Heuristic Evaluation of the CCCU Website

For this assignment I’m going to use the web usability ‘rules of thumb’. A list of the guidelines relevant to human vision capabilities has been included in the appendices. Vision is the most important sense in human computer interaction. Although some information is presented to the user through sound, the vast majority is presented visually via a display device. By designing pages to be visually accessible it simplifies the task of mentally digesting the content.

When a person views a webpage their eyes naturally gravitate to the most striking elements such as enlarged or bold text or animations. Points 3, 5 and 7 address design choices that can lead to the wrong elements grabbing the focus. When a page contains more than one animation it strains a user’s vision to keep track of them. Animations such as those included in advertising also compete for attention with the relevant content on the page. Having to pay attention to multiple elements simultaneously reduces the amount of time the user can be focused on the page. When a user switches focus from one object to another the period in between when vision briefly turns off is called a saccade. When a user vision is fixed on something the area of focus is within two degrees of the center of vision. The part of the retina that receives information from this viewing area is called the fovea. It has many more rods and cones than the rest of the retina. Points 1 and 8 in the appendix are relevant to this. When using the navigation system of a page if the next logical navigation element is already in the focus area of the fovea then there is no saccade period or searching required. When a user is scanning a body of text for relevant links they will first notice the link titles before they have read the surrounding text. At most one or two words can fit into the fovea’s view. Link titles should be written to be succinct and understandable outside of the surrounding text. Many users suffer from a condition called colour blindness. In fact 4% of people, mostly male suffer from the condition. The condition is caused by a defect in the colour detecting cones. There are three varieties of cones in the eye which each detect different colour frequencies. The condition can affect one cone type, reducing the range of colour that can be seen, or can affect two or all of the types of cones completely removing colour perception and limiting the sufferer’s vision to grayscale. Point 12 and 18 addresses this limitation. By ensuring the page will display properly in grayscale it will be accessible to people with this condition. It will also display properly on older display hardware and print properly on black and white printers.

This guideline needs updating in several key areas, notably text size and colour. Although it does mention the use of saturated colours, it doesn’t mention the use of complementary or analogous colours (ref. Colours on the web). The guideline should include a pantone colour wheel with some instruction on how to use it. It also lacks a mention of the use of contrast to help foreground elements lift off the page. It also fails to emphasize presentation standards across the entire site. Good layout standards maintained across a site reduce the amount of mental effort required to mentally process a page. The guideline also needs to include some pointers on appropriate text size and colour. Text that’s too small is difficult to focus on and text that’s too large is difficult to read. Text also needs to have consistent colour standards. A small set of colours should be chosen for all text in the site and colours should have meaning, such as blue for links.

Evaluation: Secretary Site

This site initially appears to be well laid out. It adheres to the university colour scheme, although it makes excessive use of the solid purple colour as a background. The guideline recommends avoiding overuse of saturated colours. There is an obvious error in the left hand navigation section; there is a small space at the top that should be purple meeting with the top bar and the side bar ends abruptly after the links, the colour should continue down the length of the page. Also half of the links on the left hand side are underline and half aren’t. The layout standards fall dramatically in the other pages. When you click ‘University solicitor’ it links to the introductory page but the images at the top of the page become red x’s and the formatting of all the links outside of the left hand navigation become generically formatted. The data protection act page says “Under construction since 01 Feb 2005”. The freedom of information page has a completely different layout, as does the governance page. The health and safety page for some unknown reason require a login, pages that require logins shouldn’t be linked to by pages for the general public. Insurance appears to be a link but isn’t. The policies page is empty; as such its content should maybe be included in another page. Also the page linked to in policies as well the standards of personal conduct section have no margin with the left hand navigation bar. This site does not maintain interface across pages. The first page isn’t even the most pleasing interface. The site should ideally be remade using the layout in the governance page. A site needs a consistent layout to, if only the content portion of the page changes while the navigation is unchanging it makes it easier for users to make a mental map. The governance page has a visually pleasing flow that works seamlessly across each section of the page. Although the bottom links are white on the first page on every other page they are blue, which isn’t clear on a purple background. The site doesn’t make use of unnecessary animation and the layout is appropriately grouped and placed but only the Canterbury University logo linking to the home page has an appropriate alt text.

The site would only be partly understandable in grayscale, making it un-accessible to people with colour blindness. Although the main text and the left hand navigation area would display correctly, the bottom navigation and the text only link at the top right of the page would appear solid black. There is a link to a text-only version of the site but it points to a broken page.

This web site meets the guidelines much better than the secretary site. The layout is well grouped and appropriately placed and the titles and links make sense out of context. The contents are appropriately named and formatting isn’t used excessively. Links are standards blue with underlines and are easily recognizable. The page also displays perfectly in grayscale. Every page has a title that makes sense without reading the main text and every relevant image has some alt text. Each page also displays a search box. The colours are complementary, within the university colour scheme and not too imposing. The student resources page uses a lot of click here links that are quite separated from their descriptive text. However, links are appropriately named appropriately in the rest of the site. On most of the site the links are blue and underlined however, on the staff profiles page the links in the navigation bar. This makes it less obvious that they are links and not just a static list of names. Also on the staff profile page there is some instructive text that is light grey. This appears blurred against a white background. Except for a few minors errors this site is very well designed as regards usability and has a pleasant appearance.

Your rating: None