Article: Factors and Principles affecting the usability of four E-Commerce Websites
By Roger Tilson, Jianming Dong, Shirley Martin, and Eric Kieke, June 5th 1998
Paper presented at the 4th conference on Human Factors & the Web
Nature of the Content
This paper concerns Opportunities and Challenges contained in e-commerce examined through a comparative study of two clothing sites and two computer sites, which were evaluated by sixteen participants. Major design problems of these sites are listed as well as detailed explanation of the assessment process of the user interface and helpful suggestions on how to improve a commercial site.
1998, 3 years ago, but the material covered is still timely and useful today.
The conference information was directed at "engineers, designers, and developers who are interested in producing web sites that are more useful and usable." However, arguably the content is useful for E-Commerce managers to evaluate the utility of their site against these findings.
Specific elements of User Interface principles are investigated to determine what features of E-Commerce websites need to be addressed by designers of usability. Certain functions, like the shopping cart, and the available product information consumers require are assessed. This presents to the reader common downfalls and frustrations that may be experienced by a user-transaction or simply a site user. Results and suggestions would be valuable for any party involved in trying to improve their website. However it is more useful for clothing and computer website owners, since the cases are specifically centered around these two industries.
Usability & Design
Being originally a paper, the format of this site is obviously structured around the presentation at a conference. Even so, its plain text and consistent use of appropriate headings makes it easy to read. There is a medium usage of graphics to illustrate the text content, helping breaking up an otherwise text heavy paper. Most screen captures are rather large which may cause difficulties for those who have slow connection speeds. On the other hand, without large graphics, it is difficult to demonstrate certain points of the article e.g., why the drop down menu serves as an inappropriate function for information. The user chart is actually too small to be legible and there are few external links should the reader require more information. However this is probably a small navigational issue since this is probably the last branch of a shallow organisation chart since the paper is part of a collective presentation. Generally, though not design magnicificent, it is relaxing on the eyes, easy to use and read if you're not waiting for graphics to load.