Group Brainstorm

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Due: before class on February 11, 2011 20 Points


In this assignment you will use the brainstorming method you learned in class to develop your group project idea. You should conduct at least one one-hour brainstorming session with your group members. You will report the complete list of ideas that your group generated, and then report the final project idea. Note that you will have time in class on Feb 4 to start the brainstorming. We expect you to meet outside of class as well to complete the assignment.


You will develop mobile and tablet applications for the Android Platform this semester. Within the genre of such applications, there are three particular larger themes we want you to think about:

  1. Energy and Sustainability - how might we live more sustainably or better understand and manage our energy consumption?
  2. Wellness, Health and Healthcare - how might we improve personal well-being, and provide better access to health care?
  3. Data and Democracy - how might we foster public engagement for the people of California and around the world?
  4. Intelligent Cities - how might we help realize the social, cultural and economic potential of our cities?

These are very open themes and should give you plenty of room to come up with a topic that is personally exciting to you.

Try to think out of the box. Don't think in a device-centered way, and don't think only of things that a smartphone or tablet can do. Instead focus on the things that people do everyday while they have a mobile device or tablet in their pocket. That will also give you a good handle on the set of target users. Or you could start with a set of target users and think of a theme that might improve their lives. Talk to some potential users to figure out what might motivate them.

Don’t be too ambitious. You have limited time to work on the project and the goal of the course is to iterate, test and improve users’ experience of your design, not to produce the most elaborate experience. Some of the most successful apps have been conceptually simple. Make sure you’re realistic about what can be done in a semester. This is an exercise in prototyping apps that could really be built, not in science fiction. Brainstorm! Give every idea a chance, no matter how strange at first.

Your writeup should follow the outline below. It will be graded using the writing guidelines detailed later in this document. Remember that less is more. Try to say what you need to as succinctly as possible. But don’t skip any important details.

  • Each team member’s name
  • Brainstorm: A list of at least 50 numbered ideas (aim for more) that you came up with during your brainstorming session. Each idea has to be described in one full sentence (don't just list an abstract title like Cooking app - better: Vegan Cookery: an application for vegan home cooks that helps them prepare recipes found online by keeping track of ingredient safety (no animal products) and preparation times." You should have been visual during your brainstorm - include photos of sketches (but also describe in text).
  • Idea Selection: The idea your group chose to work on and a short explanation of why the group picked it from amongst all the possibilities in your list. (one short paragraph - Note: this idea may develop and change later; it's your best idea at this time).
  • A longer Project Description:
    • Target User Group: Your target user group should be sensible (people you have access to) and not trivial (CS undergrads is not a challenge). Describe the user group in enough detail that you can easily separate the group from other types of people. Then include details about their needs and wants. Don't go too broad (everyone with a smartphone) - narrow down to a particular group that can be distinguished from others by their needs, practices, etc. (one paragraph)
    • Problem Description & Context The problem description should be short and specific about the high-level goals of the project. The problem should be described in terms of user activities and situations where the problem occurs, and what aspects of the situation might be improved with a technical solution. Avoid describing or suggesting a solution at this stage that will hamper your design thinking when you actually start solving the problem. What aspects of the situation might influence the problem solution? Think about location, time, environmental factors etc. Then think about aspects of the user group, their education, available time, motivation, values etc. What related or complementary solutions exist already? (one paragraph)
    • Why is a mobile app are a good solution for the problem? Convince us that there is unique value to have a mobile/tablet application here instead of a regular desktop or web application. (one paragraph)

Be sure to include sketches in your description of the project. Diagrams and figures will help you reduce the number of words you need to write and are likely to make your description clearer.

Applications you must not propose

  • Your app must not target students.
  • Your target group must not be overly broad (e.g., all online shoppers). You should be as specfic as possible. It's better to be too specific than not specific enough.
  • You also must not propose an app in one of the following categories:
    • Scheduling/calendar apps
    • Locations finder / maps
    • Study questions / flashcard apps
    • Calculators / Score keepers
    • Timers, clocks, alarms
    • Games (exception: Games with a purpose)
  • Your app should not already exist in the Google Play store or the Apple App Store.

Grading Guidelines

Brainstorm and Idea Selection (10 points)

Criterion Great solution
Acceptable solution
Poor solution
Did you list at least 50 ideas?
Yes, 50+ ideas No, ~30 ideas No, <10 ideas
Were you visual?
Yes, sketches for >10% of ideas Few sketches No sketches
Did you explore a diverse set of ideas and also build on ideas?
1 pts
Yes, both build and jump Limited build & jump No build & jump
How novel and creative are the ideas?
2 pts
Many new and unusual ideas Some novelty, many apps already exist Most or all apps exist, are common

Project Description (10 points)

You will score based on the quality of each description. In addition we would like you to explain why mobile apps are good technologies for addressing the problem your group has chosen. The best projects will take advantage of the unique affordances of the platform and controls. We will also be looking for application ideas that go beyond simple extensions to apps that already exist.

Criterion Great solution
Acceptable solution
Poor solution
Target Users: Did you define and describe a concrete target user community? (2pts) Yes, concrete and narrow Too broad Missing or ill-defined
Problem Description: Did you clearly describe the problem? (2pts) Yes Some problems with writing or argument No, poorly written or missing
Why Mobile: Did you make a clear case why the application is uniquely suited to mobile/tablet devices? (2pts) Yes Not entirely convincing No, missing or app is simple copy of desktop app
Novelty/Creativity: How novel and creative is your final idea? (4pts) Novel and creative Limited novelty Many apps of this type already exist


Hand in Printout in Class

Print your assignment and hand it in at the beginning of class on Feb 11. Only one printout per group is necessary.

Creating a Wiki Page for Your Group

Begin by creating a new wiki page for your group. You will use this page as a general repository containing all the information related to your group assignments and group project. So make sure to follow the instructions given here.

  1. Go to the Project Groups page and find the group you belong to.
  2. Each group as been given a single letter name. These names are boring. Choose a name for your group and update the link on the Project Groups page.
  3. Suppose you were given the group name A and choose to rename your group to Example Group (yes perhaps an even more boring name). You would edit [[Group:X]] to become [[Group:ExampleGroup]].
  4. Now clicking on the Group:ExampleGroup link will lead to a new stub page for your group which you should edit to include the names of the all people in the group and pointers to their user pages.

I've created the Group:ExampleGroup page as an example.

Creating Your Group Assignment Page

Edit your group's page to add a link to a new wiki page for this assignment. The wiki syntax should look like this:

[[GroupBrainstorm-Group:ExampleGroup|Group Brainstorm]]

Again replace Example Group with your group's name. Look at Group:ExampleGroup for an example. Then click on the link and enter the information about your assignment. Be sure to clearly address everything mentioned in the writing guidelines above.

Uploading Images

To upload images to the wiki, first create a link for the image of the form [[Image:image_name.jpg]] (replacing image_name.jpg with a unique image name for use by the server). This will create a link you can follow that will then allow you to upload the image. Alternatively, you can use the "Upload file" link in the toolbox to upload the image first, and then subsequently create a link to it on your wiki page.

Add Link to Your Finished Assignment

One you are finished editing the page, add a link to it here with your group name as the title link. The wiki syntax will look like this: *[[GroupBrainstorm-Group:ExampleGroup|Group:ExampleGroup]]. Hit the edit button for this section to see how I created the link for the Example Group.