Our online presence is arguably our most robust project component, designed to be both an academic showcase as well as an online resource. In designing our website, inearheadphones.wordpress.com, usability was key in determining what to include on the website and how to organize the information.
It was decided early on that the site should act more like a website, as opposed to a blog. Key design considerations were made in order to reinforce the attributes of a website. These include: the absence of comments in order to make posts “timeless”; downplaying the reverse-chronological blog format by positioning all posts and a sticky “History” post “above the fold”; utilizing social media platforms like Twitter in order to connect the content with those who seek it and with industry organizations, as well as including sharing buttons on content pages; writing posts that inform readers of in-ear headphones, from its history, to its market, to its current consumer offerings (these posts also served as a “warm-up” for further academic research); presenting the site as credible by including both the Georgetown University and the Communication, Culture & Technology seals; including a casual “Polls” page in order to foment reader engagement; providing tags to communicate content themes; providing an “Updates” page so readers can track the project’s status; and formatting the website for iPad optimization.
Moreover, our main navigation bar just below the header is organized into two categories: main project deliverables (on the left) and ancillary project components (on the right). By doing so, readers know what is primarily important (the “meat and bones” of the project), and what is secondary. In order to differentiate between the two, and working within WordPress’ limited customizable options, the ancillary categories feature a “ / ” before page titles. We think this design choice works well. Moreover, the “below the fold section” has been formatted to reduce the original blog aesthetic by reducing the number of posts to just two as well as featuring hotlinked images on the left that act as resources. We are proud of our website both for the quality of content it presents and for its depth and breadth of presentation. We intend for the site to live on at the project’s conclusion, fulfilling its purpose as a resource for any casual visitor looking to learn more about in-ear headphones. We continue to actively make our website findable through search engine optimization, such as embedding our content on other sites, linking our web address on related websites, as well as other strategies.
The website user interface design strategy implemented the effective use of Jakob Nielsen’s recommended criteria for usability heuristic analysis and production. The focal point of this strategy is to promote usability in order to enhance a website user’s experience when interacting with its interface. There are several factors of usability that affect this experience: ease of learning, efficiency of use, memorability, error frequency and severity, and subjective satisfaction. Our website has a high efficiency of use because it is easy to navigate, as outlined previously. Furthermore, the scale of memorability measures how efficient the design is by the user’s ability to remember and effectively use the system when they are forced to start over. Because our website does not feature deep pages-within-pages, users can always find their way around. In fact, every page features its link in the top menu bar no matter what page or post someone is viewing. As such, our website inherently features low error frequency and severity. Finally, subjective satisfaction measures arguably the most important factor, how much a user enjoys using the system or interface. And we think users are very satisfied with out site’s design and usability, for its intuitive navigability, clean design and robust content.