Usability Part 1 Reflection

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Part One: English Department of EMU Website Usability Test Essay

Finalized Essay

      Usability testing is a fundamental part of building a website. Without testing, you could be putting up a site that just isn’t what people using any internet website want. For starters, focus on what you want your site visitors to do, as Redish says in Letting Go of the Words. The most important thing of all, according to Redish, is the content of the site. As Redish says, “People don’t come to web sites or mobile apps or social media for the joy of navigating or searching. They don’t usually come to admire the design. They don’t focus on the technology. They come for the content that they think (or hope) is there.” (Redish, 1.) Content and focusing on what you want your site visitors to do, goes hand in hand.

The English Department website of Eastern Michigan University could be better in my opinion. It has what information you will need or want but it was hard to find that information. When I conducted a usability test on this site, I found several different things, good and/or bad. Right off the bat from looking at the page, you see that the banner on the top of the page is all messed up. It looks to be blending in with the rest of the page. I can’t explain it, but it’s rather irritating and just makes the site look unprofessional. The class results shows that everyone had similar thoughts on the banner of the page. Jaclyn Young said, “The first thing I see is that font on the very top of the page, the top of the d in “department” is cut off and I cannot stop looking at it.” Regarding the subject of design, Redish says, “Your site visitors react to the look of your web site or mobile screen before they’ve read anything. If the initial appearance turns them off, you may never get to converse with them.” (Redish, 45.) This is true. The bad impression I had right off the bat, didn’t give me hope for the rest of the site.

It was easy to find some information, such as, the undergraduate English Major page. All I had to do was click programs and then click English Major. From the results of the survey, everyone else found this information pretty easily as well. I was very happy that while conducting my search, I found the contact information very easily. In case someone gets lost looking for the information they need, they can contact the English department. The type of design of the site has some flaws but it does have some good qualities. The site does work for people to find what they need but it can be hard to navigate as well.

The next two parts to the usability test given to us online were a little bit more difficult to navigate. One was finding information on general education requirements and the other was finding information for the graduate student. Finding information on the general education requirements was harder because there was no link to it anywhere when I was looking on the English Department’s website. I had to go to the search engine on the site and type in, “general education,” where I was given a link to the general education page at which point, I got all the information I needed. Looking at the test results for the class; everyone had a harder time with this scenario and had different ways they found their information. This whole situation of having to search through the website to find the information I needed reminded me of a statement in from Letting Go of the Words. “When looking for information in a web site, we are bloodhounds. We try to find links with good ‘scent.’ We aren’t interested in our surroundings. We don’t want to be distracted until we’ve arrived at a good destination.” (Redish, 90.)

The last scenario on the usability test was finding information on being a graduate student at EMU. This was about the same level of difficulty for me as the question before this one. I couldn’t find information on the English Department’s page directly so I had to go into the search engine on the site and type in “graduate program.” This lead me through to several links until I found the one that sounded best for me which took me about ten minutes or so to find. Looking at the results from the class again, most people seem to say it was easy to find the graduate program information and such but I couldn’t seem to find the “scholarship” information quite as easily, and some couldn’t find it at all. Redish says, “Most sites organize by type of information for at least some of their content: News goes in its own section.” (Redish, 106.) The main problem here seems to be that the site isn’t organized as it should be. Scholarships are such an important and popular topic for college students that I personally would give that topic its own web page or add it to the financial aid webpage. One thing I think the site needs more of is related links to help lead users to what “more” information they need. Redish says, “On each web page, ask yourself: Where would site visitors want to go now?” (Redish, 108.)

Usability testing was something completely new to me and I haven’t even considered it before. Not just for this site but any site. I honestly had never heard of usability testing before but after doing this test, it made me wonder how I never thought of it before. Web sites need research and testing to know if they have created something useful and easy to use. You want information fast and so does the rest of the world. We are bloodhounds when it comes to searching for what we need but at the same time; we would like it to be pretty easy.

Works Cited

  1. Redish, Janice. Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content That Works. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Morgan Kaufmann, 2012. Print.

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