M 24 Usability Report FHOOE 04-2008

Document type: KP-Lab internal document

Product name and version: Shared Space, M24 Release 

Organisers of the test: Eva Zöserl
Date of the test: March-July 2008
Date of the report: 13 October 2008
Contacts: Eva Zöserl
Emails: eva.zoeserl@fh-hagenberg.at

Executive Summary

This report gives an overview of a field trial carried out in Spring 2008 by FH-OOE, using the Shared Space Application, M24 release. The objectives of this evaluation have been to test the usability and utility of the functionalities implemented so far in an educational setting. The outcomes of this evaluation are intended to provide feedback on the quality of the functionalities developed so far but also to better understand users’ needs and their implications for further development.
The evaluation is based on the use and assessment of Shared Space by 31 bachelor students who were assigned to use the application for carrying out some tasks during the semester. The educational setting was inquiry based with minimal scaffolding. Methods used included pre- and post-questionnaires for students as well as observations and experiences made by the instructor which have been elicited by a post-questionnaire.

All in all the evaluation revealed the following strength and weaknesses:

The basic concept of the KP-Lab Shared Space, as well as the visual appearance and organization of resources (network of items) were mentioned as main strengths of the KP-Lab Shared Space application. Especially the network-like organization of items was indicated as advantageous as it allows a good and clear arrangement of items. Please notice that some students had a different view on this which is later described. Moreover it was positively mentioned that Shared Space allows carrying out joint activities and that it is suitable for dealing with complex tasks. The possibility of carrying out project work, sharing ideas and information as well as cooperatively working on documents and tasks were emphasized.

Regarding weaknesses most students referred to technical problems instead of usability problems. Almost all indicated that the performance of Shared Space was very low and thus working with the application was cumbersome. Additionally, some students mentioned that the system was instable (server break down, deleted items, missing item information). From a usability point of view most students saw the unintuitive and unclear handling as well as the network-like organization of items as main weaknesses (see 4.3 Usability Problems in Detail). As described above the network-like organization of items was seen as advantageous but also as disadvantageous as the structure becomes unclear the more items are available.

In conclusion the following main recommendations were derived:

  • Improve the performance of the Shared Space Application and provide means to recover data in the case of server break downs. Additionally, the system should provide at least a button to cancel current loading procedures.
  • Provide means of synchronous and asynchronous communication. Comments should be editable.
  • Investigate the network-like organization of items. Without structure elements the orientation and navigation in the content view may become confusing the more items and relations exist. Users should easily find spaces to which they have access (e.g. highlight). On the other hand this kind of organization was meant to be one of the main strengths of Shared Space.
  • Check the GUI for inconsistencies: positions and embossments of buttons as well as the look and feel of the KP-Lab Shared Space and its login area.
  • Provide more information about Shared Spaces’ functionality (e.g. guideline how to create links and spaces, tool tips). The cursor should indicate if actions can be carried out.
  • Semantics of color-coding should be self-evident. The user should be able to personally mark content items. Additionally, it should be indicated which items the user had already opened so far. When selecting several items, it should be possible to do actions on those simultaneously.
  • Improve the information content of the process view (e.g. by adding task descriptions).
  • Search functionality based on tags seems to be important.
  • Semantics of hierarchical and relationship links as well as their creation should be self-evident. Besides this it should be possible to delete links.
  • Improve some user management functionality (e.g. reset of passwords, deleting users, enrolment notification). Additionally, there should be more information about users.
  • Spaces should be savable for later reuse.

This page is a category under: usability and under Category Of Feedback Testing Data


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