be able to enter details of their personal contacts.

The system is not simply to be a passive database, but should aid the establishment of communication wherever possible, by email, telephone, voice-mail, text conference or video-conference (XYZ has a giga-baud corporate backbone and every employee's PC has full audio-visual capabilities). Ideally, the system should also help employees to coordinate their contacts with external contacts.

Several objections have been raised to Alison's original proposals. Some members of the marketing department are worried about loss of control over their contacts with others, and about the privacy of comments they would normally add to their existing paper records. Also several employees are worried that they will lose their small set of close contacts within the large database.

Design brief

Your job is to design and build a prototype of aspects of the system for Alison to use in her presentation to the board of XYZ and also to use to communicate with the software engineers at XYZ (who don't know anything about groupware!).
It is not necessary to cover every aspect of the system in your prototype. The overall system can be developed in outline (sample screens, design plans for system architecture). However, some parts should be prototyped in greater detail, including some level of networking.

The prototype

Note when choosing which aspects to include in your prototype that the aim is to test your understanding of groupware construction. A fully featured contacts database with no support for cooperative activity is not acceptable.
Consider both individual and group activities. The choice of functionality and software architecture should take CSCW issues into account.


You should evaluate the final prototype using techniques appropriate for cooperative systems. This should include both a technical and a user-oriented evaluation. Both design and evaluation should also take into account the expected context of use.


Prepare a report on the development of the system, which should describe and critique the design and evaluation process and the prototype itself. You should include a critique that relates the prototype as built to the broad range of issues and to comparable systems, and also demonstrates a deeper knowledge in at least one area.

answer available for tutors only

extended project

Other exercises in this chapter

ex.6.1 (tut), ex.6.2 (tut), ex.6.3 (open), ex.6.4 (open), ex.6.5 (open), ex.6.6 (open)

all exercises for this chapter