WordPress.com heuristic usability evaluation

wordpress

Wordpress.com

   Click here to download the PDF of the Heuristic Usability Evaluation of free online hosted blogging service WordPress.com 

Introduction 

WordPress.com was evaluated from the point of view of the Hobbyist Blogger, the persona who fits the scope of my research project, as being the dominant user type of blogger (as opposed to Bloggers who may blog for professional or semi-professional reasons) These Hobbyist bloggers blog for personal reasons, motivated by self-expression. WordPress.com was chosen as one of the leading (most used) five free hosted online blogging services, along with Blogger, Xanga, Typepad and Livejournal. This is because this kind of free online hosted service is the type of blogging platform most used by this type of Hobbyist user. Other products, such as WordPress.org, will be used more by other user personas. The scope of this study does not include premium services, such as WordPress.com VIP, and does not include offline software versions of blogging tools users have to download and host themselves, such as WordPress.org. This is a user-centred approach to evaluating the usability of WordPress.com for this profile of users. The methodology is a heuristic evaluation, which is limited as it does not include actual users – it is not a usability test. It is simply an overview of how well the interface would meet usability goals. As such, by not involving actual users, it is limited. However the same methodology has been used consistently throughout the study for all of the free online hosted blogging services being evaluated, and if there is time later in the study will involve actual usability testing involving real users.  

The second half of this study, which is to evaluate the usability of blogs published using these free online hosted blogging services, is involving actual users in summative usability testing.  

Main conclusions: 

WordPress.com is very usable and useful to users with very good usability. 

  • 4.4 average.
  • 6 out of 12 (50%) of the key factors evaluated in the WordPress.com interface had exemplary usability:
  1. Intuitive access to main user tasks;
  2. Decomposition of tasks evident in site structure;
  3. Effective error management;
  4. Matches language with target client group needs;
  5. Efficient and effective navigation;
  6. Facilitates learning.

Best bits: 

The most successful aspect of WordPress.com is the navigation. This underpins successfully meeting a lot of usability goals in WordPress.com. 

WordPress.com successfully meets usability goals of being effective, efficient, safe to use, easy to learn, easy to remember how to use and with excellent utility. Users will be able to achieve their main tasks and goals blogging with WordPress.com. 

Another very successful aspect of the WordPress.com interface is how well it meets user experience goals. The overall user experience is very rich and positive with a lot of information, features and functionality which will enrich the user’s blogging experience and make them feel positive, that WordPress.com is: Enjoyable: pleasurable, entertaining, fun, emotionally fulfilling, satisfying, rewarding, desirable, Motivating: engaging, exciting, aesthetically pleasing, useful, valuable, Helpful: supports creativity, enhances sociability. It works a lot harder to be more than just efficient, effective and useful, the rich user experience will make the tool much more engaging and will create a lot more user advocates who are prepared to recommend WordPress.com. 

Areas for attention: 

One area which has a quite serious concern is around how much control and flexibility users have – or don’t have – especially with the appearance of their blog. This will impact on the primary motivation for Hobbyist Bloggers which is personal self-expression. If self-expression was less critical to the intended user group this would be less of an issue, but because it is so fundamental to meeting the primary needs of why users blog in the first place, this will demotivate and frustrate users to the point of stopping using the tool. WordPress.com is a free online hosted service. In the WordPress portfolio of blogging tools on offer it is not their premium ‘VIP’ WordPress.com, or the WordPress.org product. These cater for more advanced or technically adept users or bloggers who have several years of blogging experience and want something more than the basic WordPress.com offering. Despite offering 93 ‘themes’ or templates to choose from, which is excellent, it is more limiting than other free online hosted blogging tools such as Blogger.com, as it does not enable customisation of those themes, users can’t upload templates or their own CSS, and users can’t change the page layouts or font sizes easily. Users would have to upgrade to VIP WordPress.com or switch to WordPress.org – or another blogging platform. Automattic, the company behind WordPress, may believe that they’d be giving the crown jewels away by providing further flexibility to users to modify the appearance of their blogs, which is a key reason for upgrading, but I would suggest this is also a key reason for users either not choosing WordPress.com or switching from it to another provider. WordPress explain that their reasons for not offering greater customisation is due to security, and this may be the case, but to the end-user the obvious question is why other online hosted blogging services, such as Blogger.com, do offer greater flexibility and scope for users to control the design of their blog. 

Another area of some concern was the simple state space due to the apparent complexity of the dashboard which will impact most on users’ first impression when they start using the tool, this will impact on the learnability and create an early barrier to use. If users get beyond this and persevere for no more than about 1 hour, this issue will become a non-issue due to the high levels of learnability and memorability within the tool’s interface. Due to the high levels of safety users will feel confident to explore and try things out, which is why this is only a minor concern and not a major issue. 

The usability issues highlighted within this evaluation indicate how this could be improved and point towards recommendations for further redesign. Improvements would improve the effectiveness, efficiency, safety and learnability of the application. Improving these would improve overall usage and ability to retain users. 

NB – Scoring is measured as: 

0 usability catastrophe
1 serious usability flaws
2 significant issues
3 minor concerns
4 generally usable
5 exemplar for usability 

Click here to download the PDF of the Heuristic Usability Evaluation of free online hosted blogging service WordPress.com

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4 Responses to WordPress.com heuristic usability evaluation

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