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Created April 10, 2013 01:53
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Usability Problem eSuds

#Usability Problem: eSuds#

The dorms at George Mason provide free laundry for students to use. They also provide a service called eSuds available at that allows residents to check whether washers or dryers are in use or not, how much time is left on the machines if they are in use, and to register for email notifications once a machine has completed its cycle. While I am grateful for the website's existence because it has saved me many trips to the laundry room, the developers of the site could definitely use some lessons in usability.

First off, when you initially visit the url, the site loads up the machines from the Blue Ridge dorm by default, regardless of where the user actually lives. It isn't until they click one of the links on the sidebar for one of the other dorms that a cookie is set so that the next time they visit the url, that dorm shows up first.

The sidebar is split up into two categories: Residence Halls and Locations. For some unknown reason “Eastern Shore Hall Bldg Z”, is the only item under Locations, whereas the rest are under Residence Halls. Eastern Shore is a residence hall on campus, but the user has no indication what “Bldg Z” refers to. Furthermore, when one of the links for a dorm that contains only one laundry room is clicked, a new link for the one laundry room is displayed below the clicked link. This is unnecessary clutter as there is only one laundry room. For dorms that have multiple laundry rooms, like Liberty Square, the user has to first click on Liberty Square and then click on the specific laundry room after the page loads to get the information they need. What would accomplish this better would be a JavaScript expandable menu for dorms that have multiple laundry rooms.

There are breadcrumb navigational links near the header of the page that always say “George Mason University >>Fairfax Campus,” and, when either link is clicked, it just redirects to the Blue Ridge Laundry Room page. Therefore, they are useless and should be replaced by some other type of label to indicate that this is George Mason University's eSuds page.

The actual table for the Laundry Room pages that display the washers and dryers is not ordered. Refreshing the page will result in a table with a new order. This is especially confusing because the table automatically refreshes every 120 seconds. The table should be ordered by washer and dryer numbers.

Above that table are instructions and a form for registering email alerts on certain washers and dryers. This is clutter that the average user doesn't need every single time the page loads, so should be instead dynamically shown via JavaScript by a button or link discretely on the page somewhere.

After the table on the Laundry Room page refreshes 15 times automatically, an intrusive and annoying alert will come up saying “Click 'OK' if you would like to continue to update this information.” I've often left the eSuds site open in my browser as I was in a different tab and was interrupted by this alert. A better solution would be to only update the table when I had the tab in focus, or just continually update the table without asking the user.

The “last refreshed” time at the bottom of the table is in computer-readable ISO format, but the user is not a computer and should be expressed in a human-readable amount of seconds/minutes/hours since then, or a simple time string.

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