Students in a course on human usability of websites implement a semester-long project to analyze and propose a redesign of an existing badly-designed website.
- to build students’ confidence in their ability to complete a complicated, long-term project
- to provide students with experience in a usability testing scenario, and
- to provide students with an opportunity to apply principles from class into not only a substantive product, but a real one (critiquing a real website)
Class: ISMT E-170: Human Factors in Information System Design
Introduction/Background: Students in the course learn about designing websites while taking into account the needs and preferences of human users. In this semester long project, students find a site with problematic design and work individually or in teams of up to three in order to design a better site based on the interests of likely users.
Textbook and lecture materials covered factors of usability (cited in syllabus, attached)
Preparation: Before beginning the project, students will need to have developed an appreciation for design and usability. Critical features of usability are covered in the course before the project begins. Students are introduced to the project in class; a description of the complete assignment is attached. Finally, students do not need to know how to develop their own redesigned site, though doing so will gain them bonus points.
Part 1: Bad Site
- Each student finds a website that is both interesting enough to them to be the focus of a semester and in need of fixing.
- Students screen capture the site, describe what is wrong with it, and discuss why the original designer might have created it that way.
- In class, the group discussed a few sites and what may have caused their design problems. By understanding the cause of these problems, students will hopefully be less likely to create such problems for others.
Part 2: Proposal for Fixing a Bad Site
- Students at this point can continue to work independently or form groups of up to 3 focusing on one site.
- Students write up some context on the site (e.g. what and who it is for), the benefits of fixing it, and it would require to fix the site (e.g. in terms of time or money). Students should assess whether the benefits of fixing the site outweigh the challenges of doing so.
Part 3: Data Collection
- Students collect data from users of the site. They find 2 users of the site per group member.
- First, they create a list of important tasks that users accomplish on the site. Second, they time users in going through the tasks. Third, they interview the users about what should be improved, and take down a rough transcript of the discussion. Finally, they describe their findings and what should be done.
Part 4: The Redesign
- Students redesign webpages based on their findings, either through simulated site development created in Word or PowerPoint, or actual site development (1 bonus point). Changes should enhance usability rather than focusing on aesthetics.
- Students describe the changes and the rationale behind them. They also time users using the redesigned site, printing out the pages and having users “click” the pages with their finger if the site is not functional enough to be used on a computer.
- Students create a four minute (max) video persuasively and professionally “selling” their site redesign and explaining the key steps of the project.
- The instructor shared a few videos with the class.
Comments from Instructor:
This works best in a semester-long context. Encourage groups, to distribute the work load, and also to enable longer presentations from all groups.
Breaking the assignment over 4 phases helps provide a richer impact, as they can change their scope at any time (with the aid of feedback and directions from me) if they run into roadblocks.