Matthew Reidsma

Work Notes

Updates from the GVSU Libraries’ Web Team.
Archive // Subscribe: EmailRSS

Usability Test Roundup - March 2014

This morning we held our third usability test of the year. When I was recruiting students, I tried something new. In addition to the three students who have scheduled testing slots, I recruited a backup student who just had to be in the library fir the duration of the tests, just in case someone canceled. Even if the backup was never called to test, she would still get a t-shirt. That was an easy slot to fill, and it proved a valuable change when the first student canceled. For the first time in three years, I didn’t have to run around the library frantically asking students to participate in the test.

Once again we focused on testing Summon 2.0. Bob Schoofs wrote some new questions that were pulled from current assignments facing students in the history department. In addition, I brought back another question from the previous two tests to give folks an easy win and get a little more feedback on the catalog.

Our questions this time were:

  1. You have a presentation owing up for your history class on women in medieval Europe. Find some peer-reviewed sources on this topic.
  2. You are writing a paper on ghost towns in Michigan for your history class. Find some sources to get started.
  3. For your sociology group project, you need to know how the population of Grand Rapids changed from 1940 through 1960. Your professorr recommended looking at historical census data.
  4. A friend recommended the book The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life by Joseph LeDoux. Find this book.

The first two questions we started students at Summon 2.0, and we noticed some interesting things about this new Summon interface that we need to keep in mind as we prepare to transition:

  • Summon 2.0 doesn’t easily get rid of facets you’ve chosen. If you select, for instance, the Peer Review facet in one search, and then go to the Summon homepage and start all over (where there are no facets), your new search will automatically be limited to peer-reviewed articles.
  • Advanced Search is triggered by the down arrow next to the Search button, and its click target is small enough to make it easy to accidentally click it when you mean to click the Search button.

The last two questions students started at the Library homepage. We had added a “Best Bet” to Summon that would direct students who used the tool to search for “census data” to the Government Documents site. It turns out that Best Bets won’t show up if you type any words that don’t match your keywords before the trigger words. In one case, a student searched for “Grand Rapids census data” in Summon, and the Best Bet wasn’t triggered. Even in the case where a student got the Best Bet, it went unnoticed. Of course, the good news is that this isn’t unique to library search tools. Our first student went right to Google to search for census data, and despite the first result being the U.S. Government’s Census site, she was convinced that there weren’t any relevant results.

The final question on using the catalog gave us a few more things to work with:

  • It is hard to tell where an item is located, especially in the Mary Idema Pew Library. What floor is it on? What on earth is the ASRS? The item holdings need to be redesigned, which is something I had already started tinkering with. There has been some good work done in this arena already, including a thorough article from Bohyun Kim on the ACRL TechConnect Blog about how many different organizations handle this very issue. (It’s worth perusing just to look at the screenshots, I think.)
  • We really need to do something about the author search, since it insists on Last Name, First Name syntax. Our recent “No items found” dialog includes a link to flip your search terms in author searches, but because the change is made with JavaScript, it doesn’t execute until after the page fully loads. In the test, the students had already decided to try a new search by the time the box popped into view.

So a lot of this month’s projects are focused on the catalog. In the next month I will:

  • Add placeholder text to the author search box that says “Last name, First name” to hopefully prompt folks to use the correct syntax when searching for authors.
  • Try to finish a redesign of the item record holdings lists in the catalog.

I’ll keep you up to date on how these changes are coming along. Once I have some mockups of the item record holdings, expect to see them here.

Running a usability test on our website every month is a lot of work, but it has helped us really hammer away at some of the big issues facing our patrons. Thanks for participating, and I look forward to seeing everyone next time!