Grad Students' Critiques

Your critiques are tied to the book Don't Make Me Think (second edition), by Steve Krug (details below). See the Schedule for your due dates.

Each critique requires you to READ and REFER TO different chapters in Krug's book.

These are short (1,000 - 1,500 words), double-spaced, print-ready papers to be handed in on each of three separate deadlines.

Packages You May Use

Choose a different one of these packages for each of your critiques. Thus you will critique a total of three packages in three separate papers; you will not use the same package twice.

You are invited to ASK ME to use a different multimedia package (I will add it to the list if I agree that it's suitable). DO NOT use another package without consulting me.

General Instructions

Follow the guidelines below for each critique.

Critique No. 1

READ Krug, Introduction and Chapters 1 - 5

How does Krug's "first law of usability" apply to the package you have selected for this critique? How scannable is the entry page, the doorway into the package? How much (or how little) does the package employ "billboard design"? Is there a functional visual hierarchy on each page? (You may print out screenshots and label parts of the screen to make this more clear in your critique). Evaluate all major segments of the package for each point Krug makes in Chapter 3. Evaluate all text used in the package -- except the text content of long text stories. Evaluate the text used -- especially navigation words and headings -- in light of Chapters 4 and 5. Evaluate blurbs and text blocks according to the chart on page 48.

Your critique does not need to include every single thing in the package. But you do need to look at everything in the package so you can choose the best elements (either good or bad) to include in your critique.

Critique No. 2

READ Krug, Chapters 6 - 7

Evaluate the package you have selected for this critique using Krug's points in Chapters 6 and 7. Make sure to use the list on page 85. Also discuss the presence or absence of a tagline and "the fifth question" (p. 106).

Create a wireframe model of the entry page that is suitable to the seeking behavior Krug describes in Chapter 6. This will not resemble the original much, if at all. You may need to read the long text stories to do this well. I am interested in the wording you choose to use and also the positions of things on the page. No drawing or artwork should be included. NONE! Remember the advice on pp. 107-109.

Also create a wireframe model for the navigation of the interior segments or pages of the package. This is only ONE wireframe that can be usd for ALL interior pages.

Total wireframes: 2

You may make your wireframes in Photoshop or Illustrator and save them as GIFs. Alternatively, you may create your wireframes in Word and save them as PDFs. Whatever makes you happy.

Here is an example of a wireframe created in MS Word (PDF, 49 KB). It is based on the package called Jordan's War, from The Roanoke (Va.) Times. NOTE that it does not show any of the graphics that we would see on the real page! Also note that all LINKS are clearly indicated either by an underscore, a label or a box. ALSO NOTE that all of the text was written with Krug's major points in mind! And finally, NOTE that the SIZE of the text is very important in a wireframe, but the typefaces are NOT.

Critique No. 3

READ Krug, Chapters 8 - 12

Conduct user testing on the package you have selected for this critique. You must test with two different people, and both of them should be different in at least two demographic senses from YOU. For example, if you are a 20-something female college student, then a 40-something male college student is different from you in both age and gender (that's two!).

In addition, your two test users must differ from EACH OTHER in at least two demographic senses.

Do not pay your test subjects. This is informal. You may use friends or relatives.

Do not use journalists, former journalists or journalism students or professors as your users in the test.

Do the tests in person, face to face, in the same room.

Write up your results from both tests for this critique. Provide first and last name and either a home phone number or a working e-mail address for each of your two test users. Also include the demographic data that differentiates them from you (and from each other).

Tell me WHERE you tested, WHO you tested, when, how long (each person) -- and which package (use the same package for both people, of course).

Include your script (see pp. 146-155 in Krug). Your script, however, does not count as part of your 1,000 - 1,500 words for this critique.

Make recommendations. Based on your user testing, provide a numbered list of the top three improvements for this package.

This is almost entirely about Chapters 8 and 9, very little about Chapters 10, 11 and 12. I want you to read Chapters 10 - 12, but it's okay if they do not show up in your critique No. 3.

How to Turn It In

  1. Make sure your paper is double-spaced, coherent, interesting, and correct in all spelling, punctuation and mechanics.
  2. Save as a MS Word document or equivalent (e.g., Open Office). No other file formats will be accepted.
  3. Attach it to an e-mail with the subject line "Critique 1" (or 2, or 3) and e-mail it to me at the usual address.

Grading Criteria

Each critique is worth 5 points.

Lost points:

Three critiques are required.

Meeting the deadline is necessary. Late assignments always receive a zero.