A User-Centered Design Methodology for Academic Libraries


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This is a presentation I gave on the annual meeting of Academic Libraries of Indiana (ALI), on May 9th, 2013, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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  • Picture:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kozloduy_Nuclear_Power_Plant_-_Control_Room_of_Units_1_and_2_in_black_and_white.jpgWhat are the human factors principles?
  • Affordance: Perceived properties that suggest how to use the object or designConsistency: easy to learn, recognition rather than recallFlexibility: users have multiple ways to interact with the systemRobustness: the system allows users to do things that the designer did not expect and the system is still functional.
  • Understanding the perspective a user brings to a system enables us to design the system to meet their needs.
  • Focus groups questions should be: Carefully ordered in order to put participants within a certain frame of mindNon-directedOpen-ended. Questions should be general enough not to constrain answers to a specific responses (limit yes-no questions)Focused on specific topics you are investigatingPersonal. Questions should concentrate on people’s current behavior and opinions.Unambiguous Sample question: Think about the last paper you wrote or research you did, where did you find the information or references you needed? How did you know what resources to use?
  • Sample question: Can you show me your typical workflow of finding the full text of a journal article, from the search to the actual download of the full text file?Prevent complaint sessions: observe and note the pain point of interaction, but also encourage the user to focus on the task itself.
  • Instead of saying these are issues of user training, education, or individual differences, we should ask ourselves: can libraries do more to address users needs? There is also a need to balance users need and library operations (the requirements of librarians and staff).
  • Personas may not be necessary. A bulleted list of basic user attributes can work just well.Research-driven creativity: it is not a black box magically converting raw information into design. The user research informs the prioritization and structure of the raw information. The user research also establishes the foundation of use cases for the design to support.
  • This diagram shows the critical components of content strategy. The core strategy defines how an organization will use content to achieve its objectives and meet its user needs.The core strategy informs what the content will be and how it will be structured.Substance: the kind of content we need. The messages that the content need to communicate to our audience.Structure: how the content is prioritized, organized, formatted, and displayed. The structure can include information architecture, metadata, tags, etc.Workflow: the processes, tools, and human resources required for content initiatives to launch successfully and maintain ongoing quality.Governance: How are key decisions about content and content strategy made. How are changes initiated and communicated.
  • Quantitative inventory: what content exists today and what shape it is in.A web content audit is an accounting of the content your organization currently has online.With content audit, you can anticipate problems before they arise, and avoid derailing your project.Qualitative audit: best practices assessment: A comparison of your content against industry best practices, usually done by a third-party, unbiased assessor.Qualitative audit: strategic assessment: An invaluable, in-depth look at how your content measures up to your strategic goals (business or user)A qualitative audit analyzes the quality and effectiveness of the content.Qualitative audit factors: usability, knowledge level (how much prior knowledge your user needs to understand your content), fundability, actionability, audience, accuracyFor use in strategic assessments only: business value, message, brand/voice appropriateness
  • Staffing – who is responsible for maintenance changes?Tracking – a system needs to be in place so that WHEN, not IF defects are found, everything is assimilated, prioritized, assigned and corrections are scheduled.Schedule – there must be a way to keep track of when each maintenance issue will be addressed.Calendar – not only an editorial calendar of what will be added to the site in the form of fresh content, but also, what future changes, branding issues, launches or expansions will your company have in the near future that will impact the website. It is much easier to prepare for these things with advance notice.Content Removal Process– adding content can be difficult, but removing it can be even more challenging. Who is going to do this? How will they do this?Archival – Web Document Retention. Many companies have a document retention policy and web documents should be held to the same standard.
  • Visual perception: Can users notice the prominent information Information hierarchy: Can users understand the priority of informationAcceptance: Does the page work for users? Will they use it? Is the page cluttered? Task scenario: set up test tasks and ask users to come up with their own tasksUser goals: Can the website meet user goalsWorkflow: Test navigation path, time, errors
  • The goal of a user test is to determine whether the website’s intended users would be able to figure out the website on their own once the website is out in the wild. To do so, it’s best if a test session can mimic the context in which participants would actually use the website—that is, without a researcher sitting right next to them.
  • Back to human factors principles: look for any kind of violation against those principles
  • We need to start thinking about content as something that lives beyond a particular page or publishing platform. We can't just imagine how content will appear in a particular document or page or screen. Instead, we have to structure our content for reuse. We need to separate content and form.
  • A User-Centered Design Methodology for Academic Libraries

    1. 1. •••
    2. 2. ••••
    3. 3. User ResearchDesignContentStrategyUserTest
    4. 4. ••••
    5. 5. Explore needsand thoughtsFocus GroupsUnderstandworkflowIdentify usecasesObserve naturalbehaviorContextual ResearchUnderstandcontextIdentify usergoals
    6. 6. •••••
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    13. 13. PlanningContent OwnerUser ExperienceContent SourceContent OwnerDesign & PublishContent OwnerUser ExperienceWeb DevelopmentWeb Steering CommitteeStrategic CommunicationWeb Development
    14. 14. ••••
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    18. 18. •••