The internet has become the primary source people frequent when searching for products, information, conducting business, and socialization. It is truly the information super highway for all subject matter known to man. Internet patrons engage in online activity because it is fast, concise, and most would agree that their tasks are completed with success – even if it’s just for browsing. When something is useable, it is not only capable of being used; it is also available and convenient for use. It is human nature for people to seek out things that are useable. Consumers are interested in the most efficient way of getting from point A to point B. If something is unavailable, inconvenient, or inefficient, individuals are uninterested in continuing to use that product or service.
Since the internet is the primary vehicle for both business and pleasure, web site developers and site owners must ensure that their websites are user friendly, engaging, and meet the needs of the site user, in other words, useable. Therefore, web usability is critical to the success of webpage developers. According to Nielsen (2012), web usability is a quality attribute that essentially answers the question “Does it do what users need?” This may seem like a simple question to answer, but how it is answered by web site developers is crucial to the life of the web site and its offerings. Because of the vastness of the internet, competition between websites is fierce. If people cannot find what they are looking for on one site they will simply leave and visit another site. The first law of e-commerce is that people cannot buy what they cannot find.
This paper will analyze the web usability of www.samsung.com, the website for the major electronics company, Samsung US. It will answer the question of “Does it do what users need?” by examining the cognitive and affective factors of the site, the step by step tasks that Samsung offers, and how it meets current navigation theories. The web usability analysis will also consider the layout design of the website, an overall analysis, and how it relates to eight out of ten Nielson (usability) heuristics.
Samsung was established on March 1, 1938 as a trading company and originally was an exporter of fish, vegetables and fruit (Samsung, 2014). Today Samsung is a giant in the electronic industry manufacturing anything from cell phones to kitchen appliances to televisions. Samsung is dedication to making the world better (Samsung, 2014). This is clearly expressed in their vision statement. Samsung’s main efforts are engineering electronics that are cognitive and intuitive. They entered the electronics industry in 1960 and became a global leader in screen technology, televisions, batteries and microchip designs (Shaughnessy, 2013). Today Samsung has leaped ahead of the competition with LCD, LED and the new curved UHD televisions as well as the Galaxy series cellular phones with their larger than life displays. Samsung is a major force in Korea economically, politically, and are respected global in engineering and development.
Cognitive and Affective Factors
It is very important to include elements of cognitation to web design. Keeping in mind how individuals think, learn, perceive, and make decisions are key components for web developers to consider in creating a useable interface. Designing an interface that is intuitive and easy to use is paramount to the success of that site (Rodgers, Sharp, Preece, 2012). Understanding user interaction will lead to informative design decisions that will ultimately predict user performance. Samsung has provided several cognitive-affective design considerations that meet a wide range of consumers ranging from novice to expert. This is evident as soon as you are directed to the website. When you are on the website, vivid colors, bold phrases, and large photos are used to introduce the Samsung Galaxy line to the consumer. By using these tactics, the viewer’s eyes are immediately drawn to the colors and interest is kept by catchy phrases such as “Home has never been better” for the television product line and “Indulge in your inner gourmet” for the home appliance line.
Another cognitive-affective factor that Samsung implores is perception. Similar to attention, Samsung gives the perception that the products they manufacture. Large photos of the latest consumer products are positioned throughout the page. This attention grabbing tactic is great for persuading the user that this is a product that is usable in a variety of scenarios. Not only are products positioned, photos of individuals using the Samsung products are posted. By showing the product implemented into the daily lives of individuals, it provides the website user a feeling of connection, or “hey, I do that too” or “I could use something like that”.
In keeping in alignment with the company’s motto “Inspire the world, create the future”, the learning aspect of the cognitive-affective factor is seen through the advertisement of the Galaxy line of tablets, phones, and wearable accessories. The motto that holds interest is “The next big thing is here”. Consumers of technology are always seeking the new, now, and latest trends. People take pride in the “upgrade treadmill” of technology. By catering to this mindset with the motto “The next big thing is here” it keeps this culture engaged in the latest product lines in technology as well as peaks the interest in those who may not have considered their technology out dated. Optimization of an interface using cognition to understand users can increase interaction with a product, gain loyalty, and bring success to a service provider or merchant (Bloom, 1956).
Step by Step Tasks
In order to engage and persuade web users, website developers must include within their design tasks and activities that will keep the user interested in staying on the page. These tasks are generally embedded in the navigation layout of the website and are vital in influencing whether or not individuals stay to explore more or move on to the next site. The Samsung site provides quite a few tasks that are engaging and meaningful for all viewers. The primary tasks are located in the top bar of the website and are broken down into four categories: Discover, Shop, Apps, and Owners. For consumers, these are the primary reasons that the website would be visited. These tasks are strategically placed from left to right beginning with the Samsung logo and ending with the search bar. It was with great consideration that the order of the hyperlinks appears so that the first hyperlink titled Discover provides a list of subcategories regarding Samsungs products categorized by guides to new and popular technology such as their Galaxy tablet line, home entertainment, computing, appliances, photography, services and applications, and how these products support their motto of “Inspire the world”.
The next hyperlink, Shop, provides details on products, accessories, and special offers online. The secondary task within shop is to determine what specific product meets the needs of the consumer. It also provides the option to “learn more” or “buy now”. This is a great option for consumers who like to compare products side by side or are looking for specific product dimensions or outputs. What is also exceptional is that for the cell phone sales, there is a drop down list that provides a list of all cellular providers that are compatible with Samsung products. This is very convenient for consumers because they do not have to take extra steps to verify with their service providers that the product they are purchasing is compatible. Each category under a product for sale has a sub category that lists the most popular types of products available and provides an option to “see all…” This is another great time saver for the consumer because he/she does not have to click through all of the televisions to find the plasmas televisions for example.
The “see all” link is helpful for the consumer who would like to purchase a television but is unsure of the type of technology he/she would like to have. On each of the sub category tabs there is a photo of a featured item with a quick description and a hyperlink to “see product”. The Apps hyperlink is for the Samsung owner who is interested in the personalization process of their products. It can also be a strong selling point for potential Samsung consumers. There is an “All Apps” link with descriptors of how you can improve your quality of life using these apps. The secondary tasks are specific to the category and provide detailed information on what that app does to enhance the productivity of the product. For example, the TV and Blue ray apps promote ways to steam movies, music, play video games, and connect to friends via social media such as Facebook. The apps are filtered in well defined categories such as Entertainment, which includes movies, TV, music, books and sports, Sharing, for making data and personal content available across all Samsung devices, Messaging, making it easier to connect with friends, and Mobile Wallet for conducting financial business and personalization.
What really makes the Apps hyperlink a great resource for Samsung users is that it addresses all the ways and reasons why people would need technology. The last primary user task is the Owners hyperlink. These task provide owners some of the most frequently inquired about technical support topics such as setting up the Galaxy 5 phone, creating a Samsung account, how to register a device, manuals and downloads, help with an order, and if it something specific, how to contact support. Under the main support tab, the secondary task begins by asking the user to enter the product model number or name. This eliminates searching through unnecessary tabs, files, and/or lists looking for the product. It is also helpful to be able to enter the product’s name and/or the model number. By giving the owner options, it minimizes frustration and confusion when it comes to finding support on a device or application.
There’s nothing more frustrating than becoming “lost” when traveling on a vacation, and for website navigation there is no difference. When you are not provided adequate direction, you become frustrated and begin to experience the gulf of execution. Website users who experience the gaps between the user and the interface cause the website to become unsuccessful in its intentions. Therefore by having effective navigation layouts and designs the user will be able to find what they seek (Girard, 2010). Website developers must be aware of the most effective navigation theories and apply them to their website (Mark, 2011). The primary navigation provides the content that most users are interested in. The secondary navigation provides information that the primary does not cover, but is still of interest to the user. The most popular and easily recognized website navigation categories are: submenus, icons/graphics, sitemaps, and search boxes. Samsung has incorporated the most easily recognized website navigations into their development.
The main section and subsections of the website are listed on the top portion of the website and remain there on all other pages. This is a helpful tool for the user because they will always know to look at the top portion of the screen to navigate the primary navigation topics. Samsung uses lots of icons and graphics to keep interest. These icons and graphics are considered “ready to read” because it shows what words cannot always effectively describe. The comprehensive sitemap is permanently located on the bottom of the pages and is broken down into categories that are appropriately labeled not only for the product line, but owner and support information and information about the company itself – who they are and what they do. The search box is located at both the top and bottom of the pages. It is strategically placed on the right side of the screen next to both the primary and secondary navigation categories. It can be assumed that Samsung placed it to the right because they understand that people read from left to right and will most likely find what they are looking for before having to resort to typing in to the search box.
According to WebBizDesigns.com a website has approximately three to five seconds to engage the viewer before he/she makes a decision to stay on the page or visit another site. It is very important that the developer takes great consideration into the website layout and design (Mark, 2011). Website design must appeal to the cognitive domain, be easy to read, and appeal to the user. According to Frank Girard (2010) there are six major considerations that need to be made in order to have a successful website engagement. These considerations are color, readability, navigation, browser compatibility, SEO, and call to action. Colors that are complimentary are best suited for sparking interest in a website.
Colors should be able to draw attention to specific items enough to invoke interest, but not too overwhelming or contrasting to deflect from the main message of the website (Mark, 2011). Samsung uses lots of neutral colors with a pop of bright colors to bring interest into products that are for sale. The term “less is more” is most applicable for the readability of websites (Mark, 2011). Since there is such as wide range of website users, it is important that the readability of the website can be easily understood by everyone. Samsung provides lots of vivid pictures that demonstrates product implementation, bold and catchy phrases such as “Indulge your Inner Gourmet” to gain and keep interest.
For the tech savvy user, Samsung has provided some technical information and dimensions for those who understand. Samsung has provided both primary and secondary site navigation that is “fixed” at both the top and bottom of the website. This is an excellent way for users to help themselves in the redirection of their website search should they become off task or accidently navigate away from their primary purpose. It is very important that www.Samsung.com looks the same regardless of the web browser being utilized. Nowadays there are many web browser options available to web users. Because of the variety of web browsers available and the mediums that users are using such as tablets and phones, it is important that the website is able to accommodate various browsers to ensure that no group of browser users are denied the opportunity to explore the website with ease (Martinez, 2008).
If you type in Galaxy products, Samsung will be the first hyperlink to appear in most of the major search engines. Samsung is mostly known for Galaxy line of cell phones and tablets. This is a great segway in to getting users to see what other product offerings Samsung has. Samsung’s call to action on their website is easily recognized through their primary navigation tabs, Discover, Shop, Apps (personalize), and Support (Samsung’s here for you).
According to Jim Kapoun, there are five criteria for evaluation that are needed in measuring web site effectiveness. These criteria are accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency, and coverage (Kapoun, 1998). Based on the effective web usability criteria provided, it is evident that Samsung web developers have taken great considerations in creating a user friendly website that promotes products, services, support, and its company. This is how the accuracy of the web document is depicted. When creating a website with any sort of complexity, there are important tasks that will be required to obtain the most from the site. These tasks should be plain and noticeable to the users. This answers Kapoun’s question of “What is the purpose of the document and why was it produced?” (Kapoun, 1998). With Samsung it is clear that they want the user to discover new products, make a purchase, and discover ways to personalize purchased products.
The webpage is property of Samsung, therefore no individual is given sole proprietary of creating the website. Since Samsung is such a large company that operates in individual departments such as products and services for home and commercial usage, foundations that support education and empowerment of individuals, corporate and investor relations, and ongoing product development and research, the webmaster cannot be limited to a single contact. Depending on the need, there are avenues of contact, therefore the authority of web documents cannot be clearly identified.
The objectivity of the website is clearly defined through the intuitiveness and learnability which make the composite designs seem simple and straightforward. This allows the user to navigate through the site and execute straightforward tasks. This ensures that the website will observe web conventions that are common in website designs. The main objective of Samsung.com’s website is to discover new products, make a purchase, customize purchased products, and to build a loyal customer base by having customers create a Samsung account.
The currency of the website is up to date. There are no dead links on the page. The links are current and updated. Samsung is very current in the products that they are presenting for sale. The website is updated at least every two weeks and is time sensitive to holidays and upcoming events such as graduation and father’s day. It is very important Samsung maintains the currency of their website due to the vast competition that it has from other technology providers.
The coverage of the web page is easy to follow and user friendly. The links are specific to the task and they complement the theme of Samsung, to discover, shop, customize apps, and support owners. The ratio of images to text is consistently balanced so that it is easily understood by all types of users. The webpages can be viewed in the most commonly used web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. This is important as there are so many ways and vehicles of technology people are using to access the internet.
Nielsen Heuristics is an excellent evaluation tool for web usability analysis. This checklist helps eliminate UI problems in website design. Samsung meets at least seven out of the ten heuristics for web usability. The visibility of system status is clear and thoroughly visible within the website. This can be determined by simply typing in the URL into the web browser and pressing enter. For users who have a Samsung.com account, the system status is indicated by a small checkmark to the right of what was entered into the appropriate field to indicate that it is a valid entry. This lets the user know that the system is recognizing their input. There is a match between the system and the real world. The site uses large and relatable photos that demonstrate how the products can be implemented into daily life. The feature photo may show the latest product that Samsung is marketing, or it may show how Samsung is involved in global awareness.
The most recent photo and caption on the website is that of Samsung’s Hope for Children Foundation. This foundation provides meaningful technology to children who may never have the opportunity to experience it due to their circumstances. The website provides the user control and freedom by providing primary hyperlinks at the top and bottom of each page for easy user accessibility for all that Samsung has to offer. At any time, consumers have the opportunity to either explore links or simply type in what they are looking for in the fixed search box that is always located to the right of the website. The Samsung website meets the consistency and standards heuristic in site design as it observes trademark placements at the top left and the search bar at the top right along with the log in and shopping cart hyperlinks at the top right. They remain consistent in the names of their products, especially in the cell phone arena.
They provide the user three types of phones: Galaxy 5/note, cell phones, and pre-paid/no contract. This keeps the user from having to scroll through many types of phones to get to the one type of phone he/she is seeking. The error prevention heuristic is evident in the shopping cart section of the website. It shows the user at any time on the page what is in their shopping cart. It also will inform the user that there is a separate shopping cart for mobile accessories. By categorizing what the consumer is purchasing, he/she can determine exactly if that is what is needed and what other accessories are needed in order to optimize that product. The user must go through several screens before the total sale is completed. This feature prevents the user from making purchase errors.
The flexibility and efficiency of use heuristic is demonstrated in the primary tasks that focus on the most common reasons for going to the website. The large photos, catchy phrases, and gift giving ideas are essential to the aesthetic design. The muted colors in the background and easy to read font is easy to follow for the user and the bold colors on the screens of the products draws the users eyes to the products. The help and documentation heuristic is evident in the drop down list of question types. The user can type in a specific question and it will be answered within 24 hours. There are quick hyperlinks for other ways Samsung can help the user. If all else fails, the user has several other ways to manually contact Samsung through phone, email, or through postal mail correspondence.
Overall, Samsung.com is no stranger to Nielsen’s heuristics and it is evident that these considerations were made in order to have an effective website and positive UI interactions. Samsung has made it point to become a firm competitor in the everyday world of technology. With so many options for consumers to choose from, Samsung has marketed their products in a easy way to understand giving the perception that Samsung is a world class organization. Their website grabs the user’s attention with vivid colors and easy to understand language as well as an easy site navigation design.
The Samsung website provides a secure method to Discover, Shop, Customize, and Troubleshoot products. This aligns with the business goals and clear purpose regarding content Samsung is providing in their website. This makes the website understandable and brings origin to the user to feel empowered in navigating Samsung’s offerings. Samsung has clearly considered the cognitive and affective design in its primary and secondary tasks, navigation theory application, organizational layout, and successful implementation of the Nielsen Heuristics.
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