Usability analysis of the USDA-ARS Ogallala Initiative Web site
Axtell, Shelby L.
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This study tested the usability of the USDA-ARS Ogallala Initiative Web site to determine the external user preferences. Although testing Web sites for usability is still in the developmental stages, Nielsen (2000) says "usability rules the Web" (p. 9). A stratified purposeful sample (n = 49) of county extension agents, agricultural producers, communication professionals, and the general public was tested. A stratified purposeful sample was taken, because Nielsen (2000) and Krug (2000) state how important it is to test the target audience of a site. A usability survey instrument was developed for agricultural and natural resources Web sites by the researcher, based on standards set by Web site usability experts, Nielsen and Krug. The instrument included demographics, as well as 4-point Likert questions pertaining to these categories: general appearance, navigation, efficiency, and content of the site. More than 85% of the participants reported they were satisfied with the USDA-ARS Ogallala Initiative Web site. However, they did indicate a need for contact information and more content. There were no differences among audience responses. Each audience category indicated their needs were being met. The survey instrument yielded a Cronbach’s Alpha of 0.923. The researchers recommend adding the following variables to the survey instrument: age of participants, years in profession, and if participants have Internet in their home or business. The researchers suggest revising and adding content based on reported results for the Ogallala Initiative Web site. Then the site needs to be retested several times over. Future tests should be conducted with live audiences, allowing researchers to observe participants in a natural navigation setting.