This chart shows the scores for each area. None reaches even 50% — earning the site an overall grade of "poor" — which demonstrates the need for immediate upgrades.
The Challenge
Even a small website is a complicated beast, with many pages, navigation, forms, and design issues. Evaluating a website in a useful, relatively impartial way can be difficult. How to tell a so-so website from a real stinker? How to tease out where the problem really lies? How to know if the problems are minor or so serious they’re causing business damage below the waterline?
The Solution
The only answer is to evaluate it thoroughly against widely accepted best practices and document exactly where the site excels, where it meets expectations, and where it fails. I’ve done that with a site that has plagued me — I’ve declined to name it here since it’s failed so miserably, but I am sending them the full report since I’m stuck interacting with their terrible website for the foreseeable future. It’s the least an expert reviewer can do.

Context
A case study undertaken to learn expert review techniques. I undertook an unsolicited review of a website to determine its usability based on widely accepted usability heuristics.

Goals
To gain a better understanding of the expert review process and heuristic principles by using them to evaluate an existing website.

Tools Used
Microsoft Excel, Word, and Adobe Illustrator.


Impact of User Centered Design Process
The heuristic principles used for this evaluation are well tested with real users and user tasks were kept at the center of the evaluation. The results were based on a point-by-point evaluation of the site, not on vague reactions or guesses. Without these steps it would have been difficult to be specific and holistic with the evaluation. Since this review was unsolicited, it's difficult to say what impact it would have, but I'm confident that if the recommendations were followed there would be a major impact on the user experience.

It was only after diagramming the site structure that I realized how small the site is. Confusing menus (including one that changes order), lack of navigation cues, and poor copy make it difficult for the user to visualize the structure and their location in it. The three pages at the top right — Error Page, Time Out, and Privacy Policy — are disconnected from the main structure because they are either available from every page (Privacy Policy) or not arrived at from conventional navigation (Error Page and Time Out).

I prepared a 15 page summary report of my findings, including this overall report card. 

Although it is a high-level report, meant to give an overall picture of updates needed and overall usability issues, it includes numerous specific examples pulled from the site, like those shown above, as well as initial recommendations for improvements to be made and next steps (including user testing) to take to bring the site up to standard.

An example of one section of the scoring spreadsheet used to evaluate the site. Each area was evaluated based on a series of criteria (these are the criteria for the home page). Each criterion was given a score of 1 (good) 0 (adequate) or -1 (poor). If the criterion did not apply no score was given.

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