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Website Survival Report Card for
CSU CompSci vs. Computer Information Systems

 


 

Congratulations! This is a free usability review from UsabilityInstitute.com. "Usability" refers to how easy and effective it is to use a Web site. Although it involves how a site looks (graphic artwork), it is primarily concerned with how a site works, what you click on, what happens, and whether the site does its job.

  • Perhaps this review is all you need to improve your site. If that's the case, great. Please mention UsabilityInstitute.com if you talk with others who need help with their site. (Bookmark this site)
  • On the other hand, if you would like to put some of these recommendations into action on your site, or get a more detailed analysis, contact us.

The following three sections provide a general analysis of your website from a relatively quick review. Although Web design is still perceived as a highly creative endeavor, there are many aspects of it that call for standardization and compliance with widely established conventions. Implementing even a few of the ideas below can really improve a site.

 

  Part 1: Content Basics
    This first section is intended for typical public web sites (for products and corporate information), but also applies for the most part to intranets and software applications that run in a browser. We've been advocating many of these ideas—in the context of general software—since our 1997 book, Computers Stink, but they've been beautifully enumerated for WWW purposes in Steve Krug's book, "Don't Make Me Think."
       

CompSci

CIS

   
      Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
Comments
  A1. Logo in top left, linked to home Does the Job Does the Job CIS's puts the university link leftmost, which is just as well for the structured thinker.
  A2. Tagline Not Applicable Not Applicable  
  A3. Welcome blurb Does the Job I Can Help It's not a foregone conclusion that an aspiring highschool senior would know the difference between the two. CIS should move the two key sentences from the About page to the home page.
  A4. Plain wording Does the Job Does the Job Three minor demerits for Compsci's wording, "Savvy Search," even if it is the vendor's actual name. Otherwise no interpretation was needed on either site.
  A5. No 'happy talk' Does the Job Does the Job Just the fact, ma'am.
  A6. Concise wording Great Work! Does the Job Slight edge to the algorithmic guys. They're probably too busy debugging Windows to even make up any fluffy wording.
  A7. Visited pages are distinguished by link color-coding Does the Job I Can Help Another win for the men in black. Too many CIS links are "stylized" so much that the default HTML color coding is eliminated. Of the links I tried, only the News links indicated visitation.
  A8. "Utilities" are easy to find Undetermined/Not Exactly Undetermined/Not Exactly To know what the true utilities are I'd need to study what the typical tasks are.
  A9. Search on all pages, with box and button I Can Help I Can Help Put the box right on the page. The compsci guys can write their own, but for the rest of us, try a public service like picosearch.com.
  A10. "You Are Here" indicator I Can Help Undetermined/Not Exactly Compsci breaks out of the whole template (to plain pages) for subpages, so there's no indication whatsoever. In CIS, clicking Undergrad/Student Life, the Undergrad highlight disappears. Slight edge to CIS. (I guess I'll have to move all of my "?" boxes to the left one, huh?)
  A11. Breadcrumbs' as links I Can Help I Can Help Breadcrumbs aren't used. These sites, like most university sites are cobbled together, which makes breadcrumbs really tough to regiment.
     
0/1/5/3/1/1
0/0/4/4/2/1
 
       

 

 



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Part 2: Visual Design: Fonts, Colors, Layout, Basic Interaction Design, and Accessibility
As we read in a graphic artist's ad, "Technology makes it work but art makes it sell," and you should take heed. We're not graphic artists here at Uinst, but we know good art when we see it and the common denominators that separate good pages from bad are clear. Look at the top sites and you'll see they spell out the following criteria.
   

CompSci

CIS

   
  Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
Comments
B1.

Sans-serif fonts

I Can Help Does the Job  
B2.

Appropriate background color

Does the Job Does the Job  
B3.
Appropriate color hues Does the Job Does the Job  
B4.
Visual representation of the information hierarchy I Can Help I Can Help CIS: "Departments" is duplicated (menus and nav bar), and on nav bar is below the more specific department. Compsci: hodgepodge of buttons on left. Hey, no one said it was easy... it's just easy for everyone on earth to create HTML.
B5.
Conservative quantity of colors Does the Job Does the Job  
B6.
Text sizes are "relative" Does the Job I Can Help  
B7.
Anti-aliased graphics Does the Job Does the Job  
B8.
Graphics' file size doesn't slow navigation Does the Job Does the Job  
B9.
"Alt tags" used well Great Work! Great Work! Minor fix in Compsci: needs an alt tag on the main logo on most (?) pages.
B10.
Links don't just say "Click Here" Great Work! Great Work!  
B11.
A style sheet (CSS) is used I Can Help Does the Job Sure, anyone can do the right thing when you throw a lot of money at a high-priced Web consulting company!
   
0/2/6/3/0/0
0/2/7/2/0/0
 

 

Do your hands ache after a day at the keyboard??? This review sponsored by...

 


Part 3: Genuine Value: Useful Content & Critical Interaction Design


And now for the hard part. If all of good Web design were as clear-cut as parts 1 & 2, above, you wouldn't need much judgment and there would be a lot more good sites. But the easier the decisions are, the less significant the thinking and effort behind them... and the easier it would be to provide useful content. This section is where you make or break your rapport with the visitor. If you provide real value and give folks enough tools to get to it, they will push past the basic omissions and ignore even the most amateurish art.
   

CompSci

CIS

   
  Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
Comments
C1. Questions are answered Does the Job Does the Job An honest evaluation requires more effort here, but what do you want for a nickel, lobster? Both sites look like they provide the details people would look for.
C2. Search results get the job done I Can Help I Can Help I never considered having a mark LOWER than "I can help," but youz guyz both deserve it here. It's 2003 and you're the gosh darn IS guys! Yeh, Search is more than plain HTML, but even I figured out how to implement one.
C3. Effective 'click tree' Undetermined/Not Exactly Undetermined/Not Exactly Ah, it always comes down to this, doesn't it. Your own Business School page seems to use the navigation paradigm that serves university sites best, and does it attractively. It uses drop-down menus for an exhaustive categorical mapping, and plain, prominent text links for 'per-audience' links. Go to school on them. I went to a Jared Spool seminar once where he belittled an electric company's site for main links labeled "Customer, Digger, Generator," but such 'per-audience links make a lot of sense on some site. CIS actually uses the same idea but complicates it with the repetitive "Departments" left nav and duplicate main links on the home page.
C4. Conceptual flow from upper left to lower right Does the Job Does the Job  
C5. Simple, outline-like site map I Can Help I Can Help Strike two.
C6. Primary navigation is obvious Undetermined/Not Exactly Does the Job Compsci: the home page appears to have been a turf battle and as a result the many text links in the body compete with the left nav, reducing our confidence that everything can be drilled down to from the left nav. A peculiar flaw of most web design combined with human behavior is that our eyes are attracted to the center of the page. So you have to balance the competition.
C7. Secondary navigation is obvious Does the Job I Can Help Compsci uses very plain subpages, but it's dead obvious what to click on. On the first two pages I looked at, CIS used two different formats of non-underlined links, one serif and the other sans-serif. Now, I too use non-underlined links, but I keep the scheme stable and use spacing or a bullet to call out the link.
C8. Contact information easily accessible Does the Job Does the Job  
C9. Links are clear Does the Job I Can Help See C7.
C10. Intro panel or animation not excessive State of the Art, a Model for Others State of the Art, a Model for Others Everyone gets at least one blue ribbon. It's politically correct. We don't want to hurt any feelings.
C11. Graphics used only for core message Does the Job Does the Job  
   
1/0/6/2/2/0
1/0/5/4/1/0
 
         
 
Section A:
0/1/5/3/1/1
0/0/4/4/2/1
 
 
B:
0/2/6/3/0/0
0/2/7/2/0/0
 
 
C:
1/0/6/2/2/0
1/0/5/4/1/0
 
 
Grand Totals:
1/3/17/x/x/x
1/2/16/x/x/x
Hey, even a CompSci student can see who won here, but who's counting, right?

 

Summation & Next Steps

Overall Ratings:

CompSci:Strives / Survives / Does the Job Thrives
CIS: Strives / Survives / Does the Job Thrives

Both sites get the job done and should be a great resource for their audience. A common theme with other university sites emerges with the difficulty of balancing two navigational needs: rich categorical depth vs. per-audience searching. Some simple fixes can improve both sites without an architect. CompSci comes off looking very slightly better by our meaningless tally—for sticking to basics—but has a little more work to do, regrouping the main navigation a little and integrating unformatted pages. A tool like Dreamweaver can now retroactively apply templates so some of this can be done in a "single action."

Hope this helps and let me know what you think,
Jack Bellis, UsabilityInstitute.com


Contact me for a This is your FREE usability review! Contact me for help making the corrections.

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