Usability testing is used to measure how well a software application is allowing its users to use the application easily and efficiently to complete the purposed tasks. The usability of a website can be said as the effectiveness of sharing information via the internet and the ease of interaction of the website with an end-user. For a website to be said as tested for usability, it has to satisfy the following characteristics like the ease of navigation, ease of learning, accessibility, effectiveness, and user satisfaction. Need of usability testing
The website used for the business purpose needs to prove its usability to be interacted by many users at a single instance and hence undergo usability testing. Usability testing is conducted keeping the benefits of site administrators and site visitors in consideration. The core aim of the usability of a website is to have recurring and long staying website visitors and hence to have potential ROI of the business through the website. In case of an online business website, the site has to offer easy access to transactional information through the website.
If the user is unable to find what they are looking for, the sales process may damage the website. If customer finds the ease of accessibility on the website about what they are looking for, he or she may prefer to transact through the same website instead of finding alternatives. The ease of navigation and ease of use avoids user training, understandability, and email support training to the user. The good usability of a website develops a strong brand loyalty and brand image in the public.
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The negative experience of the user in the usability of the website promotes negative image and negative word of mouth that may hamper the business of the organization. However usability is concerned with the design of the website in most of instances and depends on the aspects like how the design is accessible and useful for the quick browsing of the user. So website usability is a significant activity that needs to be concentrated and usability testing checks for such impact before the release of website.
A good usability reduces training and support costs for the website maintenance team and helps to gain individual efficiency within a short time. In order to achieve above benefits, the website has to keep on usability testing to identify the usability strengths and weaknesses of a particular website. The current paper focuses on the website of gargen. com to analyze the usability of that website. Website usability testing improves the effectiveness of a website by identifying and documenting the specific usability problem of website.
Also website usability may result very costly to the organization than the normal software usability. The end user can use or keep silent when the software is has less usability than in the case of a website. A website user is les likely to return to a website once he finds the website has less usability. About. garden. com Garden. com is the website which not only sells gardening products but also gives useful information about the plants, gardening equipment, types and gifts etc. , The website acts as an online one-stop shopping place for products, plants and garden services, gifts etc.
The website targets the gardeners in the U. S. only. The website features the range of gardening products like - Ponds & Fountains, Furniture, Home Garden, Hydroponics Gardening, Equipment, Decor, Gloves, Plants & Seeds, Garden Center, Tractors, Sheds, Garden Supplies, Fountains, Statues, Ponds, Garden Tools, Patio, Structures & Buildings, Garden Decor, Gates, Sculptures, Water Gardens and Supplies & Accessories According to garden. com publications the number of website visitors has increased from 495,000 to 1. 5 million in the year of1999.
Revenues have grown from $652,000 to approximately $2. 9 million in the end of 1999. The garden. com website got awards of ' Best of the Best of the Web by Forbes in 2000 and highest rating in a review by Evans and Co. among 170 Web sites. The bottom-line of the garden. com is with a reputation for fine helpful customer service, fast service, and ease use of online shopping through integration of information architecture on gardening and gardening related commerce, content and community Usability testing of garden. com The purpose of usability testing on the garden.com is to analyze the online behavior of a website in response to the user access and to identify any problems that can be faced by the online shopping customer and to evaluate the usefulness of the website. The usability testing was carried out by the testers on the following features and the responses analyzed were as under: Information Architecture: Garden. com’s information architecture is very carefully constructed and designed. Also the information schema of the website is documented for the purpose of the user in the form of site map with a good classification.
The web page navigation is offered through the interactive design of the website. The Garden. com has well placed left menu, Top menu, header, footer, unique menu sections in inner pages and through out the website, the right menu all gives a clear display of information. The new user can easily find the purpose of website easily. The text placement in the middle and the image placement around the text also give a good look and feel of the product for the user.
The vocabulary used in the website is clear but there seem to be a difficulty in the content architecture and categorization of some products like grass, wheel barrel and wood items. Appearance of multiple pathways to a single piece of information becomes a problem when all of those pathways did not take the same way. The navigation of shopping cart pages also seemed to be confused with ‘“Order now” check boxes. However the vast quantity of products still needs a ‘search option’ for the quick and easy access.
The navigation is also supported by page mapping text at the top of the text on the left corner to acknowledge the user the path in which he is navigating. . Visual Design: The visual design of the garden. com is awesome with its smooth looks and feel. The images used to represent the products are also very pleasant and keeps the visitors to star at them. However the text of the website has used a very pale color which may not be readable to the old age people who are one of the good target segments of the website’s business and who takes gardening as hobby and can spend time on website for information.
Recently the “Brupee seeds” company has taken over the online activities of the garden. com. The garden. com reflected this change, with many links to take the user to Burpee pages. Production: The website keeps the product info in the very inner pages and it is a bit annoying to the user to press the links to access the desired product. Also other than the link to purchase, additional information links like – the links of “ideas and information,” “secure ordering,” and “shopping departments,” was not enabled. There is problem in item placement. The “buy It “button facilitates the purchasing of item.
Also the usability testing of the website found that it is taking average time to open the site pages upon mouse clicks and is taking too much time to find new information. Other features like Sort by Scientific Name and Sort by Common Name options, and the “more in this list” indicating that there was a link to a page with more items from that list but it was too hard to find. The mouse clicks that can be used to change a selection box to change value and object are also not working. This may result not only as an error but will be very annoying to the online customer.
Also the website avoids the following non usability features: The site is easily accessible due to the avoidance of using of frames in development. There are no scrolling texts, running images that annoy the visitors. The URLs are not complex and can be easily remembered by the user. The website is clean and neat with no orphan pages or broken links. The design of the web page content is also short to be readable within less time. Navigation support is plenty through the follow up of left, right, top and bottom links throughout the site.
Highlight of links with different colors during the mouse over and normal instances facilitates the user to know whether the link is selected or not. The information is regularly updated and the site contains no outdated information. Conclusion The website has good and appealing look with good information architecture, Information design and visual design. However the site lacks a search option that gives much usability to the online customer for quick access of the products. The text also found non readable to certain category of users like old age people.
The website has problem in categorization and inconsistencies in certain functionalities like change options in the shopping cart which are to be avoidable by the site administration. The overall usability of the website is acceptable for information purpose.
- About Garden-com. Retrieved 19 October 2007 ;http://ucs. ist. psu. edu/default. asp? button=2; Business Overview. Retrieved 19 October 2007. ;http://sec. edgar-online. com/1999/08/11/17/0000930661-99-001854/Section11. asp; Garden. com is now under the protective wing of Burpee Seeds. Retrieved 19 October 2007. ;http://www. epinions. com/content_27224346244/tk_~CB005. 1. 3;
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