Usability Testing at Bobst Library at New York University

The Results

Here are the questions we asked, with a brief analysis of the responses and implications for the web redesign process.

  1. Find out whether the Library offered library instruction class in April. If so, what was the name of that class and when was it held.
    How easy is it to get information about Library classes and events? Eight of 12 users used the homepage category "General Information" to find the answer-but only because the rollovers indicated what could be found there. 7 users found the calendar there.
    ACTION:Avoid hiding basic info behind vague general categories. Comments included: "I didn't know you could find that on the Web" Basic informational goals of the Library include Library Events and should be linked directly to homepage.

  2. Do any of the NYU Libraries have the video "Man of La Mancha"? If so, please find the location and call number.
    Is it clear that videos can be found in the catalog? Can users get to the catalog easily from the home page? Many subjects went to "Media TV and Computers" and got stuck trying to find a way to search for videos. Some were looking for a way to jump directly to a search. Still, 7 of 12 went to Catalogs, and got into BobCat.
    ACTION: provide a link to Catalogs on the homepage. Make clear on homepage what BobCat has (not just books).

  3. Find out if the Library provides an electronic version of the Journal of Ecology. If so, please connect to it.
    Is the current format for finding electronic journals useful? 11 of 12 chose "Electronic Journals and Texts." (NO ONE thought to look in BobCat.) On the e-journals page, most chose "Science" or JSTOR (because it is on top?). Some had problems deciding whether ecology was a "science" topic.
    ACTION: The e-journals page needs some kind of a-z list or search by title. It also needs to be made clear that e-journals can be found and linked to in the Catalog.

  4. Does the Library provide Lexis-Nexis? If so, please connect to it.
    How useful is current format for finding databases? 5 or 12 went right to "Databases." 3 of 12 went to the catalog to search. 7 had a really hard time finding it. Some resorted to "Search this Site"-which DID provide a link by picking up info from the "About" files describing each database. Test subjects seemed to be looking for a very obvious hyperlink they could go to (some didn't know that Lexis-Nexis is a database).
    ACTION: Provide a clear path from the homepage to all electronic resources. Avoid jargon like "databases." Use behavioral language like "find an electronic resource-databases, journals, etc." Make it clear that electronic resources are in the Catalog.

  5. Is Bobst Library open on Sundays during the Summer?
    This is another example of a basic informational goal needlessly hidden behind a general category. No need for users to click further and scan a page of many unrelated links.
    ACTION: provide link directly from homepage; provide a link throughout web.

  6. Where is the New School University located?
    Since NYU students can use New School Library and find their resources in BobCat, they need to know where it is. 7 of 12 chose "Beyond Bobst." But some were confused by the list of "Consortium" libraries. A "search this site" search of the whole Library web displayed the file "consortium and other libraries" sixth on a list of relevant pages.
    ACTION: add meta-tags to relevant pages so search engine can find relevant pages.

  7. Find an article about the "Human Genome Project."
    4 subjects clicked "Catalogs" or used BobCat immediately. 4 chose "e-journals and texts". 3 clicked "databases" 1 tried "search this site." An age-old problem for libraries: how to direct users to the right place to find articles. Users must know or somehow be told what resources they can search at the article level.
    ACTION: Label links to Databases "Find an article" at the homepage level and on web-wide navigation.

  8. Find the name and e-mail address of the librarian who specializes in anthropology.
    Chose "references and services," 4 chose "general information" 1 chose "subject guides". Most chose "Ask a Librarian" and found info quickly, although some were confused about whether Anthropology was humanities or social science. Another thought it was a science. One said, "I didn't know librarians specialized."
    ACTION: Whenever subject information is provided, list subjects; do not ask users to guess among general categories. Link librarians and subject guides to electronic resources.

  9. Find Bobst Library's web page about physics.
    8 users chose "subject guides," but were unable to find info because the page is essentially an org chart. Unclear that physics info could be found under "Coles Ref. Ctr." 3 chose "collections." But this page is filled with administrative information not related to end-users searching for subject info. Some students use departmental pages for links to outside resources provide by our subject pages-others use Google and other web search engines.
    ACTION: Link Subject pages more closely to electronic resources by adding to e-resources database (under development). Explicitly link subject pages and subject specialists to Research Help.

  10. You're living off-campus and trying to use an electronic database, such as PsycInfo. It's asking you for a password. Please find the solution to this problem on our website.
    This is a common problem with no adequate expression in our categories. Some tried key word searching in "search this site": no results under "off-campus." Need explicit link to "off-campus" or some other regular expression ("remote access" and proxy server" mean nothing).
    ACTION: provide a script that returns a page when user needs to use proxy, saying something like "this site restricted to NYU…use proxy if NYU"

  11. You need to write a citation for a web page. Use our website to find information about how to do this.
    Users told us they did not expect to find this info on our website. Most said they would consult a book (!) 7 chose "ref and services". 3 then chose Virtual Ref shelf. Most found it by using "Search this Site" Resulting pages had word "citations" on them. Although 3 tried "How to use Bobst", only one located info.
    ACTION: if we want to bring this information to users' attention, we need to integrate Instructional pages more tightly with activities users expect to use the web for. Example: provide pop-up windows on e-resources pages.

  12. A book you've borrowed is due tomorrow. Can you renew it online?
    4 users chose "catalogs", 4 chose "ref & services" 3 chose general info, 1 chose how to use Bobst. Although 7 knew this function existed, most didn't remember how to do it or where to find link.
    ACTION: provide link or info directly on homepage.

next: summary/results