usability of computer software

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Background

Usability of computer software has gained immense importance in recent times since there is great variety of people using computer software. Therefore, it is not always intuitive for the users to quickly understand and learn computer software. Such software not only waste user time but also causes worry and frustration for user [1]. To overcome this situation usability rescues. The usability referred that how user will interact with the system [2].The term usability is derived from the concept of user friendliness [2]. In 1980, Usability had obtained a host of undesirable and subjective connotations [2]. In simpler terms, usability is a way to measure the ease with which a user can learn a system, use a system and express his/her level of satisfaction from experiencing it.

There are numerous standard definitions of term usability [3]: Usability can be defined as:

  • “It is the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in specified context of use”. (ISO 9241-11: 1998)
  • “The capability of the software product to be understood learned, used and attractive to the user, when used under specified conditions.”(ISO/IEC 9126-1, 2000)
  • “The ease with which a user can learn to operate, prepares inputs for, and interprets outputs of a system or component.” (IEEE Std.610.12-1990)
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The ability to effectively test the usability of computer software can have several advantages. According to [4], effective usability testing reduced the development time, cost and improved the product's market value. In other cases, for example in [5], usability testing helped find early problems and also helped prevent similar problems in the future.

Online communities can be described as the collective group of entities those can be either in group or individual that communicates with each other through electronic media such as internet, instant messages, email or telephone rather than face to face [6]. Interaction among entities is based on different interests those could be educational, professional, social and different other purposes.

According to [7], usability consists of several concepts, namely efficiency, effectiveness, safety, learnability, utility and memorability. Efficiency can be described as how quickly a user can perform a task accurately and correctly after he or she has learnt the basic operation; effectiveness describes how useful a system is to perform that is supposed to do; safety is to give protection about undesirable and dangerous condition [8]. Utility describes to what extent the system provides the accurate functionality according to the users desire; learnability is that how user can easily learn a system to use and whereas memorability states that how easy a system is to remember when once learned [8].

This research is focused towards usability evaluation of online communities. Social communities have become enormously popular in the last few years. These social communities have played very important role in general election that was held in USA in 2008 [9]. Facebook is the most popular social networking site because of incredible increase in its users every month. In July, 2007 number of Facebook users reached to 30 million and in a year it got increase of 89% [11]. In the UK Between November 2006 and May 2007 network of Facebook users grow by 500% [11]. In Jan, 2009 its user were 150 million. Because of its popularity among the internet users we choose it for performing usability evaluation on it.

Usability evaluation is a systematic process of collecting data, to understand the users in a batter way and also how different groups of users use the product to carry out a particular task [12]. Usability evaluation of social networks is important because Poor usability in social networks could result in high drop out rate of users. Usability evaluation has two main purposes; gathering of quantitative data by measuring time to learn, performance speed and human error rate. Another purpose is for qualitative data collection, which is linked to satisfaction of user with product during test. Qualitative data also consist of comments made by user during test and the, participants answers to questions [1].

According to Jakob Nielsen and Reeves & Hedberg there are numerous methods available for collecting usability data [5]. One or more methods often employ for better usability testing. The following are usability methods:

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Think aloud, Questionnaire, Observation, Interviews, Focus groups, Logging actual use, User feedback, Heuristic evaluation, Pluralistic walkthrough, Formal usability inspection, Empirical methods, Cognitive walkthroughs and formal design analysis[5]. In order to find the efficiency of usability testing methods from social network's point of view. Different methods of Usability testing will be followed on the bases of literature review.

Challenge/problem focus

Different social networks have been developed which provides services for diverse nature of users irrespective of culture, age, education, language and interests. It is very challenging to fulfil all the expectations of users. It is found from various studies that social networks face usability problems which leads to poor user experience [10] [13].

According to Preece [10], the usability problems in social networks can be categorized in four components i.e. Dialog & social interaction support, Information design, Navigation, access. Similarly Shneiderman [13] examined that product usability is influenced due to consistency, control and predictability in the product.

Furthermore due to different definitions of usability it is difficult to select the appropriate Usability Evaluation Method (UEMs). The efficiency of each UEMs differ due to their implementation. A gap between academia and web industry can be observed. This thesis helps to reduce this gap by identifying different definitions of usability from different aspects. The usability issues in social networks which are mentioned above will be explored in this thesis. In addition, the main focus of this thesis is to investigate the efficiency of usability evaluation methods (UEMs) from social networks point of view.

Goal/Result

Usability evaluation of Facebook

Analysis of social networks (Facebook)on the basis of usability test and questionnaire

Validation of usability evaluation of the system

Discussion and results

Research questions: RQ1: What are the definitions and evaluation techniques of usability mentioned in literature?

RQ2: What are the Usability issues in social networks (Facebook)?

RQ3: How efficiency of usability evaluation methods differs from each other from social networks point of view?

Method/Approach

The Research Methodology that we will adopt to conduct this research is a combination of both Qualitative and Quantitative approach [14]. A comprehensive literature study will be carried out throughout the research by gathering related materials to understand the usability, usability evaluation, usability problems in social networks.

Following quantitative research approach, the questionnaire will also be design and forwarded to collect empirical data and also Case study (usability test) of Face book to investigate the efficiency of Usability evaluation methods from social network's point of view. The collected data of case study will be helpful to find out the efficiency of usability evaluation methods. The collected data will also be useful to provide suggestion for improvements, to present results and conclusion.