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84 Seiten, Note: 70%
1.1 RESEARCH QUESTION & OBJECTIVES
1.2 PRESENTATION AND OVERVIEW OF THE COMPANY
1.2.1 Who is going to benefit from this research?
1.2.2 Expected outcome
2 LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 ORIGIN OF USABILITY
2.2 DEFINING USABILITY FOR THIS RESEARCH
2.3 IMPORTANT USABILITY CRITERIA
2.4 THE EMERGE OF E-TOURISM
3.1 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.2 USABILITY-TESTING METHOD
3.3 SAMPLE & INTERVIEW PROCEDURE
4 ANALYSIS & RESULTS
4.1 STEP 0 - HOME
4.2 STEP 1 - SEARCH
4.3 STEP 2 - RESULTS
4.4 STEP 3 - DETAILS
4.5 STEP 4 - DATA INPUT
4.6 HOW DID PARTICIPANTS PERCEIVE TISCOVER’S WEBSITE?
4.7 ANSWER TO THE RESEARCH QUESTION
5 CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
INDEX OF TABLES
TABLE 1 TISCOVER FACTS AND FIGURES (WWW.TISCOVER.COM)
TABLE 2 PROS & CONS OF TISCOVER’S WEBSITE
TABLE OF FIGURES
FIGURE 1 WHY YOU ONLY NEED TO TEST WITH 5 USERS (WWW.USEIT.COM)
FIGURE 2 STEP MODEL OF INDUCTIVE CATEGORY DEVELOPMENT (MAYRING, 2000)
FIGURE 3 HOMEPAGE (WWW.TISCOVER.COM)
FIGURE 4 DIFFERENT WEBSITE WHEN SELECTING SCOTLAND (WWW.VISITSCOTLAND.COM)
FIGURE 5 DIFFERENT CALENDAR LAYOUTS (WWW.TISOCVER.COM)
FIGURE 6 INFORMATION ICON (WWW.TISCOVER.COM)
FIGURE 7 NO PERSONALISATION FOR STEP 3 (WWW.TISCOVER.COM)
FIGURE 8 ESSENTIAL USABILITY FEATURES
Today the question is not “Where can I find the next travel agency to book my vacation” but “Tell me a good online travel website to book the trip myself”. A new type of user has emerged, that can act as an own travel agent and build a personalized travel package (Werthner and Ricci, 2004).
The use of the Internet has proliferated tremendously since its first commercial application in 1994. Today, almost any company is seeking to set up its own e- commerce website to benefit from this additional sales channel and gain new potential customers from the virtual marketplace (Dutta et al., 1998).
Purchasing over the Internet is an increasingly growing form of shopping and leaves behind the traditional ways of retailing (Levy and Weitz, 2001). Especially the hospitality and tourism industry has been the most affected industry by the e- commerce trend. The reason is because the hospitality and tourism sector depends very much on the distribution of information about its products and services and this is what the Internet is about. Airlines, car rental firms and hotels can reach their customers directly, bypassing a third-party agency and therefore save commission fees (Zhou, 2004).
The emerge of e-tourism has gained incredible importance. The annual growth in Europe has reached 50% in both 2003 and 2004 and it is continuing to grow strongly (Longhi, 2008).
The decision-making process for potential consumers on tourism websites is a critical aspect before their departure. Tourism research has proven “that although travellers make many different kinds of decisions, “central decisions are made at the beginning of travel planning and usually hard to change. In this sense, the attractiveness of tourism websites has an important impact on travellers’ choices (Zhou and DeSanti, 2005).”
Usability is a decisive part of the website attractiveness; it describes how easy it is for people to understand and utilize a website in order to accomplish their intentions as quickly and easy as possible (Tarafdar and Zhang, 2005). Usability is a concept of the human-computer-interaction (HCI) whose primary premise is to design information systems with features and characteristics in order to let users interact with the systems without difficulties (Shneiderman, 1998).
For B2C (business-to-consumer) operations it is an important factor to retain and attract new customers over the website since it is proven that a lot of consumers who intend to purchase something on the Internet abandon the website due to process breakdowns or navigational problems (The Boston Consulting Group, 2000). Although travelling has become commonplace in today’s consumer society it is very surprising that companies still have not found a standardised way to improve the usability of tourism websites.
Research confirms that many tourism websites are designed with poor usability, i.e. weak functions, hard-to-use content, inaccessibility etc. Radosevich (1999) states that “trip planning on the web is a frustrating experience.”
Tourism companies often miss out that good website usability can increase sales volume and improve reputation (Law and Leung, 2002). Gianforte (2004) says that improving customer experience of website use can raise sales by at least 33%. This paper aims to emphasise on the essential usability criteria of e-tourism websites and to demonstrate the neglect as well from companies as from researchers on this relevant topic.
A lot of interest about this topic has arisen since tourism used to be a previous career of the author and it was observed that e-tourism is becoming more and more important. Since usability is a critical aspect of e-tourism websites the author decided to analyses an e-tourism website in particular. Tiscover, a leading provider of marketing and technology solutions for the tourism industry and a portal for travel information and bookings was chosen for this research. For a brief overview of the company please refer to the following chapter. This research is only going to focus on the tourism portal.
The aim is to find usability problems from participants involved in this research and suggest possibilities how to improve their website in regard to the usability features. Not only should they be recommended to Tiscover but also to similar online travel portals. One objective is to gain a clear insight into the current status of the company’s website. another objective is to find the right users who will be responsible for detecting the problems and thereby apply the best suitable method to achieve it. In this case a qualitative approach has been chosen to support the objectives where questions such as “Who is the information for and who will use the finding of the evaluation”, “What kinds of information is needed” have to be considered.
With the conducted interviews it is intended to demonstrate the relevance of usability criteria that play a major role to users during the decision-making process when accessing a website and consider making a booking. Therefore the following research question was formulated:
How should Tiscover design its usability features in order to optimize the booking process?
Based on the empirical research of the author it is consequently intended to give general recommendations regarding usability for e-tourism websites.
Tiscover, with its headquarter based in Innsbruck (Tyrol, Austria) and founded in 1991 as TIS GmbH (abbr. for limited company) developed the first e-tourism information system in Austria. 1995 TIS@WEB was released and turned into one of first worldwide travel websites. After several commercial alliances with international partners, Tiscover was founded as a public company in 2000 and successor of TIS ltd. Today Tiscover runs travel portals in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy UK and South Africa. The company is well known for the development and supervision of online travel portals, for international destinations such as Scotland, Montenegro and/ or regional ones. Today, Tiscover counts with over 80 employees and 40 freelancers plus 3 subsidiaries in Germany, Italy and the UK.
According to an article of the “travel daily news” (www.traveldailynews.com) Tiscover acquired 26% of an online reservations platform “NetHotels.com” which strengthened the company’s overall position at the head of the e-tourism marketplace. NetHotels distributes over 35,000 hotels online, through hundreds of affiliate sites and call centres and through its own website.
It was traced back that Tiscover received 405 billion page views in 2006 and counts now to one of the top tourism portals. Their portfolio includes more than 2.000 regions and 22.000 tourism companies. In the same year it reached over 1,3 billion inquires and bookings from all over the world.
The company ranks among the most visited internet portals when leisure and travelling is concerned. Since their numbers are constantly increasing Tiscover ]has become an interesting platform for tourism providers and advertisers.
Analysing the company’s statistical facts and figures the following observation were made:
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Table 1 Tiscover Facts and Figures (www.tiscover.com)
There has been a great increase regarding the page views between the years 2000 and 2007 but the figures concerning the online booking process only grew in a paltry amount between 2000 and 2007.
This was a motivating impulse to focus mainly on the booking process of the company Tiscover and search for plausible reasons that have contributed to this minimal increase in bookings compared to the triple increase in page views.
This research considers the importance of e-tourism and its usability based on a chosen online travel portal, Tiscover. There is a personal aim to satisfy the curiosity about these two major topics and additionally narrow down the amplitude of the e- tourism field in order to focus more extensively on one specific website. With the concentration of a particular company whose origin is the same as the author’s it will not only benefit the author who intends to broaden her horizon that in regard to this research but also the company who can accept these findings and be able to implement them to enhance their current website status to increase their sales channel.
The company that was chosen for this research provides rich data due to their corporate information and reputation mentioned above. From their statistics we could extract figures about their online booking process which demonstrates only a small increase in 2007. With the answers gained from the interviewees about the webpage that later on was analysed qualitatively it is intended to receive clarity from their comments and opinions. It should outline how day-to-day users perceive the portal, why the feel like they feel and what they would suggest instead. Additionally it should give readers the chance to get an idea of how usability has evolved, from its origin till now and why e-tourism has come into play.
The ensuing analysis promises interesting insight why there has been a slow growth in Tiscover’s sales in the past seven years and expects to offer a profound homepage analysis, solutions for valuable usability criteria and useful recommendations not only for the company but for online travel portals in general.
In this section the author will provide an overview of the most important and relevant literature in regard to web usability and e-tourism. It is intended to deliver a plausible rationale which will be justified later on in the analysis.
The term usability has gained great interest in the past years, especially in connection with Information and Communication technologies (ICT) and due to the expansion of personal computers in general. The concept of usability is also applicable in other technical areas like the construction and machine building. Commercial trading is shifting more and more into the virtual world of e-commerce and the world would be unthinkable today without personal computers and the Internet. Therefore we require a more profound knowledge of how these systems can work more efficiently and effective (Silge, 2002).
The term usability is a key theme of the human-computer-interaction (HCI). The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM, 2002) gives the following definition of HCI:
"Human-computer interaction is a discipline concerned with the design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use and with the study of major phenomena surrounding them."
HCI deals with the design, the development and the implementation of interactive computer systems for human applications.
The roots of that science reach back to the 19th century and the development of machines for complex purposes. These machines were designed in a useable way so human-beings could work with them e.g. steam locomotive.
The actual science of HCI only emerged in the mid 80ies of the 20th century during the distribution of large numbers of PC’s when before computers where mainly large data processors for scientific research. These personal computers for the first time focused especially on the interaction between human-beings and computers. This interaction takes place over the user interface where computers and human-beings interchange data and information (What is com, 2002).
The term user interface is, under an ergonomic point of view, known as “user centred design” (UCD) (Mühling, 2002). It is characterized by: “the active involvement of users and a clear understanding of user and task requirements; an appropriate allocation of function between users and technology; the iteration of design solutions; multi- disciplinary design." - ISO 13407 (Anonymous, 2006)
Theo Mandel (1997) mentions three important rules that are essential for the user interface design that focus mainly on the users:
“Place users in control, reduce users ’ memory load and make the interface resistant ”
Parts of the user centred design deal with navigation design and page design. Some psychological criteria like the consideration of the user language, clear and logical buttons, matching colours etc. also flow into this description. These criteria though are seen in connection with the graphical design (Hackos and Redish, 1999).
The UCD does not cover all aspects of the user-focussing; criteria such as quality, content adequacy for target groups, and design for interactive functionality are not assigned to the UCD concept.
And this is where usability comes into play. However, it took quite some time till usability was fully appreciated because it was put on the same level as software- ergonomics. Because of this equalisation usability was likely to be seen as part of the “TÜV” (short for Technical Monitoring Association - a German organization that validates the safety of products) (TUV.com) and not as part of the software development and therefore utilized as a “watchdog” rather than a medium for designimprovement (Manhartsberger and Musil, 2001).
One convincing aspect for complete acceptance for usability was due to the increased revenue in business companies. Half of the e-commerce transactions failed because of poor software usability (Haupt, 2000b).
There are many discrepancies between authors who have tried to define the major usability characteristics through design principles (Nielsen, 2002), guidelines (Microsoft Usability Guidelines), parameters (Nielson, 2000), determinants (Turban and Gehrke, 2000) etc. Usability is difficult to analyse since it depends on the systems and its users. There are experienced and novice users with different know-how therefore it is not easy to design a system to cover everyone’s needs (Huang, 2002). However, we will be walking through these different principles later.
There is a need to find a definition for website usability, its importance and purpose for this specific research.
Usability has been defined as “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of user." - ISO 9241-11 (Anonymous, 2006).
Jakob Nielsen (www.useit.com), an expert of web page usability, defines usability as a “quality attribute” that assesses how easy a user-interface is to use. Usability is also a method for enhancing the ease-of-use during the design process. Nielsen classifies it into five quality components:
- Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
- Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
- Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency? - Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
- Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?
The International Organisation for Standardisation (1998) defines usability as “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction.”
Thomas Powell describes (2000) web usability as giving the user the chance to “manipulate” the website’s features in order to accomplish a certain goal. The targeted customers assess usability for simplicity, understandability and ease of use.
For this research the author has been evaluating the various definitions and found Steve Krug’s (2006) version as the most matching one:
“Don’t make me think!”
Krug considers this statement as a “law of usability.” A webpage should be self- explanatory, self-evident, where users should not spend much time in figuring out what it is about and be able to use the site without difficulties. Online users are in most cases overloaded with information and irritated when trying to accomplish certain tasks (Tarafdar and Zhang, 2005). This argues for Krug’s statement namely to provide users with guidance when they access a website and try to keep everything clear and easy.
Relating this to the topic of e-tourism this would mean the following: if somebody intends to make a booking online he/ she is only going to be prepared to do so if the website will be - in his/ her eyes - easy to use and not asking requiring to spend too much effort during the search process. It is fact that holiday seekers who intend to book online need to go through a lot of sites when searching how to spend their precious days off. Websites require that they memorise what they have seen and filter everything that seems essential to them. An online travel user is open to complete a booking by accepting what is said and offered on a certain website. The website should gain users’ trust and provide them with the right information. The goal is that users are able to complete a transaction positively and efficiently without agonising over “how” to achieve this goal.
Therefore e-tourism websites should be designed according to certain usability criteria to make the booking process less complicated and therefore elevate the number of returning users and completed bookings.
As mentioned before usability has received attention in the human-computer interaction literature as well as in web-based usability research. There are different frameworks within which usability can be investigated.
Prior to the use of the world wide web (www) usability of information systems and usability engineering generally was equal to a set of principles and common practices in order to insure that usability was an outcome of system design (Nielsen 1993, Pearrow 2000, Shneidermann 1998).
Nielsen (1993) defined a set of design principles where he articulated five key elements:
- Consistency (unified placement of navigational tools e.g. buttons and bars)
- Response time (speed of the system that responds to a user activity)
- Mapping and metaphors (navigation from place to place within the system and the insertion of certain metaphors e.g. shopping carts)
- Interaction styles (generated system messages in response to user activity)
- Multimedia & audiovisual (incorporation of multimedia into the system design)
Due to the extensive use of the World Wide Web (www), usability research concentrated more on extending the basic usability principles into the web environment. Nielsen (2000) and Shneiderman (1993) broadened these principles for the web and concluded four usability parameters, i.e. (1) navigation, (2) response-time, (3) credibility and (4) content. According to Nielsen (2000) the web is a navigational system. A typical user interaction is to click from one link to another in order to move around an immense information space. Since the information space is too huge, it is necessary to provide users with navigational support and to answer three fundamental questions: Where am I? Where have I been? Where can I go? Response time is an important criterion to users. The basic advice on response time has not changed since 1968 where Robert Miller presented a classic paper on the topic at the Fall Joint Computer Conference: ten seconds is the limit for keeping the user’s attention focused on the dialogue; for longer delays users tend to change tasks.
It is difficult to consider a website reliable, therefore it is a substantial goal to establish your credibility as a professional company. Nielsen (useit.com) states that good visual appearance is a major opportunity for establishing credibility since it is the first thing a user sees when entering a website. The homepage for instance can also be defined as the gateway to your business. If it does not show what users can do or why they should stay at the site it is quite certain that they will abandon the site. Clear content design affects the core user experience because users scan headlines and texts first. It is important to present the content and catching the reader’s attention.
According to Turban and Gehrke (2000) it is difficult for web designers to determine the most important usability factors which facilitate its usage for potential users. Therefore they analysed the opinion of experts and (e-commerce) users to find the perceived priorities of these factors. Variables were classified into five major categories: page loading, business content, navigation efficiency, marketing/ customer focus and security.
The study revealed a ranking where experts and users rated these categories completely differently e.g. security was rated least important by experts and most important by users. Page loading was rated least important to consumers while it received average rating by the experts.
We can summarize that there is a need for a total customer orientation in web design by prioritising the users’ needs rather than aspiring the position of experts/ managers who often do not have the detailed insight of users’ behaviour.
Agarwal and Venkatesh (2002) use the Microsoft Usability Guidelines (MUG) to work out other important usability aspects. They state that a measure of usability should not only provide a website with a global rating but also highlight specific strengths and weaknesses associated with the web design. MUG are organised around five major categories: content, ease of use, promotion, made-for-the medium and emotion. These categories were applied on four industries (airlines, bookstores, auto manufacturers and car rental agencies) in order to evaluate important usability-related aspects of these websites. Additionally a close study by Keeker (1997) found out that five categories can be split up further into subcategories i.e. dimensions. These provide a greater depth and coverage for the definition of usability. The five major categories and their dimensions have been outlined as follows:
- Content (covers the informational and transactional capabilities of a website). It consists of four subcategories:
- Relevance (adequacy of the content to the main users)
- Media use (appropriate use of multimedia use)
- Depth and breadth (overview of appropriate amount of topics)
- Current and timely information (examining whether the website’s content is up to date)
- Ease of use (associated with the cognitive effort when using a website). In MUG ease of use covers three subcategories:
- Goals (clear and understandable objectives)
- Structure (the way a site is organised)
- Feedback (how a website offers information concerning progress to the user)
- Promotion (how a website handles its advertising on the Internet and other media). Promotion is not broken down into subcategories. For managers and investors especially it is nevertheless an important aspect since it drives traffic to the site. The user itself is less affected by this category.
- Made for the medium (designing a website to fit a particular user’s needs i.e. customisation and personalisation). Content should be dynamic rather than static, tailored to the unique needs of a specific user (Peppers and Rogers, 1999). Suggested subcategories are:
- Community (gathering together various users to be part of an online group)
- Personalisation (technology-oriented customisation of a website)
- Refinement (the importance given to current trends)
- Emotion (affective reactions invoked by a website). There are four subcategories related to emotion:
- Challenge (degree of difficulty in respect of accomplishment)
- Plot (how the website produces a user’s interest)
- Character strength (credibility offered by the website)
- Pace (how the site provides a user to manage the flow of information)
Agarwal and Venkatesh’s (2002) goal was to develop a metric and procedure to define the quality of an organisation’s website. Usability according to their point of view is a fundamental component for a website of the total user experience. Through field application they conceived detailed insight into specific aspects of web design for different kind of users across different types of industries. Their conclusion is that managers and firms who constantly need to evaluate their investments can do so by using usability as a metric for the design of their website and a procedure for operationalising its use. Unlike all previously mentioned studies Green and Pearson’s (2006, 2007) are one of the few researchers who consider content not as an essential criterion of website usability but rather to be part of usefulness. They determined the importance of navigation, customisation and personalisation, download speed, accessibility and ease of use.
We can see that researchers, who have investigated usability in depth, have come to different conclusions by analysing and evaluating various usability criteria with different outcome and importance.
For this empirical study the author has found that content is an essential criterion for web usability due to the importance of the information choice in e-tourism and the statements of the interviewees.
In the last few decades information and communication technologies (ICT) have drastically changed the way business is being done (Porter 1995, 2001). The tourism and hospitality industry has been especially affected by these changes, particularly the way their products and services are distributed (Fesenmaier, et al. 2000 ).
The impact of the Internet includes almost any aspect of the travel and hospitality industry, from information distribution and marketing to travel and hospitality product and service purchase. With the constant development of new technologies that are introduced into the market it offers new opportunities for hospitality and tourism e- commerce (Zhou, 2004). The Internet has changed the traditional situation of how tourism products and services are distributed together with a parallel change of the consumer behaviour and attitude (Buhalis and Licata, 2001). Tourism is considered “as the most important economic sector of the e-commerce activity (Longhi, 2008).”
Statistically e-tourism forms 30% of the activity in tourism in the USA and 7% in France accounting for 50% of the overall e-commerce transactions can be led back to tourism. In Europe the annual growth of e-tourism has gained 50% both in 2003 and 2004 and is continuing to grow strongly. Interestingly the tourism industry seems to constantly be growing in spite of all the political or natural hazards that happen around the globe. This is due to the convenience of an unlimited information space and 24/7 service (Zhou, 2004).
According to Mike Teasdale, Planning Director at Harvest Digital (www.e- consultancy.com ) “the Internet has always had a special affinity with the travel industry […] Obviously offline media still has a vital role to play in the marketing mix, but once an online consumer is interested in a specific destination or holiday, they use the Internet to research and buy.”
According to Rastrollo and Alarcon (2000) tourist information has become the most popular and frequently visited information on the Internet. It is information that sooner or later everybody will need. “Information is a basic aspect of the product of the tourist industry, and the use of ICT has been at the core of the way it has been structured in the last few years.” It is an essential criterion to online travel users to book their holidays based on recommendations from friends or other online travel bookers. Their opinion, what they have experienced during their vacation, means a lot to them. Such “recommendation websites” have gained a lot of importance nowadays where users post tips and recommendations about good places to go e.g. TripAdvisor.com (www.e- consultancy.com)
In respect to this research, content is obviously an essential criterion for assessing web usability.
Although functionalities of tourism websites have been drastically improved, the usability of these websites remains a problem (Pan and Fesenmaier, 2000). Not only do travellers have trouble finding the right information they are looking for as the amount of online travel information keeps increasing, but also the Internet navigation requires different skills (Frew and Hitz, 2003). As mentioned before:” trip planning on the web is a frustrating experience” (Radosevich and Stoltz, 1999). The usability problems that occur during the process of online-tourism-information search may also be connected to the travellers’ background knowledge and individual demand (Pan, 2003).
Summarizing on what has been mentioned above the following can be concluded: little research has been done on e-tourism and website usability. Degen and Pedell (2003) are one of the few who investigated some design factors that could be parameters for the interface design. These factors are content, function, layout, linkage, wording and media that will partly be considered for this research. Hence, the author found this to be an opportunity to investigate these two alpha aspects connected with the Internet and observe essential usability criteria that are indispensable for users on e-tourism websites.
In the previous chapters the various existing definitions and criteria of web usability were presented as well as an introduction to and the current status of e-tourism. In this third chapter the research methodology, the usability testing method - where users are asked to think aloud - and the interview procedure will be described.
The main goal of this study, with respect to the research question, is to shed light on the key criteria of web usability based on the website Tiscover and to draw further conclusions with the results for other e-tourism websites. The website was chosen due to its Austrian origin and the convenient collaboration together with the author.
Although the company was showing great interest for the author’s research no sensitive data was provided to analyse the company in depth.
For this research, both quantitative and qualitative are possible approaches to obtain certain results. Whereas quantitative researches involve large-scale sets of data, adopts an objective position and is outcome-oriented a qualitative approach has been chosen. This is primary due to the objectives and the research question that imply a concern with understanding the behaviour from “actors”, a non-numeric data collection and a focus on details from a small number of people. Another reason for a qualitative approach over a quantitative one is that the study reveals an explorative investigation with the purpose to learn from participants, their point of view and the way they interpret what they have experienced in depth (Blaxter et al., 2006). Participants are asked to think aloud, what they opine about the given task(s) in order to monitor and analyse the problem solving-process. The think aloud method during problem-solving means that the participant keeps on talking, speaks out loud whatever thoughts come to mind, while performing the task at hand. Participants are encouraged to inform the experimenter about concurrent thoughts and avoid interpretation or explanation of what he or she is doing; one should only concentrate on the task (Someren et al., 1994). Since there is a lot of data obtained from each individual, think aloud interviews are normally conducted with small samples of participants. This method is often analysed quantitatively but also coded qualitatively in order to gain more information- rich data (Hill & Hannifin, 1997).
The interviews themselves were semi-structured and conducted face-to-face. Semistructured interviewing starts with more general questions or topics. Not all questions are designed and phrased in advance. The majority of questions are created during the interview, allowing both the interviewer and the person being interviewed the flexibility to probe for details or discuss issues.
As a common approach in qualitative research a “purposeful sampling” was chosen rather than a “random sampling” where the researcher has carefully selected the participants in respect to specific criteria in order to gain essential data for this research. Potential participants are those who are familiar with the object of research, able to reflect about it and open to invest time and willingness to provide assistance during the study (Morse and Richards, 2002). And last but not least:” qualitative data are sexy” (Miles and Huberman, 1994) as they are a fruitful and rich source to analyse and describe social phenomena.
Before the website analysis could commence, great attention has been paid to the various methods that can be chosen.
There are different approaches how to evaluate a website such as the heuristic evaluation (Nielson, 1993) which requires usability experts or evaluators with good experience who are familiar with the subject and likely to detect as many problems as possible. The problem with this method is that the errors found may improve parts of the design but overlook other relevant usability issues (Lecerof and Paternó, 1998). Another approach is usability-testing (Dumas and Redish, 1994) where users try to accomplish a specific task while their behaviour is being observed. The users are being shown a website, a prototype of a site or some sketches of single pages and asked to either figure out the purpose or use the site to do a typical task. Steve Krug (2006) used to describe usability-testing:
“The best way to think about testing was that it was like travel: a broadening experience. It reminds you how different-and the same- people are, and gives you a fresh perspective on things. “
Usability-testing has also been chosen for this research since it is the best way to “diagnose problems” in combination with the think aloud method (Dumas and Redish, 1994). Testing is an iterative process that should be applied more than once in order to explore if the problems found were successfully solved.
The primary goal of usability-testing is to improve the usability of the product or service. Within the general goal there are more specific goals, i.e. concerns. In case of this research a concern is that users/ participants should outline issues or problems during the booking process that lack on the website Tiscover in order to define specific usability criteria. The behaviour of users, what they say and how they react, should be observed and recorded. Once the data has been analysed, the problems should be addressed finally recommendations for solving them can be produced.
The question how many participants to include in such test has received various answers. Nielsen and Landauer (1993) for instance suggest that five users are more than enough for usability-testing. In their chart we can see that the data collected from the first user covers almost one third of all there is to know about the usability aspects of the design. !
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Figure 1 Why You Only Need to Test with 5 Users (www.useit.com)
When the testing starts with the second user most of what has been discovered by the first one will overlap, but logically all people are different so there will be also some new issues added by the second person. This is imperative to the third, fourth and all the users that follow. The more users you add the less you learn, “After the fifth user, you are wasting your time by observing the same findings repeatedly but not learning much new” (Nielsen and Landauer, 1993). The graph indicates that testing should be done with 15 users but Nielsen recommends that user testing is more effective if run via multiple tests e.g. three tests with five users each.
Who are the best participants for a usability-test? Krug (2006) breaks the secret stating that “it doesn’t much matter who you test, […] all you really need are people who used the web enough to know the basics.” In the case of Tiscover there is no “clear defined” target audience, it is for any kind of online travel user who is interested in either searching simply for information about accommodation or planning and booking a trip to one of the offered destinations on their website. Hence the author chose holiday- seekers between 25 and 35 years, keen to book online and willing to participate in the study.
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