Students' perspectives on university Web site usability: An evaluation
Jesus Bautista, Pepperdine University, United States
Pepperdine University . Awarded
Educational institutions utilize the web to market and promote their products and services. Information about the institution, programs, and courses can be found at the Website. When prospective students visit the institution’s Website, the expectation is that questions about a particular program being offered will be answered. As Websites are designed and built differently, it is possible that site visitors will be challenged in getting the answers they need due to Website usability issues.
This study explored the Website usability of four universities. The participants of the study simulated a process where a prospective student has a desire to attend graduate school and looks for a particular graduate program. The participants performed a list of tasks to determine the details of the program such as admission requirements, required courses, and tuition rate.
Data were collected through the use of questionnaires. The participants completed an evaluation after each task and after performing all the tasks. The information provided by the participants was used to answer the following research questions: (a) How did the students rate the difficulty of completing each task? (b) What did the students find most helpful in completing the tasks? (c) What did the students find least helpful in completing the tasks? and (d) How satisfied were the students in using the Website?
The study revealed that not all of the four university Websites were designed and created equally. There were Websites that were easy to use. The information being sought for the task was easily found. There were Websites that were difficult to use. Some of the participants experienced confusion and frustration while attempting to complete the task. There were even tasks that were not completed.
The challenges encountered during the attempt to complete the tasks exposed three areas, namely content presentation, information structure, and navigation. These areas focused on how the Websites communicate with the user in terms of how content is displayed, where information is located, and how the Websites guided the user from one part of the site to another.
The study also showed that there is a difference in the response on the task level versus the input provided at the end of performing all the tasks. The task level reflected the experience of the participants at the time the individual tasks were performed. The experience was either positive of negative. The overall experience of using Website allowed the participants to reflect on what transpired after all the tasks were performed. The reflection gave an insight on how satisfied the participants were in using the Website.
Bautista, J. Students' perspectives on university Web site usability: An evaluation. Ph.D. thesis, Pepperdine University.
Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.
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