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 |  usability & ux research @ simmons: stray notes & observations

Today I went to Simmons to watch the final presentations of the SLIS Usability & UX Research class. I'm potentially going to be a site supervisor for the same class next fall, so it was a good way for me to understand the scope of the course and the nature of my would-be role.

This is the second time I've been back at the ol' alma mater in the past few weeks, and I have to say I've been enjoying it more than I did when I was enrolled. By and large I felt adrift when I was a wee grad student, excluding my time spent in the academic technology department; that was where I began to recognize my professional strengths and develop a vague-but-coalescing plan for my career. Now, though, I'm having inspiring chats with people who are in my field or who aspire to be, and it's always refreshing to be around the energy and creativity of students.

I digress, though. I'm scribbing this out before bed because I want to make some quick notes about some strategies, tools, and takeaways that stood out in today's presentations.

 Morae - TechSmith's usability testing software [link]

 Cacoo - free (not sure about attached strings yet) wireframing tool [link]

Background research:
 Literature reviews that are more specific than just "UX" - e.g., competitive UX or comparative analysis, studies on particular platforms or tools like discovery layers, etc.

 Understanding what library-analogous online experiences shape user expectations - we've all been saying "Google" for years, but Amazon and online shopping might be a better point of comparison (particularly in relation to filters)

Testing metrics:
 Time on tasks, clicks, mouse movements measured in pixels

 Effectiveness, efficiency, likability (or desirability)

unshelved comic strip

 Confusion about news article vs. news vs. journal article

 Most users don't know what "relevance" means in regards to searching

 Disconnects in mental models or expectations for terms like full text, articles, databases, permalinks

User expectations:
 Discovery layers may be the new hot ticket in library circles, but for the uninitiated it can be difficult to understand what they offer (i.e., unified online and print holdings)

 Understandable, easily findable help pages are still in demand

 Main logos (those typically in the top left of the screen) should go back to whatever is contextually considered the homepage (Simmons library homepage when you're searching the discovery layer, the homepage of a digital repository platform that's embedded within a library site, etc.)

homer simpson overwhelmed by his workstation at the nuclear power plant

Fixes that aren't so hard, or new frameworks that could be adopted semi-easily:
 Unified color schemes and branding

 Improved/more complete metadata, better relevance ranking for search

 User testing at regular intervals - even once a year is better than nothing

Other stray thoughts & resources:
 Jared Spool's "Anatomy of a Design Decision" video - [link]

 There's big demand for a design-related followup course to take after Usability & UX Research, or some structured crossover between it and the existing information architecture class. Students seem to be raring to get their hands dirty.

 Curiously absent: a warning about, or maybe a built-in expectation for, the sensitive and political nature of design in large organizations and/or ones with a history of resistance to change.

 Also, the back-and-forth nature of making design decisions, the fun and intentional ephemerality of drawing paper prototypes, the importance of digesting and reacting to constructive criticism in a tactful way... maybe that stuff is beyond the scope of the course, but it's a huge chunk life in UX-ville.

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