Triangulating Web Evaluations…

Usability is often evaluated in terms of ease of use – an important area of study highlighted by people like Krug (2006) and Jakob Nielson; however Preece (2000) provides a solid argument for the need to evaluate websites systematically from three vantage points:

    Needs
    Usability
    Sociability

In addition to encouraging systematization in web evaluation (which is often lost in web evaluation – perhaps the ad hoc nature of websites prefers “ad-hoc” evaluations? Or perhaps those evaluating don’t yet appreciate the value of the Internet?), Preece (2000) wants communities to be evaluated from a needs and sociability perspective as well. This is a valuable perspective – web communities are about more than usable interaction design – sociability is an important factor as well, as our needs; however, I think her evaluation strategy could be strengthened by encouraging ongoing needs assessment – which she may have intended to imply by grouping it in the evaluation chapter, but which she does not seem to highlight.

As communities develop they often shift and change – the needs of the original community might not match the needs of the current community. Therefore ongoing needs assessment along with usability and sociability evaluations can help decide whether a community needs to be tweaked, shaped, or as Powazek puts it “killed” (2002). Needs assessment should not simply be a front-end process but as ongoing and iterative as web development itself.

Question(s):
Do you (the reader) think we tend to lean towards evaluating usability because it seems more tangible to evaluate as opposed to sociability?

Why do we tend to assume that once we have the needs pinned down they are in place permanently? Why is it so hard to acknowledge that the needs have changed or that we’ve missed some?

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Preece, J. (2000). On-line Communities. Chapter 10

Powazek, D. (2002) Design for Community. Chapter 11.

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