An Examination of Website Usability

An Examination of Website Usability

Louis K. Falk (University of Texas at Brownsville, USA), Hy Sockel (DIKW Management Group, USA) and Kuanchin Chen (Western Michigan University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-014-1.ch071
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Strictly speaking, the term Usability has evolved from ease of use to also include design and presentation aspects. A large amount of research has been conducted using this wider definition. These studies include everything from model development (Cunliffe, 2000), to personal self image on Web sites (Dominick, 1999), to the purpose of a Web site (Falk, 2000; Neilsen, 1999, 2000), and to Web site effectiveness (Briggs & Hollis, 1997; Fichter, 2005). Ultimately, these topics are related to Usability and the success that a Web site enjoys. The construct of Usability covers a range of topics. This article specifically addresses Web Usability from the perspective of how easy a system is to learn, remember, and use (Rosen, Purinton, & Lloyd, 2004). The system features should emphasize subjective satisfaction (Cheung & Lee, 2005), low error rate, and high task performance (Calongne, 2001). In this regard, Usability is a combination of the underlying (hypermedia) system engine and the contents and structure of the document, and how these two elements fit together (Lu & Yeung, 1998).
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Usability Issues

Every Web page has an address on the Internet. The more recognizable the address, the easier it is for the user to become brand-aware and the more often they might return to the site. The address of the main Web page is typically called the domain name and appears on the URL address line of the browser. Typically, the Web is used as a marketing tool that allows millions of potential customers to visit a site each day (Hart, Doherty, & Ellis-Chadwick, 2000). However, before that can happen, a person needs to be able to find the appropriate Web page. In that regard, many individuals use and depend upon search engines to locate sites of interests. A serious problem is that a Web site’s reference may be buried so deep in a search result that it will very likely go unnoticed, and hence will not be visited. The consequence is not only a Usability issue, it is also a visibility/profitability problem. To circumvent this issue, an organization should consider using meaningful Web addresses (URL), descriptive meta tags in the DHTML, and XML code, key words in titles and paragraphs, and backward links (link referrals) to help enhance placement of a Web site in search results.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Information architecture: How the Web site’s Web pages are organized, labeled, and navigated to support user browsing.

Deadlinks: Text or graphics you can click that should lead to other information; when accessed, either an error message is returned, or the link leads to an “under construction” page.

Site Map: An overview of all information on the site to help users find the information faster.

Usability: How effectively site visitors can access your site’s information -- things enacted to make a Web site easier to use.

Dynamic Web pages: Web pages whose content vary according to various events (e.g., the characteristics of users, the time that the pages are accessed, the preference settings, the browser capabilities, etc.); an example would be the results of a search via a search engine.

URL: (Universal Resource Locator): An Internet address that includes the protocol required to open an online or off-line document.

Browser: A browser is an application that interprets the computer language and presents it in its final Web page format.

Hyperlinks: Text or graphics that you can click to view other information.

Static Web pages: The same page content is presented to the user regardless of who they are.

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