Not a Georgia Peach: Evaluating the usability of the Digital Collections of GSU

Student_finds_a_quiet_place_to_study_in_William_Russell_Pullen_Library_Georgia_State_University_Atlanta_Georgia_July_26_1979I am evaluating the Digital Collections of Georgia State University. Looking at the user interface of the GSU Digital Collections I can that that the GSU library uses ContentDM as a content management system for their digital library. The GSU Digital Collection homepage provides a keyword meta-search option that treats each additional search term as a Boolean OR. A drop down bar underneath the meta-search function is a list of each of the GSU Digital collections clicking on any of these collections presents a browse view of the selected collection.

A navigation bar at the top of the screen duplicates both the Search and Browse functions. This duplication of links is necessary for promoting the accessibility of this website among the vision impaired. Screen reading software used by the visually impaired can read the text of static links much easier than it can read text in javascript drop down menus. Peter Morville’s blog post defines accessibility separately from usability but I question this distinction. I believe that the “ease of use” of a website can not be judged without reference how a site meets the needs of disabled users.

A usability problem that the GSU Digital Collection has is that double quotes are not equivalent to the Boolean AND function in forming queries. Because Google and many other web browsers treat double quotes as being equivalent to AND users might expect that of the GSU DC. The only way to make queries with the AND function is to go to the Advanced Search menu and select the “All the words” options. Many novice users are not even going to notice an Advanced Search option exists, let alone be able to successfully use it. Another search problem is that it is hard to find instances of a search term in a document because the default document view setting is the thumbnail view.

One final observation, when a particular collection is selected from the front page the user is taken to a portal that briefly explains the nature of the collection. I believe this is a good usability feature because it will help the information seeker determine if a particular collection is relevant to their search query before they invest time browsing a collection. But oddly the LGBT collection for GSU has no such explanatory text, and the collection itself seems incomplete. http://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/lgbtq (not really a usability issue, just really weird)

There are more problems with the GSU Digital Collection than postive features. The GSU library may be hampered by the limitations of ContentDM, but I feel they could do more to improve the usability of their Digital Collections.

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2 responses to “Not a Georgia Peach: Evaluating the usability of the Digital Collections of GSU

  1. Aw, poor GSU! They’ve had a hard time in the past few years, you know… (see e-Reserves case!).

  2. stephentheblog: “I believe that the “ease of use” of a website can not be judged without reference how a site meets the needs of disabled users” is a very important distinction. “Ease of use” should be applied to all users in the design, implementation and evaluation processes.

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