5 Usability and accessibility
The word usability has cropped up a few times already in this course. In the context of biometric identification, usability referred to the smoothness of enrolment and other tasks associated with setting up an identification system. A system that produced few false matches during enrolment of applicants was described as usable.
Another meaning of usability is related to the ease of use of an interface. Although this meaning of the term is often used in the context of computer interfaces, there is no reason to confine it to computers. The concept of usability applies equally well to the design of tools and implements, or to noticeboards, for example Figure 11.
Activity 25 (exploratory)
How would you rate the usability of the noticeboard in Figure 11? If you think it would not be easy to use, what is the cause of the problem or problems?
When I came across this sign, I was puzzled for a while, so I did not rate its usability very highly.
All the distances are on the right of the board and aligned. It makes for a consistent style of presentation, so that distances can always be found on the same part of the board (there were other noticeboards like this one in the park). From that point of view the board conforms to generally accepted principles of 'good design'. However, as a user, my first impression was that the right-hand side of the board related to things to the right of the sign, and the left-hand side of the board related to things to the left of the sign. The arrows seemed to support this view (especially the puzzling second line of the board, which has arrows in both directions).
In the context of e-government, usability is of particular concern because the public is unlikely to adopt the new systems of delivery of services if they are difficult to use.