Criteria for Evaluating Websites

15 Jun 2008 - 6:23am
5 years ago
7 replies
2523 reads
AmirBehzad Eslami
2008

Dear List,
e-Greetings,

I'm an undergraduate computer science student. I live in Tehran, Iran.
... Please don't judge me based on my location.

Here, there are no Usability Engineers or Interaction Designers,
but thousands of programmers who tend to "design". Websites are
pre-built using CMSes (e.g. Joomla, phpNuke). The User-centered
approach is just a new term. Nobody cares about the end-user.
Universities do not teach User Interface design. No Usability Labs at all.

In such a world, I'm trying to write an article about evaluating
quality of websites. I'm trying to find some sort of criteria to allow
non-Interaction designers to evaluate websites. These criteria
should not require the tester to have an HCI background, nor the
attendance of users during the test.

Do you have any idea on how to evaluate websites in this style?
Is there any checklist available? What articles have written on this
subject?
How do you evaluate websites if you're in hurry?

I appreciate your answers.
Thank you very much in advance.
-behzad

Comments

15 Jun 2008 - 10:20pm
Itamar Medeiros
2006

It sounds like you could use a HEURISTICS EVALUATION:

Heuristic evaluation (Nielsen and Molich, 1990; Nielsen 1994:
http://www.useit.com/papers/heuristic/) is a usability engineering
method for finding the usability problems in a user interface design
so that they can be attended to as part of an iterative design
process. Heuristic evaluation involves having a small set of
evaluators examine the interface and judge its compliance with
recognized usability principles (the "heuristics"):

Jakob Nielsen has a list of his "Ten Usability Heuristics"
(http://www.useit.com/papers/heuristic/heuristic_list.html):

VISIBILITY OF SYSTEM STATUS
The system should always keep users informed about what is going on,
through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.

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.

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 undo and redo.

CONSISTENCY AND STANDARDS
Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations,
or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.

ERROR PREVENTION
Even better than good error messages is a careful design which
prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either
eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users
with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.

RECOGNITION RATHER THAN RECALL
Minimize the user's memory load by making 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.

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.

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.

HELP USERS RECOGNIZE, DIAGNOSE, AND RECOVER FROM ERRORS
Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes),
precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a
solution.

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.

{ Itamar Medeiros } Information Designer
http://designative.info/
http://www.autodesk.com/

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30267

16 Jun 2008 - 12:30am
Charlie Kreitzberg
2008

From what you say, it seems that you have two goals: first, to convince
people that this is something worth paying attention to and second, to give
them a picture of how to do it.

To me, this suggests that you should consider basing the article around a
set of examples that demonstrate how the criteria would be applied.

In my opinion, the first step is to understand what the goals of the site
are from a business perspective. Someone -- an individual or an organization
-- invested time/money in creating the site. What do they want this site to
do? Is it achieving the goals that they anticipated? Who is their target
audience? Are they using web analytics to obtain any metrics?

In my experience, people respond best to the idea that an evaluation can
find ways to improve the site. If they see that value, they are more likely
to be interested in finding out how they can apply it to their situations.

I think that the idea of a heuristic review is a good one but I suspect that
Nielsen's criteria are too abstract for your audience, given their
inexperience with the field. I think you would be better with more concrete
criteria like:

1. Are the pages nicely laid out? Is all the information on the page stated
clearly? Is it readable. Is all spelling, punctuation and grammar correct?
Is language used consistently from page to page?

2. Does the homepage clearly explain what is available on the site?

3. Is the navigation clear to the user. Do they know how to get back to the
home page from anywhere?

Even these might be too abstract but if you accompanied them with before and
after examples I think you would be able to make your points.

Hope this is help

Charlie

============================

Charles B. Kreitzberg, Ph.D.

CEO, Cognetics Corporation

============================

16 Jun 2008 - 1:09pm
dmitryn
2004

Behzad,

You may find these usability guidelines published by the US government
helpful as a starting point for a heuristic evaluation as suggested by
Itamar:

http://www.usability.gov/pdfs/guidelines.html

(Please don't judge them based on their source :))

Hope this helps,

Dmitry

On Sun, Jun 15, 2008 at 7:23 AM, AmirBehzad Eslami
<behzad.eslami at gmail.com> wrote:
> Dear List,
> e-Greetings,
>
> I'm an undergraduate computer science student. I live in Tehran, Iran.
> ... Please don't judge me based on my location.
>
> Here, there are no Usability Engineers or Interaction Designers,
> but thousands of programmers who tend to "design". Websites are
> pre-built using CMSes (e.g. Joomla, phpNuke). The User-centered
> approach is just a new term. Nobody cares about the end-user.
> Universities do not teach User Interface design. No Usability Labs at all.
>
> In such a world, I'm trying to write an article about evaluating
> quality of websites. I'm trying to find some sort of criteria to allow
> non-Interaction designers to evaluate websites. These criteria
> should not require the tester to have an HCI background, nor the
> attendance of users during the test.
>
> Do you have any idea on how to evaluate websites in this style?
> Is there any checklist available? What articles have written on this
> subject?
> How do you evaluate websites if you're in hurry?
>
> I appreciate your answers.
> Thank you very much in advance.
> -behzad
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

17 Jun 2008 - 6:01am
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jun 15, 2008, at 7:23 AM, AmirBehzad Eslami wrote:

> What articles have written on this
> subject?

In 1997, my colleagues and I wrote an entire book on the subject: http://tinyurl.com/4hx9sz

> How do you evaluate websites if you're in hurry?

It's simple. There's only one question: Can the user accomplish their
goal? If the user can accomplish their goal, the site is good. If they
can't, it needs to be fixed.

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks

16 Jun 2008 - 2:04pm
AmirBehzad Eslami
2008

Dear Shrikant, and
Dear Itamar,
I was aware of "heuristic evaluation". The problem with this approach,
- IMO - is that it requires one or more Usability Engineers(s) for
conducting
the evaluation. But thank you anyway; I appreciate your kind and informative
replies.

Dear Charles,
I'm going to stick with concrete criteria instead of abstract ones, as you
advised.
I'll also follow your suggested structure for writing the article. A BIG
THANK YOU!
You provided the advices which my teachers are unable to provide.

Dear Dmitry,
Thanks a lot for pointing out US-Governments usability guidelines!
and... certainly I won't judge them based on the source ;)

Dear Sylvie,
Bonjour!
Those two books you mentioned are the classics of ID, but I haven't read
them yet.
I'm currently reading "Interaction Design: beyond human-computer interaction
(2nd Edition)", and I highly recommend it to everyone. By the way, I guess
there is a book entitled "Cost-justifying usability" which could help both
us
to promote the importance of usability.

Once again, thank you all for being so generous to me and providing
such great answers. I won't forget you, and I'll mention your names
and your kindness in the article :-)
-Behzad

P.S.
Here's one e-gift-link which I hope you'll enjoy seeing it:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/shapourbahrami/sets/72157594358982545/

17 Jun 2008 - 9:34am
Susan Fowler
2008

Hi Behzad:

It sounds like you have plenty of good advice already, but let me add
my two bits. For website clients whom I was pretty sure wouldn't
understand Nielsen's heuristics, I created this 4-item list (with
explanatory bullets):

I know where I am.

* The system provides clear answers to %u201Cwhere am I?%u201D
and %u201Cwhere does this go?%u201D
* People know what section they%u2019re in.
* Each page is clearly branded.

I know what I%u2019m doing.

* The system supports the person%u2019s work flow.
* Help is right on the page or easily found.
* The words on the page are familiar.
* General information appears early, details later.

I am in control.

* It%u2019s easy for people to change their minds. Mistakes are
easy to fix.
* The system doesn%u2019t make people do the things it can do
better.
* The system doesn%u2019t ask for personal information without
clear justification.
* People with eyesight and movement problems can use the system
easily.

I%u2019m impressed.

* The system is attractive, interesting, and professionally
designed.
* The system uses white space well. Text isn%u2019t jammed into
every square inch.
* Interactive tools help people understand and manipulate
information easily, but without unnecessary animation and imagery.

The bullets can be changed to match the client's own website--for
example, if the client has a job site, you'd say "the system
doesn't require a login before the user searches for jobs" instead
of "The system doesn%u2019t ask for personal information without
clear justification."

I've used the list to show amateurs how to do heuristic evaluations
and it worked pretty well. For more on doing evaluations, see
http://www.useit.com/papers/heuristic/heuristic_evaluation.html
http://www.usabilitybok.org/methods/p275
http://www.stcsig.org/usability/topics/articles/he-activities.html

I hope this helps.

--Susan

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30267

17 Jun 2008 - 10:53am
Rony Philip
2007

Hey Amir,

Use 'Heuristics' evaluation approach -
http://www.useit.com/papers/heuristic/heuristic_list.html. These are a set
of guidelines which will help you in reviewing the design. This quick, easy
and cheap.

Ofcourse you will also get plenty information on internet on many guidelines
and approaches.
Keep these factors in mind before or while designing
1. The business goals - What needs to come on the site
2. Critical Success Factors - What will make the site successful
3. Key users (end users) - the primary and secondary user groups
4. Key user tasks - The important tasks the users come to the site and
achieve
5. Technical constraints - technological issues (java, internet speed, black
and white monitor, etc)
6. Branding guidelines - company visual standard (marketing and
communication)

The first 3 points will give the overall approach in understanding the
design. For you to basically make your collegues, superviors or management
realize the significance of usability, then you will have to go a little
more deeper by knowing the ROI's of usability. The benefits of investing in
usability and the revenue model, coz usability definitely does not come
cheap!!!.

Good luck,
Rony

On 6/15/08, AmirBehzad Eslami <behzad.eslami at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> Dear List,
> e-Greetings,
>
> I'm an undergraduate computer science student. I live in Tehran, Iran.
> ... Please don't judge me based on my location.
>
> Here, there are no Usability Engineers or Interaction Designers,
> but thousands of programmers who tend to "design". Websites are
> pre-built using CMSes (e.g. Joomla, phpNuke). The User-centered
> approach is just a new term. Nobody cares about the end-user.
> Universities do not teach User Interface design. No Usability Labs at all.
>
> In such a world, I'm trying to write an article about evaluating
> quality of websites. I'm trying to find some sort of criteria to allow
> non-Interaction designers to evaluate websites. These criteria
> should not require the tester to have an HCI background, nor the
> attendance of users during the test.
>
> Do you have any idea on how to evaluate websites in this style?
> Is there any checklist available? What articles have written on this
> subject?
> How do you evaluate websites if you're in hurry?
>
> I appreciate your answers.
> Thank you very much in advance.
> -behzad
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

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