Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Libraries’ Homepage Undergoes Usability Testing

In early April 2006, the University Libraries inaugurated a new homepage, www.bsu.edu/library, designed to help students and faculty more easily find resources for teaching, learning, and research.
In June, the Libraries’ Web Development Working Group (WDWG) conducted usability testing on the new homepage to gauge user satisfaction and perceptions regarding the site’s design and functionality.
Two independent usability testing methods were used: individual subject testing and the Expert Reviewer Tool, a heuristic tool developed by the Software Testing Institute (STI), which is part of Ball State University’s Center for Information and Communication Sciences (CICS).
Individual testing sessions employed a script of specific tasks for users to complete, as well as a series of general questions to analyze the organization, navigability, and functional design of the new site. Tests were conducted in a CICS computer lab using Camtasia Studio software, which allows for recording of subjects’ Web browsing behavior and verbal responses, as well as video output for later review.
The following general conclusions and recommendations were made from the task completion portion of the usability tests:
• Students have trouble finding newspapers
Recommendation: Provide a link to newspapers under Find… .
• Some students have a difficult time using the course reserves page
Recommendation: Lessen the text on the page and provide a distinguishable button/graphic to click on to go to electronic reserves.
• Students have trouble marking records within CardCat for printing and emailing
Recommendation: 1. Provide more intuitive way of marking records; 2. Reword error message that appears when no items are selected to clearly indicate how to do such.
• Students do not notice the Student Virtual Library graphic as a link
Recommendation: Add the text ‘Click Here’ to the image and create a separate rollover graphic to better distinguish it as a link. This is also a problem on the Student Virtual Library,www.bsu.edu/library/svl page.
• Students have trouble finding encyclopedias
Recommendation: 1. Provide a link under Find…; 2. Redesign Online Reference shelf and listed pages.
• Students do not generally notice/use the Quick Search Tools drop-down menu
Recommendation: 1. Replace drop-down menu with CardCat search box.
• Students do not notice category headings as links to fuller listings of resources
Recommendation: 1. Provide distinguishing rollover effects to category headings; 2. Add More… links at the top or bottom of the sections; 3. Add alt tags to image headings.
• The Digital Media Repository simple search box is ineffective
Recommendation: 1. Instead of using ‘or’ function, change to ‘and’ function; 2. Add a link in the simple search box to Advanced Search.

In addition, subjects offered a number of helpful comments and suggestions, including:
• Remove “non-research” or “unnecessary” links from the page
• Remove underlining of active links and provide more spacing between links for a more open and less dense look
• Provide CardCat search box on the homepage
• Hard to distinguish between News & Events & University Libraries News
• Provide breadcrumbs or other links back to the main homepage
• Provide Flash banners with active links to units within the Information Technology Group
• Add explanations and/or descriptions for links
Based upon these findings, the Web Development Working Group began implementing a number of practical solutions and is in the process of developing a number of others. These are being put into production as soon as they are available.
Members of the Web Development Working Group are Jim Bradley, Katie Bohnert, Hilde Calvert, Stacy Chaney, Stephen Duecker, Daniel Hartwig, Randy Lewandowski, and Matthew Shaw.


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