An Author Usability Trial for the Networked Assessment Toolkit (NEST)

Craig Burton, Lorraine Johnston


The on-going development of NEST, the Networked Assessment Toolkit, was studied as an example of how a WWW-mounted computer program must be designed to have a pared-down interface that does not attempt to mimic the kind of user control we are used to in stand-alone software.

Originally a UNIX command-line translator for marking up HTML exams, NEST was recently improved so that its authoring capabilities could be used via the WWW. Developed at the University of Melbourne in 1996, NEST was chosen for assessment of its WWW interface to determine how a complex piece of software can support a WWW interface.

A non-trivially complex application, NEST was considered to be representative of the types of applications desirable for access via the WWW.

The philosophies behind NEST, its interface and its function are described below, followed by the rationale for, and outcomes of, a usability study. This paper is most concerned with the areas where technical design considerations have a significant impact on usability issues.

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