A Set of Usability Heuristics and Design Recommendations for Higher Education Institutions' Websites

A Set of Usability Heuristics and Design Recommendations for Higher Education Institutions' Websites

Bhim Sain Singla (College of Engineering and Management, Punjabi University, Punjab, India) and Himanshu Aggarwal (Punjabi University, Punjab, India)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJISMD.2020010104


Usability evaluation of a website is a key element in identifying the areas where the end-users might experience problems while interacting with it. The usability parameter has a great impact on the performance of a website, an organization's image, user satisfaction, and their intention to revisit the site. In the recent past, there has been a tremendous increase in the use of websites for seeking requisite information about admission to various courses offered by higher education institutions. There has been a lack of an effective and efficient set of heuristics that can be used to evaluate the usability of these education institution websites. The present study differs from earlier studies by providing a new set of 43 usability heuristics and categorizing them into eight distinct factors on the basis of their empirical validation. These eight identified factors exhibit strong psychometric properties and are ease of navigation, design quality, information architecture, credibility, functionality quality, content quality, simplicity, and learnability. The findings of this study are highly useful for the website designers and evaluators of higher education institutions' websites, who are concerned with evaluating and improving the usability of these websites. The findings of this study have theoretical as well as practical implications.
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1. Introduction

The current study is quite significant for the websites of higher education institutions, where after globalization and privatization in the education sector, higher education institutions are facing stiff competition and struggling to generate sufficient funds and resources for their very survival. In such a grave situation, apart from achieving other goals, these websites serve their basic role in attracting more and more potential students for admission both nationally as well as globally. A plethora of information remains available on the respective websites which has the potential to influence the decision of students seeking admission to the various courses being offered by these higher education institutions. Besides, there is an upsurge in the demand for online courses in recent years as such courses of learning, help to save the money and time of the students as well. A website with better usability enables an institution to gain a competitive edge over its competitors. This aspect explains the sort of experience gained by a user while interacting with the website. Due to the complex nature of usability, it is quite difficult to describe the term through a single definition. Flavián et al. (2006), in their research study, found that the aspects such as simplicity of use of a website, its structure, functions, contents, speed, i.e., time consumed in obtaining the desired information, and the users’ ability to control while searching the information significantly contribute towards improving the usability of a website.

Prior research (Alshamari & Mayhew, 2009; Christophersen & Konradt, 2012; Donker-Kuijer et al., 2010; Hasan et al., 2012) suggests that usability is the basic element used to evaluate the success of an institution’s website. Through this evaluation, a user’s impression of a website can be understood quite effectively. Venkatesh et al. (2012) and Chia-Ying (2019), in their study, underlined that usability is one of the key predictors of end-users’ intention to use a particular website. Thus, usable websites are capable of changing the attitudes of users and increase their satisfaction with the use of offered information. Anthopoulos et al. (2007) and Yu-Wei et al. (2019) believed that usability shortcomings cause dissatisfaction among the users as they fail to access and execute services properly. As a result, they do not recommend such websites to others. As indicated by Hasan and Morris (2017), usability is an important component of website quality and its shortfall diminishes user experience. As a result, the front end of the website and the way users interact with it often are the aspects where there is a need of devoting greater care and attention during its development process.

As usability parameter has a great impact on the performance of a website, an organization’s image, users’ satisfaction and their intention to revisit the site, website designers need to focus on this aspect. Different sets of usability heuristics have been developed by the researchers for evaluating specific domains and their unique features. For example, Grice et al. (2013) explored the heuristics provided by Nielsen (1994) and Hargis et al. (1998), and further expanded them through an iterative process until they completely described the usability and user experience in the social-media environment. In all, 10 heuristics were proposed; each heuristic having several hub heuristics. By following the methodology proposed by Rusu et al. (2011), Paz et al. (2014) and Sanz et al. (2016) proposed a set of 15 and 16 heuristics respectively for the heuristic evaluation of transactional websites and U-learning applications respectively. Neto and Pimentel (2013) studied usability issues with an interface of mobile devices by performing inspection of four android-based applications with the help of experts. Then, the identified usability problems were grouped into 19 categories; and associated them with Nielsen‟s heuristics, where possible. In all, 11 heuristics were finally proposed.

Figure 1.

Classification of websites based on their different purposes and users’ expectations


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