Friday, March 17, 2017

Usability Issues in My Success---the online career service system in Carleton University

by Xinyuan Lu

Introduction
The MySuccess online system in Carleton University is an online career service system for students in Carleton University. Its main aim is to help Carleton undergraduates and graduates find career jobs, co-op jobs, summer internship and volunteer jobs. As well as posting the career workshops and activities for training students in writing resumes and interview skills.

This post describes my findings and defects of this system in detail and proposes some adjustments to the interface of the website which will enable users to interact with the system with less confusion and complicated operation.
Usability Issues
Below are the eight main usability issues that I encounter when I interact with the website.
1.     The Log-in button is ambiguous and not noticeable in the log-in portal
When first accessing My Success website the only available option to log in is to press the continue button that is shown in Fig. 1. However, the button is at the bottom of the page which makes it difficult to find and the text is not visible enough. This confusion tends to cost the users a few minutes before they can log into the website. Also, the meaning of the text continue is not clear because it actually means log in to the website.

Fig.1 log-in portal
Recommendation
The web developer should make the button larger with a more contrasted color so that it’s easier to see, changing the text of the button to “log in” rather than “continue” to remove any ambiguity and bolding the text will also help. What’s more, put the button at top. Because people who need to use this button frequently don’t want to have to scroll through the text each time.
2.     Menus with similar functions on the homepage
On the homepage (Fig. 2) there are three menus, one on the left side with a dark grey background, a menu in the middle of the page and a function bar just above it. There are several services which appear in all multiple menus which causes confusion because it is unclear if a certain service executes a different functionality based on which menu it’s chosen from. For example, there is a service called “Volunteer Jobs” and this appears in all three menus. I wouldn’t know which one is the correct link to click on because I don’t know if they all take me to the same service or a different one.
Fig.2 menus on the homepage

Recommendation
According to the principle of “Less is more” from Nielsen’s 10 Heuristic Evaluation Principles [2], the web developer should just create one menu that is located in the middle of the homepage. This will reduce the time it takes for the users to navigate through the menu to find the services they are looking for, not to mention this also reduces an ambiguity during navigation.

3.     No help button on the homepage
There is no help button or a search link for the website on the homepage (Fig. 3). If a user has a certain question and needs help they are stuck with no information on how to obtain help, or if the user needs to search the website for a specific web page or service they can’t do that because that tool is not available. This causes frustration and grief for the user.
Fig.3 No help button on the homepage
Recommendation
The web developer should add a help link and search bar on the top right of the webpage that provides help of this website and help the users to search the contents directly in the website. The developer should also make the help link stand out so it’s more visible along with bold text and the search bar should also stand out to make it easier for the user to notice them.

4.     Log-out and My Account links are not easily noticeable on the homepage
We can see that the Log-out and My Account links are at the bottom of the homepage (Fig. 4), this makes it very hard for users to find them. Also the size, color and text of these links doesn’t help make them more visible.
Fig.3 Log-out and My Account links on the homepage
Recommendation
Relocate the Log-out link and the My Account link to the top right corner of the page and use a larger text size and bolder text. Also, using bright or contrasted colors would be helpful.

5.     Cannot filter results from a job search
When searching for a job and the search results are returned (Fig. 5), there are no available filter options for per column such that the users can filter for specific results.
Fig.5 search results from a job search
Recommendation
For each column header, I recommend that the web developer should add multiple filter functions so the users could successfully filter for their desired results. One such example that should be used is how Microsoft Office Excel filters their results (As is shown in Fig.6), this proves useful because it is very familiar with those who have used Excel and it provides a simple user interaction.
Fig.6 A filter example from Microsoft Office Excel
6.     Up and down arrow symbols do not clearly represent their functionality
The functionality of the up and down arrows next to each column header is not clear in how it affects the results table (Fig. 7). The users do not know the exact meaning of these arrows because there is no clear definition anywhere on the web page. Once the user experiments with the arrows to better understand their functionality, the response time for the changes to occur takes too long.
Fig.7 Up and Down Arrows on the search results
Recommendation
The developers need to place a clear definition about the functionality of the arrows and improve the responding time when clicking it. One suggested solution is to place the following above the results table: “*Per Column:  Up arrow will sort the result in ascending order, down arrow will sort the results in descending order”. This proposed solution is simple yet effective in reducing any confusion about the functionality present.
7.     Filter option functionality is unclear in the job search results page
On the job search results page at the very top (Fig.8) there is a filter option, which expresses that the results can be filtered, however after several attempts of experimenting the outcomes do not match the desired results nor any comprehensive changes can be observed.
Fig.8 Filter option functionality bar
Recommendation
The web developer should either rework the user interaction of the filter option or add a clear description/tutorial of how to use it with clear examples.

8.     The job search results doesn’t return proper information
When a job search is queried, the results returned back are not properly relevant to what was searched. For example, when I search jobs for computer science, some returning jobs (Fig.9) are not completely related to computer science such as van driver and safety guard. What’s more, the jobs such as van driver and safety guard ranked before the job IT Programmer which seems more relevant to computer science students.
Fig.9 job search results
Recommendation
For the searching results, it should return the most relevant jobs and put them in the top rows to save users browsing time.
Conclusion
According my evaluation of My Success website, there are many problems that are against the usability principles which causes frustration, confusion and grief. That means the website is not as convenient for users as it should be and hence needs a lot of improvements.
Reference
[1] My Success website in Carleton University. 
[2] Nielsen, J. (n.d.). Nielsen Norman Group. 10 Heuristics for User Interface Design:
Article by Jakob Nielsen. Retrieved February 24, 2014, from

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