Expert web site design review

A key objective in the graduate and undergraduate courses Jeff has taught in "human-computer interaction" at UMBC has been evaluating the ease of use and effectiveness of computer systems and web sites.

Geological System

Jeff conducted a formal review of a non-web system displaying geological data for earthquake fault visualization and identified the following issues:

  • The menu was confusing because clicking on a menu item did not always produce a visible result. The root problem was that many of the menu items just added another tab to the display. When the tabbed display was not visible to the user, there was no feedback from clicking on the menu, giving the impression that "nothing had happened."
  • The icons used on the buttons for expanding and contracting the size of two columns did not effectively indicate which function mapped to which button, confusing users.
  • Instead of using geological terminology familiar to the users, many of the menu items used mathematical terminology descriptive of the programming algorithms.

Citizen Science Web Site

During a preliminary review of a data entry web site for citizen scientist volunteers, Jeff identified the following problems with the site's design:

  • Inconsistent use of temperature units (Fahrenheit and Celsius interspersed)
  • Inconvenient list boxes for entering observation times, with unhelpful default values that required unnecessary mouse clicks
  • Poor support for people with disabilities (particularly visual impairment)
  • Unclear descriptions of technical terms for classifying observation sites that volunteers would encounter rarely
  • Opportunities to add simple data validation processing that could easily improve data quality and further educate volunteer observers. For example, upon entering data for a species never previously observed at a given location, a dialog prompting the user to confirm the identification would encourage a novice to reconsider whether he/she had confused the novel species with a more common one but still allow entry of a truly new find.

Web Design Examples

Jeff's design emphasizes usability and effective data presentation. Examples of Jeff's web design are included in the Environmental Data section. Additional examples coming soon.