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Chapter 12. Evaluating Web Usability

Chapter 12. Evaluating Web Usability

Usability testing has traditionally meant testing for efficiency of use, ease of learning, and the ability to remember how to perform interactive tasks without difficulty or errors. Testing for Web usability takes on the added emphasis and necessity of testing for a satisfactory user experience. A Web usability test should ascertain that visitors both achieve the goal of their visit efficiently and at the same time have an enjoyable experience.

An “enjoyable experience” depends to a large extent on the context and the purpose of the visit. If, for example, the context is that of a traveler searching for a cheap airfare, then the experience will be enjoyable if the traveler achieves her purpose efficiently, with a minimum number of clicks and in the shortest time. If the inclusion of graphics or animation in this case leads to delays and annoyance, then it is likely that the traveler would not consider the visit “enjoyable.” On the other hand, if the visitor wants to shop for a dress, then a site that provides pictures of dresses with colors and styles, and a feature where dresses can be fitted on an animated figure of a specified size and height is likely to produce a positive experience. The experience would probably be less positive if the visitor must simply select from text-based descriptions of dresses.

It is imperative that design speculations, hunches, and conjectures be put through a valid evaluation methodology. In the final analysis, design insights and solutions are only as good as the quality of the methodology used to derive them. This chapter focuses on considering evaluation methodologies for Web design, with an emphasis on optimizing the user experience. After a brief review of traditional usability evaluation, we'll examine how testing for Web user experience may differ and what specific items to include when evaluating the user experience of a Web site. A description of the process of Web evaluation follows. At the end of the chapter, there is a list of frequently asked question about usability evaluation.


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