Assignment 3

Dale Markowitz
Raymond Zhong
Amy Zhou
Joshua Prager
Daniel Chyan

What were the most severe problems with the app/site?
How do these problems fit into Nielsen’s heuristic categories? What are some suggestions to fix the UI, and how do your proposed changes relate to the heuristic categories?

One of the most egregious problems we found with Blackboard was its lack of naming conventions in the folders containing documents.  For example, while Blackboard has an e-reserves tab, a course materials tab, and a syllabus tab, we have known professors to interpret these tabs completely inconsistently (syllabus in course materials folder, etc). This makes our ability to find relevant course material extremely difficult. We believe this violates H4, consistency and standards. We also found that H1. Visibility of System Status was violated. Particularly, students cannot tell when important course material is updated, and we found an update about Blackboard going down 7 days ago still listed on the site.  Finally, we found H8. Noise to Signal ratio to be violated, as the home page was covered in somewhat irrelevant information and tools. For example, a good section of the home page is taken up by a side panel telling users how to use Blackboard, which really should be encapsulated in the “Help” tab since it is rarely used.


H1 (Visibility of system status) gave us a better way to think about the top-down interface of Blackboard, starting from the front page. It made it obvious that there is a usability problem when students do not know the latest news, grades, or assignments in their courses.

H6 (Recognition rather than recall) exposed usability problems that would have been easy to gloss over after using Blackboard for multiple years. We noticed that recognition is difficult while using the Tools page (icons are nondescriptive, page is overfull, etc.) to access grades or send email. The heuristic also made it easier to observe when information was not exposed in previews, forcing students to recall the contents of a document with a given title, rather than recognizing it visually or through an excerpt.

One usability issue encountered was the presence of red herrings that linked to unhelpful pages. For example, clicking on the “Courses” tab leads to a page that contains all courses ever taken rather than a page of current courses. In addition, the prominent top Princeton logo links to the contextually unhelpful Princeton website rather than the landing page for Blackboard.

How does a physical book violate Nielsen’s guidelines for usability. Use a hardbound copy of Harry Potter as an example.

Joshua Prager’s Evaluation

Dale Markowitz’s Evaluation

Daniel Chyan’s Evaluation

Amy Zhou’s Evaluation (typed from a phone, so please excuse copious typos)

Raymond Zhong’s Evaluation