Wednesday, March 21, 2012

IBM Help Support Portal System usability issues

By: Habib Abid

Introduction: IBM Support Portal is the company customer’s gateway to all of their technical support resources. It is an integrated centralized outlook of all technical support tools and information for IBM systems, software and services all over the world.  IBM Support Portal provides new fix packs, software installation, technical resources, documentation, troubleshooting documentation, online service requests, alerts webcasts and diagnostic tools. The users of IBM’s support system want to get quick and quality technical support from the site. IBM’s customers visit the site to get self-assist support for different services such as installing a new fix pack for their products.

Findings of usability issues:

·      The site does not prevent certain errors: In the entry field of the “Find a product” dialogue, the user has to enter the complete input without getting any help from the system to remember the rest of the input.

·    The state and function of the icons are not properly declared: Two usability issues can be identified here. First, in the “Find a product” dialogue, although the list of the products is active, “delete all inactive” button is still not grayed out. Also, a “finish” button is used in this dialogue to save the content before leaving the dialogue; however, users are used to using an “apply” function for saving the content before leaving the dialogue.

·     The site displays a message that does no use user language: when user deletes one product from the list, the system displays feedback with a technical message that is not understandable by the user.

·     Return function is located in different places of the system: When users navigates through different windows in the system, they find the return functions in different places of the windows and in some windows the return function is missing.

·    Too much detail in the system feedback: when the user places the cursor on the exclamation mark to get information about  the “Find a product “ function, the system provide too much detail in a black background.

·      The icons are not located in the same place: In the “Find a product” dialogue, some edit icons are displayed in the end of the product’s name and some are displayed under the product‘s name.

·      No visual feedback about which link the cursor is on now: when the user places the cursor on a link, the link is supposed to be highlighted or underlined to show that this link is selected at this time. However, this feature is available in some places and missing in others.

     Conclusion: when I tried to compare the IBM support portal with another company’s support system such as Cisco, I found a big difference between them in terms of system usability. The IBM support system has a number of usability issues that need to be fixed to be more usable by


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