Xanga.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. Xanga.com was chosen as one of the leading (most used) five free hosted online blogging services, along with Blogger, WordPress.com, 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 Premium Xanga, will be used more by other user personas. The scope of this study does not include premium services, such as WordPress.com VIP and Xanga Premium, 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 Xanga.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.
Xanga.com is quite usable with some minor concerns overall, a couple of significant issues and one serious usability flaw.
- 3 average score – minor usability concerns on average.
- The most successful aspect of Xanga.com is the Help which has exemplary usability: supports the user by providing quality help and documentation.
- Xanga.com quite successfully meets usability goals of being effective, efficient, safe to use, easy to learn, easy to remember how to use and having the right information and functionality at the right time (utility). Users will be able to achieve their main tasks and goals blogging with Xanga.com, but less efficiently and effectively than they could if these issues were resolved.
- The overall user experience is rich and positive with a lot of information, features and functionality which will enrich the user’s blogging experience and make them feel positive. It feels positive and pleasurable, the visual design and use of colour will be motivating. Users’ perceptions may be that Xanga.com is quite enjoyable: pleasurable, entertaining, fun, emotionally fulfilling, satisfying, rewarding, desirable and quite Motivating: engaging, exciting, aesthetically pleasing, useful, valuable. They will find Xanga very Helpful: supports creativity, enhances sociability. However although users’ perceptions might be quite positive, in practice they will probably not blog as much, or produce as much content in their blogs, and may therefore have fewer reasons to switch to another blog provider if another provider came along who looked as equally enjoyable to use, but was also easier and more useful to support their blogging goals.
- The most serious concern with Xanga was the serious usability flaw in the site with the prolific use of ‘Xanga-speak’ – internal language used to ‘brand’ commonly understood concepts in a Xanga way, turning commonly understood features and actions into something the user would have to try and interpret in Xanga. The language used for naming and labelling and the overall information architecture in Xanga is not focused on the user, it is very internally Xanga-centric. This will impact on Xanga’s ability to meet all usability goals as users will too often not understand the relevance of a term to the task they are trying to do so won’t find the functions or information they need to successfully and efficiently complete tasks.
Two areas which had significant usability issues were:
- efficient and effective navigation
- designing a simple state space.
The usability issues highlighted within this evaluation indicate how Xanga.com 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, attract more new users, retain more users for longer, increase blogging activities and increase blog content in Xanga.com.
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 see related post usability review of WordPress.com
- Click here to see related post usability review of Blogger
- Click here to see related post usability study of blogs.
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