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  1. #1
    One website at a time mmj's Avatar
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    What does 'usability' mean to you?

    Hi,

    I thought I'd ask some questions to get a general idea about how much importance you, as today's webmasters, are placing on usability issues, and which issues these are.

    1. What does usability mean to you? Give at least one definition of usability, from your point of view.

    2. Do you currently undertake user testing for your projects, or have you ever been involved in user testing? If so, did you think it was helpful, or worth it?

    3. What usability flaws do you find most frustrating when using somebody else's website or other interface? List any particular thing you find annoying if you like.

    4. How important do you think it is to concentrate on improving usability in your own projects?

    5. What particular issues do you pay attention to when you are evaluating the usability of your own projects?
    Last edited by mmj; Dec 18, 2002 at 03:28.
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  2. #2
    One website at a time mmj's Avatar
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    1. What does usability mean to you? Give at least one definition of usability, from your point of view.

    Usability, as far as I know, is concerned with evaluating how easy an interface is to use. For maximum usability, the user should not have to spend much time learning how to use the interface. The user should just be able to use his or her intuition.

    I'm very interested in usability, and while I do know what it is, I would always like to learn more.

    2. Do you currently undertake user testing for your projects, or have you ever been involved in user testing? If so, did you think it was helpful, or worth it?

    User testing can be as simple as asking your friend to use your website, and watching him encounter problems as he tries to navigate it or use certain features. When I get the opportunity, I try to show my website, or other applications I have created, to my friends of family, and I sit back and watch while they try to use it.

    Even just getting 2 or three people's opinion, in my experience, is helpful in figuring out exactly what is wrong!

    3. What usability flaws do you find most frustrating when using somebody else's website or other interface? List any particular thing you find annoying if you like.

    Inconsistencies in navigation. On a webpage, the link to the home page should be easily located near the top left of a page, and it should be called "home". If not that, it should at least be called the same thing on all pages.

    Unclear site structure. A good way of making it clear exactly where you are in a site is with a well-structured Site Map, or with breadcrumb links. If there is both, of course, the links should be consistent.

    4. How important do you think it is to concentrate on improving usability in your own projects?

    Very important. If somebody becomes frustrated by a non-standard interface, they're likely to give up.

    5. What particular issues do you pay attention to when you are evaluating the usability of your own projects?

    As I mentioned before, consistency in navigation, and a good, easy to read site structure. I make use of breadcrumb links on my websites. I make sure that all pages have the same navigation links and their destinations are predictable.

    For websites, I also think it's important to take into account the most common practices found on other sites, as these are the things that users will be familiar with.
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  3. #3
    Wanna-be Apple nut silver trophy M. Johansson's Avatar
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    Re: What does 'usability' mean to you?

    1. What does usability mean to you? Give at least one definition of usability, from your point of view.

    Usability can technically be measured pretty easy, I think. 1. Pick a bunch of people from the intended target market of the site.

    2. Select a number of tasks that the user should be able to complete on the site.

    3. Let the users perform the tasks, and observe results.

    4. Then just do

    X / (Y/Z) = Site Usability Percentage

    X = Average % of successfully completed tasks
    Y = Optimal time needed to complete the task list.
    Z = Time the average user really needed to complete the task list.

    2. Do you currently undertake user testing for your projects, or have you ever been involved in user testing? If so, did you think it was helpful, or worth it?

    No yet - planning on doing so for my next one, though.

    3. What usability flaws do you find most frustrating when using somebody else's website or other interface? List any particular thing you find annoying if you like.

    1. Javascript in href links. That should be in onClick ONLY, since putting JS in the href prohibits rgiht-click-new-window.

    2. Frames.

    3. Navigation split and/or duplicated into multiple places.

    4. Too much information presented simultaneously.

    5. Load time

    6. Automatic opening of new windows. Damn, that's annoying.

    7. Unclear content structure.

    8. Inconsistent navigation.

    4. How important do you think it is to concentrate on improving usability in your own projects?

    Very important.

    5. What particular issues do you pay attention to when you are evaluating the usability of your own projects? [/B]

    1. Consistent and clear navigation.
    2. Site Structure.
    3. Idiot-proofing of interface.
    Last edited by M. Johansson; Dec 18, 2002 at 04:37.
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  4. #4
    Sidewalking anode's Avatar
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    1. What does usability mean to you? Give at least one definition of usability, from your point of view.

    Usability to me means frustrating the end user as little as possible.

    2. Do you currently undertake user testing for your projects, or have you ever been involved in user testing? If so, did you think it was helpful, or worth it?
    Not in the sense that Jakob Nielsen would like me to do it, no. I do the poor man's version of the poor man's version of usabilities studies by asking friends (both technically oriented and not) to go to my sites, do a few tasks and tell me what they think over chat or phone. I definitely think that it's helpful and worth it.

    3. What usability flaws do you find most frustrating when using somebody else's website or other interface? List any particular thing you find annoying if you like.

    1)Chromeless or addressbar-less(i suppose this would be menu bar on Windows also) windows.
    2)Windows that launch themselves (I use pop-up blocking browsers, so I sometimes have to dig into the source, and maybe even the linked .js file to find my destination)
    3)Flash used for anything but ads or interface widgets.
    4)I-Frames
    5)Badly grouped navigation

    4. How important do you think it is to concentrate on improving usability in your own projects?

    Imperative; better usability means more stickyness on a content site and more sales on a commerce site.


    5. What particular issues do you pay attention to when you are evaluating the usability of your own projects?


    1)Clear and consistent navigation
    2)Multiple ways of reaching content
    3)Well organized presentation
    4)Amount of clicks needed to reach content

    While we're on this, Digital Web 's topic for this months issue is information architecture which is in my opinion (and in at least one of the writers' who contributed) irrevocably tied to usability.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard iTec's Avatar
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    Re: What does 'usability' mean to you?

    1.A website is usable in its simplest form, the more complex and advanced the site becomes the less usable it becomes. This doesnt mean the more "leet" the design, this means the way and areas things are positioned.

    2.poor mans version, i ask for feedback from friends.. and i ask platinum just cause i know he hates it.

    3.1) not being able to resize text, while this is technically a flaw in IE it is a flaw that designers should acknowledge, only in the last few months has it really frustrated me.. but now it drives me crazy!

    2)poorly laid out or executed forms, ie: not identifying required fields, also limmiting the passwords in anyway (ala hotmail ect)

    3)flashdabation]


    4at the moment, not really, the only site i am running is my own blog and thats just a place to experiment, client sites are a completely different kettle of fish. If the site doesnt work the client wont want to maintain it. The only real way to make a site work is to make it usable to the mass, not just the leet.

    5.navigation and layout.

  6. #6
    Non-Member Siltrince's Avatar
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    Re: What does 'usability' mean to you?

    1. What does usability mean to you? Give at least one definition of usability, from your point of view.

    For me usability means making everything on a website accesible with as little as clicks possible yet without putting to much info on each page.

    2. Do you currently undertake user testing for your projects, or have you ever been involved in user testing? If so, did you think it was helpful, or worth it?

    Not yet , I actually use my visitors as testers and use the feedback I get from them to improve the website.

    3. What usability flaws do you find most frustrating when using somebody else's website or other interface? List any particular thing you find annoying if you like.

    - text on a repeating 1 pixel stripped background
    ( I hope you understand what I mean cause I can't think of a better way to explain it)

    - light text on a dark background ( I close sites like that immediatly )

    - bad color combinations ( example : red text on green background )

    - use of to much useless images ( if it's a corp site , designersites can do what they want )

    - bad site structure ( obvious but hey )

    - designless "websites" ( it's not because it's online you can call it a website )

    - ...

    4. How important do you think it is to concentrate on improving usability in your own projects?

    It's pretty important that's why I work with the KIS-principale = Keep It Simple

    5. What particular issues do you pay attention to when you are evaluating the usability of your own projects?

    If the design adds to the usability of the site and consistent site structure and navigation.

    --------------------
    I hope this helps

  7. #7
    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    1. What does usability mean to you? Give at least one definition of usability, from your point of view.

    Usability is the ease with which a user can navigate around my site and get to the content that they need to, regardless of HOW they got to my site.

    2. Do you currently undertake user testing for your projects, or have you ever been involved in user testing? If so, did you think it was helpful, or worth it?

    At work we send test cases out to others within the company; some have an idea of what the website is for, but other times it's just plain random. It all depends on who our "client" is and whether the site in question is for public or internal use.

    3. What usability flaws do you find most frustrating when using somebody else's website or other interface? List any particular thing you find annoying if you like.

    a. Flash ads that don't let you use the site right away. Take a look at http://www.ea.com/ (ad for "The Sims") and you'll know what I mean.
    b. Other random flashturbation.
    c. Lack of common sense on the developer's part when building forms. If you have two options and only one can be chosen, use RADIO BUTTONS, not two checkboxes and a bunch of Javascript!

    4. How important do you think it is to concentrate on improving usability in your own projects?

    On personal projects? Not much really, as they rarely make it out of my PC. However, for projects at work it's pretty important and we have a lot of people who try to help us out on that end.

    5. What particular issues do you pay attention to when you are evaluating the usability of your own projects?

    a. How easily can users get to what they want?
    b. Can I use the site in a "lite" browser? I don't even really mean Lynx here; I'm happy if the site works on my cellphone (REALLY happy considering my reception these days!) or in Opera/Mozilla with JS off.
    c. Can users understand what they're doing? Do some elements of my site deviate so far from the norm that they can't figure it out?

    That's my list. Enjoy.

    --Vinnie

  8. #8
    My precious!!! astericks's Avatar
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    Re: What does 'usability' mean to you?

    1. What does usability mean to you? Give at least one definition of usability, from your point of view.

    Ease of use of website/interface.

    2. Do you currently undertake user testing for your projects, or have you ever been involved in user testing? If so, did you think it was helpful, or worth it?
    I normally ask 'internet gimps' [people who dont use intnet on a daily basis] and some friends to try the website.

    3. What usability flaws do you find most frustrating when using somebody else's website or other interface? List any particular thing you find annoying if you like.

    bad site structure
    bad color combos [i'm picky]
    unnecessary use of splash page
    [me]flash ads that open up on the foreground when you're browsing. Normally difficult to find their 'close' button.[/me]


    4. How important do you think it is to concentrate on improving usability in your own projects?
    "Work" - very important. The more i think about this issue, the more psycho i get about it.

    5. What particular issues do you pay attention to when you are evaluating the usability of your own projects?
    Consistency
    Colors
    Layout [see consistency]
    keeping it simple for the not-so-regular intnet user.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard Ian Glass's Avatar
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    Humm, interesting discussion. Do I smell an article in the works? :-)
    1. Well, if we break the word apart, we get "usab" and "ility." That doesn't mean much, admittedly, so if we try it once more we get "us" (derived from "use") and "ability", hence: ability to use. Quite self-explanatory from there.
    2. N/A--unless you count me mum. I haven't been on ICQ for a long while.
    3. Not really a flaw, but ads get to me regularly--especially deceptive or intrusive ones. Not because those the blinking, animated, fake dialog boxes actually do anything but annoy me, but because I'm tired of hearing screams from another room: "Ian!! Why isn't our internet experience optimized!?! Do we have a virus or [insert random baked good]!?!!"

      As for flaws, I'd first go for (most common) when the designer tries to be coy with whatever, usually navigation, and only he can think through it. I think the standard of "intuitive," is misleading since lets designers hide behind what's intuitive from there point of view--I much prefer the, somewhat redundant, standard of "blatantly obvious." Second, underlined text (Siltrince! :-p) and other 'reserved' formatting applied elsewhere. Finally, blocking me out of a site because I don't use IE--I can decide for myself if I need to upgrade to a modern browser like IE6, thank you very much!
    4. Imperative--no point of putting something out there for the masses when they can't use it--or worse yet can't even see it.
    5. Truthfully, I suppose it's what I read about most recently, though I have a special place in my heart for IA.
    How'd I do? Huh? What'd I win?

    ~~Ian

  10. #10
    One website at a time mmj's Avatar
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    These have been very good answers sofar. A good variety, too.

    Originally posted by astericks

    bad site structure
    Astericks, would you be able to elaborate on this? What do you think is bad site structure? I know bad site structure when I see it, but I find it a bit hard to describe and was wondering if you could put it differently than I did.

    Originally posted by Ian Glass
    Humm, interesting discussion. Do I smell an article in the works? :-)
    You might smell an article. Actually, I wanted to drum up interest in the new accessibility and usability forum, but I may complile this and make an article. Keep submitting these great responses...
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  11. #11
    One website at a time mmj's Avatar
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    I have compiled the responses I have received into a handy article for people to view.

    Hopefully, others will get the benefit of your own experiences, and avoid some of the most annoying usability mistakes. You may have all helped to make the web a more useable place!

    If anyone has a serious problem with their comments being reproduced in the Community Crier, please let me know by PM. You've all been given credit for your own quotes.

    Thanks for your help
    [mmj] My magic jigsaw
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  12. #12
    Robert Wellock silver trophybronze trophy xhtmlcoder's Avatar
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    1. Allowing the liveware to interact with the 'user interface' to achieve their aims objectivities without too much difficulty (typically successful data retrieval/processing in a user-friendly manner).

    2. Yes, I have been involved in user testing and have asked others to test my programs, relational databases and give general feedback on various projects "data analysis" part of the development process of any professional project. Also one has been involved in running classified research and development projects and scientific studies.

    3. Lack of error trapping or poor documentation - for websites commercialism being plastered everywhere.

    4. It is essential, however I am not in the web development industry, albeit I have licensed some of my programs, database interfaces and solutions to specific organisations.

    Thus there was little productivity gain in me wasting time creating things like functional complex databases that the intended user base couldn't manage via a secure computer network on a daily basis.

    5. Usability and functionality, and perhaps accessibility, which differs from usability it depends on the project's nature to which I focus on most.

    I don't know how I missed this one…
    Last edited by xhtmlcoder; Mar 11, 2003 at 12:46.

  13. #13
    My precious!!! astericks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmj
    Astericks, would you be able to elaborate on this? What do you think is bad site structure? I know bad site structure when I see it, but I find it a bit hard to describe and was wondering if you could put it differently than I did.
    I totally forgot about this thread...sorry for the LATE reply

    Good site structure I'd say, will be something compared to a cascade/waterfall over multiple levels with the topmost level encapsulating all the lower levels.

    eg.
    |-- Immigration to Canada categories
    ------| skilled
    ------| business
    ------| entrepreneur
    ------| refugee


    So, based on that, I'd say bad site structure would not giving the user a "backlink" to the higher level info [e.g link from a subcategory in the skilled category to the mian page of the skilled category] or links to further information or other needed pages [e.g a link from the skilled page to the online assessment page to find out whether you are eligible for immig or not], not even organising your site content in the above format [heh...that's what I did the first time i made the website. ], irregular arrangement of links.

    As you can see my idea of bad structure here is mainly about how to facilitate flow of information [navigational?]. I'm sure there are other structural issues concerning the management of the website from the webmaster's point of view.

    That's it for now, i dont know if i was clear enough or if i successfully put in words what i was thinknig [that's just me...hehe].

    ast.

    ps: is your article already on sitepoint?


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