Purpose: This study evaluates the usability of the websites of the University of Ibadan, Lead City University, Ibadan and the Polytechnic, Ibadan, three higher Institution of learning based in Ibadan, Oyo State Nigeria.
Design/methodology/approach: Fifteen websites evaluators drawn from the academic community conducted user testing on the domain under study using six different rating parameters viz Load Time, Navigation, Structure/Layout, Content, Visuals and Site comparison. Usability index checklist for websites in the form of a structured questionnaire served as the research instruments for the website usability studies. Data obtained from these ratings were used to compute the usability index for the three Higher Institution’s websites.
Findings: The websites need to address the pitfalls of homepage complexity, under construction markers and “page cannot be found” pop-up windows. The loading speeds are considerably slow for all the sites and there are no basic security measures or indicators to assists users in identifying phishing websites that mimic the websites under study. This is a serious concern for the evaluators because the sites are used for online payment.
Research limitations/implications (if applicable): Although the websites have contents that are relevant to their target audience and use photographs and pictures (images) to effectively communicate to the target audience, image loadings are extremely tedious. The absence of basic security indicators also makes users vulnerable to being spoofed by cyber criminals.
Practical and Policy implications (if applicable): The low usability indices coupled with vulnerabilities to being spoofed reveal that these websites require varying degrees of improvement to bring their usability level to acceptable standards. The download speed also has to be improved in order to improve usability and allow access to information on the site especially from other parts of the world.
Social implications (if applicable): To enhance usage among the target audiences, higher institution websites need to reduce the amount of information per page in order to minimize the need for scrolling. This is because information-packed, long pages have three disadvantages for users viz: users dislike scrolling, miss information when scrolling and may not notice information they need during scrolling. Portable Document format (PDF) documents are known to load slowly on browsers. Both PDF and HTML versions of documents should be made available. Websites also have to be fortified in terms of security measures to forestall abuse by cyber criminals.
Originality/value: Website usability studies are very rare in Nigerian Educational institutions. This paper therefore blazes the trail and serve as a primer for institutions interested in improving the usability of their website as well as those considering conducting website usability research. Such research should focus on the study of significant characteristics such as home page and webpage load time, task completion time, error tolerance, visitor value, architecture and navigation and site comparison so as to correctly assess their usability standing.
Keywords: Websites, Load, Index, Usability, Evaluation