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Usability testing for library catalogs October 25, 2001 Nicole Hennig, Web Manager

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Presentation on theme: "Usability testing for library catalogs October 25, 2001 Nicole Hennig, Web Manager"— Presentation transcript:

1 Usability testing for library catalogs October 25, 2001 Nicole Hennig, Web Manager

2 Thank you Tracy Gabridge Librarian for Civil & Environmental Engineering led the HTML customization team

3 Details available... webgroup/usability2001/barton/test1/ overview.html

4 Outline 1. background 2. the tests 3. problems & solutions 4. future directions

5 1. Background

6 6 month process January - June 2001 old system: GEAC Advance new system: ExLibris ALEPH

7 Web OPAC project teams web OPAC team - public service librarians - circulation staff - processing staff - cataloger - web manager

8 Web OPAC project teams HTML customization team same as previous, plus - systems office staff - programmer

9 Bibliography on handout includes background on display and interface design of library catalogs

10 Background research a lot of research on OPAC design available but not based on observing users or usability testing library system vendors are not following basic good design principles

11 Who makes design decisions? we have more control now that we can customize HTML screens the vendors need to practice good design in building the system

12 A work in progress more rounds of testing and improvements are coming later in the spring

13 Usable design goals every page is self-explanatory “self-teaching” interfaces

14 Will it apply? some things are specific to ExLibris systems many things are general - could apply to any OPAC

15 General principles success summary webgroup/usability2001/barton/ test2/success.html

16 2. The tests

17 The test we had already done extensive usability testing while redesigning our web site

18 Latest thinking has changed 1999: Large test, 30 users, timed people - quantitative 2001: - More frequent, smaller tests, 5-6 people at a time - qualitative

19 The test 1/2 hour long 10 questions think out loud

20 The test observer takes detailed notes train observers to not answer how it was supposed to work until end of the test each observer tests 2 people (2 week time frame)

21 Designing questions easy, basic tasks that a first- time user should be able to accomplish real-world tasks (give them a real article citation)

22 Designing the questions no need to obsess over perfect, “scientific” questions you will learn plenty from watching people use the catalog

23 The questions 1 - 5: known items 6 - 10: general research complete list: usability2001/barton/test1/questions.html

24 The questions test the questions get the bugs out print out the questions in large type

25 Who we learned from Washington State University Janet Chisman, et al. “Usability Testing: A Case Study” College & Research Libraries Nov. 1999

26 What we learned multi-part questions - if user can’t complete first part, observer does it so they can try second part

27 What we looked for features that were confusing or unclear aspects of the system that worked well

28 The tests test 1test 2 Who7 students3 students 3 library staff4 library staff 4 disabled Catalogsour old web catalog:Barton (6)1st draft of McGill: MUSE (2)new Barton Boston College: QUEST(2) screens Dates Jan. 22 - Feb. 1, 2001May 21 - June 1 Successes4 of 10 tasks7 of 10 tasks

29 3. Problems & solutions

30 Problem 1 people usually picked the default choices or the first choices without thinking much about it (not always the best strategy for their search)

31 Example people used first box, ignored second

32 Solution Default choice is keyword. This casts a broad net for those who forget to make a choice.

33 Problem 2 Difference between browse & keyword search not clear

34 Example ? ?

35 Solution No need to know difference between keyword and browse search. Combined in one menu.

36 Problem 3 it wasn’t clear how to input a search string (people used initial articles, author’s first name first, thought they had to type the entire title)

37 Example carefully typed complete title, with article: The Journal of the American Chemical Society

38 Examples far away

39 Solution include examples and instructions of how to input data near the search box and in the search menu

40 Examples for each type Example changes when menu changes.

41 Examples for each type Example changes when menu changes.

42 Grouping Group different title searches, author searches, and subject searches together. {

43 Problem 4 very busy screens with many buttons were overwhelming for people

44 Example

45 Solution Present choices only where needed Group navigation links in ways that make sense




49 Problem 5 it was difficult to find clickable URLs for electronic titles

50 No URL on brief results

51 Better: URLs showing

52 Problem 6 not enough information on brief results screen to choose the most relevant titles (especially for subject searching) [see David Thomas article in bibliography]

53 keyword: women scientists

54 includes subject headings

55 Problem 7 pop-up windows caused confusion

56 Solution minimize number of pop-up windows use only in cases where it’s handy to have the previous screen in the background

57 Problem 8 title you input isn’t at the top

58 Solution add marker (wish list)

59 Problem 9 holdings info for serials was very confusing to everyone

60 Example Do we have Dec 13, 2000 issue?

61 Example

62 people don’t understand open date range v.1 (1879)-

63 Not easy to fix NISO standard way the data is input limitations of the system

64 Example

65 A better holdings display


67 Problem 10 back buttons or back links didn’t behave as expected (a problem with frames)

68 Coming soon no frames version due from ExLibris soon telnet version next year minimal javascript

69 What worked well? - hyperlinked author names - hyperlinked subject headings people found and used these very successfully


71 Self-teaching interfaces For difficult searches where you need to combine fields in a specific way: - design screen so user doesn’t need to know - it just does the right thing


73 Users with disabilities 2 blind users: one used “Jaws”, one used “Window Eyes” 1 user with dyslexia 1 user without use of hands, used pencil in fist to type, and large trackball

74 Users with disabilities these users had same problems and successes as everyone else (but the problems were magnified) everything took longer

75 Users with disabilities solutions that help everyone help disabled solutions that help disabled help everyone

76 Categories of problems problems we can fix by: changing the HTML changing the tables in the database adding custom programming changing our indexing decisions changing cataloging practice problems that only the vendor can fix

77 Other problems many other problems not mentioned here today are described on our web site

78 4. Future directions

79 Latest usability research most large web sites have hundreds of usability problems continuous rounds of testing are necessary to find and fix all problems better to begin with “user- centered design”

80 Latest usability research User Interface 6 East, Cambridge, MA Oct. 2001 Proceedings available

81 Still to test Not so basic features, like: email/save/print your bookshelf advanced searching complex limiting etc.

82 Cycles of testing frequent small tests test your solutions informal tests with handful of people

83 Future directions share information compile guidelines influence vendors

84 Future directions are other libraries testing web OPACs? contact me to share test results Nicole Hennig

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