My library just completed our first library website usability study. We asked five undergraduates to perform 10 tasks. We kept it simple, using a video camera to capture mouse movement and think-alouds, observing the participants, and taking notes. The entire study cost under $100.
We are still digesting the findings, but one thing we immediately noticed is that we have problems with jargon:
We asked: “You need a book that is not owned by the library. How can you borrow the book from another library?” Few of the participants clicked on the “Interlibrary loan” link to answer this question.
About the library
We expected participants to click here for information about library services such as policies, circulation, and reserves. They did not. We’ve decided this needs to be re-named — perhaps to “library services” or “how do I?” — because no one associates the words “About the library” with “How do I renew a book.” And really, why should they?
This is what we named our Encore discovery search interface. Problem: none of the five participants knew that this was the search tool appropriate for finding books and articles. And nobody clicked on our handy “What is this?” link next to the search box! Possible solution: define this by adding “search for books, videos, articles, and more…” as a value in the search box.
Education Resource Center
This is the link to our library’s curriculum collection for Education majors. Our participants (none of whom were Education majors) went to this link to attempt to answer questions about reserves and renewals. And why not? The words “Education Resource Center” are meaningless to someone who does not know what it is.
As Steve Krug says in Don’t Make Me Think, “Testing reminds you that not everyone thinks the way you do, knows what you know, uses the Web the way you do.” Performing this study reminded me just how true this is!