We recently did a usability test of the library’s Summa based search engine – known as Search. To ensure objectivity the test was headed by Julia from UNI-C and was done as a think-out-loud test with eight users from the nearby university. You can download the report in Danish (English version coming up) or read a brief recap of the conclusions:
Bad stuff first:
- Use of sort and facets. Many test users didn’t use or had trouble using facets and sort features for narrowing down search results.
- The request list. Conceptually, the request list is hard to grasp for some users. In order to request a number of items, the user must put the items on the list one by one. Once done, he has to press the request button to actually perform the request. It seems that some users miss the last crucial step and actually believe that requests have been sent after the first step – but they have not.
- Search and request procedure for articles. Finding and requesting articles is perhaps the Archilleus Heel of the current system. Very often users think they can search for individual articles. In most cases they cannot, but actually have to go through a printed or an online journal to either find data about the article or to get an online version for download. Unfortunately, it is has been difficult for us to communicate this counter-intuitive circumstance to users through the interface. Clearly, we’ll need to have another go a the problem, but the best solution – i.e. having all articles searchable and preferably in full-text versions – is not likely to happen in the near future.
The good things:
- Todo list. The list has been very well received as many users like to keep information about material between sessions. Furthermore, the concept is intuitive and known from other websites and applications – and even from the real world
- Google style straightforward search. Overall the system is fast and easy to use in terms of searching
- Did you mean. The Google inspired feature is great for catching tpyos
- Suggest. The feature suggests words that other users have already searched for. The most popular searchs are show first.
This is a feature that many users seem to just use out-of-the-box. It can be used as inspiration as well as a quick-spell-thing
- Added value, such as book covers, table-of-contents, sample chapters, author biographies, etc. Many materials in our database have such extra content information added. Users like this and find it is very helpful in assisting them in making judgements about a material’s relevance.
Overall, we are very satisfied with the test because it confirmed some suspicions we’ve been having for some time now, and especially because it highlighted the problems related to the request list. We’ll be working with the problem areas over the next few months.