- What are the most important factors in making a digital library user-friendly? How can they be carried out?
- Morville took the accepted trio of important factors (context, content and users) and blew them up to be more specific. In their role as important factors, the original three are the basics that you see across all of the articles that we read. They’re basic, but they’re hard to nail down. “Users” could mean anything, we all know that if we’re working on a public-facing interface that it should work for the users, but that’s a difficult concept to measure. Morville’s honeycomb idea makes those factors more accessible and tangible. His important factors – useful, usable, findable, credible, valuable, desirable, and accessible are all based off of the original three but allow libraries to hone in on what’s important for their library and it also makes defining metrics for a “better UI” easier. Rather than “are users more satisfied”, libraries could ask, “are users finding the information that they set out to find?”. As with all software roll outs, there are some steps that should be undertaken in order to make sure that you’ve covered all of the bases. First, unit and integrated testing (does the functionality work, does it work from multiple access points, does it work within specific workflows), then user testing (have users come in and use the new interface with test scripts and with blind testing or open the new site to a select few for use as a beta product). Each of the steps should have pre-live metrics to be compared with post-live metrics that cover the factor that you’re most wanting to improve upon.
- What about librarians? What role do they play in a digital library’s usability and in the overall user experience?
- Constant vigilance. That’s an overstatement, but being aware of comments from patrons and ensuring that there is a way to track feedback is a vital step in delivering and continuing to deliver a quality product. Many people get attached to their status quo and start to ignore criticisms or learn to live with bugs because “that’s how the system has always worked”. By having and monitoring a feedback channel, librarians can ensure that users are getting what they need from a UI. Librarians also know their patrons well, and can help with the testing. Sometimes a UI makes sense to the person that’s putting it together, but not so much to the end-users. We should always speak up if we don’t think something will work. Finally, as end-users themselves, librarians should be very involved in the testing process. As librarians, we should know our patrons and we may think of workflows that designers don’t always thing to test. It’s also an excellent way to brush up on the UI before it goes live.
- Are there any examples of digital libraries / collections you have come across that meet or do not meet the usability “ideal”?
- Yes! The Chazen museum UI used to be awful. It has since improved, but for a while was almost impossible to navigate. There was only one search box, but depending on the page you were on, it either searched the collection or it searched for information about the library itself. And if you attempted your search from the wrong page, there was a weird time limit that wouldn’t allow you to search from the correct page for 15 seconds!