Researching Usability

Posts Tagged ‘BBC

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.


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.

I’ve decided that since reading the excellent blog by Social Media Officer, Nicola Osborne, I have been inspired to start writing a weekly round-up of news/events/topics/discussions that have interested me. It will help me track my own research and hopefully be of interest to others.

World Usability Day (WUD): 12/11/09

Although this year’s theme was sustainability, the general purpose of WUD is to raise awareness of usability. So in that spirit I wanted to share some great usability related resources which I refer to frequently and that do a great job spreading the word:

  • UX booth: a blog with guest posts from people throughout the usability community.
  • UX blog: a blog from a usability professional, Barry Briggs who frequently posts links to other useful resources on the web.
  • IxDA: has a discussion forum on all things usability and new topics are frequently posted on Twitter to follow.
  • A List Apart: Very well known in the design community for producing great articles from some of the most prominent professionals around. Topics are not restricted to usability but also cover design, code and business.
  • UX Exchange: Relatively new to me, this is a simple UX Q&A site that aims to build a community lead, authoritative resource on the User Experience disciplines. Post a question and get an answer back fast.

I also came across a blog by Dana McKay on this year’s WUD theme which discusses the connection between usability and sustainability.

Library 2.0 Community

I joined Ning’s Library 2.0 community online yesterday and although I’ve not had much time to look through the site in detail, it does look like a promising resource for information, discussion and networking with like minded people.

BBC Digital Revolution: open source and collaborative documentary

Perhaps later than others, this week I discovered that the BBC are in the process of creating a documentary about the internet and are using a suitably interactive process to produce the 4 part series which will be aired in 2010. If you happen to be in London this weekend they have an event going on which aims to test the way the internet effects us. For more information please visit their site. It sounds really interesting and something I would love to attend if I wasn’t so far away. If like me you cant attend then there is lots of other stuff to check out on their site including film clips which you can not only watch but also download and edit. One interview which I was particularly interested in was that from Twitter creators, Biz Stone and Evan Williams. Something which they pointed out in their interview was that Twitter is essentially ‘Recipient driven communication’. This is a great term to describe Twitter and the fact that users decide what information they wish to receive and not the individual/company/corporation providing the information. This for me is one of the defining things about Twitter and the reason I think it has become so popular and consequently so powerful.

JISC mailing list: Web2

If however you still like your information pushed to you through more traditional forms such as email, a new JISC mailing list had been set up recently on the theme on Web 2 and its uses in libraries. I joined last week and have already started receiving emails with links to some useful information (one example being the Library 2.0 community above).

Twitter Re-tweet beta

This week people started tweeting about the Retweet functionality that was being trialled by Twitter and it wasn’t long before I got to test it myself. Yesterday however it was pulled by Twitter while they try to fix a bug. Anyway while it was available there seemed to be a lot of grumbling about the fact that users can’t edit their Retweets at all. This on the surface sounded crazy, the majority of people like to add their own value to Retweets and I could predict that many users would shun Twitters attempt at this service and continue using their own system through their respective client manager. However after reading an article on the subject from e-consultancy I realised what Twitter is trying to do. Quite often when users add their own comments to a tweet, character real-estate quickly becomes a problem and the users have to make an executive decision of what to delete from the original tweet. This quickly degrades tweets and consequently they become more difficult to track. Twitter could be trying to address this issue by removing this problem from tweets, leaving more room for content. However, I didn’t get the chance to try the Retweet function before it was promptly removed by Twitter so the jury is still out on this one!

Twitter Lists: filtering out all the irrelevant noise

Last week Twitter lists were the talk of the Twitterverse because they had finally been rolled out for everyone to use. At first it seemed quite novel to have a new feature but I quickly began to wonder how useful lists were in their current incarnation. Lists seem to be a way for individuals to categories groups of people they follow on Twitter, similar to groups in Tweetdeck. The group can be named anything and only be edited by the creator so if you find yourself in a list you don’t agree with there is little you can do about it, something which has been touched upon by others in the past. Additionally, if someone visits the group stream, there could be a large proportion of tweets which are unrelated to the group name. For example, although I am a usability analyst, not all my tweets are related to the subject. Thankfully I came across a blog which provides instructions on how to solve this problem by creating a hack to filter groups by a hashtag. This is a good short term solution but something I hope Twitter start to seriously think about as it could have a huge impact on the success of lists.

In plain English: Cloud Computing

Finally I wanted to share some brilliant videos which do a great job of explaining technology in laymen’s terms. They are by a company called Common Craft and their most recent edition is ‘Cloud Computing in Plain English’. They also have some other  useful videos on Twitter, Web Search Strategies and Social Media (which is a personal favourite because it uses a brilliant ice cream metaphor to explain the concept). Next week there is a free webinar from TechSoup which will be interviewing Common Craft, Mary Beth Facciolo from the Colorado State Library and Carolyn Blatchley from Cumberland County Library System in Pennsylvania to hear how they are usign these videos to support the needs of their community. If you are interested in registering from this event then sign up with TechSoup. bookmarks

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