Cosc 3p94 Course Project
Stage 1

(Due date for assignment is Monday March 4th noon, Lates Accepted until March 6th noon)


Real Estate has been a hot topic for a number of years. Many Real Estate agencies like Century 21 host a very sophisticated website. However, there is a do it yourself market where seller and buyers can come together, these are typically called Com-free (commission free) Realtors. Sites such as are one such site where an interested seller can use their system to list a home with expertise help along the way. After all, we are selling something of significant value. Thus, there must be protections in place not only for the seller, but also the buyer. Consider the case where a home which was NOT for sale by the home owner, was put up for sale.

Goals of the Assignment:

Lets take a look at how existing do it yourself (DIY) Real Estate sites work. For the purpose of this project let us define a new site.

Consider how the buyers and sellers deal with this task. Let us assume we are going to provide a website allows a buyer, seller, agent, and possibly other actors in the system to realize a common goal. These goals will be different for each actor. E.g. Buyer and Seller will obviously buy and sell a home. The Real Estate Agent will need to be brought into this some how, since they will have a function in the process.

This stage will be an investigation of existing entities which might be considered useful for the new website.

Thinking ahead, Stage 2 will consist of a mock implementation of your design ideas. This implies a fully functional system taking into account all components of the system but is brain dead. That is, only the interface is considered, all else is ignored. Stage 3 will be a mutual evaluation of other group projects. Stage 4, correct your mistakes, implement that last feature, and present it to your instructor at a time of your choosing during the exam period.

The Assignment:

The following requirements detail the spirit of what is required for this stage. Although the listed requirements give the major sections, which need to be covered, it is the groups responsibility to adequately expand each to a level appropriate for comprehensive assessment of the interface. Marks are not only allocated to fulfilling the stage requirements, but also for project quality and depth.

  1. You will  need to discover the user(s) requirements for the purpose of your software implementation. You will be required to create a new system devoid of any short comings while also providing for the user(s) goals when using such a system. It is imperative that a full and complete discovery is made. Issues which need to be addressed but not limited to, are:

    1. The role of each Actor.
    2. Security, don't want someone selling a house which does not belong to them for example.
    3. What services are presented. (think of these as content)
    4. Navigation.
    5. User input. (in some cases a uses will need to provide, be active with the interface).
    6. Tools to personalize the experience.
    7. Organization and layout
    8. User experience.
    9. Any thing else which might be of use to individuals or groups.
    10. For the purpose of this project management has requested a desktop application.

    As part of your overall analysis, you will need to determine what is important and what is not important. This will be done by carefully selecting those goals/tasks which users find useful. As well, you do not need to create a system which has every conceivable feature, i.e. the Microsoft way. But, one that will make a user 100% happy to use your system. E.g. from an individuals point of view, can I find/do/"achieve my goal without having to resort to google. Will the system conform/adapt to my needs.

  2. Start by exploring existing websites. Choose at least 2 others for analysis, 3 might be better.  Make a list of the services which are provided by these. There will likely be many things in common as well as differences.

  3. Take screen shots of each interface for illustration purposes. Use the HTA software provided to create a map of the front end of each. Limit the HTA to only the control portion of the interface. Choose a suitable cutoff. This will describe what a user does on the system and how they do it. This is the doing part.  Don't worry about content just control. What currently exists in the navigation structure.
  4. Add a KLM for each of the above. These are added in Visual HTA. This will give you a sense of how efficient/complex each interface is at accomplishing the goals. For example, what does a person need to do after they wish to make a purchase.

  5. Without looking at the interface or widget implementation but just at the "Tasks" the system implements, the behaviour. Write a short critique of each site, highlighting what each application did, and point out any deficiencies (problems you have encountered) you might have found. Keep each critique to about 1 page. Contrast, common tasks such as editing out video as an example.

  6. You need to find something out about the users of these systems. Determine the goals of the users by conducting a survey, interviews and/or observation. Determine what the users need and want. Collect information regarding the tasks which they (would) perform when involved in interacting with the system. What makes users happy, and frustrated with these kinds of systems. See handout "Web Usability - A user centred design approach".  What do users need? Prepare a survey or use some other means to collect relevant information. Note: 25 user surveys minimum are required, but be warned, there are many different types of users, e.g. Student, staff/faculty, public ... Be sure you save all raw data. Note: parents or those who have bought or sold Real Estate are good information sources.

  7. Based on the surveys and user profiles (remember this is very important). Determine the goals of the users. Create a set of Personas which exemplify your user population supported by your research of the user and their domain. When creating the personas, ensure you brainstorm the possible users of the system. After the initial persona development has taken place, sort and group the personas. What are the primary personas? Justify your decision. When submitting be sure to include the intermediate rough work, this to -  will be used for evaluation. Create a condensed sheet which describes the important personas which will be used to drive the design.

  8. When identifying the primary persona, argue what behaviour or results must be achieved in order to capture the primary persona group. What factors affect the secondary personas, and why?

  9. From a technology perspective, where and what will the interface be presented on. A website, app?

  10. Create a storyboard of the new design. Use a screen painter, to map out the major components. What metaphors, and conceptual design ideas support the design?

Things you should/could do

  1. Take pictures (cell phone, or digital camera) to help document and remember.
  2. Use the breakout (J328) room to hold meetings.
  3. Use a focus group setting. Invite other 3P94 groups to join in. In fact a focus group of 3P94 groups is not a bad idea. But consider bringing users into the group to avoid the Homo Logicus trap.
  4. Consider students outside of Cosc. Yes there is a world beyond J-Block. This means, talk to the community of potential users. Note: most students have not bought or sold a home,  you need to go to those who have.
  5. Use those means as described in the readings to acquire the information needed.
  6. There are no penalties for borrowing ideas from other groups or sources. Ensure you cite the sources.
  7. There are penalties for using other group's assignment related material. E.g. 2 groups performing 1 survey then splitting the results. Bad, very bad! That breaches the spirit of what this course is about.
  8. If you are concerned or require direction then run it by me.
  9. There may be a sizable number of documents which need to be made available to all members of the group. Consider some cloud based resources to exchange and manage your information. E.g. Dropbox.

What you should and shouldn't do

Because of the workload involved start early. Starting 3 days before it is due, is a recipe for disaster. You will need time to map things out, look at it, and make decisions regarding what you have found. This takes time. Talking to users at the last minute is almost useless. The quality of the result thus depends on the time spent thinking, gathering and analyzing. Surveys need time to prepare, apply and sort out.

Do not look at the requirements as a set of steps that need to be completed linearly or independent of one another. The order is roughly congruent to the expected process to complete this assignment. However, when dealing with any analysis and design, an iterative process is always inherent. Sitting down with pencil and paper, talking about process is certainly suggested. This is best done before you are tainted by an existing system.

The report:

The report you generate should be:

Marks will be awarded for completeness and thoroughness of your analysis as well as submission format, spelling, grammar etc. There will be a portion of marks awarded to groups which show due diligence. This is a subjective mark based on overall quality of the project. Minimal effort regardless of weather assignment objectives have been met or not will be identified from quality projects. You can expect at least 20% of the mark will be purely subjective.