-- Information and Computer Science
-- UC Irvine -- David G. Kay
-- ICS 104
This assignment is due by noon on Wednesday,
March 17. It's a long one with many parts, some involving third parties
and others involving unfamiliar software, so you'll need to start early
and allow for the inevitable stumbling blocks.
Summary: Evaluate the usability of
a retail website chosen from the two alternatives below and propose a validated
redesign of the site. The alternatives are
This assignment has three phases: Evaluate
the existing site, redesign the site to improve the shortcomings you identified
(including user tests of the new design), and propose the new design to
the site management. Be sure to read the entire assignment right away so
you're aware of everything that's involved.
You will work on this assignment in groups
of two or three. We estimate that the increase in coordination and communication
necessary in a three-person group roughly equals the 17% decrease in individual
workload and we expect that the products of three-person groups will be
at least as complete and thorough as the better results of two-person groups.
As in past assignments, when we give page
counts here we're referring to single-spaced text in 10- or 12-point
type with one-inch margins. We encourage helpful illustrations, but illustrations
do not count towards the page limits.
Part I: Evaluate the existing site
Determine five typical tasks that a user might
perform on the site (e.g., find the textbooks for a student's spring
quarter classes, compare the laptop computers available for under $1500,
find the warmest set of long underwear for a ski trip). Choose tasks that
are realistic, broadly representative of what users might want to do on
the site, and substantial enough that the user can't complete them with
just a few clicks in a minute or two.
Find two or three people who aren't enrolled
in our class. Have each person, one at a time, do a walkthrough of the
site, attempting to complete each of your five tasks. Follow the walkthrough
guidelines discussed in class and in the book: Encourage the users to narrate
what they're thinking and what problems or questions they're encountering.
One team member should encourage the user to talk through the process (using
non-judgemental, non-leading prompts); the other(s) should observe and take
notes on the difficulties that come up.
Use the guidelines in the Farkas & Farkas paper
(which you read as part of the previous assignment) to categorize the usability
problems your users encountered.
Write a usability evaluation report of at
least two and at most four pages , describing very briefly what your evaluation
process was and at more length what results you found, referring to the
Farkas guidelines where applicable and documenting . This will eventually
be an appendix to your redesign proposal, so you should write it with an
eye towards convincing the site management that you have made a thorough,
methodologically sound evaluation and that the flaws you identified are
more than just your personal opinion. Of course you must also write in
a polite, professional tone; the site management won't take your advice
if they feel it's nasty, sarcastic, or making fun of them.
Try to be comprehensive, addressing most of
the major flaws, even if that means overlooking minor issues or repeated
instances of the same problems. (If a site includes many links that are
hard to identify, for example, just say once something like, "Many
links, such as the 'Policies' link on the home page, are hard to
identify as links because they're not distinguished from other content.
Farkas guideline 1.1 says, 'Be sure that all links indicate that they
are links.' " Don't list every link that has a problem; that
will fill up the available space before you have time to cover most of the
important issues.) It's a good strategy to mention some successful
aspects of the site, since it will make your report sound less unremittingly
critical and thus more palatable to the site management, but your main goal
is to propose a redesign so most of your report should address areas for
Part II: Redesign the site
Develop a new design for the site, one that
improves the areas you identified in your usability evaluation. Focus mainly
on global issues of navigation and usability; don't spend much of your
time polishing details like typefaces and graphics and the wording of the
text on the pages.
Build a prototype of your new design using
the Denim system you installed as part of the previous assignment. Denim
allows you to sketch pages and link tags and makes live links associated
with the tags. (If you encounter major problems with Denim, let us know
well in advance; don't revert to pencil, paper, and sticky notes for
your prototype without getting our permission first.)
Test your prototype informally on each other
during your design, making changes as necessary.
Find two or three people who aren't in
the class; they don't have to be the same people who you used before,
but they may be. With each person, walk through your prototype, asking
the user to perform each of the original five tasks and any others that
you think are appropriate or necessary. As always, follow the guidelines
for working with users.
As flaws or improvements become apparent during
your user testing, adjust your design and prototype and re-test the changed
aspects. Keep iterating until you are satisfied with your design.
Part III: Propose your new design
Write a proposal of three to six pages describing
your redesign. The major part of the proposal should describe the design
and how it improves the usability issues you identified in Part I. Of course
you will include illustrations as appropriate.
A smaller part of your proposal, not more
than a page out of the maximum of six, should describe your prototyping
and evaluation process and what changes resulted from that user testing.
We're assuming here that the site management is interested in the process
and how thorough a job you did. This part might not always reflect reality;
the typical real-world proposal probably wouldn't describe the false
starts and intermediate steps towards the solution. But in this case, include
Submit your proposal document via Checkmate.
Save your Denim prototype as a web document
(using "Export to Web" under "Save As..."). This produces
one HTML file and one folder of other files. Collect the file and folder
together into one archive (in .zip, .gz, .sit, or .tar format--ask a classmate
or the TA how to do this if you don't know) and submit it via Checkmate.
Submit your usability evaluation from Part
I via Checkmate.
A realistic proposal would have a cover letter,
a single simple page in business letter format whose body would say something
like, "Enclosed is our proposal for the redesign of your web site.
We hope you find it useful and we look forward to hearing from you."
But you do not have to write or submit a cover letter for this assignment.
If you would like to ask the site management
what their goals and requirements are, you may do that through the NoteBoard
set up for this class at eee.uci.edu.
Don't pester the actual management of the site; ask your questions
through the NoteBoard and the instructor will respond as if he were the
management. Everyone in the class may read the exchanges on the NoteBoard,
since requirements clarifications apply equally to everyone. [Also, everyone
should use the EEE NoteBoard system because we might ask an exam question
about it and how it compares with newsgroups or other broadcast communications
channels.] Questions on other aspects of the assignment may be asked in
class, in section, or by Email to email@example.com.
In the interest of full disclosure, everyone
should know that Levin's Shoes and Dry Goods is owned by the instructor's
brother-in-law, Robert Levin We included it here as a fresh alternative
to the UCI Bookstore site, which presumably is already familiar to everyone,
and as a site where students' recommendations might be put into practice.
If Mr. Levin chooses to redesign his site and incorporate your ideas, he
may give you credit on the site (which you could refer to on your résumé)
but he's under no obligation to compensate you in any other way. If
you don't care for this arrangement, you have two alternatives: First,
you may work on the UCI Bookstore site instead (which also has no obligation
to use your ideas or compensate you). Second, you may evaluate and redesign
drygoodstore.com but state clearly at the top of your proposal that you
do not wish your proposal sent to the owner. In the latter case, your work
will still be graded on the same basis (which means that you still have
to write it in the same polite, professional tone).
Written by David G. Kay, Winter 2004.
David G. Kay,
406B Computer Science
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-3425
-- (949) 824-5072
-- Fax (949) 824-4056
Monday, March 1, 2004 -- 6:14 PM