User-Friendly Database Interface Design (804)


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User-Friendly Database Interface Design (804)

  1. 1. RUNNING HEAD: USER-FRIENDLY DATABASE INTERFACE 1 User-Friendly Database Interface Design Annotated Bibliography Amy Taylor Emporia State University
  2. 2. USER-FRIENDLY DATABASE INTERFACE 2 User-Friendly Database Interface Design Introduction Database design encompasses many components. Designers must consider its purpose,structure, metadata scheme, algorithm, and many other details. One component that has garneredmuch attention in the last decade is the interface. With the advent of Google, designers havecome to see the importance of a user-friendly interface. The design and organization of theinterface not only influences how users search, but also how they deal with the presented results.With that in mind, many subscription databases used by libraries, have gone through a re-designto update their interface, making them more user-friendly. In another attempt to compete withGoogle, they have also begun developing federated searching that can act as a one-stop researchhub; however these databases have difficulty maintaining a user-friendly interface. Thisbibliography consists of articles that focus on the aspects of good interface organization anddesign, the importance of user-friendly design, evaluations of recently redesigned databases, andthe interface hurdles faced by federated databases. Tips for Designing a Well Organized and User-Friendly InterfaceBambrick, J. (2000). Dreams of the perfect database. EContent, 23(1), 21-2, 24. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database. In 2000 EContent launched a campaign to describe the perfect database. They asked their contributors and readers to submit articles describing what their ideal database would look like: its features, search capabilities, user interface, and more. Jane Bambrick, Reference Librarian at William Paterson University, took the challenge and wrote an article which described her dream about the perfect database. Her “idyllic” database’s interface had a simple organization, soothing colors and an uncluttered look. Brambrick
  3. 3. USER-FRIENDLY DATABASE INTERFACE 3 described an interface that was flexible, allowing the user to move easily between basic and advanced searching options and easily skim their results. Although this article is told in an amusing fashion and the database described was fictious, it does shed light on the desires of database users. It is obvious that Brambrick believes database companies must keep their users needs in mind when laying out the organization of their interface and she did an excellent job describing how the interface should be organized differently for different users. “The industry must keep in mind the database users and how they can best utilize their products. Keeping attuned to the constant and dynamic changes in the world of information technology is essential” (Brambrick, 2000, p. 24). A fine article for database designers and reference librarians.Fichter, D. (2001). Designing usable sites: a state of mind. Online (Weston, Conn.), 25(1), 68-72. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database. Darlene Fichter is a librarian at the University of Saskatchewan Library and has written numerous articles about human computer interaction for various journals and magazines. In this article, she focuses on how to design a usable web interface. Fichter explains that there are seven design principle for usable web sites: be intuitive, have a clear organizational structure, be consistent, offer navigational choices, tailor visual design and interaction to fit your audience, make it work, and be polite. A central theme among these principles is consistency. As the author describes each of the principles she argues that the user looks for a consistent organizational structure, whether that is in the navigational structure or layout of the pages. Fichter states that “Using a familiar layout and site structure helps users. They expect the logo at the top, the content in the middle, menus on the left, and footers. Make use of their intuitive knowledge, and put their brain cycles to
  4. 4. USER-FRIENDLY DATABASE INTERFACE 4 work on understanding what services are offered” (2001, para. 14). According to the author, if designers follow the seven principles presented their websites will remain user focused. Although the article does not focus on database design it does provide excellent advice for database designers where interface organization is concerned. The reader can visualize what the author is saying and apply her techniques to their own interface design and organized.Jagadish, H. V., Chapman, A., Elkiss, A., Jayapandian, M., Li, Y., Nandi, A., & Yu, C. (2007). Making database systems usable. Retrieved from In this paper, a database research group from the University of Michigan addresses the issue of database usability. The group presented this paper at the ACM/SIGMOD PODS International Conference on Management of Data / Principles of Database Systems in 2007. They became interested in database usability while working on a database for a group of biologist. Although very intelligent, the biologist had a difficult time using the database. This insight led the research group toward usability research and this paper. Through their research they were able to identify five areas of concern regarding database organization and usability. They also suggested several areas needing further research. This paper is very esoteric and lacks explanation of the more technical elements making the paper more suitable for database designers.Tenopir, C. (2005). Getting the users attention. Library Journal (1976), 130(8), 32. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database.
  5. 5. USER-FRIENDLY DATABASE INTERFACE 5 At the 2005 Annual meeting of the National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services librarians and database companies met to discuss what library users want when searching for information via the web. They were specifically interested in how to move users from web search engines and the open web to more high-quality information available in library databases. Carol Tenopir, a professor of Information Science at the University of Tennessee, was lucky enough to attend the meeting and in this article she summarizes the event. Catherine Gordon, Google’s director of business services, was the keynote speaker of the event and shared with the group what Google’s data says about how user’s search. She explained that their data demonstrates that users simply pick a website, open it, skim it and then return to their results to pick the next on the list. Tenopir also described some points made by Stewart Bodner, associate chief librarian of the New York Public Library, regarding the general public’s desire to be self-sufficient. Although the article does not speak to the technical aspects of database design it does speak to what database designers should be working toward. The information shared by Gordon and Bodner suggests that database designers need to build interfaces that are organized in such a way that users can skip between their results easily and require little instruction regarding use. A good overall review of the conference for librarians however, specific examples and suggestions would have been beneficial. How Important is Interface Design and Organization
  6. 6. USER-FRIENDLY DATABASE INTERFACE 6Knievel, J., Wakimoto, J., & Holladay, S. (2009). Does interface design influence catalog use? A case study. College & Research Libraries, 70(5), 446-58. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database. After a redesign of their OPAC interface some of the librarians at The University of Colorado at Boulder began to consider whether or not the changes would influence the use of the catalog. Would the new organization lead users to search differently? Use the OPAC more? Less? With these questions in mind Jennifer Knievel, Faculty Director of Research and Instruction, Jina Wakimot, Faculty Director of Cataloging and Metadata Services, and Sara Holladay, Electronic Collections and Assessment Librarian decided to launch a study of OPAC usage after the redesign. Over the course of three years they collected data via a transactional log analysis and found that use of the OPAC did not decline or increase but the way in which users search did change. They found an increase in keyword searching and rationalized that this was due to the fact that it was the default search option. Although the study gave good information regarding the search behavior of users, it did little to draw conclusions between the interface design and their results. A detailed description of the interface and the changes made to it would have been very helpful as well as graphics showing the before and after.Tenopir, C. (2009). Visualize the perfect search. Library Journal (1976), 134(4), 22. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database. Carol Tenopir, a professor of Information Science at the University of Tennessee, has written many articles addressing database design; in this one she discusses the importance of a well-designed and organized interface. In the article she addresses the issue faced by
  7. 7. USER-FRIENDLY DATABASE INTERFACE 7 almost all academic librarians. Although students understand that library database have excellent information, they still utilize Google over the database. According to Tenopir (2009) “studies have shown that students recognize that the library has high-quality and authoritative content but still choose Google owing to its ease of use” (p. 22). She seems to draw a connection between student use of databases and organized, usable interface design. She also describes a new approach to interface design that may make library databases more competitive to Google as well as provide users with a more meaningful search experience called the Visualization approach. Although Tenopir does not state her opinions regarding the validity of the new approach, the article does give librarians an alternative to the simple search box perpetuated by Google. A good read for librarians who must review new databases. Evaluating Database DesignBadke, W. (2008). EBSCOhost 2.0: How EBSCO is changing my mind, sort of. Online (Weston, Conn.), 32(5), 48-50. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database. In 2008 EBSCOhost launched its new interface EBSCOhost 2.0, its first interface change since 2002. In this article Associate Librarian at Trinity Western University, William Badke, provides an evaluation of the makeover. Badke has written over twenty articles in the field of information. His final evaluation of EBSCOhost 2.0 - A+, however Badke may be a bit biased. In the first paragraph he admits that EBSCOhost is his favorite database. That being said, he gives a great description of the new interface. He notes that the design and organization of the search interface resembles Google just as the company planned. At first, Badke is disappointed in the new look but upon further inspection he
  8. 8. USER-FRIENDLY DATABASE INTERFACE 8 grows to appreciate the organization. EBSCOhost moved the “bells and whistles” from the search interface, where they intimidated users, to the results interface where they are intuitive and organized in a user-friendly manner. Although the article may be a bit biased, it does a very good job of describing the organization and design of the interface. A good resource for any librarian considering purchase of the database or wanting to become more familiar with its new interface.Davis, J. (2006). The new Hoovers. EContent, 29(7), 20-2. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database. Jan Davis, president of JT Research, specializes in business and industry research and writing. In this article she provides an evaluation of Hoover’s redesigned business database known as “New Hoovers”. Hoover’s Inc. made the decision to redesign their database when it became difficult to maintain a consistent, uncluttered look. In their redesign they focused on creating an intuitive, clean interface that gave their users easy and quick access to Hoover’s information. According to Davis Hoover was very successful in accomplishing their goal. She seemed most impressed by the results interface. She liked the way the results page was organized, giving details about the types of records provided on the right-side and giving the user the ability to narrow their results through options on the left side. It is clear that Davis was a big fan of the Hoover database, even before the redesign; therefore some bias can be seen in the review. However, the review is detailed and gives the reader a good impression of what the database offers. Business librarians will find the review helpful when making decisions about database purchases.
  9. 9. USER-FRIENDLY DATABASE INTERFACE 9LaGuardia, C. (2009). Global Issues in Context. Library Journal (1976), 134(7), 112. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database. In 2009 Gale Cengage launched a new database called Global Issues in Context. One of the main changes made in this database was in its interface. Rather that going with a simple clean search screen, Global Issues search interface is rich in content and multimedia. In this article Cheryl LaGuardia reviews the new database. Cheryl LaGuardia is the Research Librarian for the Widener Library at Harvard University and the author of Becoming a Library Teacher. Her review is clear, concise, and unbiased. She simply lists its features and discusses the results for a basic search. Her review lacks analyses of the new interface design and organization. However, she does seem to like the new look, especially the interactive map. An unbiased, concise review of Global Issue, however a librarian considering this database will need to do more research. Federated Database Interface DesignCervone, F. (2005). What weve learned from doing usability testing on openurl resolvers and federated search engines. Computers in Libraries, 25(9), 10-14. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database. When Northwestern University decided to launch a federated search of their resources they did not jump in blind. They first ran a series of usability tests of the federated search interface which gave them a clearer picture of what needed to be done. They wanted to “ensure that people are able to find and use resources in the most efficient and straightforward manner possible” (Cervone, 2005, p. 10) Frank Cervone, assistant university Librarian for Information Technology at Northwestern, wrote this article to share their findings from the usability tests. Cervone describes the tests they used and the
  10. 10. USER-FRIENDLY DATABASE INTERFACE 10 results in a simple manner that even the least technical minded people can understand. A key point made by the author was that a simple interface is not enough when it comes to good interface design. They discovered that their interface needed to be organized in a specific way to be more effective. A great read for librarians looking into federated searching for their own libraries.Fryer, D. (2004). Federated search engines. Online (Weston, Conn.), 28(2), 16-19. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database. Donna Fryer, an information consultant researcher, and trainer with Global Information Research & Retrieval, wrote this very informative article about federated searching. The goal of the article is to provide librarians with information about this new technology. She describes how it works and discusses some of the pros and cons. While describing the interface she points out that there are some issues regarding their organization and design. For example, the look and feel of the page should not require a high learning curve on the part of the user and the search interface should be consistent with the results interfaces. The author did a good job of presenting the information with an unbiased approach and the article would be a good read for any librarian wanting more information about federated searching and its design.Wrubel, L., & Schmidt, K. (2007). Usability testing of a metasearch interface: A case study. College & Research Libraries, 68(4), 292-311. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database. When the 16 libraries in the University System of Maryland and Affiliated Institutions (USMAI) instituted the a metasearch interface Laura Wrubel, Systems Librarian in the University of Maryland Libraries and Kari Schmidt, Collection Management &
  11. 11. USER-FRIENDLY DATABASE INTERFACE 11 Electronic Resources Librarian in the Dahlgren Memorial Library at Georgetown University decided to conduct a study evaluating its effectiveness. This article is a description that study and its results. They found that most students in the study understood what a metasearch (also known as a federated search) does and were familiar with the libraries website. Two different interfaces for their metasearch system were tested and students did show a preference toward once based on its interface design. Overall the authors found that the students saw that the metasearch tool could be useful. “However, aspects of functionality and interface design contributed to low rates of success in completing tasks” (Wrubel & Schmidt, 2007, p.302). A good read for those libraries considering moving toward a metasearch or federated search tool and for designers developing these tools.