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I am in the midst of preparing various presentations about my work. To illustrate some of my points, I am going through the video recordings of study participants' online actions. In my project, I asked Internet users to look for various types of content on the Web. In the example below, the user is looking for a recipe that yields a dish acceptable for someone with lactose intolerance.
This is an interesting example of online usability problems that would be hard to imagine simply by looking at a Web site. By watching a user navigate the page we are exposed to actions which would be hard to come up with in the abstract.
This is a snapshot of the page the user was looking at. It is a page that allows for customized recipes. There are lots of options for the user to fill out before submitting the information to the system for a recipe. Note the ad to the right of the forms. There is a button on the bottom of it that says "Go".
The user performing this task ended up clicking on that advertisement "Go" button after having filled out the forms visible on the snapshot. Now look at the image below. It is a snapshot of the full page. There is a separate submit button on the bottom of the recipe form page. However, the user never scrolled far enough to see it.
The worst part of this experience was that when the user clicked to go back from the ad the options she had picked on the forms had been erased and she had to start over. Talk about a frustrating experience.
This is just one example of the ways in which both Web site layout and suboptimally programmed components of online forms can make navigating the Web more tedious and time consuming than necessary.
Replies: 2 Comments have been posted, click here to see them and add your own
Just to play devil's advocate for a sec, the inconvenience we experience in this booming internet age, pales in comparison to tracking down a piece of information possibly located in a library across town. (If the book containing it isn't currently checked out.) Most of the time, the differences in how I interact with the world because of the internet, go unnoticed by me. But when I purchased plane tickets online for my Mom, while chatting with her on the phone, she was struck by how much things have changed. At least slogging through the thousands of results returned by Google, doesn't require me to utilize the 5-College bus system to get to the UMASS library and back.
Posted by Jen @ 09/30/2002 09:44 PM EST
Jen, thanks for your comment. I agree with you that in many ways, of course, the Web makes lots of information available to many people. The question then is whether all that information is equally available to all people online. In my study, I have found that while some people can really make the most of the Web, others simply cannot navigate the information the way it is presented to them both because they do not know enough about the intricacies of how content is organized and presented online and how it can be found, and because presentation is often very confusing. I'm assuming from your post that you are in college. I would guess from your demographics and circumstances (a liberal arts college in the Pioneer Valley) that you would be able to find most things online. But not everybody can and usability issues are one of the reasons for that.
Posted by eszter @ 10/01/2002 01:14 PM EST