CMC Magazine: January 1999

Root Page of Article: Usable?...Or Not?...Factors Affecting the Usability of Web Sites, by Rakhi Rajani and Dr Duska Rosenberg

The Test Situation

In order to address the question of conceptualisation, a web site was developed. This site detailed the findings of research into design techniques and human perception and was developed to incorporate both 'good' and 'bad' design principles.

The Participants

  • 17 Test participants - 8 Local participants and 9 Remote participants
  • 10 had extensive computing and web experience
  • 3 had some computing experience but little web experience
  • 4 had some computing experience and more web experience

The Test

A variety of usability testing methods were used. The test situation comprised of:

  • Meeting the participant and filling in of a 'background' questionnaire.
  • Orientation - an introduction to the purposes of the study.
  • Main Test - users were asked to browse the site and then complete a task. E.g. to find out about design guidelines etc by navigating around the site. The tasks were designed to resemble possible motives for gathering information from a web site. All activities were timed.
  • Paper and Pencil exercise - participants were asked to draw a 'conceptual model' of the site.
  • Debriefing - users were thanked and given an opportunity to ask questions. They were then told what the test results would be used for and assured of confidentiality.

The evaluation methods used were:

  • Background Questionnaire
  • Videotaping
  • Audio-taping
  • Observation
  • Post Test Questionnaire
  • Picture Drawing Task

The 8 local participants were video and audio taped during the tests and were asked to answer a questionnaire, while the 9 remote participants were assessed by their questionnaire responses and conceptual drawings.

Note: There are problems and gains with the methods used and these were addressed within the study. However, it is not within the scope of this article to detail the issues here.

The issue of conceptualisation was considered with respect to a set of sub questions. These were used as a guide by which the observer could evaluate the participants use of the web site. The broader question of usability was then addressed with relevance to the results of these sub questions that addressed the issues of navigation schemes, appearance versus content, how tasks are structured and how relationships between pages are established etc. ^

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