A Comparative Usability Evaluation of User Interfaces for Online Product Catalogs
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A Comparative Usability Evaluation of User Interfaces for Online Product Catalogs by Ewa Callahan & Jurgen Koenemann presented by Andrew Trieu ICS 280 - Information Visualization Department ICS at UCI June 6, 2002. Introduction.

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A Comparative Usability Evaluation of User Interfaces for Online Product CatalogsbyEwa Callahan & Jurgen Koenemannpresented byAndrew TrieuICS 280 - Information VisualizationDepartment ICS at UCIJune 6, 2002

Introduction Online Product Catalogs

A comparative study of the usability of hierarchically structured and zoomable Electronic Product Catalogs (EPC), available online,


the InfoZoom, a novel interface utilizing a compression technique, direct manipulation, and zooming.

Introduction con t
Introduction (con’t) Online Product Catalogs

The authors had designed a test search interface and used it for comparison between EPC and InfoZoom. Performance on both types of interfaces was evaluated in terms of search speed, accuracy, efficiency, and user satisfaction.

How epc comes about
How EPC comes about Online Product Catalogs

Due to the increased in the WWW, many companies have used it as a medium to promote and sell their products and services. The increase in electronic commerce creates a need for Electronic Product Catalogs.

Customers Online Product Catalogs

The customer enjoys a higher level of interactivity such as a variety of searching possibilities, comparison features to get access to more information about the different product, etc. However, navigation problems are the second most cited reason for not shopping online.

Introduction con t1
Introduction (con’t) Online Product Catalogs

The most common catalog interfaces on the Web are hierarchically organized catalogs, where the consumer sees the list of the products and can follow the links to their more detailed description.

Problems solution
Problems & Solution Online Product Catalogs

Problems of the hierarchically organized catalogs are:

  • Confusing,

  • Items in dropdown menus are not visible,

  • Lengthy result pages, and

  • Lack of filtering options of results.

    The solutions are:

  • Recommendation approach

  • Interaction approach

Recommendation approach
Recommendation Approach Online Product Catalogs

The first approach includes the recommendation systems which suggest to the user what the user should buy (recommendation approach). This will require consumers to enter personal data which many consumers will not do.

Interaction approach
Interaction Approach Online Product Catalogs

The second approach concentrates on improving and facilitating the consumers’ interaction with the interface, allowing the user to select products more easily.

The authors were interested in this direction and wanted to investigate whether or not highly interactive interfaces that support the user in the selection of products can improve the finding of products.

Evaluation of existing online catalogs
Evaluation of Existing Online Catalogs Online Product Catalogs

For the evaluation, the authors had selected 14 German and English automobile EPCs available on the Web in the Fall of 1999.

A summary of the results
A Summary of the Results Online Product Catalogs

Analysis of the result
Analysis of the Result Online Product Catalogs

  • Database size

  • Searching mode

  • Attributes

  • Specifying Ranges

  • Search History

  • Result Pages

  • Sorting Search Results

  • Item Comparison

InfoZoom Online Product Catalogs

  • Based on Ahlberg and Schneiderman’s dynamic queries and Furnas’ fisheye techniques

  • Displays database relations as tables with attributes as rows and objects as columns

  • Overview mode and Compressed mode

  • Offers many different ways of searching

  • Can easily compare, sorting, and re-sorting the results.

Overview mode
Overview Mode Online Product Catalogs

Compressed mode
Compressed Mode Online Product Catalogs

Usability study
Usability Study Online Product Catalogs

  • Based on the feature comparison of InfoZoom and the hierarchical interfaces, InfoZoom should be a more efficient tool that facilitates searches for products.

  • The authors conducted a comparative usability study to confirm their analysis. Also, they performed a controlled experiment that resembled online counterpart.

Materials Online Product Catalogs

  • The database used for this study (AutoDB) contains 1690 cars with over 20 attributes.

  • The hierarchical interface was implement with forms in MS Access in a way to resemble the “Look & Feel” of the typical online EPC catalog features.

Hierarchical interface 1
Hierarchical Interface (1) Online Product Catalogs

Hierarchical interface 2
Hierarchical Interface (2) Online Product Catalogs

Hierarchical interface 3
Hierarchical Interface (3) Online Product Catalogs

Participants Online Product Catalogs

  • 26 participants (randomly assigned to either InfoZoom or hierarchical interface)

  • 15 males and 11 females

  • 13 ages between 21-30, 9 ages between 31-40, one teenager, and one over age 51

  • 16 use computer above 10hr/wk, 6 use computer between 3-9hr/wk, and 4 use computer less than 2hr/wk.

Tasks Online Product Catalogs

  • Find Attribute value for given Object

    T1: Does the Jaguar XJR have side airbags?

  • Find Database Subset Attribute Value

    T2: How many different models does the Peugeot class 106 have?

    T4: How many cars have the following characteristics: convertible, 100-150 HP, front drive, and cost 40.000 DM or less?

Tasks con t
Tasks (con’t) Online Product Catalogs

  • For given Attribute(s) value(s) Find Object(s)

    T3: Which middle class car is the cheapest one in the database?

    T6: Which Funcar has the quickest acceleration?

  • Compare Attribute Values for 2 Objects

    T5: Which car has better fuel consumption: the Audi A6 1.8 or the Volvo S70 2.0?

Tasks con t1
Tasks (con’t) Online Product Catalogs

  • Find Database Attribute Value

    T7: How many cars are in this catalog?

  • Compare Attribute Values for Subset

    T8: What is the price range (from the cheapest to the most expensive model) for the Alfa Romeo 145 series?

    T9: Is the acceleration of the Mercedes-Benz S430 Automatic slow, normal, or quick for a car of its class?

Procedure Online Product Catalogs

  • Participants were briefly introduced to the purpose of the study and upcoming tasks.

  • InfoZoom participants got a 5 minutes demo about InfoZoom.

  • Participants were introduces to 9 tasks. After each task, they answer 3 questions about satisfaction, perception of the time needed, & perceived efficiency.

  • After last task, summarize their experience

Results Online Product Catalogs

Results were analyzed for each category of data:

  • Accuracy - equal between both interfaces

  • Completion time

    AVGIZ = 19.4 min.; AVGHI = 27.7 min.

  • Navigation (out of 7 scale)

    Ease of use: IZ = 5.5; HI = 4.9

    Efficiency: IZ = 5.0; HI = 4.8

    Overall, both were valued higher for IZ.

Results con t
Results (con’t) Online Product Catalogs

Results were analyzed for each category of data:

  • Satisfaction (7-point Likert scale)

    Comfortable: IZ = 5.15; HI = 5.23

    Fun: IZ = 6.3; HI = 5.0

    Overall satisfaction with both system was high

Completion rate accuracy
Completion rate & accuracy Online Product Catalogs

Hierarchical interface
Hierarchical Interface Online Product Catalogs

InfoZoom Online Product Catalogs

Observations Online Product Catalogs

The authors observed the participants throughout the experiment. Throughout the experiment, the authors noted:

  • Users’ strategies

  • Critical incidents - breakdowns and things that went especially well

  • Users’ comments

Hierarchical interface1
Hierarchical Interface Online Product Catalogs

  • Dislike the ways of looking for the desired information from the main menu.

  • Seem lost on pages that looked alike

  • Annoyed by the long pull-down menus and lengthy result pages without sorting

  • Confused about default values

  • Criticized at the result pages

  • Stopped the search after getting message “no car matched” the second time

Infozoom interface
InfoZoom Interface Online Product Catalogs

  • Feel overload of information upon their first glance at overview screen.

  • Difficulty in choosing the appropriate search strategy at the beginning of each task.

  • Participants who preferred selecting objects on the screen have difficulty to double-click on small sectors.

  • Difficulty with tasks that required comparison or gathering more than one different piece of information.

Conclusion Online Product Catalogs

  • EPC’s interfaces were rated high, however InfoZoom was rated higher in overall performance.

  • InfoZoom supports Choice by Attribute searching strategy better than hierarchical interface.

  • InfoZoom interface is easy to learn.

  • InfoZoom is a promising solution for an interactive online catalog interface used in e-commerce.