One of our first steps in this project has to be finding out what users really want from a mobile discovery interface. In this case users include OU students, OU staff and OU librarians. We considered the following three methods:
1. User stories – an idea borrowed from agile development.
- Method: This would involve asking users to complete the following statement “As a student/academic/librarian I want to …….. in order to ……….”
- Pros: This task is simple to set up, easy for participants to complete and might attract a higher completion rate.
- Cons: The resulting data doesn’t provide much detail regarding specific aspects of the tool.
Method: Setting a series of tasks for users to complete and analysing their success rate and which aspects of the interface design supported success or led to failure.
Pros: Participants would not need to travel to campus (the Open University is a distance learning institution).
Cons: Users would not be interacting in normal circumstances which might skew their reaction to it. This method might work better for evaluating particular aspects of the interface when it is more fully developed.
3. User diaries
Method: This involves giving people access to a prototype search tool and asking them to use it for searches they need to do anyway in their studies/research/work over a given period of time. Participants keep a diary logging how they fared with the tool.
Pros: Participants are using the tool in real circumstances and getting a feel for how useful it is in their day-to-day studies or work. The data acquired from the diaries has the potential to be quite detailed and participants can include both requests for functionality and feedback on the existing tool.
Cons: Participants may forget to do their searches through the mobile interface or may lose interest in a short time. Participants may not log their diary entries immediately after using the tool and may forget what they wanted to say about it.
After some discussion the MACON team chose to use the diary method. We will be inviting OU staff and students to participate by posting news items on the staff intranet, the library news, the Library Facebook page and OU’s Platform. Participants will be offered the chance to enter into a prize draw to win one of ten Amazon vouchers for taking part.