Archive for the 'user research' Category


iDesign student competition 2011

This is the second year of the University of Michigan Library’s iDesign competition. This year’s theme is virtual browsing and the challenge is to design an innovative tool which will enhance MLibrary’s discovery environment.

We received some fantastic entries! I especially appreciate the projects that employed UX research methods to inform their designs. If you are so inclined, you can vote on the projects or just have a look at the individual projects:

CataLIST

“…a recommender system could be developed to utilize this rich set of knowledge to curate subsets of the overall library collections, which could then be used to make recommendations to users. A large number of these subsets from across the university could be interconnected and used to surface new content to users, enhance their experience, and break down artificial barriers created by different subject areas.”

MyLibrary Mobile App

“Ever lend a book to a friend? Ever wish they would bring it back? Forget who you lent it to in the first place? MyLibrary will finally let you keep track of your personal collection.”

MLibrary Search
Designs for an improved multi-search interface

Aoide: Virtual Browsing Exploration for MLibrary Audio Collection

A-oi-de [ey-oi-dee] – noun: “A virtual browsing system that aims to facilitate new methods of interpreting search results through virtualized representations of audio CD materials for the University of Michigan’s Music Library.”

FilmGrid

A visual browser for Askwith Media Library

Take a deep breath and welcome the class of 2012

It’s that time of the year again – to take a minute and think about our incoming college freshmen!

They were born in 1990/1991! As a genX kid I’m most astonished by the fact that the baby from Nirvana’s Nevermind album cover is one of them.

Here are some technology related highlights from the Berloit College Mindset List for the incoming class of 2012:

The class of 2012 has grown up in an era where computers and rapid communication are the norm, and colleges no longer trumpet the fact that residence halls are “wired” and equipped with the latest hardware. These students will hardly recognize the availability of telephones in their rooms since they have seldom utilized landlines during their adolescence. They will continue to live on their cell phones and communicate via texting. Roommates, few of whom have ever shared a bedroom, have already checked out each other on Facebook where they have shared their most personal thoughts with the whole world.

  • GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
  • Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
  • Films have never been X rated, only NC-17.
  • Students have always been “Rocking the Vote.”
  • IBM has never made typewriters.
  • They may have been given a Nintendo Game Boy to play with in the crib.
  • Caller ID has always been available on phones.
  • They never heard an attendant ask “Want me to check under the hood?”
  • Windows 3.0 operating system made IBM PCs user-friendly the year they were born.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.

Take a deep breath and welcome the class of 2012

School has been in session for a couple of weeks so please pardon my tardiness.

Beloit College regularly publishes an extensive list of tidbits about incoming 1st year college students.

Here are some of the (techy) highlights:

The class of 2012 has grown up in an era where computers and rapid communication are the norm, and colleges no longer trumpet the fact that residence halls are “wired” and equipped with the latest hardware. These students will hardly recognize the availability of telephones in their rooms since they have seldom utilized landlines during their adolescence. They will continue to live on their cell phones and communicate via texting. Roommates, few of whom have ever shared a bedroom, have already checked out each other on Facebook where they have shared their most personal thoughts with the whole world.

  • Students entering college for the first time this fall were generally born in 1990.
  • GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
  • Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
  • WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling.
  • Caller ID has always been available on phones.
  • Windows 3.0 operating system made IBM PCs user-friendly the year they were born.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.

See the entire Beloit College Mindset List

Mobile metrics

I’m in the middle of reading Cameron Moll’s Mobile Web Design book and the first couple of chapters do a fantastic job of putting mobile use in context. One of the citations lead me to Putting 2.7 billion in context: Mobile phone users (Jan 2008). Here are some highlights from that blog post (though I highly recommend reading all of it):

“Real Networks reported in 2007 that 25% of all mobile phone users around the world access the internet on their phones. That is a staggering 825 million people already.”

“63% of all people who access the internet do so from their phones at least part of the time”

“…projected that to be 2.4 billion active users of SMS texting at the end of 2007″ “So one in three people on the planet already uses SMS text messaging.” compared to “800 million active users of email”

And then there’s this little nugget from Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Best Application UIs of 2008:

“Although dedicated mobile apps are not yet good enough to win in their own right, it was striking how many of this year’s winners have a mobile component. Mobile is definitively the trend to watch for next year, and any application owner should think hard about whether and how to add mobile features in 2009.”

Survey for people who make websites

Do you do web development as part of your job? If yes, then take this survey:
http://alistapart.com/articles/survey2008

A List Apart survey

Calling all designers, developers, information architects, project managers, writers, editors, marketers, and everyone else who makes websites. It is time once again to pool our information so as to begin sketching a true picture of the way our profession is practiced worldwide.

Last year’s survey sparked some interesting conversations about the disproportionate percentage of women in the field (only 16.1% took the survey).

2008 Horizon Report

I just finally got around to reading the Horizon Report.

In true 2.0 “practice what you preach” fashion – it’s available in a variety of formats!

What people are doing online

I just found this fantastic information graphic from Business Week that demonstrates what people are doing online and is broken down by age range. I particularly like the categories used: Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators, Inactives.

Looking at the Youth (18-21) column, social networking is the top activity for this group with 70% participating. I think this definitely supports the argument for “being where our patrons are.” At the very least, that we should be aware of where they are and think about how it informs their use of the web.

As an obsessive RSS & Delicious user, I find it somewhat difficult to believe that there’s relatively little activity going on in the “Collectors” category. Maybe these technologies just fit a niche need (the need to share links, need to have a central bookmark collection, the need to read way too many blogs).

Business Week Graphic

Link to source of graphic | found via Smashing Magazine

Data: Students + Facebook + Library Outreach

I posted recently about our library web survey but I thought it’d be interesting to talk a little about one particular question:

If you could contact a librarian via Facebook or MySpace for help with your research, would you? If not, why?

The main impetus for this question comes from a current trend for libraries to create Facebook apps that allow OPAC searching and other library related functionality from within Facebook. There has also been a lot of discussion and experimentation with using Facebook for reference and outreach.

There were a total of 330 responses. This was a free-text entry field so responses were organized and coded into basic categories.

The Data:

Breakdown of coded responses:
Facebook Survey Pie Chart

The data was cross-tabulated based on the respondent’s status to see if there were any trends in how they responded.

Responses by UM affiliation/status:
Facebook Survey Bar Chart1

A total of 23% of respondents stated that ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ they would be interested in contacting a librarian via these two social networking sites. Undergrads had a slightly higher than average percentage of 34%.

Nearly half of the total respondents stated they would not be interested, but for various reasons – the biggest reason being that they feel the current methods (in-person, email, IM) are more than sufficient. 14% said no because they felt it was inappropriate or that Facebook/MySpace is a social tool, not a research tool. Though this latter category does not represent a majority, these responses were the most emphatic. Of those who stated their reason as having to do with seeing Facebook/MySpace as a social thing and not a research thing, undergraduates and graduate students comprised the largest group.

Some of the interesting responses:

“Sure because its something that I check often and is quick and easy to use.”

“I wouldn’t, because I feel as if I can do most of the research on my own.”

“…facebook and myspace are very public sites…it’d be weird to contact a librarian that way.”

“No, facebook does not seem like a site I would use for school purposes. I don’t want librarians looking at my profile. Facebook is not for school, it’s for fun.”

“No, because you can already chat with them online through the library website and I wouldn’t want to contact a faculty member using my personal networking site.”

“No. I would rather just send an email or go to the library and talk to them in person.”

So what can we learn from this? There is definitely some interest in using facebook as a tool for more than just social interactions even though some perceive it as pretty weird. The weird factor is likely to change as more apps (like lookabee and CourseFeed) are created and adopted, more students friend their professors, and they start to realize more and more that privacy on facebook isn’t a given.

And what’s the harm? We’re not talking about friending every student in your subject specialization and sending them vampire and zombie invites (or whatever those stupid things are)… we’re just talking about being where our users are, marketing our services, and trying not to be left in the dust.

[Link to the full survey report pdf] [Link to all usability reports]

Library Web Use Survey

Our web team and I recently did a survey to better understand our University of Michigan library patrons – their web use, their library use, and their perceptions of the library. It was mostly successful in that now we have more information about our users than we did before. As with all usability/survey studies, the results merely provide a window into understanding our users. The things we learned in this survey can now be used in conjunction with other studies and log analysis to form a more complete picture. This is just a preliminary report… A full analysis will be put online at some point in the near future. We also plan to do a version of this survey annually – so we will also be assessing the survey itself to determine what worked or didn’t.

[Library Web Survey Fall 2007 Results & Preliminary Analysis]

update: link updated

8 alternative ways to study your [library] users

Inspired by a Smashing Magazine article – 20 (Alternate) Ways to Focus on Users – I thought I’d put together a list of alternative ways to focus on Library Users…

  1. Interact with the patrons (outside of a usability setting): reference, email, suggestion box, etc. If reference isn’t part of your regular job duties, volunteer for a shift of your own (or just sit in on one now and then). If you’re lucky, you’ll have interactions dealing directly with the resources you are have a say in changing. But at the very least, you’ll get to experience the patrons on a human level – what brought them to the reference desk, what types of assignments they have, what language do they use to describe their needs, what they’re generally distracted by or have difficulty with…
  2. Talk to the people who interact with the patrons: (reference & instruction librarians). Not only do these people interact with the patrons everyday, they’re the ones who have to develop lessons and explain all those difficult to use resources over and over again. I guarantee they all have something to say about the difficulties of using the various library websites, opacs, and other resources!
  3. Log Analysis: what are they searching for on the library website and not finding? Are they searching for “Psychinfo” and not finding it because it’s actually “Psycinfo”?
  4. Be where they are (online): search the web & blogs for mentions of your library. Are students taking lots of photos of your libraries or making videos in your library and putting them online? Are they posting to their blogs about the library or about research, and what are they saying? Join Facebook groups. For example there are facebook groups for UM incoming 1st years, individual schools and departments have groups, etc. You can find out a lot about what are they worried about, what technology they’re using, how much beer they’re drinking, etc.
  5. Be where they are (in the library): go sit at a computer in the computer lab or group study areas in the library and eavesdrop. Just be stealth about!
  6. Ask them (Guerilla Tests): if you have a simple question you’d like answered this is ideal. It could be as easy as “We have a service called _________ what do you think that means?” Or, print out the home page of your library website and ask them “where would you click if you wanted to find ____________?”
  7. Ask them (Surveys): surveys are a great way to get lots of quantitative and qualitative information. My 2 favorite survey questions are open-ended “What do you like most about the library” and “What do you like least about the library” – you’ll be surprised how they have to say for both.
  8. Ask them (student advisory groups): lots of libraries already have student advisory groups in place and chances are they’d be willing to let you use that group to conduct a focus group or do formal or informal user testing.

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