Design Journal

An analysis and evaluation of two information products (a web-based and printed information product) a poorly-designed product and the other well-designed one.

-Zarah Z. Arroyo
Student, Master of Digital Information Management
University of Technology Sydney

A. Web-based Information Product

Websites are essential media platforms to represent business or companies in providing relevant information. The quality of content of a website generally determines if it a reputable source. For this reason, the process of maintaining a high quality and effective website is vital to strengthen its user satisfaction. Although, it can be said that the general design of the website catches the first impression of the user, so it must be carefully and coherently designed.  To analyse and evaluate a website in terms of its usability, usefulness, and information architecture the heuristics or usability principles will used as basis or method for finding problems in the user interface design and provide possible solutions. 

The website for evaluation is located at https://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph

The site is intended for use by the general public specifically those who are interested in arts, cultural and historical artefacts of the Philippines. According to the Director of the museum, the purpose of the site as the premier repository and custodian of the Philippine heritage through its significant collections, the website aims to stimulate the interest to visit and for users to appreciate the legacies that characterise and make up the Filipino identity. It also encourages exchange of information and collaborative strategies towards achieving its goals as a cultural, scientific, and educational institution. 

Generally, the website has a professional appearance. However, there are usability issues which should be addressed if the site would like to achieve its goals.The following are primary issues of the website with corresponding recommendations:

  • On visibility of system, Navigation, and Functionality:

Issues:The visibility of the system is a basic tenet of a great user experience as Nielsen (1994) mentioned in his article 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design. In the case of the website being evaluated, the users are not presented with a clear indication of the current location, and it is easy to become lost. Location is not always clear. Although the drop-down list helped somehow in providing which items the user is currently searching but some links were broken and not updated.  Links should work and go to corresponding information, if this fails, it can bring down the credibility of the website.

Also, among the user tools identified by Nielsen (1994) only the Contact Us and Follow Us are available in the website. Some utilities may vary in purpose and may be secondary in nature, but they are still important navigation features that help people under circumstances. Another feature which is helpful for this kind of website is the Search facility, which is unavailable.

Recommendations:

Navigation bar provides feedback, it is therefore necessary to have it always available. Changing of visual appearance of the current location or a “you are here” indicator can be provided. A “search” facility is crucial to this website as it contains various information, therefore, consider providing one. This is an effective way to communicate and interact with the user. For instance, it can help determine which artwork is available in the gallery and which ones are not included in the exhibit. The design interface of the website is less interactive thus feedback is not immediate. 

  • Control and Standards

Issues:

Most of the graphic images are pixelated, which means details are missed out. Being a website of a museum, it is best that images are of high quality in order to be true to its purpose of existence or justify the authenticity of the artefact. Not only are the images of poor quality, the metadata provided for each item in the gallery are not standardised or should have been based on acceptable standards such as Dublin Core. There is lack of consistency and standards. This inconsistency affects the quality of content not just in terms of proper grammar, punctuation, and sentence construction. As supposed to be website of a national museum, it should have provided in-depth information which would entice users/visitors to keep browsing and have them actually visit the physical items.

Recommendations:

Adhere to standards in terms of file sizes of images, graphics, and documents as well as in stating metadata to ensure appropriate contents and information in the website. Morville (2004) suggested that ease of use remains vital, and usability is necessary, therefore user’s needs are to be considered in the design and content. In this case, authenticity of images and metadata is crucial.

Generally, an extensive re-design of the website should be undertaken as most of the information presented in various areas if not outdated, are not provided. It is understood that reputations are built on good quality web content. Therefore, it is strongly suggested that usability testing or heuristic evaluation be undertaken in order to uncover problems encountered by actual users. 

B. Printed Information Product (UTS International Pocket Guide)

Another factor why this printed information product is well-designed because it is engaging, functional and tangible.  The manner that the pages have been folded presents interest in being engaged in the material. It gives the user/reader a feeling of excitement in uncovering every fold of the guide unlike the conventional design. The material is tangible as a physical item it is expected to last for months or even years.  The graphics and images are fairly and appropriately used so as not to overpower its professional look. The size being a pocket type is very handy and appealing to the targeted young international students.

As Chignell (1992) presented in his article, the material (reports) are presented depending on the type or purpose of reading. In the case of the pocket guide, it is more like “reading to learn”, where the reader is expected to integrate and store information in the long-term memory which can be retrieved for later use. Though most of information product are going digital, it is necessary to maintain the linear features which made books and other printed materials as successful way of presenting information (Chignell, 1992).

References:

Bates, T., 2015, Seeking the Unique Pedagogical Characteristics of Text and Print, [online], viewed 20 August 2019, https://www.tonybates.ca/2015/01/14/seeking-the-unique-pedagogical-characteristics-of-text-and-print/

Chignell, M. & Valdez, J., 1992, Methods for Assessing the Usage and Usability of Documentation, [online], viewed 17 August 2019, https://web.archive.org/web/20010506100029/http://www.imedia.mie.utoronto.ca/publications/waterloo/  

Morville, P., 2004, The User Experience Honeycomb Semantic Studios [online], viewed 20 August 2019, http://semanticstudios.com/publications/semantics/000029.php.http://semanticstudios.com/publications/semantics/000029.php

Nelson, J., 2017, The Importance of High-Quality Printing, [online], viewed 20 August 2019, http://www.actionprinters.net/the-importance-of-high-quality-printing/ 

Nielsen, J., 1994, 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design [online}, viewed 18 August 2019, https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ten-usability-heuristics/

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