Web Usability: Does Your Site Work?
The Biomedical Libraries have posted the
presentatons from our fifth annual
How much time have you wasted trying to locate specific information on a Web site, such as a contact name, phone number, or mailing address? What's with that, anyway? What makes such a seemingly straightforward task so difficult? In this situation, many users give up, faulting their own incompetence or lack of understanding. However, the fault lies not with the user but with the design.
Over the last year, librarians at University of Vermont have conducted a two-part user study to inform the redesign of the Library' Web presence. This presentation will describe the methodology of the study and report on the results, with special emphasis on task-oriented usability testing of a prototype design. "Before" and "after" images of the Web site will demonstrate the importance of user input as the basis for design decisions.
In the first half of 2001, the MIT Libraries converted their OPAC from a GEAC Advance system to an Ex Libris ALEPH system. In order to help plan for the best possible Web interface to the catalog, several usability tests were conducted throughout the process: before, during, and after the conversion.
Usability testing in the design of Web-based teaching modules helps to ensure that they are an effective educational tool. This presentation will describe the process followed in developing interactive tutorials and the changes indicated by direct observation of user behavior.
One little-discussed facet of Web usability is working with professional designers. Many librarians do not have the graphic design skills or software savvy to create polished images for Web sites, yet designers might not be as attuned to usability or the academic setting as librarians. Making a professionally designed site "usable" often requires extra work on the part of the in-house Web team to correct browser incompatibility, slow loading, inappropriate alt tags, and color choices and to ensure compliance with W3C and ADA guidelines. This talk will describe our redesign process, discuss results of usability testing for language and jargon, offer tips for working with graphic designers, and discuss pitfalls to avoid.
The librarians at Babson College utilized professional market research tools to fine tune the navigation of their new Web site. As the Web site serves as a primary research medium, customer buy-in weighed heavily in redesign decision-making. In addition to general on-line and hard copy surveys, we conducted twenty one-on-one analytical interviews. The process included a short survey, a card sort with bundling/naming exercise and discussion. A multiple page visual of the proposed Web site was shown to interviewees for comments and suggestions. The gathered statistics and qualitative information directly impacted the navigation of the Web site redesign.
It is undeniable that our lives have been transformed by the access the Web provides. From locating difficult-to-find items to collaborating with colleagues in far-off lands, the Web has changed the way we do business. For people who have difficulty navigating the physical world, the Web should be revolutionary. In the virtual world it is far easier to design barrier-free spaces that can adapt to different needs: the curb cuts and access ramps of the virtual world are more a matter of attention than of time and resources. Unfortunately, many of the popular trends in Web design erect barriers instead of breaking them down.
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