Researching Usability

Roundup 5th Feb: The Pleasure Principle

Posted on: February 5, 2010

So you might have noticed the different title for this week’s weekly round-up. The reason for this change is to make each week’s title a bit more meaningful to readers. I also suspect that navigating old posts would be easier if the titles alluded to the content rather than forcing people to remember the date it was written. It’s an experiment for now and I might tweak it a bit in the future so feedback is always welcome.

This week the team have been doing some final edits to the inspection report. Although the content was completed last week, a few minor changes have been done to orientate readers through the report, provide better context and tweak the layout. It is expected to be finalised next week (promise!) so will post download details when it is available.

Measuring the user’s experience: pleasure and satisfaction

Something that I was reading about recently is the idea of measuring the playfulness and pleasure of digital libraries. In a short paper by Toms, Dufour and Hesemeier- ‘Evaluating the User’s Experience with Digital Libraries’, they have devised a method of assessing the entertainment value of digital libraries by adapting an e-commerce experiential value scale. It struck me reading this paper that there is little research on this aspect of evaluation. As with the ITF framework, many evaluation models focus on usability, usefulness and performance of a digital library. However, there appears to be scope for libraries to be more than just for the purpose of finding, acquiring and using information (Toms et al.). This becomes important as new features and services are added to digital libraries. The heuristic inspection that UX2 carried out provides evidence to support this idea and suggests that digital libraries are already doing this: bringing people together through social media and using new UI patterns that provide a more engaging experience than traditional search systems. Good examples include the ‘Stuff’ feature provided by Scran and the timeline and map used by World Digital Library.

Satisfaction is another term used when evaluating digital libraries. Myke Gluck wrote a paper: ‘Exploring the Relationship Between User Satisfaction and Relevance in Information Systems’ (1995) which revealed a strong relationship between user satisfaction, the relevance of retrieved items and the process of retrieving the item. This supports the idea that there is a connection between the performance of a system and it’s usefulness to the user. It also reveals that the usability of the UI affects satisfaction, supporting the need to evaluate an information system by adopting a holistic approach. As usefulness and usability are both determinants in the user acceptance of digital libraries (as discussed in last week’s blog), satisfaction is an influential factor in the success of a digital library.

BBC Virtual Revolution Series

Back in November I blogged about the documentary series being created by the BBC on the World Wide Web. I realised this week that it’s now finished and the first episode aired last Saturday. I plan to watch it on iPlayer this weekend before the next episode airs. If you want to know more about the documentary and watch the episodes, you can do so on their website.

Nanocrowd

This week Phil Bradley blogged about the movie search engine, Nanocrowd. I decided to check it out for myself and was impressed. The autocomplete or autosuggest system prevents users from misspelling words, reducing the chance of returning no results. The only thing that seems to be missing is information on the movie. Synopsis information appears when a user hovers over the film link, this information is loaded directly from Amazon. However, users are more likely to select the film link and expect to find information on the following page. Although there is a ‘movie in a nutshell’ word cloud in the right-hand column, the body of the page is blank. It would be nice to have things like the synopsis in this space or at least a link pointing users in the right direction. Alternatively, move the word cloud into the body of the page so people are more likely to notice it. Overall, this is a great tool for exploring movie genres and discovering new films. I’ll certainly be using it next time I’m searching for a film that matches my mood.

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