Formative evaluation method for website interface development
The overall aim of the research was to develop a low cost, tailorable, formative evaluation method for web designers. The last fifteen years has witnessed the rapid development of the World Wide' Web, an information resource that users surf and mine for work, leisure, entertainment and transaction purposes. Its evaluation as a computer based product has led to the assumption by some researchers, that web site and HCI usability are the same (Nielsen, 2000; Brinck, Gergle and Wood, 2002). This is reflected in many web site evaluation guidelines and instruments that characterise usability in terms of learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors and satisfaction (Rubin, 1994). However, the web is used differently from other software e.g. surfing the web is not necessarily task directed and users may access the Internet purely to obtain intellectual and emotional gratification (Spool et ai, 1999). Therefore, it is quite possible that what determines user satisfaction is very different in each context. Additionally, commerce plays a fundamental part in a lot of websites so that their goals may be different from conventional computer system design e.g. to increase the user base or encourage repeat visits. Further, with limited budgets, website designers are unlikely to involve their users during the design process and not all owebsite designers have access to an evaluator, appropriate testing facilities or evaluation knowledge to support their design. Given these arguments, this research developed and validated a low-cost evaluation 'ethod for web designers to use for formative evaluation, prior to site launch. The method addressed both HCI and commercial website goals such as the encouragement of repeat visits. To achieve this, a series of studies were conducted. Firstly, contemporary evaluation methods were evaluated to explore their possible limitations with respect to website design. T.hen the users' and designers' needs from websites and website evaluation methods were identified. This led to the development of a tai/orable method that could be applied to a wide range of small commercial websites, that took into account the issues users of websites were concerned about, and also designers' requirements of an evaluation method. The method was formalized as a set of guidelines, verified in the evaluation of a website. The potential usefulness of the method was then verified by demonstrations to selected website designers who confirmed it was useful, practical, and needed. In summary, this research contributes to knowledge firstly by identifying the need for 'designer friendly' evaluation methods in this context; secondly be showing the mismatch between current methods (based on Hel) and the requirements of website design and thirdly by producing a method to meet the need.