Good Critical Thinking About Usability Testing
Part 1: Android operating system vs. KaliLinux virtual machine
The android operating system is an operating system created by Google for use on mobile computing devices. The source code for android is open source and therefore is available for developers around the world to use and come up with applications and their own versions of the software. However, Google maintains rights over the source code and there is an extent to which developers are allowed to manipulate the code. Android is a touch based operating system and makes use of icons. Android is an example of a product that has a well designed interface. Although it is considered a good interface, there are elements of its design that are not so good. All these are going to be explained. Normally, when an android device is switched on, the user is usually taken to a home screen. Depending on the preferences of the user, there are various designs they can choose for their home screen (Flynn and Ann, 498).
The operating system allows the user to customize their home screen. The android operating system allows the user to have up to seven home screens depending on the version of the operating system they have installed. There is usually a bar at the bottom or top of the screen that indicates to the user the current home screen they are on. There is a status bar at the top of the screen that indicates the battery level, the network signal and the screen also shows any notifications that the user has. The user can slide down the notification bar to view all the notifications and tapping on an individual notification takes the user to the actual notification in the corresponding application (Flynn and Ann, 500).
Applications commonly referred to as apps are the success behind the operating system. A user can select from a large number of applications and choose the ones they would want to install on their device. The apps that come with the operating system are designed in such a way that they are easy to identify and use. For example, the messaging application icon is an envelope. If there is an unread message, the icon shows an unopened envelope. If the message has been read, the icon changes to an open envelope. With this conceptual model, it is easy for a user to tell how the system works. When a message is received, a notification immediately appears on the notification bar showing an envelope. When the user taps on the envelope, the messaging application is opened and the message is displayed in full. Once read, the envelope notification disappears. This gives the user the current system state and provides the user with alternatives. For example, when reading the message, the user has the option to reply, forward or delete the message (Flynn and Ann, 498).
Getting these extra options is not as straightforward though. It requires the user to tap and hold the message for this option to appear. Other applications also have mapping applied. For example, the telephone application icon is a handset while the music icon is a speaker. When a user is sending a message, the application shows the status of the message. For example it can display sending while the sending is in progress and display sent once the process is complete. Once the reliever has received the message, there is a delivery report that shows the message has been received. This feedback is important for the user’s actions. The interface of the messaging application on android is easy for a user to understand. A first time user would find it easy to use and understand. This is because the interface is designed with the novice user in mind. The icons are natural and easy to understand. The system always displays its current state and all the available alternatives.
An example of a poorly designed product is the KaliLinux virtual machine. The virtual machine is an important tool for computer forensics allowing users to perform tasks such as track communications between computer systems, identify vulnerabilities and other expert tasks. However, the design of the product is such that the interface is not as straightforward making the product difficult to use for inexperienced users. Although the virtual machine is able to perform its products accurately, it is difficult for an individual to use the system because of its interface. The system state in KaliLinux is not always visible. When opened, the home screen displays a few tabs and icons, which are used to navigate through the system (Singh, 35).
A large part of navigation requires the use of command prompt, which is difficult for novice users. Even experienced users sometimes have difficulty navigating the system. The conceptual model for the system is not always straightforward and can sometimes lead to problems in navigation. Despite its shortcomings, the system also implements useful mappings that show relationships between the various applications in use. For example, the applications icon displays all the applications installed on the virtual machine. These applications are further grouped into different types according to their work. For example, all internet applications are grouped under internet tools. These may contain all the browsers installed on the system. These mappings make it easier for the user to navigate through the system more easily (Singh, 56).
At first, it is difficult for a user to accomplish any task using the KaliLinux virtual machine. This is because the design of the interface is not intuitive. However, continued use of the virtual machine leads to easy understanding of the system and how it works. The main problem is that the design of the interface is targeted at expert users who have used similar interfaces in the past. The virtual machine steps away from the normal graphical user interfaces that most people are used to.
An example of a well designed website is the BBC news website. Using Shneiderman’s Eight Golden Rules, it is possible to determine the design of the website as good. For each web page that is opened, the look is consistent with the title appearing at the top with the title and the heading of the page that a user is currently on. Frequent users can use shortcuts on the site instead of navigating page by page. For example, when using the mobile site for BBC, the title is m.bbc.com. This leads the user to the homepage. However, using a forward slash after the address and the category they want to view leads the user directly to the selected page. For example, a user wishing to view sports can type m.bbc.com/sports.
The webpage also shows feedback for every page they are visiting. For example, when an article is a video, there is an icon of a video on the story. If the media is not playable on the particular browser, it automatically informs the user that media playback is not supported. When an error occurs, it is easy to recover because the title menu always appears at the top. This can allow a person to go back to the homepage after they encounter an error in any of the pages. The website also has menu items at the bottom that divide all the stories into categories. By pressing the backspace key, the website allows reversal of any step taken. The website also reduces the short term memory load of a user. This is because the website has an interactive graphical user interface that does not require the user to memorize many things.
An example of a poorly designed website according to Nielsen’s Ten Usability Heuristics (Nielsen, 1994) is capitalfm.co.ke, a news, and entertainment website. Although the website has achieved some elements of a good website design, it also has a lot of negative design aspects according to Nielsen. The system status is visible at the top of each page and the user has control and freedom of the website. However, the problem begins with consistency and standards. Different pages hosted on the website have different looks. This means they do not apply the same standards and are not consistent. The website also offers little option for error prevention. The main problem of the website is that the design requires a user to use memory rather than identify things on the go. For example, there are different categories on the website, such as news, travel, sports and lifestyle.
Each of these categories is designed differently and there are no direct links to these categories. This means that the user has to go through the list to find a story in the category they want. It is only after opening the story that the option of other stories from the category appears. The search function is poorly implemented. If a user is interested in a story in the archives, they will have to go through the list one by one. This is of course unless the user remembers the exact date or title of the article. This means that the website is difficult to use especially for new users. This also indicates that the website is not flexible. The design is also not aesthetically pleasing. The home page is cluttered and there is use of many colors making the website to appear confusing. Text is also not always clearly visible because the background color changes throughout the site. The website does not allow the user to recover easily from errors. If an error occurs while accessing a page in the website, the user will have to close the page and start all over again.
Usability survey for the m.bbc.com website
How often do you use the website?
For how long have you used the internet for news consumption?
Do you find it easy to use the website?
Do you find the website appealing to the eye?
Has the website utilized colors correctly?
Did you notice any errors on the website?
Does the website meet all your needs?
What is your impression of the BBC mobile site?
Is this your only source of news on the internet or do you have other news websites you frequent?
If you use other websites, do you feel like they have better designs?
How long have you been using the website?
How has the website changed over time?
Do all the links on the website work?
On a scale of one to ten with one being very poor and ten being very good, answer the following questions:
How do you view the colors employed in the website?
The website provides the user with sufficient feedback.
When using the website and an error occurs, how easy is it to recover from the error?
If you are interested in a particular story, how easy is it to go directly to the story using shortcuts?
In your opinion how fast, are news stories updated on the website?
Do you have any recommendations on how the website can be improved?
Can the text on the website be easily read?
BBC News. BBC. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
Dumas, Joseph S, and Janice C. Redish. A Practical Guide to Usability Testing. Exeter [u.a.: Intellect, 1999. Print.
Flynn, Ida M, and Ann M. I. McHoes. Understanding Operating Systems. , 2014. Print.
Langdon, Patrick, J Lázár, A Heylighen, and H Dong. Inclusive Designing: Joining Usability, Accessibility, and Inclusion. , 2014. Print.
Singh, Abhinav. Instant Kali Linux. Birmingham: Packt Publishing, 2013. Print.
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