July 29, 2008

Essay on the Usability Assessment of William Ponder (MIS) Way-Finding System

1 Introduction:

Interface Analysis in important because it is a process that assess the relationship between the man or the users and the machine interface (Stanton 2005, p. 431). It caters the different physical characteristics of the interface that can affect the performance of the human that is using the system. The result that can be drawn from any interface analysis can help to improve the current interface problems of flaws in redesigning process. The use of different method can help to enhance and improve the presentation of the design, features and utilities by developing all of the system’s usability, the satisfactions of the users as well as preventing different errors and enhancing interaction time Stanton 2005 p. 431).
ISO09241-11 requires the usability of the system by considering three different dimensions: first is the effectiveness of how well the performance of the system meets the task or the activities that it was designed and created for; second is the efficiency of the system in dealing with the different important resources like time, money and effort that are necessary for the users to manipulate the system; and the third and the last is the reaction of the users towards the system (Stanton 2005, p. 432).
Stanton (2005) stated that there are many methods that can be used in implementing the interface analysis: the usability assessment, error analysis, interface layout analysis and general interface assessment methods (p.432).

2 Usability Assessment
Usability Assessment is an approach that is used in ensuring the usefulness of a particular system. It had been used during the 1980s due to the desired output of the development of the user interface of the system. Later on, during 1985, the approach has reached its popularity due to the works of Gould and Lewis that described the four primary needs of a system in order to obtain the usability of the system. The said four criteria are: early and constant focus towards the users; incorporation of the different deliberation of all of the aspects of usability; trying the untimely and uninterrupted version of the product to the user; and the last is redesigning (Nemeth 2004, p. 265).
The main purpose of the said assessment is to find out if there are some difficulties about the usefulness of the system in the perspective of the user that can help to uncover the different opportunities in enhancement and transformation (Nemeth 2004, p. 266).
3.1 The William Ponder (MIS) Way-Finding System
The way-finding system of William Finder building is to be installed in the ground floor of the building that consist of a computer set that is connected to the web. The said system will help the first time visitors, visiting academics for meetings, students from other schools who are attempting to locate different tutorial rooms and the friends and relatives of students who will submit coursework.

3. 2 Self-conducted User Test
The method that has been used in analyzing and testing the usability of the system is based on the experience of the author in the interaction to the system. By using the perspective of the user, it will be easy to define and analyze the reaction or their response to the system. There are some flaws that have been found out during the personal test of the system. Most of it focuses on the design and the user-friendliness of the system.
Too much Text – After analyzing the flow and the design of the interface, I have found out that the system is using too much instruction, texts or labels. The said characteristics might affect the interest of the users especially when they are in a hurry. The steps by steps instruction will not be necessary because, the reason behind the implementation of the system is to give the users the information or data that they needed in a short period of time leaving the traditional way of enquiry.
Unnecessary requirements to be entered – According to Brown (1999) a system can be characterized as usable if it can reduce the requirements for the user to enter data. If the information is already accessible to the system or if the design can make this information obtainable to the system, it will be compulsory to refrain from asking or requiring the user to enter the data in manual manner. It will be easy to organize or create some dialogues so that the manual user entries can be minimized (p. 7). As of the case of the William Ponder (MIS) way-finding system, the process where in the system is requiring the user to memorize or take note of the room number of the professor or school staff that they are looking, will be a redundant since the room number is already available in the system. Aside from that, it will also be time consuming. But I must give credit to the process where in the system offers a list of the professors, by doing this; the users will no longer have to worry if they forgot the name of the professor or staff that they want to visit. Selecting data or information from a displayed list instead of manually entering choices can effectively reduce input requirements (Brown 1999, p. 7). But the problem about the list is that it doesn’t display the name of the professor in any particular order, it somewhat confuses the user and will take them some time to look for it.
Too much Processes – The system also shows some redundancy in processes. Like for example, the process of generating the map, the user have to click the floor number on which the room is located that was gotten from the first process. Again, this characteristic of the system can annoy the user or can make the user to get lost while browsing, manipulating or using the system.
Missing Information – Another thing that might confuse the user is the missing data or information in the system. Just like the floor number of the room that was stated. The first part of the instruction has stated that those rooms with the letter g before the number are all located on the ground floor, but how about the first, the second and so on. The system has also showed some redundancy in data or information such as the details about the contact information of the professors or staff. It wouldn’t be necessary to post both of their email address and their telephone number.
Mental Models or System Operation – In general the main problem of the system is its poor of physical or interface design. The said problem can affect the mental model cognitive of the user or the representation or conceptualization of a systems internal mechanics that can be developed by the end users (cited in Brown 1999, p. 8). The overall design of the system is somewhat confusing because it is using so many labels or instructions as well as different separate process that I believe can be breakdown into few processes only.
3.2 Task Analysis – Different users has their different requirements, needs or demands for a given system or interface. That is why conducting a usability test can help to cater to the said demands of the end users. Here are the task analyses of the William Ponder (MIS) Way-Finding System:
Search for the name of the staff – searching for their needed or looked-for staff or professor is the primary reason of the users in using the system. This is due to the fact that the target user of the system are those students, families or people or are not familiar with the building and other stuffs about it. The process or the method on which the system uses a list that displays the name and other information about the staff can help greatly the users in searching for the information of the staff that they are looking for.
On the other hand, other users are requesting for a search features where in it will return the information about the specific staff that they are looking for. This is to prepare the system for future enhancement, for example, the number of staffs grows to 50 or so, it will be hard for the user to search for the desired staff. Another thing is the feature of the system where in, it uses the initial of the first name together with the last name can confuse the user in the future. What if someone with the same initial of the first name and last name was hired by the company, it will hard to distinguish the difference between the two if you are not familiar with them and their position in the company.
Search for the room location of a specific staff – knowing about the room location or room number of the user’s desired staff is also one of the most important features of the system, since it is a help or guide for the new comers or visitors to locate their specific room or staff. Their primary requirement about this task is to give different information about the room including the floor number.
Search for the room (alone) – this is entirely different from the feature number 2, this is because, there are already some visitors who already knew or only knew the room number that they are going to visit. By doing this, the user will no longer have to search for the information about the staff and just continue about the room information enquiry.
Mapping – this is the most important feature of the system because it serves as a report or the printed out of the system. This will give a definite or exact representation of the structure or the floor plan of a specific floor. Most of the users had agreed that the map must be easy to follow as well as clear. Although the current system already included the feature where in it will include the “You are here label”, it didn’t add the feature that signifies or give focus on the room that the user is looking for. For example, highlighting it or shading it with different color.
Availability of the Staff – this particular feature is not included in the system. This feature can help the user to save time and effort. This is due to the fact that there are some instances where in the staffs or professors are not present or not available at a given moment, and the fact that the finding-way system is located in the ground floor. What if one user, uses the system and find out that what she’s looking for is located on the fifth floor, imaging the time and effort that she will be spending just to find out that what she was looking for is not available or absent? That is availability status is necessary. If the staff is not available, since the system is connected to the net, he or she can leave his or her message to the staff.

3. The Prototype
January 10, 2008
10: 00 AM

Way-Finding System
William Ponder

The Home of Computer Science and Math Department

What do you want to do?

*For further help visit the School Reception in ASG15

Search for Staff

Search for roomFigure 1 Welcome/Menu Screen

Figure 1 shows the welcome/menu screen of the interface where in the user can choose between the two commands which are the search for the staff and search for a room. By doing this, those users who are going to search for the information about a specific room only doesn’t have to go through the process like those who are looking for some staff.
Figure 2 Search for Staff Form
January 10, 2008
10: 00 AM

Way-Finding System
William Ponder (MIS)

Search for Staff:

Name: Position:

* Double Click the Desired Staff

1. James Ames

Information: Status: Not Available
Name: James Ames
Room Number: 29
Floor: Ground
Position: Senior Technician
Telephone Number: 76-888-991

James Ames
Floor Map

Figure 2 shows the prototype for the search for stuff form. As shown in the figure, the search button is placed on the upper part of the form. By doing this, those users who knew already the name and position of their desired staff will no longer have to search for their room information in manual form. Also, as the form load, the names and positions of all staffs will be display in the list and the user will have to double click the data and they will get the information. The floor map button will be linked to the form that displays the map of specific floor where in the requested room located. The status will display if the staff is available or not, this will serve as added information in case they need to talk to the staff personally. The user can leave his or her message to inform the staff about their visit.
Figure 3 Search for Room Form
January 10, 2008
10: 00 AM

Way-Finding System
William Ponder (MIS)

Search for Room:

Room Number: Room Type:

* Double Click the desired room

Room Number
Room Type
Teaching Room

Floor Map

Room Number: 20
Room Type: Teaching Room
Floor: Ground Floor

Figure 3 shows the prototype of the form that shows the information about a particular room. As the form loaded, the list of all the rooms as well as its type will be displayed, but again in order to make the life of the user easier, the search feature will be included. The room type will signify if the room is a teaching room or the other types. The button floor map will show the form that will display the floor map of the desire room.
Figure 4 Floor Map Form
January 10, 2008
10: 00 AM

Way-Finding System
William Ponder (MIS)

Ground Floor Map

Search Another

Figure 4 shows the form that will display the floor map of a given or requested room. As you can see the requested room is displayed using other color, by doing this, it will caught the attention of the user and will no longer have to spent some time searching for the room.


Brown, M 1999, Human-Computer Interface Design Guidelines, Intellect Books

Nemeth, C 2004, Human Factors Method for Design: Making Systems Human-Centered, CRC Press

Proctor, R & Vu, K P 2005, Handbook of Human Factors in Web Design, Routledge

Stanton, N 2005, Human Factors Methods: A Practical Guide for Engineering and Design, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

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