Interface Evaluation

Frederick Beecher (
Wed, 25 Feb 1998 00:37:09

From: "Frederick Beecher" <>
Subject: Interface Evaluation
Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 00:37:09
Message-Id: <>

Greetings everyone-

First of all, here are my general impressions:
It seems like your tool is aimed more at system administrators than
relatively novice users like myself. I had a hard time understanding what
the program did and the tasks I was to perform because I was not familiar
with the subject matter or the terminology your tool dealt with. This may
have colored the rest of my judgements. With that qualification, here I

Heuristic Evaluation:

*Simple and natural dialog*
I saw a lot of information I never used in my tasks. Being a novice, I
didn't understand what it was so it created a lot of noise for me. The tabs
worked for order. The mailbox tab was towards the left and the generate tab
was towards the right, which indicates the order of the task.

*Speak the user's language*
I didn't immediately understand things and had to read carefully. The text
in the bottom window, though, generally explained things for me. I looked at
that less than I probably should have, though. There seemed to be a lot of
jargon in the interface. But if it is meant to be used by system
administrators, that's fine; they will know what it means.

*Minimize user memory load*
I had to remember the settings in the first screen. Because I am unfamiliar
with the subject matter of the interface, none of the first screen really
sunk in. There are a lot of settings you have to remember. Perhaps a
"current settings" window or something else that gave a brief description of
the current settings would help here.

*Be consistent*
I think I only used one section of the interface, so I can't say anything
about this heuristic.

*Provide Feedback*
I knew when I had performed an action correctly, but it would have been nice
to know some details about it. Something like, "the archive XYZ has been
created in directory ABC." When I added mailboxes, the filename appeared in
a box where I would have expected it to appear. I could tell when I had one
or more than one mailbox set to be archived.

*Provide clearly marked exits*
I knew I could access any of the tabs at any time, and I saw a file menu
which I assume (but do not remember) contains an exit command.

*Provide shortcuts*
I would have REALLY liked to have been able to select several mailboxes at a
time like you can files in win95 and macOS. I had to repeat an action three
times, and being human, repetition is uncomfortable for me. Perhaps there's
some other UNIX convention that I'm not aware of though.

*Good error messages*
The error messages really need to be more informative. The one I got only
told me I couldn't do what I was trying to do, but it didn't give me any
clue how to do it.

*Prevent errors*
The error I made was a human error, and I think it would have been a
difficult one to prevent. One way you could do it, though, would be to make
the "select multiple mailboxes" option visible when users are trying to
select mailboxes. The way it is currently, it's in a whole different screen.

Norman Stuff (not covered by the heuristics):

*Conceptual models*
I was operating on virtually no conceptual model during the tasks. The
interface didn't seem to suggest one either. If it were more graphical, with
icons representing mailboxes and archives and lines connecting the related
ones, I would have had a model and been able to complete the tasks more

I always knew where I could go to look for information, but some bits of
related information were not visible at the same time.

*Gulf of Execution*
The system allowed me to complete the actions I needed to complete. However,
I had to expend extra effort when trying to select multiple mailboxes.

*Gulf of Evaluation*
The system provided me with information about the success or failure of my
action, but it did not go beyond that. I could have created an archive in
the wrong directory than the one I had intended and never known it. This
problem could be fixed by putting more specific information in the
dialog box--information such as the source mailbox(es), destination
directory, and archive filename.