Automated Web Usability Testing?


October 1999

Automated Web Usability Testing?

CIDMIconNewsletter Laura Katajisto, Microsoft Corporation

In “Web Test Dummy,” (WebTechniques, July 1999) Doug Carter introduces a new tool developed by his company, Web Criteria. The tool is based on psychological models and aims to automate usability testing of Web sites. According to surveys, Web users rate update frequency and download time as important criteria when visiting a Web site. These criteria can be evaluated by automated software packages. Although Web Criteria’s new tool proved useful in evaluating these criteria, other more subjective issues still require the skills of trained usability specialists.

Using long understood principles of human behavior, Web Criteria developed a browsing behavior reference model that traces the way users find information on the Web. Goals, operators, methods, and selection rules are identified and defined within this model. Three profiles are created to define the user: a personal profile which defines how persistent a user will be when looking for information, a system profile which defines the browser and computer the user will be using, and a browsing behaviors profile that learns and remembers structure rules from page to page.

When assessing load time, the browsing agent uses the number of elements on a page, the number of recurring elements, their size, the access rate, and the number of ways to get to a page to determine how long it takes for pages within a Web site to load into a user’s browser. When assessing accessibility, the browsing agent takes into account page load time, number of choices per page, amount of content on each page, amount of changed content from page to page, time it takes to decide and click a link, and the sum of all factors to produce the shortest path to information within the Web site.

By identifying the above criteria, basic and quantifiable usability benchmarks for the Web can be established and even evaluated automatically. CIDMIconNewsletter