How usable is WordPress? (Part I – Introduction)
As part of my interest in interaction design and usability, I’m embarking on a project to analyze and design a better interface for an information system. (And believe it or not, that’s the exact title of a multi-part assignment in my class LIS590IIL – Interfaces to Information Systems! Fancy that. This is one of the first classes I’m taking for my Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois. My professor here is the inimitable Michael Twidale.)
I’ve decided to pursue analyzing the usability of WordPress, particularly the free, hosted interface available from http://www.wordpress.com. My goal is not only to analyze the WP interface for usability problems, I am also going to try and come up with design fixes. At the outset, I’ll say that I have been reading a couple great books that are shaping my thinking here: About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, and David Cronin, and Usability Engineering by Jakob Nielsen. I believe this task will entail applying, what Cooper, et al, say is “a repeatable, predictable, and analytical process for transforming an understanding of users into products that both meet their needs and excite their imaginations” (p. 9). I also subscribe to Nielsen’s view that “usability is filled with apparent contradictions” (p. 10), that there will always be need to improve designs to accommodate users, and that “usability is a comparatively cheap way to improve product quality” (p.9, footnote).
I’ve also chosen WordPress because it is an open source project, run by and for a community of users and, depending on my findings, I hope to contribute my analysis in some way. Curious about the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? Learn more here.
So what does this mean and why do you care? It means I’m going to take a systematic and multi-part approach to see how the WordPress blogging interface meets blogger needs; and I hope you’ll care because you’re just as interested in usability as I am, you enjoy being deeply nerdy (see comic here), and because I’m going to try and write this in an accessible and understandable way – something I fear is becoming harder with my return to academia.
Let’s Get To It! Part II: Picking a Method
This post is part of the ten-part series called Is WordPress Usable?
- Part I – Introduction
- Part II – Picking a Method
- Part III – Preparing for the Cognitive Walkthrough
- Part IV – Analysis by Cognitive Walkthrough
- Part V – Conclusions from the Cognitive Walkthrough
- Part VI – The User Test
- Part VII – Rough Paper Prototypes
- Part VIII – Iteration 2
- Part IX – Iteration 3
- Part X – Conclusions
The series documents my learning process in attempting to systematically identify usability problems in, and suggest improvements to, the WordPress.com blogging software as might be done in the emerging field of User Experience. This project was undertaken as part of LIS590IIL, a class held in the Graduate School of Library and Informaton Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois during Fall of 2009.