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UX Tools for the Trade: IL2011 Session Summary

October 18, 2011

I’m *so* excited for this track: a whole track just on User Experience (UX). First up, Amanda Etches-Johnson from University of Guelph on tools of the trade!

Three things to keep in mind when designing your website:

Smaller is better
“Junk drawer” websites are not a good thing. You want to have a simple, clean website. Don’t take a “just in case” approach to designing your website. Focus your website on the majority of stuff your users want to use (aka FAQ approach).

We are not at the center of the information ecosystem for our users
In truth, we are not the starting point for most of our users’ searches for information. We can therefore rethink the way we design sites.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as applied to websites
Websites need to be easy to use and then they should be interesting. Easy is more important than interesting when it comes to your users.

5 Techniques

  1. Don’t redesign your website. People don’t like difference and change. People like things after they are comfortable and familiar with it. (aka “mere exposure effect”) For example, Amazon has never really redesigned its site. It’s essentially the same. Make small changes.
  2. Write for the web. People read functionally online. We scan for what we need. This is why you should think of your site as an FAQ. No one wants to read dense text online. Websites=information not documents. Think of it as a conversation. Active voice not passive voice.
  3. Navigation: Site Name, Page Name, Where Am I?, Where Can I Go?, How Do I Search? Users need to know all five things no matter where they are on your site. Placefulness is important to show where you are in the site and where you can go. Avoid navigational overload. Match labels and your page names.(Vancouver Public Library does this well.)
  4. Visual Design: Appearance matters. White space, typography, images all matter in creating pleasing, useable sites.
  5. Usability Testing: Testing your websites early and often is incredibly important. Critical tasks= must haves for your users. Start with testing for your critical tasks. Design with your audience segments in mind (use your personas). Ask library users and staff what they need and want. Look at analytics (check out using Google Analytics talk for ways to use analytics to test your website. Usability testing in five words: “Watch people use your website.”

Q&A
Using third parties for usability testing: Getting testing done by someone else, great if you have the resources. But, you learn a lot if you do the usability testing yourself. Morae for software, screencapture for usability testing (thought it could be overkill for most users).

Resources for “less is more” argument to support simple design for website: Etches-Johnson has to get back to audience for articles, but using analytics on your own site can be super-helpful to support your argument for “less is more.”

Number of users for usability testing: 5 users because after you will get redundancy

Librarians conducting usability testing: There is an art to usability testing so you don’t lead the users and don’t pressure the students in the tests.

When do you need a total overhaul, redesign of the website: Sometimes it is necessary on a case by case basis. Sometimes a redesign is not optional (happens if your library is part of a larger entity). Try to keep some elements the same, like where the navigation bars are located.

Attracting non-library users in usability studies: Go low-tech and take wireframes into student or community center to get feedback.

Approach design for mobile devices: Think of designing for mobile first because “smaller is better.”

Designing for accessibility: Very important. Need universal design approach.

The fold doesn’t exist anymore?: We know how the web works and people do scroll, so putting important stuff above “the fold” is not as important as it was in the physical environment.

Takeaway
Simple, clean, easy-to-use websites are best. Usability testing is key and vital to creating a usable website.

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