— 26 June 2004 —

7 out of 10 – Better Luck Next Time

I just took the Human Factors International Usability Quiz on the recommendation of Henrik Olsen of GUUUI.

My score: 7 out of 10. Apparently I am an average usability sherpa. But, what I find odd is the “correct” answers to the ones I got wrong. Below are the questions, my answers and the correct answers. If you want to see all the choices, go take the test.

(Now in all fairness, this is a silly usability test and it is meant to be just for fun. However, as I am wont to take things too seriously…)

  1. An important first step in designing a Web site is to:

    Your answer was: (b) Identify target user groups

    The correct answer is (b) Identify target user groups
  2. Usability testing for a Web site can be performed optimally with:
    Your answer was: (e) All of the above
    The correct answer is (e) All of the above
  3. An expert review is:
    Your answer was: (c) Based on one standard set of guidelines
    The correct answer is (b) Relatively quick to do
  4. Multimedia should be used:
    Your answer was: (c) Sparingly to support the intent of the site
    The correct answer is (c) Sparingly to support the intent of the site
  5. To improve the time it takes to scan a Web page, text should be:
    Your answer was: (b) Left aligned
    The correct answer is (b) Left aligned
  6. To organize information on a Web page, grouping can be used to differentiate related and unrelated information by:
    Your answer was: (e) All of the above
    The correct answer is (e) All of the above
  7. Items on a Web page can be sequenced based on each of the following except:
    Your answer was: (a) Alphabetical even if alphabet not known to users
    The correct answer is (a) Alphabetical even if alphabet not known to users
  8. In general, when writing for the Web one should do all of the following except:
    Your answer was: (a) Avoid paragraphs
    The correct answer is (c) Use computer terminology
  9. Color should not be used in Web page design:
    Your answer was: (b) As a code
    The correct answer is (d) In many hues
  10. Red text should not be used on a blue background because:
    Your answer was: (c) It will be fuzzy to read
    The correct answer is (c) It will be fuzzy to read

I got questions 3, 8, and 9 wrong. Here’s why I think I am right.

  • An expert review is:
    Your answer was: (c) Based on one standard set of guidelines
    The correct answer is (b) Relatively quick to do

When I hear “expert review,” I think “heuristic review.” And an heuristic review is based on a standard set of guidelines for design. The standards may only be company specific, or they may fall into the category of a “Web standard” (whatever that would be), but an heuristic review should be done by someone who is versed in usability research even if it amounts to a checklist review. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

  • In general, when writing for the Web one should do all of the following except:
    Your answer was: (a) Avoid paragraphs
    The correct answer is (c) Use computer terminology

This one I just don’t understand, though I guess I do get why they chose “computer terminology.” My thought was that it depends on the audience. So if your audience knows computer terminology (which you would have found out by building a good user profile), then feel free to use it in your copy. I chose that one shouldn’t avoid paragraphs because, well, why should you? I am using a paragraph right now, do you feel you are experiencing a usability issue? (If so, please call a doctor (just say Hi), find a comfy chair, elevate your feet, and enjoy a good sit.)

  • Color should not be used in Web page design:
    Your answer was: (b) As a code
    The correct answer is (d) In many hues

Where to begin with this one…? Their answer is wrong and mine if right. Color should not be used (solely) as a code for pointing out some metadata about an object. Say for example you use dark blue text for field captions to indicate required fields. Well, the color is now a code for required. Dark blue for require fields and black for optional might not be enough of a color difference even for people without a color vision deficiency. This is just an off-the-top-of-my-head example to illustrate my thinking when taking the test.

So, as you can see I should have received a 10 out of 10. I should be receiving a call from HFI asking me to come work for them. Or better yet, IDEO [insert blatant hint here]. I guess in the end I should be happy with my 7 out of 10, because in Miller’s world (cue Ron) my 7 could be a 9 and that’s alright by me.

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