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You have recently gained employment with a computer consultancy company. Due to your specialist knowledge in the areas of Human Factors and usability, your manager considers that you are ideal to undertake an evaluation of a potential client’s web site and to provide a set of recommendations on how to enhance the usability of the site and make it more attractive, efficient, effective and profitable.

Website Usability

Usability is defined as the degree to which software can be utilized by consumers with effectiveness and efficiency with the purpose of achieving some set objectives. A critical analysis is the evaluation of a specific area, topic or item with the purpose of giving an individuals opinion based on the topic or item in question. Websites have been in existence for over a decade now and they have become the first point of contact between a business and its clients (Nielsen 1994, p. 165). This has forced the development of websites to be very critical to ensure that they can adequately represent the mission and purpose of a company to its clients. A website needs to be designed in a way that ensures it is easily usable so that it can bring maximum benefit to its users. We shall be evaluating a website based on the specific goals it is meant to achieve.

A cost benefit analysis which is also referred to as a benefit cost analysis is a systematic approach in which the strengths and weaknesses of alternatives for a specific venture are estimated so that one can identify the best option for them to utilize or use (Schmettow 2008, p. 93). A client has commissioned our company to perform consultancy services on the usability of their website. Your company is charging you out to the client at a daily rate of £650/day. The cost is very high and for the client to willingly pay such an amount for the services being rendered we need to show them what we are offering them and how much the services we are offering will benefit them. Based on the reputation of our company and the number of clients we have helped in maximizing their websites usability speaks for itself. We have been known to turn sites which were very user unfriendly to the best and most user friendly websites available. Our track record proves to you our client that we have the needed experience and expertise to get the job done. We also have a keen eye to detail based on the numerous training our experts have been undertaken through. We know that there are other service providers who offer the same services at a cheaper rate and we do not refute that competition is good to keep us doing our best (Vertegaal, Shell, Chen & Mamuji 2006, p. 785). We however want you to choose us because whatever you may pay us we will ensure that it is only a fraction compared to the benefits in which your company will gain. We will make sure that your website is very user friendly such that when clients come to your site they are able to maneuver their way easily across the site and get the most out of it.

Cost Benefit Analysis

As mentioned earlier a website is usually the first point of contact between a company and their clients. Therefore it is very critical that the website represents what the company does and it should be easy for the users to maneuver through the website and get the most use out of it within minimal effort (Sieker, Villemann, Ormholt & Sage 2007, p. 1405) . If the company can get their website to be very user friendly it means that their clients can easily get their way around it and buy products which will bring in more revenue for the company (Huberman & Fang 2008, p. 491) .

After winning the contract to offer consulting services an evaluation is needed in order to obtain a usability specification. The usability specification is meant to evaluate the design of a website based on a range of given criteria. The evaluation will be done through two different methods which are direct observation of the users interacting with the website and giving the users questionnaires to fill after using the website. Five users will be enough to fulfill this task. While users interacted with the given website they mentioned that the attractiveness of the website was not premium. In this regard they mentioned that the only way the website tried to capture the users attention was by the use of big bold words and different colors in some text. An exercise was done to identify the ways in which users were able to interact with the website in order for them to purchase an item. The exercise involved observing the users trying to purchase an item from the site and how easy or difficult it would be for them to purchase a specific item. The users from observation seemed to take a long time in trying to find what they needed. Some of the users scrolled up and down the website page trying to look for the item they wished to purchase very fast but with a lot of frustration (Dray & Siegel 2004, p. 14) . Other users chose to read all the information from the website so that they would be able to find what they needed. In both cases it took a very long time for all the users to find the information they needed. They users also had a hard time making a purchase from the website. The website did not give clear instructions on how exactly a purchase can be made. The website did provide a lot of information on what they offered and how good their products were but without the guiding information on how a user can make a purchase they can potentially lose a lot of revenue. This is to show even if a user managed to persevere going through the site to find what they needed some of them would not be able to make a purchase unless they had been assisted or had interacted with the website before and made a purchase through it.

Direct Observation and Questionnaires

The users were also given a questionnaire after completing the exercise which was in line with the usability specifications. The questionnaire was meant to give information on whether their experience on using the website was in line with some set specifications. The information gathered from the questionnaires was that the users agreed to some extent the website did live up to some basic usability (Vertegaal 2003, p. 30). This is because users were able to reach and interact with the website by reading the information on it and finding what they needed. The website was however lacking in various aspects which would have improved its usability. This is because users had to spend a lot of time looking for the information they needed. A user friendly website should be one where information has been categorized according to specific criteria such as goods and services offered so that users can easily get the information they need on the website without a lot of strain (Kapil & Greenstein 2011, p. 2230) . The users also mentioned that the use of the similar font color and size made it hard to identify certain information or sections from others. They recommended the use of a blend of appropriate font colors and sizes to make the website more presentable. One example was the use of different font color for the headings and subheadings so that users can identify them easily from the rest of the text on the website. The users commended the use of margins and borders to segment some parts of the website and to outline images. They helped users easily identify the images which were present on the website. The users mentioned that most of them were at a particular point in using the website frustrated and stopped using it for a while. They felt that it had a lot of information which they had to go through. They mentioned that the site was too cluttered and needed to be made a bit simpler so that users would be able to navigate easily through it. The usability of the website was very basic according to the users and the company can do more by making the website more user friendly based on the feedback they had given and they were confident that with the changes the website would attract more users and would have a high usability rate.

Physical factors are factors in the environment which influence the development and growth of organisms. Psychological factors are the mental factors that may prevent or help an individual from being able to perform or act well while undertaking a task (Caulton 2001, p. 4) . In our case we shall evaluate the physical and psychological factors in regard to the website’s interface design. The website uses color on some of the font to highlight some of the most important sections they wish to get to the attention of the user. The website has also used borders to section out some specific areas of the website which deal with various tasks. They use them to highlight images on the website which enables a user to identify an image easily from the website. The different colors and sections are what can defined as the physical and psychological factors which individuals or users can observe and make their use of the website more effective. They help users have an easier and user friendly experience while interacting with the website. They promote the effective use of the website and this is of benefit both the users and the company who owns the website.

User Feedback and Recommendations

The owner company of the website can be able to gain more revenue by having their products available to a large base clientele from all over the world. The users can also shop for what they need from the website without actually having to visit the physical premises of the company. It is imperative that the site is designed in a very user friendly way so that users can be able to get their way around the website and effectively use it to purchase goods and gain information about the company (Breuch, Zachry & Spinuzzi 2001, p. 231). The bad aspect of the interface used in the website are that nearly all the text is dark in color which makes it hard to differentiate various aspects of the website. The way in which the interface has been built is very minimalistic. It does not utilize any creative design measures to ensure they website is more presentable to its users. The website is not as attractive as might be expected for a website which is trying to entice its clients to buy its products. The utility of the site is not as effective because it clutters a lot of information straight to the user without any kind of categorization. It might put off some clients and make them seek other websites which are easier and more attractive to them (Holm 2006, n.p.). On an overall basis we can be able to establish that the website enables the user to scroll down easily as they read and look at the information in which they may need or they maybe seeking. It gives a basic outlay of all the services and products in which the company offers. It can however be designed and made to be more user friendly which will increase usability and bring more leads which can turn into revenue for the company.

A storyboard is a series of images or illustrations which have been organized sequentially with the purpose of depicting an interactive media sequence. In our case we shall utilize a storyboard to show how we can change the interface and usability of the website to enhance its usability. The most effective action to take in ensuring the website is more user friendly is in terms of its attractiveness and organization (Horvitz, Kadie, Paek & Hovel 2003, p. 55). If the website is sectioned out based on different criteria it can ensure that the user can be able to easily identify a section they are interested in and maneuver to that section to purchase or view some information. The other aspect is using different sizes and colors of font on the website. If headings and subheadings are uniquely identifiable as compared to other text it can ensure that users are able to easily view the information they need and get the most user-friendly experience out of it. The story board can contain pictures of the best typical scenario in which a user gets the most out of the website. From the initial interaction with the site to when the user acquires or buys an item and maybe they can also leave a review of how they liked the usability and friendliness from the site.

Reference List

Nielsen J. 1994. Usability Engineering. Academic Press Inc. p.165.

Sieker A. M., Villemann N.H., Ormholt S.S. & Sage J. 2007. What happened to remote usability testing? Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in computing systems - CHI 07: 1405.

Dray S. & Siegel D. 2004. Remote possibilities?: International usability testing at a distance. Interactions. 11(2): 10-17.

Kapil C. M. & Greenstein J. S. 2011.  Synchronous remote usability testing: a new approach facilitated by virtual worlds. Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems. CHI 11: 2225-2234.

Caulton D. A. 2001, Relaxing the homogeneity assumption in usability testing. Behaviour & Information Technology. 20(1): 1-7.

Breuch L. A., Zachry M. & Spinuzzi C. 2001. Usability Instruction in Technical Communication Programs. Journal of Business and Technical Communication. 15(2): 223-240.

Holm I. 2006.  Ideas and Beliefs in Architecture and Industrial design: How attitudes, orientations and underlying assumptions shape the built environment. Oslo School of Architecture and Design.

Horvitz E., Kadie C. M., Paek T. & Hovel D. 2003. Models of Attention in Computing and Communications: From Principles to Applications. Communications of the ACM. 46(3): 52-59.

Huberman B. A. & Fang W. 2008. The Economics of Attention: Maximizing User Value In Information Rich Environments. Advances in Complex Systems. 11(4): 487-496.

Vertegaal R. 2003. Attentive User Interfaces. Communications of the ACM. 46(3): 30.

Vertegaal R., Shell J. S., Chen D. & Mamuji A. 2006. Designing for augmented attention: Towards a framework for attentive user interfaces. Computers in Human Behavior. 22(4): 771-789.

Schmettow 2008. Heterogeneity in the Usability Evaluation Process Proceedings of the HCI. British Computing Society. p. 89-98.

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