This assignment is due at the beginning of your discussion section on Wednesday, December 3. We've allowed two weeks for this assignment so you have more flexibility to plan around the Thanksgiving holiday, but this assignment is somewhat larger and more open-ended than the others, so don't look at it as a week's vacation.

Summary: This assignment will also give you practice with boolean searches, help you recognize good typographic design, good software user interfaces, and effective presentation graphics.

Part I: Boolean Searches

For this part of the homework, use the "Advanced Search" feature of the AltaVista search engine ( to formulate boolean searches. You should start by reading the Help page there.

(a) Formulate a boolean search to find information that will help you calculate the probability of each of the following events:

For each event, print out or write down the search queries you used, the pages where you found the information, and your estimate of the probability (showing how you arrived at the figure--both your calculations and the sources of the numbers you used).

(b) Compare the probabilities you estimated above with the probability of wining the SuperLotto jackpot.

Part II: User Interface

(a) Pick two application programs, ones you use regularly, that don't work as well as they should from a user interface perspective. Describe their shortcomings and how you would improve them. Also give, if you can, the reasons why the software might work as it currently does. (Is it intended for a different audience than people like you? Would fixing it be too hard technically?) Consult with your TA or instructor on this if you like.

(b) Find three examples, on the Web or in print, of documents that violate the principles of good typography described in class and on the handout. Choose documents that violate a variety of the principles as egregiously as possible. Print or photocopy the documents, annotating them with the violations and your suggestions for improving them.

Part III: Presentation Graphics

(a) A broad range of data about UCI is available at Most of this data appears in table form; how would you present it graphically? From the UCI data available from this page, locate three different sets of data:
-- One that would be most effectively shown in a pie chart
-- One that would be most effectively shown in a line chart
-- One that would be most effectively shown as a bar chart.

(a.1) For each of the three sets, print out the page containing the data (if there's more than a page or two, just print the first two pages) and give a sentence describing why the chart type you've chosen is effective for that data.

(a.2) For one of the three sets (your choice), copy the data out of the web page, paste it into Excel, clean it up as necessary, and actually produce the chart. Make your chart as clear and effective as possible.

(b) Find an example, on the Web or in print media, of particularly bad information display. Turn in a copy along with your critique, describing all the ways in which it is misleading or unclear or incomplete.

(c) Edward Tufte criticizes the user interface of most software for devoting too little of the screen area to actual content (as opposed to borders, decoration, controls, and so on).

Find two different application programs on the lab machines, one that's particularly bad about devoting space to content and one that's particularly good. (Consider just the part of the screen that the application uses--its main window, typically. Don't count the task bar and other things displayed by Windows.) Print a screen shot of each, indicating which is bad and which is good about devoting space to content. These don't have to be applications that you've used before; you just need to start them up and see how much space is devoted to content.

What to turn in: Turn in a printed document with answers, clearly labeled, to all the questions raised above. Include the illustrations and samples we specified.

Written by David G. Kay, Summer 1999.

Revised by David G. Kay, Fall 2000, Fall 2001, and Fall 2003.

David G. Kay, 406B Computer Science
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-3425 -- (949) 824-5072 -- Fax (949) 824-4056 -- Email

Wednesday, November 19, 2003 -- 8:00 AM