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Nicolibrarian explores the secret life of information

How usable is WordPress? (Part II – Picking a Method)

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To begin my analysis of the WordPress.com hosted blogging interface, I wanted choose similar interfaces to compare/contrast. I opted for Blogger and TypePad, since they are also well-known platforms with hosting options (however TypePad is no longer free, but there is a limited-time free trial option). What method to use to compare?

There are a variety of techniques for analyzing usability of an interface – things like Nielsen’s user and task observation, scenarios, simplified thinking aloud, and heuristic evaluation, among many others (I suggest the Usability.gov and Usability Methods Toolbox for quick scans of methods). As I’ll be doing a user test in the next week, I wanted to start with an evaluation I could accomplish alone beforehand. In class, we read about the method of Cognitive Walkthrough as described by Cathleen Wharton, John Rieman, Clayton Lewis, and Robert Polson in Chapter 5 of Nielsen and Mack’s Usability Inspection Methods.  (A quick and dirty synopsis of the Cognitive Walkthrough method can be found in the Wikipedia entry on it.) There’s also this quote from page 107 of the above-mentioned article:

“Cognitive walkthroughs evaluate each step necessary to perform a task, attempting to uncover design errors that would interfere with learning by exploration. The method finds mismatches between users and designers’ conceptualization of a task, poor choices of wording for menu titles and button labels, and inadequate feedback about the consequences of an action. The procedure uncovers implicit or explicit assumptions made by developers about users’ knowledge of the task and the interface conventions. The evaluation procedure takes the form of a series of questions asked about each step in the task that are derived from a theory of learning by exploration (Poison et al, 1992a).”

I’m also drawn to this method because it is a “method that focuses on evaluating a design for ease of learning, particularly by exploration,” (p. 105 of above article).  My suspicion is that, of the 250,000+ blogs currently hosted at WordPress.com, precious few of the bloggers have learned to use the interface in any way other than just plunging in, exploring and experimenting.

Method chosen! On to Part III – Preparing for the 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 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.

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Written by nicolibrarian

November 5, 2009 at 1:33 am

Posted in UX/IxD Portfolio

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