Today was the first session of the Human-Computer Interaction (CHI) course. We were introduced to the course and evaluated Feedly’s user interface as an exercise.
As with every course, we started with an introduction. Long story short: the user is always right, and the fault is always with the developer.
In the afternoon, teams of three were formed for the project. As an exercise, we then evaluated Feedly (an online news aggregator) from a user’s point-of-view. Our team found quite a few good positive remarks about the application:
- Green buttons lead the user to the primary tasks: Get Started, Follow and Add New Source.
This makes it very clear how to start using Feedly. The focus is on effectiveness to ensure that new users actually make it to and through the sign up process. We find this a clever choice: Feedly really needs users to sign up.
- Users only have to log in when he wants to follow a source.
This allows them to experience the look and feel of the application before having to register. We think this is a good choice: requiring the user to register immediately would probably scare away many new users.
Our major issues with the user interface were the following:
- The Preferences page is just a long vertical list of options.
We found this completely unusable. Users have to scroll through the whole thing trying to find the appropriate option.
- When clicking “Follow”, the user has to click “Cancel” on the bottom of the opened side pane to exit. Clicking on the empty space on the right does nothing.
The “Add New Source” screen looks like a modal dialog (similar to the article preview window), we assumed we could cancel it by clicking outside the dialog. In some way, it makes sense though: users would probably be more annoyed when they accidentally close the dialog and lose their work on categorizing the new feed. Effectiveness is more important than efficiency in this case.
- Responsive design: the side menu opens and stays open when the browser window is large enough.
Although this is fairly common in modern web applications, we think it may still confuse some users.
We also found some minor issues, including:
- Drop ‘n drag isn’t supported in the feed list as it is on the organize page.
We find this confusing, we expected to be able to do some basic management from the sidebar’s feed list. Apparently, the sidebar only allows for navigation.
- Some buttons are hard to find.
Buttons on articles such as “save” (in any feed) and “unsave” (in the Saved for later feed) are in a small, grey font and only show on hover. We think these are too well hidden to be used effectively.
When all groups had finished their analysis, we went through the most important remarks. There were many different issues with the application, which is a bit unsettling given that the website serves some 12 million users. Often, it was unclear if a certain issue was an actual bug or an intended feature. For example, you need to log in when you want to follow a feed, but you don’t need to be logged in just to browse a feed. Some students thought that the user should have to log in before browsing a feed, others thought that they should not even have to log in before following a feed (and instead store the followed feeds in a session).
We concluded that users all have very different issues, with some issues even conflicting between users. This makes the task of designing a good user interface with a good experience for all users very challenging. With this project, we have to try to achieve just that. Follow us to see how we do!
EDIT 1: Own remarks were added
EDIT 2: Added more detailed explanation and opinions to our own remarks, as suggested by our friendly commenters. Thanks for your input!