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Nicolibrarian explores the secret life of information

How usable is WordPress?(Part III – Preparing for the Cognitive Walkthrough)

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Wharton, et al. (1994) outlines the preparation steps of the Cognitive Walkthrough – and I’ll paraphrase them here:

  1. Who will be the users?
  2. What task(s) will be analyzed?
  3. What is the correct action sequence for each task, and how is that task described?
  4. How is the interface asked?

Since I’ll be working with live, functioning interfaces, I can go ahead and largely ignore point 4 – this would be important if I were, say, working with a paper prototype, or only a partially-completed system. Let’s address each point in turn for our needs in this specific test:

  1. Who will be the users?
    For my purposes here, I am going to assume my users to be people interested in starting a blog. These users will be of  moderate comfortability with technology, which I’ll further define as individuals who use the Internet daily, are comfortable operating computers and associated devices (a mouse, CD-ROMs, flash memory drives, et al). As I am using a Macintosh in my testing, I’ll assume my users are also Macintosh users; part of their profile is that they are users who purchased Macs for their ease of use, fewer virus problems, and simple setup. We’ll assume our users are generally conversant with word processing and spreadsheets, have used online services (such as online banking and commerce sites like Our users are comfortable in setting up online accounts for free services, and generally fill the role of the “perpetual intermediate” as defined by Cooper, et al (p. 42). They are not, however, experienced blog readers, nor have they any experience with blogging from behind the scenes, and may likely be called “spectators” in the language of the Forrester Research Social Technographics ladder. We can further identify their motivation for starting their blog as they are small business owners interested in writing about their market, business, and services; as small business operators they are pressed for time, not wanting to spend much, if any money, and will be setting up and running the blog alone.
  2. What task(s) will be analyzed?
    For my purposes, I have assumed that the user will have already set up an account for her blog. You can see my related visual blog post: Setting Up Blogs in 3 Platforms for a scan of how those processes compare. Tasks considered in the Cognitive Walkthrough will be threefold: 1. Publishing a new blog post, 2. Setting up a separate “About” page that appears as its own page, apart from the main page where posts are listed, and 3. Previewing then applying a pre-existing template to the hosted blog to change from its default appearance. While these tasks may seem easy to anyone conversant with blogging or any of these interfaces, they are precisely the tasks our users will first need to engage in when learning the interface. 
  3. What is the correct action sequence for each task, and how is that task described?
    I have created the below three spreadsheets  (view as Google Docs workboook), broken down by the above 3 tasks. Each spreadsheet outlines the “correct” action, which here I’ll define as the action wanted in order to achieve the task at hand.
  4. ApplyingTemplate


And a quick note on the interfaces: all three platforms have “Dashboards”, with pictures of each platform below, once logged in:


Now that we’re ready – let’s proceed to Part IV – Analysis by Cognitive Walkthrough

This post is part of the ten-part series called Is WordPress Usable?

The series documents my learning process in attempting to systematically identify usability problems in, and suggest improvements to, the 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.


Written by nicolibrarian

November 5, 2009 at 4:48 am

Posted in UX/IxD Portfolio

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