Friday, March 25, 2016

Heuristic Analysis of the University of Ottawa Website

BY Vignesh Venkataramanujam

In this report, the heuristic analysis was performed based on the standards and rules introduced by Nielsen and Molich. I have performed a heuristic assessment of the University of Ottawa web-site ( I have reviewed certain parts of web-site's interface, evaluated the interface's ease of use attributes against the rundown of perceived ease of use standards, and found the ease of use issues that were recognized. Evaluations were dissected to deliver the last rundown of mistakes, each positioned by their related seriousness. My discoveries show that even though the outline of the site is tastefully satisfying, a few minor route issues exist that significantly confine the ease of use of the site in general.                                              


Table 1 Five-point rating scale for the severity of usability problems found by heuristic evaluation [1] 

No usability problem
Restorative issue; alter just if additional time is accessible
Minor usability problem; give a low priority to fixing problem
Major usability problem; give a high priority to fixing problem
Catastrophic; fix before product is released

 Website Description

The University of Ottawa site is a place for past, current, and imminent students and contains data related to various university programs. The site is contextually organized into six categories: Programs and Courses, Apply, faculties, Research, Alumni and Support Ottawa.


The Programs and courses section is general towards a variety of programs under a different category, eligibility of that course, some important dates, and the deadline for registration of the courses and timetables.

The Apply section lists the details for eligibility of each course, its deadline for apply and financial details including tuition fees and other costs.

The Faculty section list the details of the faculties in various departments, their contact details and some educational background of the faculties

The Research section gives a broader view of research opportunities available for university students and some important research available in the university of Ottawa.

Additionally, the site provides services for alumni and other interested parties. This includes an alumni section that contains news on past students and research done by former students.

Scope of Evaluation

I have evaluated the university of Ottawa website from student perspective it includes (new joiners and the former students). While evaluation I have considered following pages as they were used frequently by users (students) – Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral studies, Undergraduate Programs, and courses, Infoweb, Support uOttaw pages.


1)         Some of the labels do not make clear sense and do not have a clear explanation. Labels that are not understandable to the user might bring perplexity and unintended results. I have noticed two such instances, which I have listed below. In the first instance, after selecting graduate Programs from Programs and courses it opens Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies page, where you could see a university label will be on the top left corner which is highlighted in figure 1 . When you press the label it takes you to its home page. Explanation popups when the user point of the particular label, but it is given in the French language though we have selected The English language previously. This problem violates ‘Match between system and real world’ heuristics, severity 3 has been given to it.

Figure 1:

In the same page, you could you see one more university label which is highlighted in the below figure 2. Its purpose is to take you to the home page. If the user points the particular label its shows the explanation in the French language same as in the previous case.  

Figure 2:


While using labels try to give the information much clearly about the operation of the particular label

2)     Links to different areas within the site do not follow any of the significant web standards. Links are neither underlined nor blue in color. The only indications that a link exists is when the user moves their mouse over an appropriate area. I have noticed that a page of Undergraduate programs and courses does have links but it has not been highlighted or underlined to distinguish as a link for the ease of users. In the below figure you could see that those links are pointed with red arrow. This problem violates ‘Consistency and Standards’ heuristics, severity 2 has been assigned to it.

 Figure 3:

Differentiate working and non-working links to minimize user confusion

  3)     Display of the menu pattern and color of display varies between the pages, which decreases consistency in the web page. I noticed the above-mentioned variations while comparing Support uOttawa page, Faculty of Postdoctoral studies page and Graduate programs and courses side by side you could clearly see a change in the menu arrangement and color of the display. From below two figures, you can clearly see the differences. This problem violates ‘Consistency and Standards’ heuristics, severity 2 has been assigned to it.

Figure 4:

 Figure 5:


Make the web pages standardized by maintaining same color pattern and menu display.  It makes the user feel that they are on the same website not the other.

 4)     I found “Online and distance learning” link that doesn’t open. This may cause the user to loose trust in the quality of information. If you select Online and distance learning link under programs and courses page it will give you “404 not found Error”. See the below figure. This problem violates ‘User control and freedom’ heuristics, severity 2 has been assigned to it.

Figure 6:


Update all links. Website administrators should update all links to ensure viability. This will increase user confidence and help eliminate a nonexistence bay of execution

5)    One page has redundant operations, noticed two different labels performing the same operations which are present on the same page. I noticed the above-mentioned problem in Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies page. This problem violates ‘Aesthetic and minimal design’ heuristics, severity 2 has been assigned to it.

If you select Master’s from Program and courses it will take you to Faculty of Postdoctoral studies page. In the above-mentioned page, you could see two university labels which are highlighted in the below figure. Those two labels do the same operation of taking to the home page.

Figure 7:


Avoid redundant operation on the same page

 6)      Noticed two instances where I felt inconsistency in using same labels on different pages. In one instance, Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral studies pages university of Ottawa label will take you to the main page refer the figure 2. But if you select Course and exam timetables menu under Programs and Courses on the main page, it will direct to Course and exam timetables page. In that page you could see the same label ‘university of Ottawa’ but it will not take you to the main page, it’s just used as a picture doesn’t take you anywhere.

Figure 8:

Figure 9:

The second instance, in Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral studies page there will be a list of menus arranged side by side. If you click Quick Picks menu it drops down a list of sub menus under that select InfoWeb link takes you to InfoWeb page (see figure 10).

Figure 10:

 In that page, you can see the university label which is highlighted in figure 11. If you click that label it doesn’t take you anywhere but the same label in Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral studies page it takes to the home page. This way it affects consistency in the website. These problems violates ‘Consistency and Standards’ heuristics, severity 2 has been assigned to it.

Figure 11:


Provide the same operation to identical labels that are present in different pages

7)      There is no help documentation for assistance on this web page to clarify the features of the site, severity 2 has been assigned to it.


Provide the help documentation about the website to users. It will be easy to search for the particular problem.


Overall the university of Ottawa website is good and no catastrophic problems were discovered. I have discussed a small number of minor usability problems in University of Ottawa website. I hope the above-mentioned suggestions will be implemented to improve the usability of the site.


[1] - Nielsen, J. (1994). Heuristic evaluation. In Nielsen, J., and Mack, R.L. (Eds.),

Usability Inspection Methods. John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY.

[2] - Kocsis, G. ; Origo Zrt, Budapest, Hungary ; Ekler, P." Analyzing the resource requirements of usage statistics gathering on online newspapers", Nature, 10.1109/CINTI.2012.6496762 (2012)

[3] - Nielsen, J., and Molich, R. (1990). Heuristic evaluation of user interfaces, Proc. ACM CHI'90 Conf. (Seattle, WA, 1-5 April), 249-256.

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