You don’t have to be an expert on user experience to conduct your own usability study. Determining how your users prefer to use your site, collection, product, etc is something that everyone can benefit from and anyone can do. Usability studies are conducted to understand how your users actually use your system. You can then use that data to determine what is and is not working with your system and create an improved system that has greater usability.
We are currently conducting a usability study at my library. We provide research aids using a content creation software called Libguides. Our goal is to provide Libguides that students will have the best experience using. One reason I saw a need to change the design of our current Libguides was due to a steep drop in clicks from the Libguide homepage to subsequent pages. Something about the way the guides were laid out was causing users to navigate away from the page. So with the help of our systems librarian we set up a usability study to discover the reason. We have only gone through two tests so far, but have come across some interesting findings.
- Usability Test 1:
- Students were asked to draw their ideal Libguide on a large piece of paper
- The systems librarian and I explained what Libguides were and showed them Mount Holyoke, UT Arlington, and UMHB Libguides as a reference
- Usability Test 2
- 3 prototypes were created based on student suggestions from usability test 1
- Prototype A: Based on Mount Holyoke’s Libguide layout
- Prototype B: Based on UT Arlington’s Libguide layout
- Prototype: UMHB’s Libguide
- All dealt w/ the subject of education
- After the prototypes were created a series of tasks were composed
- 4 users were given the tasks and asked to complete them for each prototype
Below is a list of our findings and recommendations for our next test.
Remove Top Level Navigation
- None of the users used the tabs at the top. According to the literature users do not utilize top level navigation, favoring left side navigation instead. Below is an example of what we currently have and what I would like to migrate to:
Current Layout: In addition to top level navigation, there are several extraneous links that navigated away from the Libguide and confused the user.
Desired Layout: This is taken from http://www.fall.tnvacation.com. I like how the active tab is a different color, as well as the clear intuitive left side navigation.
More White Space
- Students did not like text heavy pages or pages with too much content.
Current Layout: Too much text.
Desired Layout: This Libgude is from UT Arlington. They employ a good use of white space as well as images.
Less Database Listing, Incorporate Search Boxes
- Students became overwhelmed by extensive listings of databases. They preferred shorter lists and embedded search boxes.
- Here are a few more recommendations I am making for the next stage. In the coming months we are going to create a new prototype and test a new group of students on it.
- Put most important links at the top of a list
- It was observed that users do not look at the link titles but rather click on the first link/search box they come to
- The literature reports that students will often search any search box available- regardless of its intended use
- Have all links open in a new tab/window when clicked
- Be clear w/ terminology
- Don’t use library jargon
- Students did not know the difference between database and article terminology or EBSCO and specific database titles
- Tab titles should have titles that are easily understood (finding articles, finding books, etc)
- Need to utilize repeat navigation
- Users should be able to easily navigate back to the home page of the libguide
- Libguides should focus on:
- How to use the library catalog
- Keyword and subject searching
- Understanding what a database is and how to use it
- Choosing a topic for research
- Mind mapping
- How to differentiate between scholarly, popular, trade publications
- Find permalinks, full text, etc
- Find useful Websites associations, etc
- Libguides should NOT focus on
- Extensive listings of books we have on a subject (it should show HOW to find those books)
- Purpose of Libguides should be better explained
- Students did not know the difference between the library site and the libguides
- Once they navigated away from the libguide they rarely navigated back to it
- Literature reports that lack of clear navigation through the site leads to disorientation