Iterative vs. Abrupt Change

What are the most important factors in making a digital library user-friendly? How can they be carried out?

One concept that I have embraced related to making a digital library user-friendly concerns how change is introduced.  I am impressed with UX Librarian Aaron Schmidt’s (http://www.walkingpaper.org/) writings on the topic and one key concept he returns to often is the manner in which change is introduced.  We are all familiar with complaints about a digital library/website/etc. leading to a dramatic tear down, as effort is made to “rebuild from the ground up”.  From a user perspective this can be a sign that your library is hearing your input.  One outcome of this approach is noticeable frustration as well, as users have to wait for the new redesign to be implemented.  Schmidt suggests instilling a “culture of change” and an  “iterative approach” where small improvements are being introduced regularly in a non-disruptive fashion.  There is certainly one reason commercial sites like Google and Amazon are successful and that is related to how what changes they implement being non-disruptive and even seamless with the user-experience.   So, I completely agree with others mention of the importance of soliciting feedback from a wide range of stakeholders, but the manner in which that feedback is introduced is highly important in my opinion.

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5 responses to “Iterative vs. Abrupt Change

  1. I agree that a series of changes at a digital library would be less disruptive than a complete overall. But I think that a change in database or content management system used by a digital library system is such a dramatic change that no preparatory change can prepare users.

  2. I think non-disruption or backward compatibility is one of the requirements librarians can request from the software vendors.

  3. One thing we didn’t get to ask Cat Phan the other day at the DCC is how their migration and entire overhaul of their choice of metadata schema (which is being driven by their digital library platform, largely, it sounds like) will affect the _front-end_ user experience. It does sound like it should improve search, at least, according to Melissa!

  4. I 100% agree. Once users are used to a site, small improvements and enhancements are always viewed more positively than a complete overhaul to fix all complaints. Making that process more transparent and allowing users to see the thought process behind and reasons for the change makes them even more amenable. It also tells users that you’re listening and understand that the system isn’t perfect.

  5. librariems, I agree with your opinion that “small improvements and enhancement are” better accepted than “a complete overhaul.” Many changes at once can leave users feeling lost (where did the advanced search option go?) or overwhelmed with learning how to navigate through through the instituted changes. The only example (a non-DL one) I have for this is when the public library I work at implemented a brand-new catalog interface. Although it is designed to support natural keyword searching, patrons hated the massive change overnight. It did not help that the process was not transparent. The only information patrons received was, “We’re upgrading our catalog to serve you better,” without describing the benefits to library users.

    I wonder how current users of the UW-DCC will accept the changes to come in the near future.

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