What is Usability?
Once a designer constructs a site, he/she has to determine if it works. Does it do what it was designed to do? It’s a matter of functionality, or ‘usability’ as expert designers like Krug (2000) would say.
The inherent danger of web design is that the designer constructs a site with blinders on. He/she created it on a certain machine, with a certain screen size, on a particular browser, with or without a team, … The end results can be skewed and not lend itself to the original objectives the site was designed to do. The site needs to be tested to detect problems of these types so changes can be made.
How is it tested?
Krug (2000) indicates a number of strategies that can catch design problems and lead designers to effective sites. Since teachers have small budgets, they need to use affordable methods. Use three or four volunteer testers who do not necessarily have any special knowledge concerning the Internet or design. Set aside some time to meet with these people.
The meeting doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be done in an office that has a few computers. Have testers write one-page of notes regarding certain locations on the site. The testers can be given a survey in addition to the one-page of notes. The survey should contain items that cover frustration levels, ease of use, layout, likeliness to use the site, … Have the designer(s) reflect on the notes and modify the site accordingly.
Retest after each remodification, until a minimum of three cycles result. Three cycles ensures that major problems wil be caught and fixed. Also, most, if not all, of the minor problem areas will be caught, too.