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A Usability and Accessibility Evaluation of the Foregin Trade Division’s AESDirect Web Site

Erica Olmsted-Hawala, Alex Trofimovsky, Larry Malakhoff and Elizabeth Murphy



The Automated Export System (AES) Direct is an Internet-based, computerized self-administered questionnaire (CSAQ). It is intended to support participants as they file their electronic export information. AESDirect is used for all exports, aside from those to Canada, that are valued over the amount of $2500.00. In the fall of 2006 the Census Bureau’s usability lab evaluated the usability and accessibility of the AESDirect application. The usability study focused entirely on the AESDirect CSAQ, while the accessibility study focused on AESDirect and its supporting software applications (Certification Quiz, the tutorial installation wizard and tutorial, the User Guide, WebLink, and AESPcLink).

The methods used in the two studies are detailed in this report, along with the findings and recommendations.

This report is in two parts: part one is the usability evaluation and part two is the accessibility evaluation. In part one, the researchers report on their methods of obtaining a baseline on participant performance (accuracy and efficiency) and satisfaction with the user-interface design. We identify prioritized list of usability problems with possible solutions, and identify ways to incorporate user-centered design into the AESDirect CSAQ. Some of the high-priority findings include user difficulties in understanding how to get started using the application, difficulty with filling out the form, users expecting a simple way to submit or save their data and finding none, user problems with the “Help”, and the use throughout the application of too much technical terminology or jargon.

In part two, accessibility issues are identified and a priority, high medium, or low, is assigned to indicate the severity of the problems. Among other findings, the accessibility evaluation revealed color is used by itself to identify completion status; tutorial screens have text that cannot be detected by screen reading software, and AESPcLink lookup screen search results are displayed in inaccessible tables. Recommendations are made for resolving the accessibility issues.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Created: July 26, 2007
Last revised: July 26, 2007

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010