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CIL2011: Usability Express – Recipe for Libraries

   March 23rd, 2011

CIL2011: Usability Express - Recipe for LibrariesBohyun Kim, Digital Access Librarian, &
Marissa Ball, Emerging Technologies Librarian, Florida International University

 

Why Usability?

  • Good information cannot make up for bad design
  • Give people what they want, not what you want:
    Venn diagram of things people want to see on a website versus things that are actually there
    http://www.xkcd.com/773

Users don't...

  • read content on a website
  • want to learn how to use their website
  • visit your site every day
  • return to sites that have failed them

But they are always on the move - design your website like a billboard that would appeal to commuters, because that's all the time you have to direct their attention

Designers Usability means "fit for use"

  • intuitive - you don't need to think about how to use a hammer
  • easy to recover from a mistake
  • conducive to users performing tasks
  • no need to learn to use it

Usability is difficult for libraries because we offer so much with so many options

  • but most of our information in separate silos
  • much of the terminology is jargon and foreign to users
  • information is segmented by departments that is confusing to patrons

What libraries get wrong

  • pre-conceived notions of important
  • lack of research on user behavior
  • belief that design can change user behavior
  • design based upon a committee - this is slow, design lacks unity, and represents insider opinion more than the users'
  • writing is unsuited to the web

 

Common usability problems and examples

1. Clutter/noise

  • promote all things - nothing stands out
  • user have no idea where to start/focus
  • information overload = stress

How to fix

  • improve by taking things out rather than adding
  • be aware of clutter creeping in
  • users are happy to click "as long as"
    • it is mindless ("3 click rule" isn't true as long as clicking doesn't require effort or thought)
    • they know they are getting closer

2. Dated look

  • lowers credibility of the site
  • users suspect outdated content

How to fix

  • replace old icons, images, typography
  • update a CSS file to give a new look
  • as long as the site architecture is sound, serves the same group, and has a clear task pathway that work, no need for redesign - make sure you know what work needs to be done

3. Too subtle design

  • users scan web pages like a billboard while driving at 60mph
  • subtly in web design often backfires
  • good web design is different than good print design, because people do things differently

How to fix

  • make visually clear what's most important, valuable, popular
  • provide a clear visual hierarchy on the page
  • break pages up into clearly defined areas

4. Unclear terms/Library jargon

  • test your site with new users

How to fix

  • replace all jargon with plain terms
  • do now use the product name or vendor names
  • use a short description if name is not clear

5. Redundant and unnecessary content

  • redundant content creeps in as time goes by (welcome, introduction, etc )
  • unnecessary content = small talk (users have no interest in small talk)
  • answer users' questions, not yours
  • serve content that users can grab and go

How to fix

  • remove small talk and explanations by using descriptive names
  • make a content inventory
  • review content by category & purpose
  • remove overlapping, redundant, unnecessary content

6. Bad writing

  • rewrite a page to be half of its length
  • then cut more!

How to fix

  • use clear headings
  • make paragraphs short
  • start with the key points
  • make content easy to scan

7. Design against convention

  • the best ally of usability is convention
  • anything that prompts a pause and thinking is bad
  • surprise, confusion, agony over choice (when there is no distinguishable difference), stress

How to fix

  • don't underestimate the value of convention
  • be creative without sacrificing usability
  • convention implies:
    • obvious and predictable
    • clear paths to goals

8. Unintuitive navigation

  • is it an information architecture an issue?
  • if so, use usability testing method to find out what navigation structure or organization of content makes sense to users

 

User testing - quick, cheap and easy

Profiling Methods

  • find out who your users are
  • focus groups, surveys, and analytics data can all help determine which users to focus on
  • it's best to test in small groups - three tests with five users is better than a single test with 15 users
  • you will learn who your users are, what they want, and how best to get it to them
  • you should use more than one, and make them simple

Focus Groups and User Surveys

  • best to conduct early one, because they gather background information and overall opinions and desires
  • sessions last 1-2 hours, and work best when combined with other methods

Card Sorting

  • put ideas on cards/post-its, and have users arrange them in a way that makes sense to them
  • also helps correct terminology, because users need to understand the words on the cards
  • sessions last 1-2 hours, can be done in groups or individually

Contextual Interviews and Intercepts

  • based on observations of users in their environment
  • ask questions, and be casual
  • this is one of the best methods to use

Paper Prototyping

  • easy, disposable, adaptable, affordable
  • allow your users to be creative
  • create screenshots of various screens of your site for users to interact with
  • easy to generate lots of ideas, because people are more willing to scrap ideas on paper than delete
  • files they have worked on



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One Response to “CIL2011: Usability Express – Recipe for Libraries”

  1. Swiss Army Librarian » What I Learned at CIL2011 :: Brian Herzog Says:

    [...] Simplify your website This was mentioned in multiple sessions (also good stuff here), and sadly it bears repeating – library websites [...]