The Universitat Oberta de CatalunyaÂ (Open University of Catalonia, UOC) employs user-centered design in all technological projects it develops. However, this process is not only valid for user interface design, but for any kind of product or service design.
User-centered design is
“a process in which the needs, wants, and limitations ofÂ end usersÂ of aÂ productÂ are given extensive attention at each stage of theÂ design process”.
For example, the process is applicable to libraries when designing and improving their service.
Likewise, LITA, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), provides training on how to apply the UCD process in libraries.Â Other institutions, such as Oregon State University, also favour this process and apply it in their daily activities. So OSU library has its ownÂ usability team.
However, most of the examples that we can find today are processes applied to user interfaces, such as the library’s website.
- User-centered information architecture of University Library Website
- User-Centered Design and Usability Testing of a Web Site: An Illustrative Case Study
The James Madison University Libraries explainÂ the process they followed to redesign their site.
We also found some examples involving the catalogue interface.
In this presentation, the Hamburg libraries talk about their experience with the Beluga project, the new library catalogue for the Hamburg libraries’ collections. They explain the results of focus group sessions with users regarding Beluga and offer some examples of other library services that they have analysed.
The case study of LIBRIS, the Swedish National UnionÂ Catalogue, is explained here:
On previous posts we have been talking about the linked and open data. The library, working as a publisher in open repositories, has an opportunity to enrich and connect its data to the semantic web through the integration of data from the Linked Open Data cloud. Other issues to be concerned with are matching and linking of published datasets or the use of authority files for dataÂ enhancement.
These are some of the questions that are thrown in the following list of conferences and resources about the semantic web to start thinking about why it makes sense for academic libraries.
Why libraries should care about the semantic web and linked data
Augmented realityÂ (AR) is all the rage. There are projects in all areas playing with this new technology to test its possibilities. The challenge, however, seems to be working out which applications are really useful to users.
An interesting initiative for finding out about innovative projects is ARlab:Â â€śThe AR Lab is a laboratory for the research of Augmented Reality (AR) and other new visualisation techniques (IVT). The Lab consists of a variable group of artists, designers, scientists, engineers and (art) students.â€ť
Some areas seem to be having success in the practical application of augmented reality, and more projects are being developed. One example is the education sector, where projects are being developed with wide-ranging aims and methodologies.
At the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia, UOC), one of the experiences being developed has allowed â€śforty Cultural Heritage students to collaboratively build landscape all around Catalonia using Augmented Reality elementsâ€ť.
Libraries represent another potential field where augmented reality could be used. There are a number of different pilot tests and projects, but to date there havenâ€™t been any successful initiatives where an application or service with augmented reality is commonly used by users.
Some time ago, we had a first look at the subject in one of our posts.Â What other examples are there?
- There are professionals using augmented reality in pilot tests to find out more about it and determine its uses.
- There are libraries that have used it to offer virtual visits round their buildings.
- The Miami University Augmented Reality Research Group (MU ARRG!) has developed a prototype AR shelf-reading app called ShelvAR to analyze an entire shelf, spot any misplaced books, and show librarians the quickest way to put the books back in order.
- You can find out about how to put a book back on the shelfâ€¦ (if youâ€™ve been in outer space).
But, as the study entitled The State of Mobile in Libraries 2012 has shown,
augmented reality is one of the aspects to work on at libraries in order â€śto stay on the radarâ€ť.
Users want a single search box. This is what our user studies, tests and surveys seem to show us…
Aaron Tay (National University of Singapore) reflects in his blog that users â€śdon’t care what the search coversâ€ť and Roberta Woods states in her aticle that they â€świll no longer tolerate anything more complex than a single search box and a single, integrated result setâ€ť. Richard Nurse (Open University Library) says that: â€śweâ€™ve looked at both our discovery search and the older federated search, and our catalogue and website searches. Looking at the top 20 results for each type of search then we find that about 40% of them are identical across all the search boxesâ€ť.
Should we concentrate our efforts, then, on offering our users a single search box?
Right now the possibility of offering a single search box is starting to become a reality, but we’re still far from the levels of quality we would like. We need to bear in mind that libraries manage documents in different formats and media, and records coming from different sources which, thus, require different handling: different subjects, different descriptors or metadata, different display ranking algorithms, etc.
Ghapery, Teague-Rector and Byrd wrote that our systems have to take into account factors that Google doesn’t. â€śA question raised in all libraries is whether our technology is good enough to be that transparent, given the variety and complexity of search options.â€ť
Thus, should we offer alternative ways to access the information, so that users can choose the most suitable way, depending on their needs, expectations and expertise? Options or tools that let them carry out specialist searches and use advanced functions that ensure pertinent, quality results.
The latter is not enough on its own and most users want simplicity. As Cervone said some time ago:
â€śStudents tend to search the box that is in front of them regardless of the results this box may produceâ€ť.
Bibliography and offline cites:
Troy A. Swanson and Jeremy Green, “Why We Are Not Google: Lessons from a Library Web site Usability Study”, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 37, Number 3 (2011), pages 222-229.
Jimmy Ghapery, Susan Teague-Rector and Sam Byrd, â€śKinda Just Like Google: Presence and Variety of Search Options on Library Homepagesâ€ť, Against the Grain 20 (3) (2008), p. 20.
Frank Cervone, â€śWhat We’ve Learned from Doing Usability Testing on Open URL Resolvers and Federated Search Enginesâ€ť, Computers in Libraries 25 (9) (2005), p. 12.