24 October 2010

Usability inspection of digital libraries

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Lorraine Paterson and Boon Low highlight findings from the usability inspection report conducted for the JISC-funded research project, Usability and Contemporary User Experience in Digital Libraries (UX2.0).

Demands for improved usability and developments in user experience (UX) have become pertinent due to the increasing complexities of digital libraries (DLs) and user expectations associated with the advances in Web technologies. In particular, usability research and testing are becoming necessary means to assess the current and future breeds of information environments such that they can be better understood, well-formed and validated.

Usability studies and digital library development are not often intertwined due to the existing cultural model in system development. Usability issues are likely to be addressed post-hoc or as a priori assumptions. Recent initiatives have advanced usability studies in terms of information environment development. However, significant work is still required to address the usability of new services arising from the trends in social networking and Web 2.0.

The JISC-funded project, Usability and Contemporary User Experience in Digital Libraries (UX2.0), contributes to this general body of work by enhancing a digital library through a development and evaluation framework centred on usability and contemporary user experience. Part of the project involves usability inspection and research on contemporary user experience techniques. This article highlights the findings of the usability inspection work recently conducted and reported by UX2.0. The report provided a general impression of digital library usability; notwithstanding, it revealed a range of issues, each of which merits a systematic and vigorous study. The discussion points outlined here provide a resource generally useful for the JISC Community and beyond.

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