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The Moodle as used at Coventry University provides most of the basic things like the students/faculty can post to the forum and can download notes etc. The overall outline of this report is to re-design a prototype for the Moodle main page using usability techniques. The usability redesign is nothing but just modifying the existing system with some better improvements in order to make it work more efficiently.
USABILITY PROBLEMS WITH THE EXISTING SYSTEM:
The Coventry University Moodle is well structured with existing website design in which it gives all options to post to the forum and can easily download the lecture notes but it lags some information which could have been useful to the students. Our task is to redesign the existing website based on the ten heuristic principles of usability by Jakob Nielsen. By considering the ten heuristic's we found out some problems in the existing website, they are as follows:
Staffs contact details could be mentioned (Visibility of system status).
Calendar showing the current / next happening event (Visibility of system status).
A search box to search the module details (Match between system and the real world).
Based on the ten heuristic principles of usability by Jakob Nielsen these three principles could have been made in the existing website, by doing so it could help the students efficiently. The first point is that the staffs contact details could have been made it visible so that the new students feel convenient to find the contact details such as their university email-id. This makes the student in saving time instead of going to the reception and enquiring there. Although there is a possibility of finding the staffs contact details in the existing website but it is really complicated as it includes many steps to find. And the chance of getting details is very low. The second consideration is that a calendar could be provided in the website which tells what is the next event (Event may be anything which may be the course work submissions, next meeting or next holiday etc.) Even though calendar is present somewhere in the Moodle, it has to be searched and it is not so effective .Above two things is according to the first heuristic principle which says "The system should always keep informed about what is going on".
The third thing is about the search menu which could be used to find the details of the courses / modules using a drop down menu showing all the possible options than searching Hub. This is based on the second principle of the ten heuristics which says "Match between system and the real world".
PACT stands for People Activities Context and Technology. It is framework approached designing interactive system to put people first. People undertake activities, in contexts using technologies. PACT will be a useful thing to perform the PACT analysis for the website design. Because it helps to understand the current situation and where can design improvements can be made.
The Coventry University Moodle website is designed mainly for the staff and students. But the purpose of redesigning is to make website a little more convenient to the students, who often visit to check their modules details, find the staffs contact details, and submit the course works / assignments etc.
The activity that we are going to perform is just finding the details in the website like calendar, staffs contact details and to search a specific module. This is carried out by a student who is new to the University. The efficiency of the website can be improved by considering the drawbacks in the existing website.
All the social, physical environment and organizational context are figured out in the context. The social context is the accessibility of the place where the user is trying to gather the information from the people who are around him. The physical environment is more over little over crowded as we are carrying out the session in the Coventry University Hub, there will lot of students moving around and also there are some restaurants where students will be having their foods. At last in the organizational context any change in the technology usually activates the communication and power structures. Amongst three contexts organizational context is very important. Activities like time, place and few things should be taken into consideration.
The last stage in the PACT analysis is technology. In Coventry university Moodle website home page we are using interactive systems technology. Interactive systems are the systems which contains both the hardware and software factors that commute some input data into output data. Few significant qualities of the interactive system technologies are the input, output, communication and content. How the users enter their data and instruction into the system is carried out by the input systems. And how the system aids the used in understanding their queries is carried out by the output systems. All these systems are carried out by making the users to understand clearly, with the aid of proper documentation, audio and video files.
The assignment which were to given was to redesign the Coventry university Moodle home page. On a thorough examination / inquiry on the Moodle home page I found some flaws which could lead the users a little difficult in finding the staff contact details, calendar and a search box related to search the available course details as they are not clearly mentioned. So I recommend a prototype model which tries to improve some of the identified defects in the existing home page. After designing the prototype model for the existing home page based on the ten heuristics principles of usability as mentioned by the Jakob Nielsen, I tested this prototype with the help of two users. I conducted this test under normal conditions with two different users who are currently Coventry university students. The test was carried out by giving each user a separate task to do and I have made few observations. The observations made are reported precisely.
The observations are as follows,
For testing the prototype model both the users 1 and 2 were selected randomly and for both the users I had given a different task to perform. The task I had given to the first user was to find the contact details (email-id) of the staff - Carey Pridgeon (Teaching Assistant). The user had no idea where to find and how to find. At that instant he started to search the staff contact details using the recommended prototype model. He found the find staff option provided on the home page and this page will further direct him to another page which shows him the list of all available staffs with their university email-id. The list showing the staff is arranged in the alphabetical order. The page will also have a search box with a dropdown menu to find the staff quickly. When the user tries to type the first alphabet, immediately the sort will be done showing the staff which has that alphabet. Likewise for every alphabet entered sorting will get more accurate and the user finds it easy to search. When the user selects the staff a new page will open showing his details which might include name, position, email id, the place where he is available, telephone number etc. This prototype helped the first user to find what he wanted to find with minimum effort.
For the next user I had given him to search the module materials using the search box provided and also asked him to find the calendar so as to find what the next happening event is. The user straight away went to the search box which is located at the bottom of the home page and started to search the usability lecture ppts, but the webpage opened showed that no courses were found. Although it is mentioned it is going to search only hub but the user straight away went for that. And he nearly spent 3 minutes to find calendar but he dint found out where it is. After he finished the task I recommended him to use the prototype which I designed to find the same things again. When he searched the usability lecture ppts the page straight away opens sorted usability lecture ppts. And he easily found out the calendar because it is easily visible which tells what event is on any particular date. If the user tries to select the date 07/01/13, then the event on this date is the 2nd assignment submission.
The observations made by testing both the users 1 and 2 quite a few changes were necessary to the prototype model that I initially recommended. For increasing the efficiency, accuracy and the standard of the website these changes would help. The first change that was necessary is the usage of cancel button in every page so that user can cancel the job if anything goes wrong. I found this is very useful when both the users 1 and 2 tried to search the staff contact details and module details respectively. It might be of less significant in the case of second user but it will be beneficial in first user case. Because if the user put the wrong input for searching the staff contact details or if he misses any alphabets while searching the web page will show nothing. Instead of doing the search process all again from the home I thought it will be an easier option to provide search with a cancel button which helps to search to work in a better way. Also users can save some time if we do so.
The overall idea of a designer it to give a product the helps the user to accomplish their needs and the proposed model should last for a long time without any frequent changes. There are many stages of website redesigning which consists of analysis, research, structure, interaction and the ambience were the tests are performed and finally documentation and submission of results. I would like to conclude in a way; Home page is the 'Face' of the organization. It is the first thing that the visitor sees as soon as they enter the site. This is the work done by me and I hope it adds some value to the current home page.