Analytical And Empirical OPTIONS FOR Usability Evaluation Computer Research Essay

Usability Evaluation is evaluation on the quality of the usability of the interface design. Two common methods used for this analysis process are Heuristic Analysis (analytical method) and Customer Testing (empirical method). Both of these methods have their own talents and limitations, depending on the aims and the framework of the usability evaluation.

TASK 1: Methods Description

The Heuristics Evaluation

Heuristic analysis is a usability inspection strategy first produced by Jakob Nielsen and his acquaintances (Sharp, 2007). Corresponding to Jakob Nielsen (1994), Heuristic evaluation is a usability executive method for finding the usability problems in a user interface design in order to be attended to within an iterative design process. It really is usually conducted by a small group of evaluators presented with an program design and are required to evaluate whether each of its elements employs a set of established usability key points or `heuristics'. The inspection of the user interface is conducted by every individual evaluator. Individually, the evaluators sort out the interface many times, at least double. The first round is to get the feel of the move of the connection, whilst the second or even more, to examine on specific various dialogue components of the interface. All problems came across are saved and outlined under the individual heuristics. `Only in the end evaluations have been completed are the evaluators permitted to communicate and also have their findings aggregated. This process is important in order to ensure impartial and unbiased evaluations from each evaluator' (Jakob Nielsen, 1990). The logical for grouping again the evaluators is to discover as many problems as possible, because a unitary evaluator would not have the ability to find all the issues. Different evaluator will discover different problems.

The Heuristic Evaluation (developed by Jakob Nielsen and Mack (1994) consists of ten (10) basic ideas or "a guideline. " They can be Presence of system status; Match between system and the real world; End user control and independence; Consistency and benchmarks; Error prevention; Popularity rather than recall; Flexibility and efficiency useful; Cosmetic and minimalist design; Help users identify, diagnose, and get over problems; and Help and documentation. However, the evaluator may add new heuristic aspect or category-specific heuristics to complement the overall heuristics.

Strengths of Heuristic Evaluation:

Ease in Organizing Evaluation: It is simple to do it. Being 3rd party the evaluators can inspect anytime so long as there is product to be inspected. The complete inspection process will be completed by the evaluators with no involvement from anybody, until the final area of the evaluation period whereby they come together to discuss everything that is discovered. Before the last part, the evaluators will repeat the inspection many times, at least double.

Less Cost: Compared to user testing evaluation which needs proper lab, heuristics evaluation entails smaller cost and time. The number of evaluators are incredibly significantly less, from 3 to 5 5 persons, compared to user assessment method which requires many more users participating to be effective. Heuristic inspection can even be conducted anywhere, even in the office or industry premises.

Effective Detection of Problems: By virtue of their experience and knowledge, it is rather easy for the evaluators to identify major and trivial problems of the user interface. The evaluators conversation session will help identification of problems that are skipped out or overlooked by other evaluators.

Weaknesses

Single Evaluator and Problem recognition: Heuristic Analysis can be done by an individual specific evaluator. However, it is hard for one person to discover all the usability problems in an interface. Matching to Nielsen, averaging from over 6 tasks, a single evaluator only found 35% of the usability problems of the program.

Not Providing Systematic Problem Fixes: `Heuristic analysis does not give a systematic way to generate fixes to the usability problems or ways to assess the probable quality of any design. '(J. Nielsen)

The Paradox of the Less Cost: Having a one evaluator can reduce cost. But the risk is the coverage of the issues. Thus, it is necessary to activate `multiple evaluators' this means a higher cost.

The Threat of Professional Variations: If the evaluators are not part of the development team, they might not be aware of technical limits on the look or why certain design decisions were made. This might lead to variations between your development team and the evaluators, which might impede communication problems and correction of the usability problems discovered during the usability evaluation.

Capturing of one-time low concern problem: As Heuristic assessments are loosely structured, there's a likely- hood for the evaluators to capture one-time low-priority problems which may not be important to correct. It will be a waste materials of time and cost if evaluators are pre-occupied with responding to this type of problems, not and then the evaluators themselves, but also to the product developer.

EMPIRICAL METHOD: Customer Testing

User tests is a user-centred usability analysis method that employs evaluators to observe and track record the performance of consumer during the test session. Matching to Helen Sharp who quoted from Dumas and Redish(1999), `the goal is to check if the product being developed is functional by the designed user population to attain the tasks for which it was designed. ' Thus, it is a method of finding trouble spots by participating the persons who act like the prospective users to perform certain tasks. Administered in an individual testing laboratory and in a manipulated environment within the planned time, the users are required to perform either certain tasks, such as navigating through the menus, information searching, reading different typefaces, or other specific jobs. During the end user testing lessons, the evaluator `interpretes the user's activities to be able to infer how these actions are related to the usability issues in the look of the interface'(J. Nielsen, 1994). The evaluators track record everything about what, how and when the users do. The members' frame of mind, action, behaviors, cosmetic appearance, remarks or other kind of gestures are recorded.

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Strengths of End user Testing

The Power of Empirical Method: Identifying product problems by watching empirically the users connection with the user interface will give better understanding of the issues and needs of the users. It will be further increased when accompanied by the brainstorming treatment.

The Productive Facet of Brainstorming: The brainstorming or `think aloud' periods between your evaluators and the users induces users to discuss and share their experience. This naturally helps discovery of many more problems for the correction or improvement of the merchandise.

Users Need Come First: Sometimes, evaluators or software development specialists have their own biased views of what users want or need. Customer checks will neutralize the problem by revealing what is actually needed or expected from the users perspectives. Providing goal to problems elevated by the users will also cool down professional differences between the evaluators and the machine developer.

Weaknesses

Problem in Deciding The Right Number of User Testers: The problem is to decide on how many users are well suited for the test. There will vary of opinions regarding the right numbers of users to be engaged in the lab. A study studies conducted by Virzi(1990) show that 80% of problems uncovered based on several 5, and 90%, from a group of 10 users. Such be the situation, more user volumes means more costs. However, basically, it isn't easy to select the most cost-effective quantities or optimum number of users to participate in the usability assessment, because results may differ if tested in various context, environment and time.

Non-coverage of Functionalities: Sometimes, the test could not cover all the functionalities of the product in such constraint time and environment.

Inability to fully capture Minor Usability Problems: Though this method of analysis is good in finding major HCI problems, it is very difficult to observe modest usability problems, such as typographic inconsistency. There is a possibility that even the same gesture detected from the users can be interpreted differently by every individual evaluator.

Conclusion

Judging from the talents and weaknesses of both Heuristic Analysis and User Testing, it is rather difficult to conclude which either method is way better. It really is an `evaluator-centred' versus `user-centred' techniques. Ideally, it is good to get both methods as both have their own advantages and can complement each other.

REFERENCE

Edited by Jakob Nielsen and Robert L. Mack, Usability Inspection Methods: HOW EXACTLY TO Conduct Heuristic Analysis(J. Nielsen, . 1994), John Wiley & Sons, NY, NY, 1994.

Web analysis: Heuristic evaluation vs. user testing, International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, Size 39, Issue 4, July 2009, Internet pages 621-627 Wei-siong Tan, Dahai Liu, Ram Bishu(2008),

Interacting with Personal computers: Heuristic analysis: Comparing ways of finding and confirming usability problems, Amount 19, Issue 2, March 2007, Pages 225-240

Usability assessment: an assessment of some methodological and specialized aspects of the technique, International Journal of Medical Informatics Volume 79, Concern 4, April 2010, Internet pages e18-e23, J. M. Christian Bastien

Helen Clear, Yvonne Rogers and Jenny Preece, Connections Design: Beyond Human-Computer Connections, 2nd Release(2007), Chapter 14 & 15, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Jacob Nielson, How to conduct a Heuristic Analysis (Article), Para 11

http://www. useit. com/papers/heuristic/heuristic_evaluation. html

TASK 2: WEBSITE EVALUATION INFORMATION

Website: http://www. iuctt. edu. my/

Website Owner: International University or college School of Twintech Technology

Date of Evaluation: 19th November 2010

EVALUATION METHOD : Heuristic Analysis Model (J. Nielsen, 1994)

EVALUATION INSTRUMENT: Heuristic Analysis Inspection LIST OF GUIDELINES (see Attachment 1)

The ten (10) Heuristics are:

Visibility of system status

Match between system and the real world

User Control and Freedom

Consistency and standards

Error prevention

Recognition somewhat than recall

Flexibility and efficiency of use

Aesthetic and minimalist design

Help users identify, diagnose, and get over errors

Help and documentation

Five (5) Usabilty Problems Towards the User

Homepage Layout

The Problems: The contents on the Homepage had not been conveniently arranged. The presence of big positively alternating images right at the top-right of the webpage and leaving a large white space on the remaining area is a waste material of website space. With such placement, it makes the top part of the Homepage `misaligned'. Dynamic items such as `Twintech Yemen Branch' thumbnail and other branches offered in the for m of hypertext in Sabah, Kota Bharu, and Sri Damansara are not visibly located. Even `Online Software ' flag was not visible when the website is open. Remarkably, the `Online Software' was not operating. When it was clicked, it causes nothing, as if it was inactive flag!

Usabilty Problems To an individual: Poorly set up articles` may defer a end user. A user will find difficulty in looking the required items or webpages. Icons that are not visible will spend the users amount of time in looking for the right page for more information or guidance. For example, a user has to seek out other branches someplace down the pages or has to go to the next page to look for Twintech branches. There is an occurance of poor responses system for basic information. For instance, when `online request form' icon was clicked, there was no feed back again. Instead of showing an individual with the wanted online application form, there was little or nothing shown! This can cause potential university applicants abandoning the screen. Non-functioning Online Software will a defer case! The sole level Menu somewhat requires a longer searching time for the user. This affect overall flexibility and ease of navigation or control of the web site content. It will be more convenient if the user can choose item contents by causing choices at the key menu.

"Twintech Yemen Branch" icon is improperly located. It would be more visible if it's located at the very top site of the Homepage instead of in the bottom of the web page. Likewise, active hypertext or icons for other branches in Malaysia aren't located on the Homepage, instead a individual must look for the hyperlink for other branches in Kota Bharu and Sarawak, Malaysia. They can be found under the `Students' menu!

Information about the Convocation was very redundant. On the Homepage, information on convocation were situated in three places. It would be less baffling if the same information is put under one banner! As a result a user needs to scroll further down or even to go to other web pages to find the branches.

The heuristics not conformed

Aesthetic and Minimalist Design: This is because attention had not been directed at the Homepage design which can provide visual impact to the user. Basic content items should be visibly assemble and appealing to the user. The scattered agreement of productive online Twintech branches no result Online Request flag will slightly discourage a consumer to continue surfing. Also, the agreement of big photographs at the very top webpage create big white areas; and having inactive caption-less thumbnail pictures randomly in the pages, spoils the attractiveness of the website.

Flexibility and Efficiency useful: With regards to the above feedback, the poor arrangement of active icons boundaries efficiency in being able to access other webpages of the website.

Consistency and Standards: The many forms of word, be it title, subtitles, paragraphs, captions, or font sizes depict inconsistency and oversight of basic benchmarks. Even, in a single page, a user will quickly realize low contrasting name or sub-title lines and use of fade content material that may be recognised incorrectly as hypertext functions.

The Menu and Search Function (Standard Navigation Problems)

The Problems: The Menu, rightly on the upper still left of the Homepage includes five (5) menu items: Home; Scholar; Programmes of Studies ; About Us; and Contact Us. However, the Menu had not been designed to have a `take down' feature which could facilitate user selection quicker, specifically for the `Programmes of Studies', College student, or About Us.

Usability Problem To AN INDIVIDUAL: When a user wants to gain access to a specific Programme, e. g. Biotechnology, a end user has to go directly to the Programme page, then from there, a end user will select `Biotechnology' from the list. If it's a multilevel menu, a consumer can easily access the `Biotechnology' webpage by just one click! Menu comprising five (5) main items also have an impact on the swiftness of access to the rest of the contents. With regards to this, the menu does not contain adequate basic contents. For example, under `About Us' menu, there is no information about the school organizational framework, though it was founded as a University College or university about 12 years back! Even if a end user clicks `Contact Us' of the `About Us' menu, relevant information is not there.

The Heuristic Not Conformed

User Control and Independence: The solo level menu delays quick procedure of a individual. A user must search `personally' to look for perhaps, invisible required information.

Flexibility and Ease of use: Relating to the control problem, the existing feature of the menu design restricts the flexibility of a user. Rather than selecting something immediate from the menu, a end user has to undertake several search process.

Consistency and Expectations: Menu design will not reach a normal standard of sophistication. Simply, `idea of standard' should pay attention to just how an interface system pleases the user.

Non-functioning `Online Request' Flag and `Search' Button.

The Problems: Both of these problems are of the same kind. Both switches/ containers lead to nothing. The `Online Application' is located on every page of this website. However, when a customer clicks to get the application form form, it does not display anything. Actually it takes quite a while about 2 minutes downloading time just to give `Connection is Time Out' meaning. Several endeavors were made, but getting the same result. Likewise, the web site `Search' button also shows the same feedback. It didn't work as expected. The search field/bar is ineffective. There is no opinions after inputting requested information, but only refreshed the page. For example, at the College student page, when the word `biotechnology' was typed in the Search pack, it viewed the Homepage rather than the `Biotechnology' webpage! Also when pressing lively Convocation picture, it generally does not bring to the convocation information page, but to the Homepage again!

Usability Problems To The User: The non-functioning `Online Program' will defer the user or potential college or university applicant. Perhaps, the user may try a few times. But if the reviews is `zero', the session will not only spend the users time, but can also lead to distress. It got about 3 minutes to wait for the Online Application to receive the `time expired' note! The duration is known as lengthy for an program efficiency standards. Regarding the `non-performing' Search pack, it is just a sheer waste materials of time to the user when the requested information had not been provided. In fact, the Search consequence was the screen of the Homepage again! Exactly the same feedback appeared when a `Convocation' picture icon was clicked, that is, the Homepage was again viewed. This sort of feedback undoubtedly provides about mental stress and frustrations to a consumer. It affects the smoothness of the navigation circulation.

The Heuristics Not conformed

Visibility of system status: For all the three dynamic items, the reviews system was very unsatisfactory. THE WEB Application didn't produce the application form web page; the Search container also didn't search the right information but bring the Homepage to an individual; and the active Convocation also led the end user to the Homepage. So, the web site of course stored the user up to date, but about another thing that a user was not thinking about!

Error reduction: Error protection alert had not been flashed or signaled to the user, especially for failing woefully to display the web application form.

Flexibility and efficiency used: As these functions weren't functioning as expected, the website didn't give chance of an individual to search or explore easily and widely to learn more about its details.

Consistency and Criteria: From results obtain, that is, poor reviews system, it is clear that the web site had not been been inspected or individual tested satisfactorily. The designing of the web missed the essential interface standards in assisting users to own joyful experiences.

User control and freedom: The user was not in a position to experience flexibility in active because the browsing process was hampered by energetic yet non-functioning icon switches.

Quick Exiting Problem and Home

The Problems: There is absolutely no `button' for quick site exiting. A individual must use the standard `Home button' to exit an activity. So, when a user desires to leave the web page quickly, an individual must scroll down for Home button right to underneath of the site, or using the `Back Space' arrow. Addititionally there is no `Home' hypertext line located visibly in the working area where a user doesn't have to look for Home button down the page (or using the `Previous -`Next' page methodology). Even that, it was disappointing because it will take quite a time. It might be better if the Home or Earlier -Next webpage button are placed at the productive page or at a far more obvious place or easy to reach on the screen.

Usability problem to AN INDIVIDUAL: Because the `quick leave' is not built in the interface design, a user must either exit by clicking the home button which is very good down the web pages or using the `rear Arrow' of the Windows upper Left part to exit. As an example, when `Staff Webmail' is clicked, it prompts an `authentication home window' for the user to enter `User Name' and `Password'. When a user decide never to keep on but like to exit the site, a user has to use `Cancel' button of the windowpane, because there is no quick leave icon. However, as soon as the Cancel button is clicked, it exhibited another webmail windows for Log In. At this web page a consumer cannot leave quickly since there is no Home button anywhere. A user must click `Again Arrow' on the web browser to return to the Homepage. The was no `disaster exit' system on this particular page. That is quite inconvenience as it requires more steps to exit.

The heuristics not conformed

User Control and Freedom: Under this heuristic concept, there should be an software function for "disaster leave'' to leave unwanted express and never have to go through an extended dialogue' (J. Nielsen, 1994). But in the above case, a user has to do few other steps before exiting by pressing the `Rear Arrow' key.

Consistency and Standards: To be in-sync with today's standard, something should help user to leave with one key heart stroke, instead of going right through several steps.

Flexibility and Efficiency of use: Following the inspection done, it is obvious that that program system designer forgotten the `flexibility and efficiency of use ' heuristic that can assist in both expert and the amateur user.

Text Quality: Low coloring distinction. , font sizes and a mix of upper conditions and lower case in paragraphs or words.

The Problems: In general, the colour contrast of the text writing may distress a user. The decision of too low tone of grey used for time frame lines, some sub-titles, and some small paragraphs strains the sight of a end user. In contrast, the utilization of blue `Contact Us' field occupying almost the complete screen can shock a customer. Some smudgy words of the address are not readable.

Usability problem To AN INDIVIDUAL: The low colour contrast together with small font tends to strain the sight of the users eye. As normally experienced, diminish word lines usually signify hypertext, but in this web, they aren't. This may confuse a customer and can lead to disappointment and stress. As it is not visally clear due to its small fonts and fade grey lines, it is quite frustrating to a end user. A user must spend time focusing on the text to read it. Even the gray shades of shade distinction as well as the font size compare between the titles and sub-titles are not helping an individual to start to see the lines or paragraphs obviously and conveniently. In addition on the Faculty webpages, there are always a mixture of red and black colour paragraphs. In contrast, the `Contact Us' webpage displays a very bold sizable fonts that is quite aggravating visible. With blue history and dark smudgy writings, a individual who is unfamiliar with the language will find difficulty in reading and understanding the communication or the words.

The heuristic not conformed

Consistency and Standards: Using too low fade gray colour text will not comply with the concept of contrast for success in conveying a message. There exists inconsistency in the choice of colors and tones of colors used to mention certain items of the web site.

Aesthetic and minimalist design: The screen of text visible with blended of colors and fonts decrease the aesthetic aspect of this website. It can be an `eye sore' if the user continues long on the web.

SUMMARY IN THE EVALUATION OUTCOME

Based on the Heuristic Evaluation conducted, problems which may have been learned mainly concerns the Visiblity of system status, Customer control and independence, Consistency and criteria, Overall flexibility and efficiency of use, and Aesthetic and minimalist design. The heuristic inspection conducted cannot get feedbacks on other heuristics, particularly, Match between system and the real world; Error prevention; Recognition rather than recall; Help users acknowledge, diagnose, and get over mistakes; and Help and paperwork. Perhaps, this is due to the nature of the web which was created to give college or university information rather than a more interactive user interface system. Taking care of to be highlighted is the `Online Request Package'. As the `Online Program' page cannot be seen, it is difficult to examine whether the system has Mistake Avoidance system or not. Up to now, there was no `Problem' alert found.

Basic or major issues that should be rectified by the IUCTT will be the Responses system, Homepage structure, Menu quality, Home button, Quick Exit button, and the whole content material quality. The non-functioning `online software flag' will put off potential applicants. Likewise, the failing of the `search' button to satisfy a user's demand can result in user disappointment. The feedback screen of the Homepage rather than the expected site or address whenever a customer clicks `Read More' or other `Twintech branches' is very aggravating. The appearance and the structure of the Homepage as well as the limited menu functions may influence the program efficiency and the performance. The structure of the Homepage display and other internet pages are not aesthetically attractive. There are plenty of white spots both in the homepage and other pages. About the Menu, there is no pop-up or pull-down menu. Thus, the Menu functions could be further increased to facilitate navigation of website material. To get in-sync with today's standard, tt should be `improved' from sole level to multilevel as well as increase the menu items from five(5) to seven (7) items or even more wherever relevant. The `Contact Us' page looks irritating due to the `smudgy' black striking font. For better flexibility and ease of interface interaction, the system should incorporate quick access Home and Quick Exit button to boost the efficiency and the potency of navigation. The written text for the whole website should be improved upon in term of shade compare, font sizes for the written text titles, subtitles, dates, hypertext, letter cases ( the choice of lower and upper cases)and so on. Judging from the written text in the webdsite, it can be inferred that part is not given attention. The written text part of this amazing site needs to be upgraded taking the cosmetic aspects into consideration. Other slight problems to be attended to are the non-functional inactive thumbnail-like pictures, design of lively thumbnail pictures for additional awareness and the structure of all the website pages. For even more improvement, this amazing site should be re-inspected heuristically or by individual testing way for the interest of the users.

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