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Homework 1 - Thinking about Usability

Due: September 5, 2023 at 11pm

You are encouraged work in groups of up to two for this assignment. If working in a group, you must select two different websites, work together to discuss their usability, and denote the contributions of each team member in your submission.

Purpose: Begin thinking about usability and design considerations by examining currently published websites. This may also help in finding your own project topic or when planning for your website design.


For this assignment, we will view two different versions of a currently published website, discuss their usability and design choices, and how they re-designed their site to improve usability.

Choose a Website

Choose a web page to review for usability, accessibility, and its changing design over time. (If you are working in a group of 2, you must choose 2 pages, and they must be from 2 different sites.) Your chosen site(s) should have been initially published more than 5 years ago (2018) and have had at least one redesign over its lifespan. Do not use one of the examples we discussed in class (that is, the UVA home page, Google’s home page, or AltaVista).

You should pick a site that you are interested in reviewing. However, here are some example sites that you may wish to consider (in no particular order):

  • (and
  • A different college’s website, such as or
  • A news site, such as,,,, etc
  • A governmental site, such as,,,, etc

Your Task

For this homework, you will be writing a short usability summary and discussion of the page(s).

  1. Gather two versions of the web page to discuss (the exact URL may change within the site, and that’s okay).
    1. The current version of the page
    2. Use the Way Back Machine at to view an older version of the site that had a different design
      • If there is not an older version that is moderately different, please choose a different site.
      • Note down the date of the version you are writing about.
  2. Take a screenshot of the current version of the site and the archived version of the site. Include the screenshots, labeling them with the URL and date, in your final writeup.
  3. Review the Usability Principles discussed in class, including the 9 golden rules of UI design and Shneiderman’s five criteria.
  4. For each version of the website you viewed, write a short paragraph or two discussing:
    • At least 3 ways that the designers followed our usability principles.
    • At least 1 way that the site did not follow our usability principles.
  5. Then, compare the different versions and provide suggestions for changing the page (or site) to improve usability based on our usability principles.
    • At least 2-3 changes the designers made between the versions of the site that either (a) improved or (b) hindered usability.
    • At least 2 suggested changes from the current version of the site that would improve usability. For each change, list the usability principle your change is addresssing.
  6. Run the ANDI tool over the current version of the site. You do not need to include a screenshot in your PDF.
    • Include a section in your writeup listing the kinds of Accessibility Alerts the tool found under each of the ANDI modules. If there were multiple similar alerts, please feel free to list them together (i.e., “23 Elements with No Accessible Name”). Then discuss:
      • How many different kinds of alerts were found?
      • Are they easily fixable? Will they require a larger redesign of the website to fix?

Note: There are no fixed length requirements or specific format for this writeup. While you must list the minimum number of items above for each site for full credit, you are encouraged to be thorough. You may consider how these design decisions and usability concerns will affect the site you design for your project.


Save your document as a PDF. You are welcome to use Word, LaTeX, HTML, or an editor of your choice to write this document, however the final version must be a PDF. Upload your final PDF to Gradescope in the “Homework 1” submission. Be sure to include all group members on the submission.

Grading Rubric

This homework is worth 50 points, based on the following rubric:

  • 5 points: Screenshots of the website(s)
  • 10 points: Discussion of usability principles on archived version of site(s)
  • 10 points: Discussion of usability principles on current version of site(s)
  • 10 points: Discussion of changes between versions
  • 5 points: Suggesting changes to improve usability
  • 10 points: Discussion of ANDI results

Academic Integrity

For this assignment, you may not share your write-up with other students outside your group.

Note: You must cite any sources you use at the end of your document in a format that we can easily follow.