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Interface usability is one of the priorities of software developers who try to provide easy-to-use products that could attract certain audiences. Xiao-Jun, Zhong-Dong, Tao, and Bao-Cheng (2017) claim that usability is one of the areas that have been explored in detail in recent years. Although several definitions of usability exist, developers and researchers tend to concentrate on such aspects as attractiveness, functionality, understandability, and learnability (Hentati, Ammar, Trabelsi, & Mahfoudhi, 2016).
This report includes an analysis of the usability of the TED website that will be based on the four concepts mentioned above. In order to assess the website’s usability, three people will be observed while completing the tasks given by the researcher. This report includes a brief description of the methods of the evaluation, its results interpretation, as well as recommendations regarding improvements associated with usability.
Planning and Data Collection
When planning the evaluation process, it was essential to consider the elements of usability. The questionnaires and the tasks the participants completed were designed so that it could be possible to assess the attractiveness, functionality, understandability, and learnability of the website under analysis. The website has a very wide audience as TED emphasizes its goal to help people share ideas and enhance their understanding of the world (“About,” n.d.). The primary users of the website in question are teenagers and young adults, as well as students and educators (irrespective of their age). This evaluation targets quite a specific group: three elderly people (aged 65, 66, and 70) took part in the study and evaluated the TED website.
Vroman, Arthanat, and Lysack (2015) note that older adults are becoming common users of various social networks and websites, so it is but natural to address their needs and expectations when designing digital products. This population is growing very fast, so the number of elderly users is likely to increase soon. Vroman et al. (2015) argue that elderly users’ educational background and personality have a considerable impact on their overall attitude toward technology and certain digital products.
Therefore, the participants of this research noted this information in the questionnaires that consisted of some demographic section, Likert scale questions section, and one open-ended question that was not compulsory. The open-ended question was added as it could provide qualitative data and shed light on the extent to which the participants liked the experience.
After signing consent forms (an example is provided in Appendix), the participants chose the time they could take part in the research. The session lasted one hour, during which participants completed certain tasks and responded to the questionnaires. Although the older people had a set of tasks, they were free to choose any of them and take their time. The tasks included searching for any video on a specific topic, a specific video or speaker, undertake certain actions with videos (rate, like, or share), and review the commentaries. The optional tasks included commenting (which required logging in), reading a blog, and some others.
The questionnaires included ten questions divided into three sections: demographic data (age, gender, education, profession/job), technology-related section, and the open-ended question regarding the experience. The questions were quite simple and straightforward as the focus was on the participants’ behavior during the session. The samples were encouraged to think aloud, and the notes taken during these talks were analyzed with the elements of content analysis. The participants were informed about the purpose, and some components of the research, as well as their ability to withdraw from the study at any point. The primary measurements to evaluate the website were the time spent on task completion and the overall impression as well as the participants’ emotional state during the process.
Two males (aged 66 and 70) and one female (aged 65) took part in the study. One of the male participants had higher education and had been employed as an IT professional before his retirement. He noted that he spent less than 2 hours a day using the Internet. The other male participant had a high-school education, had worked as a blue-collar worker before he retired, and spent approximately 3-4 hours a day online. The female participant had a high-school education and had worked as a blue-collar worker before her retirement. She noted that she spent less than one hour a day online.
As far as the questionnaires are concerned, the male participants agreed that the website was attractive, understandable, and easy to learn how to use it. The female participant disagreed that it was understandable or easy to learn how to use it, but she chose “undecided” as to the website’s attractiveness. All of the participants strongly agreed that the website was functional. All of them responded to the open-ended question quite briefly. The overall impression of using the website was positive. The participants stressed the informativity of this digital product.
The male participants completed the required tasks within a short period of time. They had some difficulty returning to the home page, but they soon learned how to do that. They also completed some of the optional tasks as they still had time and were willing to try. As for their attitude and their emotional state, the males were positive and interested in using the website. The female participant was quite willing to complete the tasks, but she spent almost twice as much time as the male participants did. During the completion of the tasks, she noted that there were too many videos and a lot of interesting information. She repeated that she was constantly distracted.
This participant also found the section “Get Started” (that was on the Home Page of the website) very helpful. The male participants revealed some degree of frustration when they could not go back to previous pages or to the home page as easily as they were accustomed to. At the same time, they revealed their satisfaction and positive feelings throughout the session.
It is possible to note that the results of this research are consistent with the existing data on the matter. The educational backgrounds and former professions, as well as personalities, could be the factors affecting the way older people use digital products, which was suggested by Vroman et al. (2015). The findings of the present study show that people with higher education or certain personality traits have fewer difficulties when using some online services.
It is possible to assume that these people have quite extensive experience enabling them to be more effective users. The female participants did not use the Internet in her career life and use it quite occasionally in her present life. The lack of experience can be the reason behind her slow completion of tasks as well as certain frustration.
It is noteworthy that all the participants mentioned the fact that the website contained a lot of or too much information. The tasks related to using the videos were completed with no difficulties, and all the participants were willing to rate or “like” the items. One of the older users shared the video and expressed his readiness to log in later in order to take part in the discussion. He also noted that the login procedure was always associated with certain discomfort as there was the need to reveal some information (including social network accounts) and create a password.
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At the same time, there were no highly negative commentaries during the completion of the tasks. The commentaries the participants made were quite helpful in identifying the weaknesses of the website’s usability. One of the major issues was the presentation of the information as it is quite confusing for older people, especially those who have limited experience of using the Internet. Yamaura, Tamura, and Nakamura (2018) also state that many people feel uncomfortable when they are exposed to this kind of abundance of visual items.
The researchers suggest that adding the blurring effect to peripheral images or videos could minimize the discomfort users can experience. The developers could consider using this method as the information available from TED is varied and can be quite overwhelming for older people. One of the participants emphasized that she was often distracted and tended to watch things she did not intend to.
The blurring effect could also be used to highlight the most relevant data. Brasel and Gips (2017) note that multitasking is a natural behavior for Internet users as they tend to pay attention to different details and can be distracted in certain ways. This feature of users is often used in marketing as advertisements are present in the vast majority of digital products including the TED website. This type of content can be emphasized with the help of blurring. Nevertheless, although the participants did not comment on the advertisements they encountered when completing tasks, this content should be incorporated with caution as many people feel negative about online advertisements.
The participants noted that it was easy to learn how to use the website, but they all had some difficulties related to going back or going to the website’s homepage. This task was not included in the scope of this research, but it proved to be important for the participants who needed to view some videos or simply start the entire process from the homepage. In addition, the female participant noted that it could be easier for her to find the content she might be interested in if she could access the speakers’ details.
The offered categories were quite effective but lacked the focus on speakers’ backgrounds. It is also important to add that older people are becoming quite active users of the Internet. Although the sample size is very limited, two out of three people turned out to be quite experienced users of digital products. Therefore, this population deserves more attention, and these people’s peculiarities and needs should be explored in detail.
On balance, this brief research indicates that older people have a positive attitude toward the website in question. The usability of this website is quite high for the target population although some weaknesses are also apparent. The strengths of the website include its functionality and attractiveness. Older users find the website informative and interesting as they learn about many things that are relevant to them.
The associated learnability and understandability are limited, but a set of solutions are available and presented in the following section of this paper. It is necessary to stress that this study involved only three participants, but their insights could be utilized to develop large-scale research. Although students and educators are the primary users of the website, the audience can be extended to include people older than 65 years old.
Based on the conclusions provided above, it is possible to identify several recommendations that could improve the website.
- A quick reference to the homepage could make older users’ experiences more pleasant.
- By adding the blurring effect to the peripheral information or less relevant data, the developers could enhance elderly users’ experiences and help them view the videos they need.
- The website could be improved by refining its searching options. It could be beneficial to add such categories as speakers’ backgrounds, age, profession, or other details.
- It is also possible to introduce options for those willing to comment as the existing login procedure is an obstacle to start the communication through participation in discussions.
About. (n.d.). Web.
Brasel, S. A., & Gips, J. (2017). Media multitasking: How visual cues affect switching behavior. Computers in Human Behavior, 77, 258-265. Web.
Hentati, M., Ammar, L. B., Trabelsi, A., & Mahfoudhi, A. (2016). A fuzzy-logic system for the user interface usability measurement. In Conference Proceedings: 2016 17Th IEEE/ACIS international conference on software engineering, artificial intelligence, networking and parallel/distributed computing (SNPD) (pp. 133-138). Washington, DC: IEEE Computer Society. Web.
Vroman, K. G., Arthanat, S., & Lysack, C. (2015). “Who over 65 is online?” Older adults’ dispositions toward information communication technology. Computers in Human Behavior, 43, 156-166. Web.
Xiao-Jun, L., Zhong-Dong, X., Tao, S., & Bao-Cheng, W. (2017). Mapping the intellectual structure of relationship between usability of information system and user emotion. In Conference proceedings: 2017 4th international conference on information science and control engineering (ICISCE) (pp. 438-442). Washington, DC: IEEE Computer Society. Web.
Yamaura, H., Tamura, M., & Nakamura, S. (2018). Image blurring method for enhancing digital content viewing experience. In M. Kurosu (Ed.), Human-computer interaction. theories, methods, and human issues (pp. 355-370). Cham, Switzerland: Springer. Web.