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Heuristic Evaluation on Track Changes tool in Microsoft Word 2007 Lim Zhen Ling Samantha Nanyang Technological University
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1. Brief introduction The Track Changes tool in Microsoft Word 2007 helps users to easily view and track changes and comments while you work in a document. I have not used this tool before in Word 2007. I frequently use Word 2007 for typing essays and reports, accessing this program on a daily basis. However, I usually perform functions that can be found on the “home”, “insert” and “page layout” tabs and rarely access the four remaining tabs. Thus, I believe I am familiar with around 50% of Word 2007’s functions and tools. In terms of editing, I usually rely on the Word 2007’s autocorrect function, spelling and grammar checking and marking as well as its dictionary – which is essentially Word 2007’s default options. The computers I interact with on a daily basis are those in the school’s computer labs and my laptop which operate on Windows platform. According to Nielson, “novice evaluators” are people who have general knowledge about computers; “single specialists” have usability expertise; “double specialists” have usability and Word 2007 expertise. Therefore, based on Nielson’s definition and my personal experience, I rate myself as a novice evaluator.
2. Violations found Task Part 1: Type in a paragraph of text, save it, and then turn on Track Changes. Then make a few tracked, highlighted edits to your document. 1. [H2-4 Consistency and standards] The interface’s help documentation refers to Track Changes tool as “change tracking” while the relevant icon in the Review tab is labelled “track changes”. Inconsistent terminology results in user confusion. 2. [H2-10 Help and documentation] Differences in terminology diminish the value of ‘help’ in usage of Track Changes. 3. [H2-4 Consistency and standards] A unique Track Changes icon appears beside Track Changes option when it is selected (Fig. 1.1). Activation of other functions in the interface results in appearance of a Tick icon instead (Fig. 1.2). 4. [H2-8 Aesthetic and minimalist design] A unique icon to indicate activation of Track Changes is unnecessary when a simple uncluttered Tick icon would suffice. Additional details in the unique icon compete with critical features, decreasing their salience and thus their value as an activation icon. 5. [H2-10 Help and documentation] Instruction for adding Track Changes to status bar on top left corner is incorrect. Right clicking on status bar only allows access to options to “Restore”, “Minimize” and “Close” the status bar. The correct instruction is to click on arrow down icon for access to status bar options. Incorrect documentation causes users to execute incorrect action sequences and reach dead ends, defeating the purpose of help documentation.
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6. [H2-4 Consistency and standards] The icon for track changes on Review tab (Fig. 1.3) is different from the one on the status bar (Fig. 1.4). It is important for them to be consistent especially when they are detailed icons – minimal deviations would cause major problems in identifying and relating them as representing track changes. 7. [H2-8 Aesthetic and minimalist design] Instead of highlighting thus enhance visibility of Track Changes icon, addition of * sign (Fig. 1.4) competes with visibility of its critical features, diminishing its relative visibility. This is severe since the icon is very small. 8. [H2-6 Recognition rather than recall] Irrelevant features in the Track Changes refinement decreases the ease and speed where it can be recognized by users. 9. [H2-2 Match between system and real world] Like the real world, insertions are made to indicate changes in tenses i.e. addition of a‘s’ (Fig. 1.5). However, it is not so for insertions that changes the root word (Fig. 1.6). As users transfer real world knowledge to the interface while editing, this mismatch may cause errors and reduction in efficiency. 10. [H2-2 Match between system and the real world] The edit highlights persists despite changing an edited word back to its original word. Interface cannot recognise that it is the same word unlike a human editor. This mismatch may cause user confusion and errors in editing. 11. [H2-6 Recognition rather than recall] Deletion of a word the first time causes it to be struck out. However, when edited the second time, the word is deleted instead. This inconsistency is problematic as neither is the various editing attempts recorded nor memory aids regarding edits provided by interface. Users need to recall what they are, causing unnecessary cognitive load. 12. [H2-7 Flexibility and efficiency of use] Undoing an edit occurs by character instead of by word, resulting in action reversal being a cumbersome inefficient process. 13. [H2-3 User control and freedom] No options are available for changing undo to focus on word instead of character, forcing the user to accept an inefficient procedure. 14. [H2-2 Match between system and the real world] This puzzles users as correcting mistakes in editing can be done by word, phrase or expression in the real world. Task Part 2: Change the colour that your edits are highlighted in. 15. [H2-8 Aesthetic and minimalist design] Too many change option information are displayed at one time (Fig. 2.1). Competing information reduces the visibility of change option users are searching for, increasing search time and decreasing ease of user customization.
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16. [H2-4 Consistency and standards] Other pop up dialogue boxes in Word 2007 adopt usage of tabs so that only relevant information will be displayed at one time. This should be adopted for track changes options as well. 17. [H2-4 Consistency and standards] When changing colour of text, highlights and even pictures, users can do so via the tabs tool bar above the document. However, they have to be done via a dialogue box for Track Changes. Users’ attempts to do so via the former method are met with dead ends, causing frustration. 18. [H2-7 Flexibility and efficiency of use] Change options should be allowed via direct manipulation i.e. clicking or right clicking the text. Shortcuts, similar to that of text and picture options, should be available. 19. [H2-3 User control and freedom] The interface forces users to use the dialog box for change options, which is an extended action sequence. They should be allowed to make changes via alternative ways, accommodating user differences. 20. [H2-4 Consistency and standards] Different shades of a colour by terms “light” and “dark” in other parts of the interface and in other items of the colour list (Fig. 2.1). However, the interface refers to shades of grey in percentage terms instead (Fig. 2.1). Inconsistency increases processing time and thereby reducing efficiency. 21. [H2-4 Consistency and standards] Instead of “default” the interface uses the term “By author” which causes user confusion (Fig. 2.1), decreasing user understanding of Change Tracking options and reducing ease of user customization. 22. [H2-4 Consistency and standards] Printing options for track changes are within Change Tracking options dialogue box instead of Print options (Fig. 2.1). This inconsistency in categorization may cause user difficulty in finding the option. 23. [H2-4 Consistency and standards] Instead of familiar terminology, Track Changes printing options are labelled “auto”, “preserve” and “force landscape” (Fig. 2.1). This causes difficulty in user understanding and decreases ease in option selection. 24. [H2-3 User control and freedom] Modification of the ‘auto’ format for track changes printing options is unavailable, forcing users to accept whatever features it contains without adequate understanding. Task Part 3: Explore the toolbar associated with Track Changes and use it to “accept” the changes you have made 25. [H2-4 Consistency and standards] “Accept Changes” activation icon has additional features that make it inconsistent from the usual tick icon, increasing time needed to process and understand the refinement. 26. [H2-8 Aesthetic and minimalist design] Additional details in the “Accept Changes” activation icon obscure visibility off critical feature (“tick”).
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27. [H2- 5 Error prevention] Spelling and grammar error mark-ups should have appeared before Track Changes were accepted. Errors were allowed to be made during tracking without any prompt from the interface. 28. [H2-3 User control and freedom] Undo function in the interface does not support undoing of “Accept All Changes”, forcing user to click on the “Reject” icon to “Reject All Changes In Document” 29. [H2-9 Help users recognize, diagnose and recover from errors] “Reject All Changes in Document” did not recover previous Track Changes mark-ups. Interface does not prompt mark-ups recovery. Alternative viewing modes (Fig. 3.1) also do not display previous mark-ups. Users meet with a dead end. 30. [H2-10 Help and documentation] Search function in “Help” is insensitive – search results for ‘recover track changes’ only include how to use track changes, how to turn it on or off and how to remove it. It has no value to error recovery. 31. [H2-1 Visibility of system status] Help demo video “Video: Use Track Changes in Word 2007 (HP Learning center)” sports an Adobe Captivate progress bar which remained stationary for more than 5 seconds. Attempt to provide system feedback was not made within reasonable time. System status becomes invisible to users. 32. [H2-1 Visibility of system status] No feedback from the information “i” icon in the video dialog box. Error recovery is difficult. 33. [H2-3 User control and freedom] No options were available for the reloading of the video, forcing users to close the dialog box and restart the action sequence. 34. [H2-3 User control and freedom] Removing Track Changes function from one document’s Status bar causes it to be removed from all other Word documents which are open. User customization not possible, forcing users to either have the icon on all of its documents’ status bar or none. 35. [H2-8 Aesthetic and minimalist design] The option under the drop down menu of “Balloons” icon – “Show All Revisions Inline” is the same as not “Showing Revisions in Balloons” thus rendering the former option redundant. Providence of both options results in inconsistency which leads to user frustration and lack of ease in interface usage.
3. Summary of violations
H2 1 2 3 4 5 6 Usability heuristics Visibility of system status Match between system and the real world User control and freedom Consistency and standards Error prevention Recognition rather than recall Number of Violations 2 3 6 10 1 2
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7 8 9
Flexibility and efficiency of use Aesthetic and minimalist design Help users recognize, diagnose and recover from errors 10 Help and documentation Total number of Violations
2 5 1 3 35
Overall, user interaction with the Track Changes tool in Word 2007 could have been better. Majority of the problems (10 out of 35) identified violate the consistency and standards heuristic, user control and freedom heuristic (6 out of 35) and aesthetic and minimalist design (5 out of 35).
4. Recommendations It was found that many of the icons and function buttons associated to Track Changes are inconsistent amongst each other and with regard to other buttons in the interface. This is because the interface designer seems to be uncertain of which features are critical for user recognition thus included more than necessary. My recommendation is to further refine existing refinements and allow them to be consistent amongst each other. For instance, all icons related to Track Changes (function buttons on tool bar and status bar) sport the same critical features which are the red mark-ups contrasting the grey lines representing text on a folded sheet of paper. If the designer wish to highlight the visibility of the icon on the status bar, blinking light or a bright background colour can be used instead of an * sign. In addition, activation icons can be refined and made consistent with other activation icons in the interface. Instead of the complex unique icon with an * sign, simple ticks in orange highlighted boxes can be used (Fig. 1.2). Refining these refinements would aid in reducing user memory load, increasing the usage of recognition over recall in the interface and improve the interface’s aesthetic quality and minimalist design. Track Changes is essentially the computer version of a human editor – allowing editing to be done in software, in a neater way. Therefore, it is important especially for new users of this tool, that there is a match between system and the real world so as to allow transfer of real world knowledge and savings in relearning. The interface should take advantage of its built-in dictionary to identify root words. Insertions with regard to changes in form of a root word can be allowed by character however for insertions that changes the root word – the original word should be struck out (deleted) and the new word should be printed on the side. Although reversible actions are allowed i.e. undoing an insertion, it can only be done character by character which is not only tedious but unintuitive as re-editing can be done by word or phrase in the real world. My recommendation is that the interface should allow users to customize – options for undoing an edit by character or by word. This will allow more user control and freedom, increase efficiency of use and decrease the gap between interface and real world.
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As Track Changes is a less commonly used tool in Word 2007, it is important that its usability is consistent with more commonly used tools and functions in the interface. My recommendation is that shortcuts available to other editing functions in the interface should be available to Track Changes as well. For instance, users should be able to edit Track Changes options via direct manipulation i.e. right click and double click; option buttons should appear on the tool bar above document. This will enhance efficiency and intuitiveness of option modification task. Users should be able to undo changes accepted via the general undo button at the status bar as well as users are more familiar with that button. There need not be two different buttons for reversible actions. In addition, categorization of functions should be compatible with rest of the interface. Options for printing documents which use track changes should still be categorized under print options and not within Track Changes. Inconsistency causes function to be hidden from users. The interface should be able to anticipate users’ tasks and problems and help prevent them or aid users in recovering from them. One way it can do so is via its help and documentation. Firstly, its search should be sensitive as users who approach it usually already attempted to reduce their gulf of execution or evaluation via trial-and-error. Failure to find help in search results will lead to greater frustration and helplessness. Secondly, the hyperlinks to online help resources should be frequently checked and updated to prevent users from encountering dead links thus dead ends. Terminology used in the documentation should be consistent with that of the interface so that users know what the instructions are referring to. Mistakes in instructions should be rectified immediately. Secondly, all actions should be reversible and previous work should be accessible. When users try to reject all changes accepted previously, system should understand that users may be trying to recover mark-ups and provide a system prompt – allow alternative action to be available. Thirdly, reminders to previous edits should be available – struck out instead of deleted permanently. This is consistent with the real world and the 1st edit attempt.
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