Saturday, July 9, 2011

Measuring Usability: 14 burdens placed on the user

In his recent blog post, Jeff Sauro writes about common and burdensome interaction practices associated with websites and software. Many of them are examples that I've encountered as a user but had never really considered from a usability perspective. I think that to a certain degree I've come to just 'accept' these hassles as part of the experience. I've resigned myself without having realized it.

I think there also may be a bit of professional "oh well, I understand" going on. For instance, in relation to Sauro's #1 gripe, I work at a university and understand the challenges of a user-friendly universal single sign-on across tools and services. So when I'm using my ISU tools I'm only slightly annoyed that my sign-on info is different in some key places that I access frequently.

I can use my ISU username and password to get into WebCT or Blackboard and also CyMail. But I have to use my numeric University ID and a password to get into AccessPlus. And if I want to use the Libraries resources, I've got to have my Borrower ID and a totally separate PIN.

So I understand Sauro's point. And from a user standpoint, I am annoyed. But I also find that, as an IT person, I understand the technical challenges that lead to these decisions and it's not always easy or even possible to make the user experience more effortless.


  1. I enjoyed reading Jeff's 14 burdens. I've been distracted by most of the listed burdens. I didn't think the bank account logins were a burden, but how Jeff puts it makes sense and I can relate to my past experience.

    I also see your point about our separate logins to access our ISU related materials. While AccessPlus is being one, that's because AccessPlus is a third-party app, but that shouldn't matter since ISU Gmail(CyMail) allows users to sign-in with the school ID and password. Single sign-on is important and we can experience this when using google's suite of products that gives us a seamless user experience when going from Gmail to Picasa to Documents to G+ to etc...

  2. Briandy,

    I think you make a great point. Interestingly, I was just in the middle of some research for my second HCI595 project, concerning children with autism, and I had to go through logging into the library with a completely separate set of authentication info (the borrower ID, and PIN).

    Although I'm not so fervent about single sign-on, I do think that parent systems should extend and share log-in amongst their children apps (e.g. in the case of ISU).

    Similarly, at work, a log-in procedure that has bothered me is that of ADP's Pay Portal. It'd be convenient if my desktop log-in (which is also synced to e-mail) would extend to that as well, since I view it as an essential employee tool, much like (unfortunately) Outlook is. Of course, as you say, I think the back-end problems with such integrations are glaring, particularly when legacy systems are involved.

  3. Briandy,
    I couldn't agree more about the sign on for resources at ISU. I also work at a University in the Student Life area dealing with Information Technology. We struggle on a regular basis to discuss "single sign-on". I also see the issues and challenges dealing with single sign-on and the pass thru of user credentials. I see the ability for a user to easily move between applications as “nice to have” but the multiple user credentials makes it very difficult on an end user. The two are very different issues. Like several of you, I have to access all my resources online without the use of a card swipe, and I find the multiple variants of user id’s extremely cumbersome and annoying. I hope that in the future, ISU is looking to make the systems integrate with each other and allow for the use of one ID and password even if they are not truly single sign-on.


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