Assessing the Usability for Arabic Language Websites

Assessing the Usability for Arabic Language Websites

Mohammed Arif (School of the Built Environment, University of Salford, Salford, Greater Manchester, UK) and Aman Gupta (College of Business, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Worldwide, Daytona Beach, FL, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/ijthi.2014070106
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With increasing reliance on web-based services by today's customer, organizations continuously invest time and money to provide better experience to their customers. Usability studies are very important to assure that customer expectations are achieved effectively and efficiently. The aspect of usability becomes even more important in a multilingual society. The aim of this research is to evaluate usability standards for Arabic and determine if these standards are different from English. A case study involving a Dubai Municipality website has been used to identify the differences between the two languages. A usability test was developed which was divided into two parts: a usability experiment and an online questionnaire. A total of 30 evaluators were chosen for the test. T-tests were conducted for each of the 10 tasks performed during the experiment. The evaluator questionnaire was used after the experiment to obtain the evaluators' feedback. In terms of design, websites in Arabic and English have the same look and feel. In terms of information content, the English content was more usable than Arabic. The research concluded with recommendations to improve the content of the Arabic website.
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1. Introduction

The World Wide Web has become an integral part of our daily lives where most companies, organizations, schools and universities have their own websites. More information is made available on the Web each day and the number of users is large and expanding. In the early 1990s, the Web was first introduced to the public, and the primary concern was to make sure that the technological infrastructure worked. Now that the infrastructure is stabilized, the challenge is to design web sites that meet the needs of the people who use them. These people, known as users, are a company’s customers or employees, organization members, school students or faculty, or people simply seeking information. All websites therefore should ensure that all users with various technologies, ages, computer knowledge, and disabilities have an equally enjoyable experience (Lazar, 2005). A site that is easy to use, loads quickly, and allows tasks to be completed without frustration is important to satisfy a user.

Most of the difficulties that users experience in websites can be attributed to poor information architecture; i.e., the grouping of information into categories and the addition of navigational elements over this information structure (Rosenfeld and Morville, 1998). Despite the abundance of design recommendations and guidelines for building a usable website, web site usability continues to be a pressing interaction issue (Ivory, 2000).

The usability of a website is so important that it can influence the amount of sales, because users are unwilling to read web pages with low usability; characteristics of low usability include having pages that are hard to operate or understand, or pages that react differently from expectations (Goto and Cotler, 2004). The concept of usability has dramatically influenced and advanced technologies and interactive systems in the world, and particularly in the West. The Arab World however is still far from this evolution. Usability guidelines provide a golden opportunity for designers, web site managers, and websites' maintainers, usability specialists, researchers, staff and students to develop usable websites and software applications that satisfy the needs of end users.

To create easy-to-use web pages, an evaluation of usability is required. Web usability evaluation is performed to mainly discover problems on a website and to help designers consider a re-design about discovered problems (Nakamichi et al., 2006).

Most of the content on the web today is English, but a majority of users speak languages other than English. To reach a wider audience, websites should be multilingual, by providing the right content and structure (Huang and Tilley, 2001).

There is an assumption that the usability standards are universal and are equally applicable to all languages. However, given that there are subtle differences in various languages, it is worthwhile exploring if the universality of these usability standards are a myth. Especially languages such as Arabic which are written from right to left might be different in usability than languages such as English which are written from left to right. The aim of this research is to evaluate usability standards for Arabic and see if they are different from English. The research doesn’t assume that Arabic is less usable; instead the research tries to identify how the standards for Arabic differ from English as usability standards cannot be one size fits all. A case of Dubai Municipality (bilingual, Arabic and English) website has been used to identify the differences between the two languages. The reason for exploring Arabic is that it is the official language of several emerging economies and has some obvious structural differences with English, for example because it is written in opposite direction as English. Similar studies could be pursued for other languages as well.

The remainder of this paper is divided into four sections. The section immediately following this section presents a review of the literature; this is followed by a section on methodology and then a section presenting the results of an experiment on a bi-lingual website of Dubai Municipality. The results section is followed by a section on discussion and conclusions. The experiment presented in this paper is a pilot study which will explore the differences between the two languages. Results of this study could be used to pursue future studies and highlight specific differences in usability standards.

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