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Outsourcing functional web usability: A practical approach to effective web enhancements improving user experience. Mark Paul University of Louisville.

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Presentation on theme: "Outsourcing functional web usability: A practical approach to effective web enhancements improving user experience. Mark Paul University of Louisville."— Presentation transcript:

1 Outsourcing functional web usability: A practical approach to effective web enhancements improving user experience. Mark Paul University of Louisville LIBRARY ASSESSMENT CONFERENCE August 6 th, 2008, Parallel Session 7 #2, 11:00 AM

2 Library Literature  347 hits on “usability”  411 hits on “outsourc*”  Zero (0) hits on “usability” and “outsourc*” Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts  1424 hits on “usability”  111 hits on “outsourc?”  Zero (0) hits on “usability and outsourc?” Literature Review -- an opportunity exists here

3 Web Management Team approached in Spring semester 2007 by instructor of cross-listed course Human-Computer Interaction offering usability studies on library’s web site from groups in the course.  Cross listed between Computer Engineering Computer Science class CECS 694 and Rhetoric and Composition class English 681. Web Management Team agreed and team facilitator prepared several options of general or library specific web pages for usability studies. One of the groups then requested to do their study on the process of requesting (“picking”) an item from the library’s Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) via the library’s web catalog interface.  The ASRS was installed in Fall 2005, and became operational in Spring We call it the Robotic Retrieval System, or RRS. Outsourcing Usability

4 Usability group used sample of four (4) participants.  Sample size too small? Subjects were given pre-test questions, post-test interview, and five (5) tasks to perform. They were:  Search catalog for item, describe how to get it from the stacks.  Retrieve a record on screen for item located in the RRS.  Request/Pick an item from the RRS, but have it delivered to another library’s circulation desk.  Request/Pick an item from the RRS, but indicate it would be picked up at a later date.  Request/Pick an item from the RRS that had already been requested and was no longer in the RRS. Methodology

5 Basic web catalog searching posed little problems to subjects.  Is this true? Request RRS item button is difficult to find. Advanced RRS requests/picks difficult to learn. Not enough information/help early in the RRS request/pick process. RRS error messages are not clear. Usability Findings

6 Request RRS item button is difficult to find.  The placement of the request button is limited by functionality of the vendor’s ILS software. (See next)  Location of item includes text “…Click on REQUEST button above.”  Usability report included mouse-vectors of subjects inexperienced in placing a RRS request/pick. (indicating difficulty finding button)  Usability report included visual scan pattern when “looking for request button.” (indicating difficulty finding button) Usability Findings (continued)

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10 Improve visibility of the RRS request button. Explain advanced features of RRS request. Improve/expand error messages. Create a better help system for RRS requests. Recommendations

11 Improve visibility of the RRS request button. By implementing a JavaScript solution, the library catalog now has a direct link to the request/pick process in the body of the item screen. The JavaScript rewrites the ILS output web page changing “Click the REQUEST button above” to “Click here to Request item,” incorporating the link.

12 This ‘outsourcing’ yielded great results with very real, usable recommendations. It was free, other than time. Some recommendations, such as changing help or error messages, were easily and quickly done. (Some of these are done, some are pending) Couldn’t implement all recommendations right away, some had to be developed or borrowed. (e.g. JavaScript was written by someone else) Conclusions

13 Look for opportunities with programs or courses at your institution. They are free! If you find such an opportunity, develop a good relationship with the instructor and/or students so that you can use them for future usability needs. Create opportunities with programs, courses, or individual instructors at your institution. If no courses teach usability find an instructor interested in it and approach them. Consider other institutions nearby if they offer such courses or class components as usability. Consider paying for usability studies if a local organization with knowledge and experience is available. (It will save you time at minimum) What you can do…

14 Thank you for patience and understanding about the unforeseen circumstances which prevented me from attending in person. Thank you: Martha Kyrillidou, ARL, for allowing the show to go on. Suzy Szasz Palmer, The Library of Virginia, for presenting in my place. Jackie Wrosch, Eastern Michigan University, for developing and then sharing your JavaScript that creates the RRS link. If you have any questions about the usability study or recommendations implemented feel free to contact me. Mark Paul Thank you!


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