Usability: It’s Pretty Tricky

Usability is one of those things that can be easy to do, but hard to master.  Many programmers and developers come out with good products that users can use, but they may not be easy to use.  This is why usability is so important.  It can make your product stand out or it can make your product fail completely.  I suspect everyone has seen some software, website, or product out there that made you go what was the developer thinking when they made this?  I know I have and I know it’s frustrating.  This is why Neilson’s and Morville’s definitions and explanations are helpful.  It allows gives criteria to the developer to think about the product from the end users perspective.


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

The most important factors in making a digital library user-friendly is to think about it from the side of the user.  Get some focus groups to view it and use it after you are done.  Make them a random sampling of people; you don’t just want people who are familiar with the project to test it.  That will do you no good.  Some of them can test it as “advanced users,” but they shouldn’t all be the test subjects.  If it doesn’t pass your test group then you have to redesign.  Your users opinion and use are the most important feedback you can get because after all you’re making it for them right?


What about librarians? What role do they play in a digital library’s usability and in the overall user experience?

Librarians should be the gurus of digital libraries.  They should know how to do everything in them and with them (or at least appear that way).  They are going to be the ones answering questions of the users and if they don’t know what hope do the users have?


One response to “Usability: It’s Pretty Tricky

  1. I completely agree with your phrasing “appear that way”. I’ve found that not knowing an answer is a pardonable offense. I don’t think we should be expected to know everything and anything, I think that gives our patrons false expectations. I think the expectation for librarians should be that we know a lot more than most patrons, but that if we don’t know the answer we know where to go to find out and we follow up in a timely manner.

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