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Advanced Internet Workshop
By Peter Mosley
Usability Engineering, Generic Usability Testing, and Development of a Digital Dynamic Usability
The purpose of a Site Audit is to gain a clear understanding of the current web site architecture by identifying its strengths and weaknesses in accordance with the defined web strategy and business goals.
The purpose of a User Trend Analysis is to interpret and evaluate user trend statistics collected for the web site, based on specific Internet statistics that reflect user behavior and preferences while visiting the web site.
A Heuristic Evaluation evaluates the current or future site for its intuitiveness and ease-of-use based on an established set of heuristics or recognized usability principles. There are ten (10) basic usability principles that have been developed by leading usability expert, Jakob Nielsen.
The usability test is one of the primary ways of detecting usability problems with a user interface. In its simplest form, usability testing includes five (5) ingredients:
an application or website,
a test participant,
a test monitor or test lead,
test monitor and participant booklets, and
a test environment
The test participant navigates the application or website as a real user would, and the test monitor identifies usability problems by observing the participant's efforts in a test environment using a test protocol. There are three types of usability tests: 1) the Exploratory test , 2) the Assessment test , and 3) the Validation test.
As the name implies, accessibility is concerned with how well the navigational system allows access to the informational content and the functionality of the user interface. Examples of usability issues or concerns for this area are:
Do links direct people to the appropriate content?
What methods are used to access content?
How effective is the flow between pages, major categories, and subsections?
Is the site ODA (Ontarians with Disabilities Act) compatible?
Consistency is concerned with the replication of the design and functional components of web elements and its impact on the overall user experience. Examples of usability issues or concerns for this area are:
Do link names match the title of the page referenced?
Is the company logo used consistently on all level one pages?
Is the hierarchical structure of the navigation system relevant to the subject matter?
Redundancy is related to consistency in that it is concerned with the efficiency of how well specific web elements are replicated. On the other hand, redundancy can be misused. Redundant content can increase the user’s cognitive load and reduce productivity. Examples of usability issues or concerns for this area are:
Is the company logo positioned in the same location on each level?
Are the same colors used for links?
Is the copyright notice repeated at the bottom of each page?
As a means of evaluating functionality, this area describes the content and current design of the website. Its purpose is to describe the rationale for the inclusion of subject matter based on the client’s and developer’s business goals and objectives. Examples of implicit goals are:
An explanation of the value of specific informational content and services to the user.
A brief description of the breadth and quality of the informational content.
A listing of the provisions and features of the website that provide added value to the user.
Developer’s Implicit Goals for the Website Functionality
This area is concerned with the perceptual, learning and motor abilities required by the user when employing the navigational system to access the functionality and informational content of the website. Examples for this area are:
A description of the methods used to access the informational content and functionality of the website.
An account of the affordances provided by each web element.
An assessment of the referencing provided by the navigational system.
User orientation means that the user knows where they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re going by visual feedback supplied by the navigation system. The user orientation method used can be either informational or graphical. User orientation is facilitated by:
Highlighting of category and subcategory names, screen titles, and headings
Instructions should delineate step-by-step what the user needs to do to accomplish a given task. This area of evaluation relates to the adequacy of the user interface to provide information which facilitates the user’s end goal. The following are points of interest:
The clarity and conciseness of instructional copy.
Match between system and the real world : The system should speak the users' language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.
In web design, figuring out the user’s language can prove to be a challenge since users are coming from diverse backgrounds.
In addition, to match the real world, web objects should be placed in a natural and logical arrangement, such as clockwise, left to right, top to bottom, starting with the most frequently used items and ending with the least frequently used.
User control and freedom : Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked "emergency exit" to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support und redo.
On the Web, many of the “emergency exits” are provided by the browser, such as the infamous Back button. However, there are other Web specific “emergency exits” that can be utilized, such as including a link to the Home page on every page of the site or including a Quick Search option on all pages.
Consistency and standards : Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.
A common error repeated on the Web is not being consistent in the naming of pages that have been reached by clicking a link. The link name and the page name should be the same.
When it comes to following platform conventions, such things as link colors need to be considered. Do they follow the standard of blue for unvisited links and magenta for visited links? In addition, adhering to standards on the Web means following Document Object Models (DOM) models, W3C specifications, and other platform conventions.
Error prevention: Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place.
Recognition rather than recall : Make objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.
The user should not be forced to recall or remember such things as how they got to where they are.
They should be able to recognize where they are from the current page. This means including such clues as visited link color distinctions or mappings listing the path followed to reach the current page.
Flexibility and efficiency of use : Accelerators -- unseen by the novice user -- may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.
With the Web, the most common accelerator is the bookmark function provided by the browser. Such practices as the improper use of frames can prevent a page from being bookmarked, printed, and navigated, and thus, should be avoided.
Aesthetic and minimalist design : Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.
With the Web, this item is even more important. Since the Web is information intensive, including extraneous information on a page should be avoided.
An alternative is to provide a link to any additional information under the specified page topic. This involves using what is called progressive levels of detail .
Help and documentation : Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user's task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.
Some basic sites may require very little, if any, documentation. However, when documentation is needed, it should be tightly integrated into the site and be context specific.
This test is conducted early in the development cycle to validate the initial look and feel or design and layout for the user interface. At this point, the product is still in the preliminary stages of design and development.
The primary objective of the exploratory test is to examine or explore the effectiveness of preliminary design concepts to see whether they match the user’s mental model of the tasks associated with the information architecture of the product.
The findings from this test are used as the foundation for building the Home Page and informs the design and next iteration of development of the user interface.
This is probably the most typical of usability tests conducted. It is performed early or midway into the product development cycle, usually after a functional prototype has been developed. Its objective is to:
Expand the findings of the exploratory test by evaluating the usability of lower-level functions and aspects of the product.
Examine and evaluate how effectively the product concept has been implemented. Rather than exploring the intuitiveness of a product, this phase of testing is concerned with seeing how well users can perform full-blown realistic tasks and discovering opportunities for improvement in the design.
Focus more of the participant’s attention on the successful completion of tasks associated with the website’s goals and objectives.
Ensures that the design and structure of the website and its web objects are
industry compliant and provide the most optimal user experience.
Verifies the functionality of the user interface and its navigational elements.
Identifies design issues which may impact user satisfaction and productivity.
Provides recommendations for improving problems with navigation, branding,
functionality and provisions for user assistance.
Ensures that future design problems are not replicated.
Identifies design issues early in the development process.
Reduces time to market.
Facilitates increased retention of information and system functionality.
Enhances user acceptance, and therefore sales.
Reduces product support and documentation costs.
Definitions USABILITY USER EXPERIENCE Any time your brand touches its stakeholders (customers, employees, partners or investors) whether through advertising, direct mail, online or at the store level, they interact with you and your brand. These interactions make up the user experience. Usability is the term used to describe the ease of use and satisfaction derived by a user of a particular website by customers, partners, shareholders or other designated users.