Usability Studies and User-Centered Design in Digital Libraries

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of Tennessee At Martin]On: 04 October 2014, At: 23:23Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK</p><p>Journal of Web LibrarianshipPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:</p><p>Usability Studies and User-Centered Design in DigitalLibrariesDavid J. Comeaux aa State University of New York ,Published online: 11 Oct 2008.</p><p>To cite this article: David J. Comeaux (2008) Usability Studies and User-CenteredDesign in Digital Libraries, Journal of Web Librarianship, 2:2-3, 457-475, DOI:10.1080/19322900802190696</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all theinformation (the Content) contained in the publications on our platform.However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness,or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and viewsexpressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of theContent should not be relied upon and should be independently verified withprimary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for anylosses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages,and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or</p><p></p></li><li><p>indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of theContent.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes.Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan,sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone isexpressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>enne</p><p>ssee</p><p> At M</p><p>artin</p><p>] at</p><p> 23:</p><p>23 0</p><p>4 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p><p></p></li><li><p>Usability Studies and User-Centered Designin Digital Libraries</p><p>David J. Comeaux</p><p>ABSTRACT. Digital libraries continue to flourish. At the same time, theprinciples of user-centered design and the practice of usability testing havebeen growing in popularity, spreading their influence into the library sphere.This article explores the confluence of these two trends by surveying thecurrent literature on usability studies of digital libraries. This article focuseson the methodology of studies of multimedia digital libraries.</p><p>KEYWORDS. Usability, usability testing, user testing, user-centered de-sign, digital libraries, virtual libraries, multimedia, multimedia libraries</p><p>This article will begin with an overview of digitization and a brief dis-cussion of recent digitization trends in academic libraries. That is followedby a general discussion of user-centered design and usability testing. Afterthat discussion, the application of these techniques on the different formsof digital libraries is discussed. Then usability studies performed on mul-timedia digital libraries are discussed in detail. The published literaturefrom the library field was searched between February and April 2007. Sev-eral databases were consulted, including Library Literature &amp; InformationScience Full Text, Emerald FullText, and ERIC.</p><p>David J. Comeaux is Multimedia Developer with experience as a Web anduser-interface designer (E-mail: He is a certified usabilityanalyst with advanced knowledge of Web usability and accessibility practices. Hecompleted his master of library science studies at the State University of NewYork at Buffalo in 2007.</p><p>Journal of Web Librarianship, Vol. 2(23) 2008Available online at http://www.haworthpress.comC 2008 by The Haworth Press. All rights reserved.</p><p>doi: 10.1080/19322900802190696 457</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>enne</p><p>ssee</p><p> At M</p><p>artin</p><p>] at</p><p> 23:</p><p>23 0</p><p>4 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>458 JOURNAL OF WEB LIBRARIANSHIP</p><p>OVERVIEW OF DIGITIZATION</p><p>Digitization affords two principal benefits: increased access to librarymaterials and new approaches for preservation of objects and collections.By digitizing materials, such as image collections or audio, then making thedigital files available on the Web, libraries enable people from anywherein the world to study or enjoy their collections. In addition to expandingaccess to any geographic area, they can also be accessed at any time ofday.1</p><p>Digitization can also be instrumental in the preservation of rare or fragileitems. For preservation purposes, items can be scanned or photographedat high resolution. Then, lower-resolution digital surrogates can be madeavailable on the Web, therefore increasing access.2 Additional benefitsinclude improving the ability to share resources between collaborating in-stitutions, easing the task of keeping material current, and accommodatingnew formats such as digital audio or video.3</p><p>The digitization of images, rare manuscripts, and other objects has con-tinued to accelerate. In 2006, the Association of Research Libraries pub-lished SPEC Kit 294, Managing Digitization Activities. This surveyreveals insights into the digitization activities of more than 60 academiclibraries. It shows there was an upward trend throughout the 1990s in thenumber of libraries that began digitizing. Six libraries began digitizationin 1992 or before, while 27 initiated digitization between 1995 and 1999.Some fourteen more began their digitization process in 2000 and 2001.The prime motivating factors for commencing digital initiatives were theacquisition of grant funding and the addition of staff with digitization ex-perience. Other factors reported included a desire to make collections moreaccessible, particularly through the Internet.4</p><p>USER-CENTERED DESIGN AND USABILITY TESTING</p><p>According to the Usability Professionals Association, User-centereddesign (UCD) is an approach to design that grounds the process in infor-mation about the people who will use the product. UCD processes focuson users through the planning, design, and development of a product.5</p><p>In simple terms, there are a few basic steps in a user-centered designprocess. The first is to identify the target audience or audiences. In mostcases there will be discernible groups of users, with varying informationneeds and skill levels. For example, in academic libraries, researchers</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>enne</p><p>ssee</p><p> At M</p><p>artin</p><p>] at</p><p> 23:</p><p>23 0</p><p>4 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>David J. Comeaux 459</p><p>and students are typical user groups. Graduate and undergraduate studentsmight be considered different user groups if they are expected to use asystem in significantly different ways. Once target users are identified,their needs and expectations must be ascertained and clearly defined. Thisis a critical step in the user-centered design process that will be discussedin more detail below.</p><p>The next step is to conduct formal testing of the existing site or prototype.The results of the testing are then analyzed, and improvements are made tothe site or prototype based on those results. If resources and time permits,testing is repeated and improvements are continually made until the systemperformance is acceptable.</p><p>The term usability testing has been applied to different practices.Many of these are actually methods of gathering information aboutusers, not usability testing. Common methods for studying users are focusgroups and surveys. Other methods used in library Web site evaluationsinclude site-log analysis and interviews.6</p><p>These techniques each have their strengths and should be a vital part ofa user-centered design process. For example, focus groups are an excellentmeans of learning about the target audiences needs and expectations. Awell-designed questionnaire can yield quantifiable data on users percep-tions of an existing site, and site-log analysis provides hard data about asites actual usage patterns. However, while these techniques provide someuseful information, they do not alone provide the specific informationneeded to inform critical design issues.</p><p>Validating the effectiveness of a site or system requires carefully observ-ing users interacting with the system in a realistic way. That, in essence, isusability testing. To distinguish this approach from surveys or focus groups,this method has been called formal usability testing7 or user protocol.8</p><p>In a typical usability test, the participants are directed to complete acommon scenario, such as putting an item on hold, or executing a task,such as searching for an image in the collection. The test administratorclosely observes the participant and carefully notes the participants actionsbut does not interfere or guide the participant in any way. It is helpful tovideotape each participant as they perform the requested tasks.9</p><p>In addition to the standard means of observing a user protocol experi-ment, capturing the participants actions using screen-capture software canbe very beneficial in two ways. One, electronically capturing the usersefforts maintains an accurate record for analysis. Also, highlights of theprocess can be presented to decision-makers as irrefutable evidence of theneed for change.10</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>enne</p><p>ssee</p><p> At M</p><p>artin</p><p>] at</p><p> 23:</p><p>23 0</p><p>4 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>460 JOURNAL OF WEB LIBRARIANSHIP</p><p>For a general introduction to user studies from the librarians perspec-tive, see Assessing Web Site Usability by Kim Guenter11 or Web SiteUsability Testing: A Critical Tool for Libraries by Shelagh Genus.12 Formore in-depth information, the American Library Association has pub-lished a guide to usability testing for library Web sites.13</p><p>Identifying Users Needs and Expectations</p><p>As noted above, it is critical that designers learn as much as possibleabout user groups information needs and expectations. The most com-monly used methods are focus groups and surveys. While studies of thiskind are integral facets of user-centered design and can be critical to thesuccess of a usability testing effort, they should not be considered a formof usability testing. For this article, they will be classified as user studies.</p><p>Focus groups are excellent tools for this purpose. A focus group is anorganized and mediated interview of a group of individuals who representtypical users of the system. They are used regularly by libraries who wantto learn about user behavior and to obtain voice of the customer feedbackon library services.14</p><p>Surveys and questionnaires are also useful tools for gathering this typeof information. Surveys are used by most libraries to learn about userbehavior, attitudes, and perceptions. They can help identify problem areas,and if repeated regularly, they can illuminate important trends.15</p><p>Summary of Usability Testing and User Study Methodology</p><p>In practice, no single method of studying users alone can gather allof the information needed to inform the design of a user-friendly Website or digital library system. Typically, a user-centered evaluation processconsists of a combination of methods, each of which uncovers differentkinds of information. Methods such as focus groups or interviews areconducted to gather information about the needs, wants, and expectationsof users. Usability testing is performed to assess how well a site meetsthose needs and expectations.</p><p>A DISCUSSION OF DIGITAL LIBRARIES</p><p>The term digital library and the related term virtual library have beendefined in numerous ways. Judy Jeng16 outlined several representativedefinitions.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>enne</p><p>ssee</p><p> At M</p><p>artin</p><p>] at</p><p> 23:</p><p>23 0</p><p>4 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>David J. Comeaux 461</p><p>One perspective is very broad. For example, digital libraries were de-scribed by Michael Lesk as organized collections of digital information17</p><p>and by William Arms as a managed collection of information, with as-sociated services, where the information is stored in digital formats andaccessible over a network.18 Another conception of the digital library isas a central access point to various information resources. By this defini-tion, the typical academic library Web site should be considered a digitallibrary.19</p><p>Another perspective on digital libraries is as a collection of documentsthat include text as well as multimedia objects such as graphical images,video, or sound. Such collections often store objects in databases andassociate the objects with metadata to facilitate retrieval. The informationis accessed and then displayed through a Web-based interface.20 Thesedigital libraries will be referred to as multimedia digital libraries. Thoughthe studies done on academic libraries Web sites and text-based digitallibraries will be discussed, studies that focus on multimedia digital librarieswill be studied in more detail.</p><p>User-centered design practices, including usability testing, have be-come increasingly accepted both in the commercial sector and in libraries.As libraries face more competition from commercial information ven-dors, adopting sound usability practices can help libraries to successfullycompete in the information marketplace.21 A recent study of users per-ceptions of digital libraries found that usability was the most critical cri-terion for digital libraries.22 Specifically, general navigability, search andbrowse functionality, and the presence of help features were cited as criticalaspects.</p><p>Academic Library Web Sites</p><p>There have been numerous publications describing usability tests ofacademic library Web sites. Most described the process of user testing aspart of a library Web site redesign.23 Galina Letnikova24 has published anannotated bibliography on usability testing of academic Web sites.</p><p>Jeng has contributed significantly in this area. In What is Usability inthe Context of the Digital Library and How Can It Be Measured? Jengfeatured a discussion of the methodology used in many of the user studiespublished to date. In Usability Assessment of Academic Digital Libraries:Effectiveness, Efficiency, Satisfaction, and Learnability, Jeng extensivelydiscussed the concept of usability, including the definitions promulgatedby dozens of researchers. That article included a table summarizing user</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>enne</p><p>ssee</p><p> At M</p><p>artin</p><p>] at</p><p> 23:</p><p>23 0</p><p>4 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>462 JOURNAL OF WEB LIBRARIANSHIP</p><p>study strategies in about twenty academic library user assessments. It alsoincluded sample evaluation tools she designed and tested on two academiclibrary Web sites.25</p><p>Several studies have focused on digital libraries that provide electronicaccess to journal articles. Ann Peterson Bishop studied DeLIver, a testbedcollection of articles...</p></li></ul>