Web Usability

Web Usability

Shirley Ann Becker (Florida Institute of Technology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch651
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The study of computing technology and user interfaces was initiated during the 1970s when industrial research laboratories began to focus on human-computer interaction (HCI) (Badre, 2002). In the 1980s, the personal computer was introduced, thus expanding the need for designing effective user interfaces. HCI became a discipline during this time, and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) established the Special Interest Group in Computer Human Interaction. One of the first textbooks on HCI, Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction (Schneiderman, 19891), was published. Shortly thereafter, HCI became part of the ACM curriculum promoting the development of effective user interfaces. Software tools were developed in order to assist in designing usable interfaces while employing usability engineering methods. Many of these methods focused on usability from the perspective of ease of use, ease of learning, user satisfaction, and zero defects (Nielsen, 1993). The World Wide Web (Web) became an integral part of HCI research in the 1990s, as organizations rushed to deploy a corporate Web site. Many of these Web sites took advantage of cutting-edge technology, including graphics and animation, with little regard for the impact on the user. As a result, users became disgruntled by lengthy download times, complex navigation schemes, nonintuitive search mechanisms, and disorganized content.
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Many researchers and practitioners alike have studied usability in order to develop Web sites that are navigable, consistent, appealing, clear, simple, and forgiving of user mistakes (Murray & Costanza, 1999). Existing user interface design recommendations were extended to include user interfaces for the Web (Lynch & Horton, 1999; Schneiderman, 1998). Those experienced in designing user interfaces provided heuristics and guidelines for designing Web pages, often by identifying design layout, navigation, and performance issues associated with particular Web sites (Flanders & Willis, 1998; Hurst, 1999; Spool, Scanlon, Schroeder, Snyder & DeAngelo, 1999). Jakob Nielsen, a well-known usability expert, provided much needed guidance on Web usability through featured online articles (www.usability.gov):

Key Terms in this Chapter

Universal Usability: Universal usability can be defined as having more than 90% of all households as successful users of information and communications services at least once a week ( Schneiderman, 2000 , p. 85).

Web Accessibility: Web accessibility means that any person, regardless of disabilities, is able to use Web technology without encountering any barriers.

Usability: The ISO 9241-11 standard states that usability is the “effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which a specified set of users can achieve a specified set of tasks in a particular environment”.

Internationalization: It is the process of making a Web site interoperable in a specific market or locale. In general, interoperability means that the functionality of the site is not dependent on a specific language or culture and is readily adaptable to others.

Dot Com: A Web site that is intended for business use, though the term is commonly used to represent any kind of Web site. The term evolved from the “com” part of a Web site’s address, which represents commercial sites. It came to be associated with Internet companies that failed during the mid 2000s ( www.searchWebservices.com ).

Localization: It is the process of adapting an internationalized Web site to meet language, culture, religion, and other requirements of a specific market or locale.

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