A Heuristic-Based Re-Evaluation of the IBM Academic Initiative Project Interface

The IBM Academic Initiative Project is an online resource for educators to discover and download courserelated software. The present interface utilizes two systems for cataloging materials; the Repository acts as warehouse for thousands of pieces of available software, and indexes them via in-house IBM designation codes (i.e., B5143); while the Courseware site presents software under groupings of specific teaching-topics. This divided system presents significant usability issues; the Repository’s size hinders timely identification of particular software, while the Courseware site can only present a fraction of the accessible choices and may therefore omit the educator’s most useful option. In partnership with IBM our team applied usability heuristics developed by Schneiderman (1998) and Nielson (1990) to this online portal. Once candidate violations of these frameworks were identified, a mockup of each site was created with interface modifications designed to enhance both objective and subjective performance measures. These changes included:

• the adoption of a search tool (to subvert unnecessary menu-driven searches and eliminate the necessity of recalling titles),

• removal of superfluous information (such as date-of-production, internal designation codes, and truncated summaries),

• and inclusion of individual landing pages complete with direct download hyperlink (for feedback purposes).

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