Over the past 2 weeks, we conducted usability testing of 2 proposed search prototypes and of our proposed navigation menus for the Web site redesign. View the following presentation for a summary of our findings from both studies.
To test navigation menus, 32 users were recruited in situ in the D.H. Hill Library lobby and asked to complete 4 of 15 possible tasks using a working prototype of navigation menus only. Each task required the user to open a navigation menu and indicate which menu item they would select to look for the specified information. Facilitators recorded up to 4 of each user's menu selections, in order of selection. The facilitator's assessment of task difficulty was also recorded.
What we found in this type of testing is that the menus were learnable, and that users quickly developed mental models for the global navigation. The 'Find' menu resonated as a broader term than 'Search.' The 'Services' menu worked well as a catch-all. The 'About' menu was used as expected. And, the 'Research Help' menu was somewhat ambiguous for end-users.
There was general confusion about where to locate databases. This problem existed in the search testing as well.
For the search testing, we again recruited participants from the lobby of D.H. Hill Library. Twenty eight undergraduates, graduates and library staff participated in testing 2 separate search models.
Each participant was asked to complete 2 tasks using one of the search models; many participants volunteered to answer more than 2 questions. Facilitators documented what tab the participant initially selected for the task, the search term used, and the path the participant took to complete the task. Facilitators also coded how difficult it was for the participant to complete the task.
A total of 14 participants answered 46 questions about the first search model; 14 participants answered 38 questions about the second search model. Our goal in this testing was to determine whether users pre-select tabs in a tabbed search model before entering search terms. We also wanted to look at how users interact with tabbed or non-tabbed search results.
What we found from this type of testing is that while tabs generally resonated with end-users, there was confusion between the journals and articles tabs. This was consistent with the navigation testing, and highlights the general issues about how to present journal and database articles in libraries.
What are our next steps? We plan to fold in recommendations from the 2 studies into our homepage wireframes. We also plan to build 2 search prototypes in the context of the new homepage - one with a tabbed interface and one with a single search box with links to silos. We'll then conduct more usability testing on the working prototypes.
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