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.
- LiveJournal was evaluated from the point of view of the Hobbyist Blogger, the persona who fits the scope of this 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.
- LiveJournal was chosen as one of the leading (most used) five free hosted online blogging services, along with WordPress.com, Blogger, Xanga, and TypePad.
- 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 a premium paid-for version, will be used more by other user personas.
- The scope of this study does not include premium services and does not include offline software versions of blogging tools users have to download and host themselves.
- This is a user-centred approach to evaluating the usability of LiveJournal 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 and user experience 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.
- 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.
LiveJournal has significant usability issues.
Average score – 2.3
Best bits – best for design flexibility
- The best aspect of LiveJournal is the freedom it gives users to express their creativity with the fantastic flexibility it offers to change the look and feel of the design of their blog.
- This will be very motivating for these users whose primary motivations to blog are about self-expression, and LiveJournal’s design flexibility will enable users to do that very effectively.
- LiveJournal lets you design your journal style any way you want. There are hundreds of layouts to choose from, each with a wizard to help you customize header, footers, and sidebars.
- This will contribute to a more positive perception in users of their experience of using LiveJournal because this is such a key factor for users.
- LiveJournal was the best blogging platform out of those evaluated at giving users this design and creative flexibility.
However none of the main key factors evaluated had exemplary or good usability. At best LiveJournal has minor usability concerns.
Areas for attention – major usability flaws
There are major usability flaws with the visual presentation of LiveJournal screens:
Visual elements compromise usability
- The homepage does not have an appropriate mix of visual attractors and distractors.
- There are a lot of images and graphics which clutter the screen and are over-used.
- Animation is a distraction.
- Advertising distracts and fills the screen space down the right hand side.
- User profile icons are animated and distract for each post being promoted.
- Visual presentation does not focus on the message, the visual elements which stand out the most on the screen are profile pictures for bloggers and the advertising.
- The image graphic behind the LiveJournal logo at the top adds to more noise.
- The homepage composition has the main navigation bar and user login at the top which is very effective, but it does not concentrate the user on main tasks, instead the main body of the homepage is filled up with Recent Posts by other bloggers and ONTD Oh No They Didn’t – which users may not understand, this is not self-explanatory.
- The overall affect is the user’s short-term memory will be bombarded by all these different visual elements all competing with each other for the user’s attention, and the user will end up having to think much harder to work their way through what is going on.
- The logged-in Homepage is the same as the main LiveJournal public homepage, so has all the issues of the public homepage but is worse because the user will be signed-in with specific goals/ tasks in mind (see stats, write post, manage posts, change blog design etc) which are all hidden behind the main navigation of the blog. The entire homepage for the signed-in user does not focus the user on the main tasks and instead will act as a distraction for the user as every time their first actions will be to go to the navigation bar and have to select the menu items to do the tasks they want to do.
- It is very inefficient.
The design is not a simple state space
- The design is not simple, it does not focus users on the main tasks, there is a lot of information throughout always pushing LiveJournal features and products.
- Despite this the utility of the homepage with the information that is provided does not clearly explain the benefits of LiveJournal and why users should use this in preference to another free online blogging service. It gives a lot of examples of LiveJournal blogs, but does not quickly articulate to users why LiveJournal is better than others or how it works. There is a Take a Tour facility, but this is buried amongst a lot of other information and takes time to find and follow.
- The main homepage is all about LiveJournal content and not about the user. A lot of the issues identified in the previous section with the homepage were about it not being a simple state space.
- The additional pages add complexity which reduce the simple state space – navigation menus have options which appear in some instances to duplicate each other, users will have to think harder to work out which option to select.
- Generally the user has to take too many actions to get from the homepage to complete a task as there are so many pages and the structure is complex.
- Pages are not managed very effectively – they are too long, users have to scroll in every case, because of advertising at the top and down the sides.
- Hypertext navigation does not aid structuring.
- Text is not kept to a minimum. For example on the ‘Post an entry’ screen there are a lot of other links to ‘more ways to post’. This information would be more effective in the blog settings where a user would manage these infrequently, instead of always on a screen which the user will use the most, and they unnecessarily get in the way and clutter up the screen.
- Advertising is very distracting.
- Inconsistent navigation menus add to the complexity of the design. The homepage has two navigation systems across the top, when one would be more simple and effective.
- All of this reduces the efficiency of the site, making it inefficient to use.
Areas for attention – significant issues
- The Homepage does not ensure intuitive access to main user tasks.
- LiveJournal’s structure does not match with user needs, the decomposition of tasks is not evident in the site structure.
- There are significant issues with how it presents a visible system status.
- The user interface does not match the language of users.
- It does not enable effective and efficient navigation.
All of these issues combine to impact on the other areas of LiveJournal’s user interface to result in some minor usability concerns.
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
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