Toward an alternate method to empirical usability testing for intranet applications
Blanchard, Laura Ellen
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The advent of widespread use of intranets by corporations has opened the door of opportunity in the area of usability testing of web interfaces. Typically usability- testing is performed in a controlled laboratory setting, often remote from the users of the system. Because intranet applications can be secured for use by a select group of individuals, usability testing of the applications by a representative sample of the end user population without requiring travel to a laboratory has become possible. In this thesis, a usability evaluation method employing domain-specific heuristics in a structured format that may be administered remotely to users or human factors/web design experts is developed. Nineteen participants were identified from the user population and their web experiential level characterized as novice, experienced or double specialists. Four novice and four experienced users participated in empirical usability testing of a multi-faceted intranet application. Another four novice and four experienced users participated in the formal usability inspection with domain-specific heuristics of the same interface. The final group of three double specialists having knowledge of human factors and web interfaces) also evaluated the interface with the formal usability inspection technique. The double specialist group reported the largest number of usability issues in all severity levels, suggesting that this method is a viable alternative to classic empirical usability testing. The user inspection group also returned a larger number of usability issues than did the empirical usability testing group. This indicates that both of these methods are viable alternatives to empirical usability testing and should be considered when planning for the evaluation of web interfaces.