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Increasing Student Success with your Web Site. Jerilyn Veldof University of Minnesota Twin Cities. California Digital Library- 2001. My Background. Web Redesign Projects U of AZ’s homepage - ‘96-97 White Paper

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increasing student success with your web site

Increasing Student Success with your Web Site

Jerilyn Veldof

University of Minnesota

Twin Cities

California Digital Library- 2001

my background
My Background
  • Web Redesign Projects
    • U of AZ’s homepage - ‘96-97
      • White Paper
    • U of AZ Library’s web gateway- ‘95, ‘97-’98
    • U of MN’s web gateway - ‘99-00
    • U of MN’s online tutorial - ‘98-?
    • FAQ, help pages, pathfinders, other pages...
  • Article & Presentations
    • Journal of Library Administration - vol 26, no. 3/4 (1999): 115-140
    • Internet Reference Services Quarterly - pending
day overview
Day Overview
  • Morning
    • Overview Lecture
    • Demonstration of a Usability Test
    • Begin creating a usability test
  • Afternoon
    • Prepare to administer usability test
    • Conduct a trial mini-test
    • Analyze results
Poor design --> usually due to the designers / developers who didn’t know something they should have known.

They needed more information about the user or the way the user interacts with the product.

“Know thy user,

for they are not you.”

Dick Miller

IT Solutions Specialist

Hewitt Packard

goals for a user centered design
Goals for a User-Centered Design

1- Create a useful site that enables users to achieve their particular goals and that meets their needs.

2- Create an easy-to-use site that enables users to move quickly and with few errors.

3 -Create a site that users like. Users are more likely to perform well on a product that provides satisfaction.

user centered design is an iterative process
User-Centered Design is an Iterative Process
  • Test… rebuild… test… rebuild… test… tweek….test….tweek….
  • With 3-4 iterations most design problems can be identified
pop quiz
Pop Quiz!
  • 1- What characterizes a library-centered design?
    • a) it’s PACKED with information
    • b) the link to indexes just says “indexes”
    • c) WE like it just fine
    • d) Hey, it’s all we had time for!
    • e) All of the above
pop quiz1
Pop Quiz!
  • 2- What characterizes a user-centered design?
    • a) It’s simple
    • b) The 15 year old next door could find if we owned Sports Illustrated on it.
    • c) You’ve tested it on your real users
    • d) Your real users have illustrated to you that it’s usable!
    • e) All of the above
Usability Methods
  • Higher $$ /
  • More Accurate
  • Usability testing
  • Focus groups
  • Group testing
  • Surveys
  • Lower $$ /
  • Less Accurate
  • Paper prototyping
  • Cognitive walk-throughs
  • Heuristic evaluation
  • Card-sorting
  • Matching test or icon intuitiveness evaluation
  • Field tests
focus groups
Focus Groups
  • Know your users, their goals, and how they see their world….
  • Understand their content requirements.
  • Understand their goals in using your site.
  • Feedback on projects and current products
identifying user goals
Identifying User Goals
  • focus groups
  • surveys
  • your experience
card sorting
Card Sorting
  • Used when trying to categorize and sort information
  • Also useful in determining terminology
card sorting1
Card Sorting

1- Provide users with 3x5 cards with one option you want to have on your web site

2- Ask users to sort into related piles and provide a label/explanation

3- Ask users to sort the piles into “super” piles and provide label

heuristic evaluations cognitive walk thrus
Heuristic Evaluations / Cognitive Walk-thrus
  • Each team member represents a user
    • what does this user want to accomplish today?
    • Why does this person come to school?
    • What motivates this person?
    • What’s important to this person?
    • What does this person value?
heuristics evaluations cognitive walk thrus
Heuristics Evaluations/ Cognitive Walk-thrus
  • Heuristic Evaluations
  • Rules of thumb - principles you will adhere to in your design
  • Do it individually, then discuss
  • Identify design changes
  • Fix them!
  • Cognitive Walk-thrus
  • Anticipate problems before bringing your users in
  • Envision the users’ route on their way to complete a task in your web site
  • Walk thru this route & ID potential problems
  • Fix them!
methods to achieve usability
Methods to Achieve Usability
  • Higher $$ /
  • More Accurate
  • Formal usability testing
  • Low-fidelity testing (e.g. paper prototyping)
  • Focus groups
  • Group testing
  • Surveys
  • Lower $$ /
  • Less Accurate
  • Cognitive/design walk- throughs
  • Heuristic evaluation
  • Card-sorting
  • Matching test or icon intuitiveness evaluation
  • Field tests
usability testing
Usability Testing
  • Observing a handful of users and seeing where they run into trouble. (Nielsen)
  • Don’t wait until you’re practically done!
  • Start usability testing at the front end.
  • Indispensable to our design.
usability testing1
Usability Testing

1- Identify tasks

  • create forms
  • test your test!

2- Build a post test questionnaire (optional)

3- Train your test monitors

usability testing2
Usability Testing

4- Recruit your users

- 4-8 users

- with 4 participants you can identify 75% of the major user interface problems (Nielsen)

- law of diminishing returns

5- Guide users to think aloud

6- Administer post-test questionnaire

usability testing3
Usability Testing

Who participates?

  • User (provide incentives)
  • Test Monitor / Path recorder
  • Recorder
  • Other observers

* Get all your team members to participate in testing

conducting usability tests
Conducting Usability Tests

See “Tips for Conducting Usability Tests”

  • Listen
  • Don’t lead the user
  • Ask neutral questions
  • Do not blame the user
  • Instead, feed back what the user did.
usability demo
Usability Demo

Roles in a usability test

  • Participant - need volunteer “Freshman”
  • Test Monitor - this is me
  • Path Recorder - this is YOU!
  • Recorder - we don’t have one
  • Observers - all of you

Go to ARL

usability testing4
Usability Testing
  • Debrief right after tests -- Do not wait!
  • Try mini-tests
    • - including on other web sites (don’t recycle others’ errors!)
  • Try simultaneous testing
usability testing5
Usability Testing


  • Determines exactly what problem is
  • Helps resolve disagreements about design by providing distance to product
  • Provides user-centered “data” for responding to outside requests
  • CONS
  • Small sample size
  • Risky - always put feedback in context of larger picture of what you know
doing your own testing
Doing Your Own Testing
  • Cultural / institutional differences
  • Cultural / institutional work processes


Time for a Break?

rapid prototyping on paper and computer
Rapid Prototyping on Paper and Computer
  • Make changes as you test (iterative design)
  • Paper Prototypes
    • Sketches of interface through task completion
    • Everyone on team provides input at same level
    • Users sometimes feel freer to suggest major changes, focus on high level, BUT may also interact differently with paper prototypes
guerilla tactics for usability testing
Guerilla Tactics forUsability Testing
  • Don’t schedule users - grab ‘em!
  • Try mini-tests
    • - including on other web sites (don’t recycle others’ errors!)
  • Try simultaneous testing
guerilla tactics for usability testing1
Guerilla Tactics forUsability Testing
  • Use our usability test questions
  • -
  • UsabilityTest_Feb_1.doc
  • Test on a Mon/Tues, make changes, meet on Friday and repeat
  • Don’t write up lengthy reports
  • Don’t expect it will work for your users because it works for you!
  • Be responsive to your users conceptual models
  • Test design elements on other library sites before “borrowing” them to use on your own site
more learnings
More Learnings
  • Experiment!
  • But… catch problems before your test participants do!
  • Be sensitive to cultural and institutional preferences in the “look and feel”
still more learnings
Still More Learnings
  • Think visually! - Illustrative graphics work
  • Look out for blind spots on your page
  • The words you use make a difference
  • Where you put things makes a difference
  • How big you make them makes a difference
defining success
Defining Success
  • Define your redesign goals
    • What’s the success rate you want to achieve?
    • Do you care about time spent on a task?
    • Do you want user satisfaction/perception data from an online survey?
    • Do you want to extrapolate from web stats?
defining success1
Defining Success
  • Interlibrary Loan - All Tests Successful
  • Science & Eng Move
    • 7 Successful: Tests 1-6
    • 1 Successful in a different way: Test 4
  • Google - All Successful
  • Shakespeare Video - All Tests Successful
  • Book - All Successful
  • Math Library Hours - All Tests Successful
  • Journal Article
    • 2 Successful: Tests 2, 6
    • 4 Unsuccessful: Tests 1, 3, 4, 5
  • Sports Illustrated
    • 3 Successful: Tests 3, 4, 5
    • 3 Unsuccessful: Tests 1,2,6
make the difference
Make the Difference!

You can make the difference between:

  • creating a confusing, unsuccessful, miserable research experience for your users


  • creating a highly successful, positive research experience.

“You will debug whether you choose to or not.

Your decision is whether to debug publicly or privately.”

  • Dennis Schmidt - IBM Rochester, MN
Jerilyn Veldof

User Education Coordinator

University of Minnesota Libraries


usability resources
Usability Resources
  • Usability and Libraries: Articles include Dickstein 2000, Payette 1998; Campbell 1999; Chisman 1999, Veldof 1999, Veldof 2001
  • Nielsen, Jakob. Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity.
  • Rubin, Jeffrey. Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests.
  • Krug, Steve. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability