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  1. #1
    SitePoint Zealot moretea's Avatar
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    Jun 2004
    Texas, USA
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    Question Fear and (self-) loathing in Usabilityville

    My company is in the final stages of conducting a survey of US hospitals; with some high-level input and requirements from my management, I was responsible for the design and programming of the online version. At this point, I'm guessing that about 1 in 4 respondents required assistance; either by email, phone, or by redirection to the MS Word version of the survey. To be blunt, I'm a little bummed.

    I would like to believe that our target audience is lacking in computer skills (and our Customer Service department would be inclined to agree!), but everything I read about usability indicates that I'm supposed to blame myself for their difficulties.

    Would some of my fellow SitePointers review a video screen capture of the survey at and offer some suggestions on what could have been improved? (And maybe help keep me from beating myself up?) TIA!

  2. #2
    SitePoint Guru
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    Oct 2008
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    First: blame the design, not yourself. Don't be self-hatin'!

    Secondly, the narrated video capture doesn't really help us see where your users are running into problems. I notice the following potential horrible spots though.

    Please indicate your agreement with the following statements by selected “Yes” to all of the questions below.

    Yes /No -- To the best of my knowledge, information, and belief, the information being submitted is not customarily in the public domain.

    Yes/No -- I attest that I am not submitting this information in lieu of a regulatory requirement.

    Yes/No -- I am authorized to submit this information to be considered for protection under the Critical Infrastructure Information Act of 2002.
    The first two are confusingly worded, though you may not be permitted to change them, I guess?

    But combined with a yes and no, they're potentially annoying (particularly the first two: "Yes, I attest I am not" is confusing; "No, I am not" is more usual). I'd try plain checkboxes.

    I also got as far as it asking for my contact details, but your JavaScript validation for an email address is a bit too over-zealous. I'd wait till pressing submit before calling people out, or at least using an icon or and inline message instead of a horrible modal dialog.

    I didn't go any further as it wouldn't be right to mess up your details. But those are a couple of examples of where you might run into trouble.
    "I'm Commander Shepard, and this is
    my favourite post on the internet."

    We'll miss you, Dan Schulz.

  3. #3
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    Feb 2009
    England, UK
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    moretea, you are right to be worried, usability and accessibility are the responsibility of the designer and while you should not be "self-hatin" it's important that you actively resolve the potential problems to reduce the support costs you may incur and to basically assist the user as much as possible. While it's hard to give you accessibility advice on the basis that we don't have access to the pages themselves the following problems I can see in the survey itself could be addressed...
    • Firstly you should provide them with a list of the information they will require before they start (so they aren't having to keep finding information).
    • Next you should not load the thing in a New Window, most people have popup blockers disabled and trying to use them will result in "non-working" links.
    • The required statements section is too technical, it's going to be impossible to read for most people, use simple and easy to understand language.
    • Scaring your visitors is a bad idea, don't give them threats of fines and inprisonment otherwise they will just avoid participating to save hassle.
    • Most people don't know about law, rather than quoting legal scripture, just use simple statements, your wording is insanely technical.
    • Small print is bad for accessibility, you can't expect a visually impaired person to read tiny text, if you are going to have the information, resolve this.
    • You should be able to use back and forward... save the information to a cookie or a user session on the server (the cookie can be deleted after submit).
    • Popup messages are annoying, provide an inline message in an orange box with an exclamation icon below the entered field saying what you need too.
    • The no inventory box is again small print, most people will ignore it by default and you may end up with people complaining they cannot add zero items.
    • The about this survey information should appear before they enter any information, not after you have asked them for loads of details, it breaks the flow.
    • After you click "add to my list" it should reset itself back to the origional state (so with the other bits hidden), so readers know they can add more.
    • Machine, High Frequency and Portable should all be in one list (for ease of readablity), offer a dropdown to pick between them rather than multiple pages.

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