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OU Library Community: Collaborating with students to keep the library website user-friendly

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The library website gives you 24/7 seamless access to a world class collection of trusted online library resources to help you with your studies.  What you might not know is that behind the scenes is a small team of people making sure you can find what you are looking for as quickly and as easily as possible.

Keren is a Digital Services Development Officer in the Library, which as she admits herself, doesn’t tell you very much, but she does the very important job of ensuring that the website and Library Search are user-friendly, up-to-date and relevant so that you can find those all-important journal articles for your TMA.  Keren says that what she likes about her role is knowing that what she does is making a difference to our students:

When I’m doing a usability interview with a student who has been with the OU for several years and they tell me that they’ve noticed that using the library has been getting easier that gives me a sense of achievement”.

Here is Keren talking about two recent examples where she tested the library website menu structure and a particular aspect of the Library Search tool with members of the Library Student Panel to help students find what they are looking for more quickly and easily:

Library website menu structure

“We had a number of pieces of feedback through the feedback form on the website and via the Library help desk telling us that some people were finding the website difficult to navigate.  I interviewed a number of students and asked them to just show me around the website so that I could see how they use it, which bits they focus on and what they're trying to use it for.

 

I could see that in some instances people got to a point where they were just clicking very quickly from one page to another which indicated that they weren't finding the information that they were looking for. So following that we did another type of testing called a card sorting exercise. We put descriptions of most of the pages on the website into a card sorting tool online and asked students to and arrange them into groups according to the way that they think the website should be arranged Card sorting is a useful technique to determine how users categorize the information that will appear on a website.  We deliberately didn’t use the page titles because one of the important aspects of navigation is that the page titles should be self-explanatory and should show tell you what you're going to find on that page so we use descriptions instead.” If you're not familiar with card sorting as a research method or you'd like to find out more, take a look at this article.

Next we will do another activity with the student panel to understand how we can label the pages more clearly.  Once we have analysed how people have generally grouped the pages and what the page titles should be we will do another piece of work where we mock up a sort of pretend version of the menu and ask people to find particular bits of information using the new menu to check that the page titles are as clear as we want them to be and that people can find their way around the menu in the new structure.”

Library Search
“As a result of previous usability testing we  made a colour change in Library Search which will help students get to the full text of library resources they are looking for faster.  Students who clicked ‘View online’ from a search results page whilst taking part in usability testing were not noticing the white bar with the ‘open item in a new window’ link on the left hand side and ‘save and share’ drop-down options on the right hand side.

Before

 

So we added a pale blue background to this little bar at the top of the view online screen to make those links stand out a bit more from the other text appearing below them, which is also often on a white background.

 

 

After

Clicking on the ‘Open item in a new window’ often loads faster than the ‘view online tab’ which means that students can get to the full text more quickly.  The results of the analytics data are already suggesting that this link is being used more.

 

 

Next time we carry out some usability testing with students we will confirm that students are clicking on those links more than they were the first time.“

To find out what else you’ve been telling us and the changes we are making as a result of your feedback, scroll down to the ‘You said, we did’ section on the Library Student Panel page.

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