Website Usability Review

For this assignment, I had to critic website based upon various elements of usability. In layman’s terms, usability can be described as the ability to navigate a user interface without much thinking involved. The concept of usability is vital to software engineering because a superb software without an intuitive graphic user interface is a wasted effort. Essentially, if a user cannot easily navigate an interface, they will most likely avoid using the interface altogether.

In this post, I will focus upon the a couple of reason to why I think a web site has high or low usability. In this case, I picked four websites where two are high usability and two are low usability. For each review, I mainly focused upon the reasons for categorizing the web site as a certain usability. This does not necessarily mean that the entire web site usability is really good or bad, but rather web site’s the strength or weakness.

Website : Ubuntu
Usability : High
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The Ubuntu website has high usability based upon these criteria : white space and effective communication. From a user’s perspective, the website layout is effective communicates the web page’s and follows the same concept on each page of a header menu, a overall message, major concepts, and a navigation footer bar. Also, the details pertaining to the web page’s key points are clear and concise. To enhance this effect communication, white space was used to guide the user’s attentions to certain points on the page. Every section of the page has some white space to separate the points to avoid creating the illusion that the text continues over the whole length of the web page.

Website : Square Space
Usability : High
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In the same way as the Ubuntu website, Square Space also uses white space and effective communication, but in this case Square Space makes signing up for its services easy through employing a green button. Signing up is easy since only four criteria is necessary : site name, password, email, and captcha. Alongside this, Square Space layout its content so that the user does not need to think about navigation since the menu and links have been well conceptualized.

Website : Star Scholarships
Usability : Low
(Down for maintenance at time of writing)

As a student web designer, this assignment peaked my interest since one of my responsibilities is creating coherent design for University of Hawaii administrators, students, and professor. STAR was originally created to replace the difficult Banner system user interface with an easier to use web interface. With this in mind, user interface is one of the key reasons for STAR to exist alongside Banner.

One of STAR’s most recent web applications was STAR Scholarhips. Although the way that I represented loading the criteria for searching scholarships with AJAX was a failure, in hindsight the method used to upload files such as resumes was the biggest failure. Basically, each scholarships had various fields to fill whether it be text or a selection of an option. In the case of uploading a file, the user had to open a new window for each scholarship field. After a successful upload, the window did not close to allow the user to upload another file to the scholarship field. In this way, every upload field for a scholarship had a new window that must be open to upload a file. If a user does not close any of these windows, then overtime the upload windows would multiple. In this case, a user may become confused as to which upload window to use an accidentally upload a file to the wrong application. Currently, I am fixing this mistake so that the user may upload the file right inside the scholarship application without needing to open any upload windows.

Site : NReviews
Usability : Low
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My friend created this website to express his love for an anime show called IGPX. Well given that it was created using YAHOO’s web designer interface, the main problem is with the content layout. Right away I realize that all the content is squashed right up next each other which makes the images look like a fat border to the text. There is just too much information provided to the user at first while the web pages seem to follow a more conservative approach to text and images. In terms of usability, if this first web page would learn to maximize white spaces to attract the user’s attention to specific areas of the page, then the usability of the page would increase. The one redeeming quality of this website is the simplicity where each web page has a specific goal.

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