The Effect of Usability Guidelines on Web Site User Emotions

The Effect of Usability Guidelines on Web Site User Emotions

Patricia A. Chalmers
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-945-8.ch118
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Two decades ago, the U.S. Air Force asked human factors experts to compile a set of guidelines for command and control software because of software usability problems. Many other government agencies and businesses followed. Now hundreds of guidelines exist. Despite all the guidelines, however, most Web sites still do not use them. One of the biggest resulting usability problems is that users cannot find the information they need. In 2001, Sanjay Koyani and James Mathews (2001), researchers for medical Web information, found, “Recent statistics show that over 60% of Web users can’t find the information they’re looking for, even though they’re viewing a site where the information exists”. In 2003, Jakob Nielsen (2003), an internationally known usability expert, reported, “On average across many test tasks, users fail 35% of the time when using Web sites.” Now in 2005, Muneo Kitajima, senior researcher with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, speaks of the difficulties still present in locating desired information, necessitating tremendous amounts of time attempting to access data (Kitajima, Kariya, Takagi, & Zhang, to appear). This comes at great costs to academia, government, and business, due to erroneous data, lost sales, and decreased credibility of the site in the opinion of users. Since emotions play a great role in lost sales and lost credibility, the goal of this study was to explore the question, “Does the use of usability guidelines affect Web site user emotions?” The experimenter tasked participants to find information on one of two sites. The information existed on both sites; however, one site scored low on usability, and one scored high. After finding nine pieces of information, participants reported their frequency of excitement, satisfaction, fatigue, boredom, confusion, disorientation, anxiety, and frustration. Results favored the site scoring high on usability.

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