An Ongoing Relationship Takes Work

Searching Digital Resources: Designing Usability Into Digital Interfaces
Frank Cervone
Steve DiDomenico & Jeannette Moss
Stephen Abram
Mike Visser

Just when I think the room can not get any more packed, twenty people walk in the door. Sharon and I guard our space by the plugs in the back like librarians hyped on coffee. 😉

The Northwestern group speaks first:

Northwestern redesigned their site about five years ago and they found through surveys and interactions that their patrons were currently frustrated with accessibility issues, so they did usability testing to find what actually works and what does not. They asked a random sample of students to complete particular tasks on their website and they recorded the computer screen during the ineraction, which they showed during the presentation. It was enlightening to see the common mistakes that users make on what seems to us to be a very explanatory web site. They are mistakes that we see at the reference desk all the time, but may not ever take time to note.

Some basic findings:

  • Things that patrons need/use the most should be given “more real estate”
  • Clarifying instructions to commonly used phrases on the web NOT library/tech jargon. for example: ILL should be changed to “request materials from other libraries”
  • “Incorporate “fuzzy logic” to accommodate misspellings” (This is a huge peeve of mine. Why are we not jumping to do this when we know the lack of this technology drives people away?)
  • Frank said, “People want our catalog to work like Google”. There are other tools that work better than our catalogs and they will go and use them instead of our tools because the other tools work. (I had to stop myself from clapping wildly)
  • The most basic thing to take away from this session: We must pay attention to what the users need, not what we think they need and we have to realize that usability testing should be an ongoing process.

    Stephen Abram
    Everyone’s learning style and personality effect they way they see and interact with the world. Only about 20% of people are word smart learners, which is where many librarians fall, and we must keep in mind that we serve more than 20% of the population. Stephen Abram also makes a point of saying that, starting with the younger Gen Xers, children are taught differently in schools than their parents were. I have never previously considered how personalities can effect the way people use the web. Unconsciously, I think many of us know this reality, but very few of us actually put it into use. As we design things, we must always ask ourselves how the users see things.