Graduation Web Application, Part One

This year our university are embracing technology -- and the web -- for completing the graduation sign-up process. From booking your seats at the ceremony to ordering the gown you've got to wear on the day. This is great for people who prefer to fill in applications on the web (like me) and the people who usually process all the forms; it's quicker and easier for everyone. It even saves on the poor innocent trees!

However, during this process I've been annoyed numerous times, even confused. Now, I browse the around the web for a large majority of my day and come across hundreds of different websites on a weekly basis. I feel I'm an experienced web user so being confused on a website shouldn't really happen to me that often; though it during this -- what should be simple -- process.

There are two different sites required to complete everything that's needed for the graduation day. First there is the Bradford in-house ordering system for the ceremony tickets. Then there is which deals with ordering the gowns you've got to wear on the day. Each of these sites have their own problems that could be easily fixed.

Below discusses a few problems I found when using the Bradford Universities in-house ticket ordering system, and then suggests ways of fixing them.

First of all, when filling in any web application I don't want to have to read a lot of text just to simply fill in one text box -- or not even fill it in at all! Short bullet-points that summarise the task should be used; this is a basic usability tip to aid users in filling in anything and is outlined in Four Ideas for Better Forms by Caroline Jarrett from Userfocus. This would help users with cognative disabilities as well as speed up the process for everyone.

Some options were given as radio buttons, however, no labels were used (correctly) so selecting the correct option required more effort than should be needed. I immediately clicked on the text I was reading, which I assumed would select the appropriate radio button -- which was to the left of the text -- which would follow convention for web forms; however, nothing happened. I was forced to point to the radio button manually -- simple for me, yes -- but this can be a nightmare with users with disabilities. Check out this demonstration of an Inaccessible website by the Disability Rights Commision, and see how hard it is to select items using a mouse while being impaired. Not easy, I tell you.

Overall the process wasn't too difficult, and although it wasn't as easy as it could be, there were no huge problems. However, the process was fairly simple itself., on the other hand, requires a little more user input, most of which isn't necessarily intiutive to complete. A review of this process coming up next!