The article, “Will Smart Robots Take Your Job?,” from Ping! Zine was referenced in a U.Va. Today Daily Report. I was immediately impressed by the fact that the proposed qualities that will “future proof” jobs are also the very qualities that are essential for doing good UX work. Those key traits include:
- Overcome cognitive blindness. “You can overcome your cognitive blindness by strengthening your critical thinking. Start asking yourself, Why do I believe this? What do I truly know? What don’t I know? What do I need to know?”
- Get good at not knowing. “Rather than pride yourself on what you think you know, become an adaptive learner—someone who knows what you don’t know and how to learn it by asking the right questions…”
- Humility is a “silver bullet.” “Don’t be so consumed with being right—be consumed with constantly stress testing what you believe against new data. Treat everything you think you know as conditional, subject to modification by better data.”
- Become an egoless collaborator. “The powerful work connections that will be needed to build successful organizations will result from relationships that are built by authentically relating to another person, recognizing their uniqueness, and doing so in a respectful way that builds trust.”
- Sharpen your hands-on skills. “Artificial intelligence will in many ways make our lives better,” says Hess. “But it will also challenge all of us to take our skills to a higher level in order to compete and stay relevant.”
I can’t stress enough how important these skills are in UX work, and how difficult they are to attain! It takes a lot of restraint and practice to keep an open mind, and I for one purposefully try to get better at it with every user research project.
I’m interested to know if you recommend readings or techniques that help you do these things in practice.
I found Steve Portugal’s book, Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights, very useful in structuring questions in an open-ended way to prevent researcher bias from influencing results.
Update: Looks like you can find an instructional video featuring Portugal on interview techniques.
If you’re unfamiliar with user experience research, you may not know about all of the planning and milestones essential to the process. Typically, any study entails:
- Interviewing stakeholders and conducting needs assessments to clearly understand the end user perspective
- Developing a protocol, or test, that we plan to have users conduct on our systems or services
- Recruiting and scheduling users and note takers
- Reserving equipment and space
- Testing the protocol to make any necessary adjustments
- Conducting tests
- Collecting and analyzing results
- Presenting findings
- Making recommendations for changes
- Ensuring changes are implemented per user requirements
This semester, we have already completed some tests and are analyzing results for the Staff Website information architecture and Libra ETD documentation. Another test regarding the Clemons media classroom reservation form will wrap up today, 2/10/15.
We’re actively planning 4 additional significant research projects:
- LibGuides v2
- Manuscripts Discovery (within Virgo)
- Libra Open Access needs assessment
- Research for various possible Virgo interface changes
To help you visualize how this work will be carried out this semester, I created a Research Calendar that highlights some significant milestones for these projects. (It’s important to note that I’m still working out how to accommodate some milestones, so I’ll be updating the document periodically.)
If you’d like to learn more, please contact me directly and/or plan to attend the February User Experience Community meeting on 2/11/15. You can find the agenda on the Staff Website.
In addition to these projects, we’ll be discussing suggestions the group received and how we might address them.
Hope to see you there!
A lot has been going on in UX here at the Library, and I thought you may like a brief update:
- User Survey: I’ve been working with Strategic Assessment Services (SAS) and Library Experience (LE) leadership to develop a revised draft of user questions for the 2015 survey. I think we’re close to a final draft of questions that relate to LE. Staff will be invited to review the entire draft when complete. We have approval to deploy the survey on March 16th and keep it in the field until the 27th.
- Library Experience Area: I’ve been assisting LE leadership with planning for how to gather input to inform the area’s internal structure.
- Staff Website: During a coffee session, it was advised that information about the organizational design be made more clear on the Staff Website. So, I created some pages to make the most important details more easily accessible (pending approval). In addition, I completed a user study in which staff reorganized content according to their preferences. I will analyze and use the results to improve the Site’s overall architecture.
- Wearable Technology Event: On Tuesday 1/20, Doug and I hosted another session where staff could try out some wearable devices and explore their applicability to solving user needs. We plan to determine some ways staff can continue experimenting with newer technologies. PowerPoint slides from a User Experience Community meeting on the topic are available.
- Libra Documentation: I completed a user study in which users responded to the organization of documentation about depositing electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs). In response to implied user needs, we created an ETD submission checklist that will be available in HTML and PDF form. I’m in the process of analyzing results and will rewrite and reorganize ETD documentation content accordingly.
- Libra 2.0 User Requirements: I will work with Ellen to elicit user requirements for Open Access works. We’re considering early March for testing but the dates will depend on other projects in the queue.
- Room Reservations and LibCal v2: I helped complete a revised form for reserving Clemons Media Classrooms. The UX Community approved the changes with minor edits. I’ll be doing user testing as soon as possible to identify any unforeseen issues. I also met with Jack who will scope out what’s needed to migrate to LibCal v2. The group assigned to improve our room reservation process will respond to Jack’s findings and make preparations to migrate. (We’re tentatively planning to do so over the summer.)
- LibGuides v2: Tony, Starrie and I met with a LibGuides group to gather requirements for moving to v2 of LibGuides. Tomorrow (1/27), Tony and I will meet to review usage statistics, user research, and other data to inform wireframes for a new design. We’ll test design concepts with users once they’re complete.
- LibAnalytics – Research Partners: I’m meeting with representatives from the Research Partners initiative on 2/2 to determine how their LibAnalytics dataset should be modified to meet their data collection needs.
- Manuscripts Discovery: The second phase of testing for this project will involve having users identify and navigate manuscript materials within “full” Virgo. We’re targeting user testing for the first two weeks of March.
- Virgo UI Work: Solr updates were made so that the default search would no longer include the full text of items in our collection. However, UI work needs to be completed to allow users to override this default when needed. I’ll be meeting with Tony soon to discuss how to move forward.
- Most of the projects listed above are currently undergoing work.
- I’ve also received requests for smaller-scale usability tests, including:
- A request from the Circulation Community to test how Hold statuses appear in Virgo
- A request from Special Collections to test the Oral Histories Collection interface
- Priorities for this week (1/26) include:
- Analyzing results from the Libra documentation and Staff Website user tests
- Kicking off LibGuides v2 wireframing and user testing planning
- Finalizing User Survey questions
If you’d like more details about any of these projects, priorities, or upcoming work, please contact me directly, and/or plan to come to the next User Experience Community meeting.
Our next UX Community meeting will take place on Wednesday, February 4th from 3-4:30pm in Clemons 201. We’ll discuss these items and also suggestions the Community has received.
Thanks to Steven Villereal for sharing this assessment of LibGuides from the University of Chicago Library.
As we revisit our own guides in light of implementing v2, I was struck by a number of findings that align with other usability research we’ve done here on unrelated topics.
Here are some things that stood out to me, and I invite you to share your own perspectives:
- Users are highly task-oriented. You may have learned this from countless usability studies, but users come to our web pages to get things done. As uncovered in this report, some users were so task-focused that they even wanted guides to relate back to specific courses. We should keep in mind the concrete tasks that draw users to our guides as we curate them.
- Users love tutorials. I’m not sure how universal this finding is, or to what extent users would actually use the videos, but this report echoes what I’ve heard in interviews with undergraduates – that they would like short video tutorials on basic library and resource use. It’s a reminder that we need to consider ways to communicate information aside from text.
- Users hone in on search boxes. In a number of tests I’ve done, the search box always figures prominently in user feedback. They love them, but they often have the wrong idea about what they do. In the case of our guides, the default search is set to search Virgo. I’m betting many of our users would find that surprising.
- Users hate long lists but want descriptive text. I’d summarize this finding as, users want just enough but not too much. This study found, “…they [users] wanted some kind of descriptive text for each link. They wanted to understand what each resource was useful for, but they did not want to click on links to the databases themselves to experiment and discover that on their own.” This is completely in-line with usability principles. Clicks are like currency. Users are reluctant to spend them unless they have a pretty good idea about what they’ll be getting.
- Users want human connections! This University of Chicago Library study noted, “Our group also found substantial evidence that users want to see librarians as real people. Pictures of Library buildings featured on LibGuides were consistently viewed negatively by participants while pictures of librarians themselves, contact information, and “Chat with a Librarian” were consistently viewed positively. The personal connection appeared important to the patrons we surveyed.” This sentiment aligns with personal interviews and usability studies I’ve performed, and I’m often surprised by how often it pops up. Users want individual names and faces to help orient them to the library. Regardless of technology’s ubiquity, the human element is still a vital ingredient in our virtual presence.
What findings caught your attention?
I look forward to doing some research on our own guides in the near future, and I’ll be sure to loop you in to that process.
“Well, if they can’t find it, users can just do a search, right?”
I’ve heard this comment enough in meetings that it’s worth reviewing why a site search should not be the solution to bad information architecture.
The Nielsen/Norman Group recently published a fantastic article noting 5 reasons why we shouldn’t rely on searching as a primary means for users to find content. Here are some take-aways from the piece:
- Searching requires that users have a good mental model of the domain area in which their searching, including knowledge about what attributes are most relevant in their search. This expectation isn’t realistic. In the case of academic library websites, we tend to organize information by buildings and locations, disciplines and subject specialties, and services, for examples. Users who don’t approach our site with the same mindset would be at a loss when conducting a site search.
- Searching demands users rely on their memory. Users have to remember specific keywords and how to structure the best search. That’s a lot of mental work, and, therefore, not user-friendly.
- Search takes more time and effort (it’s costly!). Think about how many times you’ve had to retype keywords on your mobile phone because you touched the wrong key or auto correct intervened, and you can understand how searching demands more work from users than browsing.
- Site search usually works poorly.
- Users are bad at searching. Despite librarians’ best intentions and aspirations, poor search habits are ubiquitous. As stated in the article, “We keep seeing this over and over again: people have no understanding of what makes a good search query on a website. Their search mental model is corrupted by the big search engines and they expect search to work in the same way on every site.”
Yes, search is useful, particularly in cases where users have a good sense of what they’re looking for, but it is by no means an “out” for developing and maintaining a well-organized site that helps orient users to what we offer.