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published: March 2004
analytic scripts updated:
November 7, 2010

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0  License

From Requirements to Usability for Museum Web Sites
Nicoletta Di Blas, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
Paolo Paolini, Politecnico di Milano, Italy

Workshop: Requirements to Usability

The main goal of the workshop is to highlight the relations between requirements and usability during the development process of a website and to provide conceptual tools for eliciting requirements and evaluating a website.

Requirements are supposed to be the cornerstone of any project, and of website development in particular. Eliciting requirements means to understand fully and in detail who are the users, what are the communication and business goals of the website, which information it should provide, which results it should achieve, which constraints should be followed, etc.

According to literature, when requirements are defined, it is possible to proceed to specification, design and implementation. Reality is often different: requirements are vaguely, ambiguously and confusedly understood; emphasis is upon design and implementation, in order to meet the deadline.

The HOC laboratory at the Department of Electronics and Information of Politecnico di Milano, has developed a number of simple, but very effective techniques that can be used in order to improve the process of analysing requirements, understanding and organising them, in order to make them available before specifications and design. Recently TECLAB, a laboratory of the Communication faculty of the University of Italian Switzerland in Lugano, has developed a light-weight and straightforward and notation (AWARE) for helping with graphical representation and refinement of requirements.

The essence of the methods is based upon the following items:

  • Understanding your users (in different segments of the target)
  • Understanding your goals, and the user goals (they are not the same!)
  • Understanding information and functions to be provided
  • Understanding organisation, technical, cultural, and other constraints

Effective requirements analysis is the ground for developing a successful product, but it is also for evaluating the usability of the application. In fact, evaluating a web site means to verify if the site meets the requirements and if it fulfils the goals - including users' goals - defined during requirements analysis. One of the most important aspects of the evaluation is the usability of the site that measures if and how the users can accomplish their goals on the site.

Usability is now worldwide acknowledged to be one of the major issue in building effective Web sites; when it comes to museum Web sites, which are of growing complexity, address several targets, deal with complex content, have different communication goals, this issue becomes crucial. How can we avoid users "getting lost" in the site? How is it possible to improve effectiveness of navigation? What kind of contents shouldn't be missing? How is it possible to know what users will learn from visiting the site?

Not all the usability methods are fully suitable for museum Web sites. Some methods are too "general", so that they don't provide adequate feedback to help the designers fix the identified problems. Some methods are too complicated to be applied directly by the Museum staff. Some methods might lack "reliability" (confidence in the outcome), or be not "efficient" (i.e. too expensive to apply, in comparison with expected benefits). Some methods, finally, may lack the necessary "depth", being limited to superficial features.

The basic motivation of this part of the workshop is, therefore, to provide museum staff with a reliable, powerful and yet easy to use methodology, that can help them into improving the quality and usability of their Web sites.

The objective is to provide the participants with a number of specific results:

  • Understanding of the basic issues related to usability ;
  • Understanding an innovative methodology (MILE) that provides a systematic process for usability evaluation in respect of application requirements;
  • Learning and experimenting directly with two specific "evaluation packages", specifically tailored for Museum Web sites:

    • Evaluation of "Information Architecture and Navigation"
    • Evaluation of "Content-Functions"

  • Acquiring enough information and experience to carry on their own usability evaluation when they will be back at their work place.

Detailed program

9:00-9:30am : Course outline & organization

9:30-10:30am : AWARE -- a goal oriented approach to requirements

10:30-11:00am : coffee break

11:00-11:30am : MUSEUM AWARE: goal mining for museum web sites

11:30am-12:00pm : Goal mining: hands on

12:00-1:00pm : lunch

1:00-2:00pm : MILE:a systematic method for usability evaluation

2:00-3:00pm : MUSEUM MILE

2:30-3:00pm : coffee break

3:00-4.30pm: Usability - hands on

4:30-5:00pm: Discussion & recap