Research Results: Catalog Advanced Search

Project details:

  • User Experience Project ID: UX-27 Virgo UI Design for Full-text and Exact Search
  • Purpose: Assess usability of proposed changes to Catalog Advanced Search in Virgo. These changes will allow the user to select “exact” searching and/or allow the user to select full-text searching for keywords
  • Stakeholders: All Virgo users
  • Test date: 5/22/15
  • Test participants: 1 graduate student and 2 undergraduates
  • Methodology: In-person with paper mock-up of proposed changes

Brief summary of findings:

  • Two of the three users correctly matched search results to the search strategies, indicating an understanding of how “Don’t stem” and “Full-text” work.
  • Users did not readily understand the meaning of “stem” and “full-text”, but found the Help text clear.
    • (Some minor changes were made based on user recommendations: Discussing both stemmed and non-stemmed searches, including a fuller explanation of what the “full-text” option does, and using the term “group” instead of “phrase.”)
  • One user specifically mentioned liking the checkboxes.
  • The graduate student was well-versed in Virgo Advanced Search and easily understood how the new features work.
    • Undergraduates demonstrated more confusion with terminology but used good logic to anticipate how the features work.

Project Files:

Research Results: Available to Order in Virgo

  • User Experience Project ID: UX-544, Complete user testing and analysis for Available to Order in Virgo
  • Purpose: Assess usability and clarity of a new process on Virgo. Patrons find book records in Virgo and can select them to be purchased for the permanent Library collection. Electronic books are immediately accessible while physical books are ordered and delivered via the LEO or Ivy Stacks process to the requesting patron.
  • Stakeholders: U.Va. Library “Available to Order” project team
  • Test date: 11/6/15
  • Test participants:
    • 5 undergraduate students (2 second-years, 3 third-years)
    • 1 graduate student (first year in Batten School)
    • Methodology: “Guerrilla” testing, in which we approached students in the main hall of Alderman Library and asked for 5 minutes of their time in exchange for a candy bar. Testers were asked to complete six tasks on a server with test data to ascertain if the process was clear and if there were any areas of confusion.

Fig. 1: Sample Virgo record seen by testers

  • Brief summary of findings:
    • The link to request an item, which sat below the Availability box, was not readily seen by 5 out of 6 testers. When asked to request an item, testers first found and clicked on the link about the new service (AKA the “About” page). The recommendation was therefore made to improve the visibility and clarity of the request link. The link was refashioned into a button to make it more actionable.
    • Testers were able to ascertain from the “About” page what an Available to Order item was, how much it would cost them, and how long it would take for the book to arrive.
    • When asked where they would get help, all testers indicated familiarity with the “Ask A Librarian” service or that they would be comfortable asking for help at a library service desk.
    • Testers had no trouble understanding that clicking on the “Continue” button would initiate the order request. Testers commented that they’d also like confirmation that the book wouldn’t be charged to them and to see more information about what happens next in the process. One tester commented that he’d like to have a shopping cart, like Amazon, where he could then review his order before submitting it.
  • Project status: Changes were made to clarify the flow of the request process and the “Available to Order” service was rolled out in December 2015.

Project Files:

UX Team Priorities for Spring 2016

A high-level overview of UX Team priorities for the Spring 2016 semester is now available.

Highlights include:

  • Completing 2015 User Survey follow-ups and finalizing questions for 2016 User Survey.
  • Experimenting with ways to connect physical and virtual spaces.
  • Define and execute a mobile strategy; Launch v1 of a mobile app by end of the semester.
  • Implement technical efficiences and automation in web development process. Also establish a pattern library.
  • Create and present a web strategy.
  • Evaluate and improve signage.
  • Support Libra 2.0 work.
  • Conduct Virgo research in support of next version.
  • Complete a space use audit.

Questions? Please send them to me (Jill Heinze, Director, User Experience)!


Google is breaking out of the box with ‘Now on Tap’

The BBC reports on a Google innovation for mobile devices that analyzes the context of text to conduct searches with the push of a button, rather than typing in a search box:

The feature works with any app. And if someone wants to know something specific, they can trigger a contextual voice search by saying: “OK Google”.
One possibility would be asking: “Who’s the lead singer?” when a song’s name is displayed in Spotify.
“It’s search designed for the mobile world,” says Mr Singhal.
“You don’t have to switch windows to type information into one window and then go to another.”

The new functionality is being released as part of the latest version of the Android operating system.

The article outlines the business strategy behind the decision, the competitive landscape, and privacy concerns.

Will contextual search set the bar for the library search experience?

Outsmarting Robots is also Good UX

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.

Research Results: Staff Website Information Architecture

Project details: 
  • User Experience Project ID: UX-16 Reorganize Staff Website
  • Purpose: Reevaluate the information architecture (IA) of the Staff Website in response to expressed user needs.
  • Stakeholders: U.Va. Library staff
  • Test dates: Launched 12/11/14
  • Test participants: 31 Library staff members
  • Methodology: Remote, online open card sort
  • Brief summary of findings:
    • There was little agreement about what content fit under categories labeled by department (ex: “Human Resources”). This reinforces best practice which advises against an IA based on organizational structure.
    • Major content areas/themes users identified include:
      • Forms
      • Resources for Managers / Resources for Employees (to be combined into a label such as “Employee Services”)
      • Computing
      • Library Buildings & Spaces
      • In an Emergency
      • Organizational Design
      • Announcements
  • Next steps:
    • UX work is complete. Library Administration will interpret and apply user research findings in revising the site, communicating with stakeholders as appropriate.

Project File (Summary of Findings):


Research Results: Interview with Expert Manuscript Researcher

Project details:
  • User Experience Project ID: UX-119 Manuscripts Discovery
  • Purpose: Have exploratory conversation with a visiting expert researcher to understand the research process and mental models related to manuscript research.
  • Interview date: 3/3/15
  • Interview participants: 1 expert researcher (J.D., Ph.D.), U.Va. Library User Experience Librarian
  • Methodology: Extemporaneous conversation

Brief Summary of Findings

  • Opening up collections to user-contributed annotations should be seriously evaluated in light of the expressed needs shared in this interview, as well as in previous U.Va. Library user research on manuscript research. This would address many of the most pressing user and librarian challenges, and add tremendous value to the user experience. Indeed, this annotating is already happening within physical collections via note-sharing among researchers.
  • When digitizing collections, wherever possible, good date information and high-resolution, quality-controlled scans should be prioritized. Document readers should recognize the scale at which users need to read and print materials.
  • In terms of creating quality user experiences, it appears that those systems that save researchers time are among the most impactful. One of the most positive, memorable experiences this user related was of being able to find everything he needed in about 15 minutes thanks to a card catalog organized by date – an experience described as “awesome.”
  • Librarians have significant opportunity to add value to the manuscript research experience by facilitating researcher-contributed information and collaboration, and elucidating the context and connections among collections in a more broad and systematic way. (Currently, this is accomplished primarily through one-to-one interactions, which requires users to find the right person at the right time.)

Interview Notes and Summary of Findings

Research Results: Clemons Media Classrooms Reservation Form

Project details:


  • User Experience Project ID: UX-3 Room Reservation Systems
  • Purpose: Assess usability of proposed changes to Clemons Media Reservation Form
  • Stakeholders: Clemons staff who moderate bookings; Faculty and grad students who book rooms for viewing media
  • Test dates: 2/4/15-2/10/15
  • Test participants: 4 graduate students who teach
  • Methodology: In-person and remote usability test
  • Brief summary of findings:
    • 3 out of 4 testers wanted to visit the room before teaching in it to be sure it would work for their classes. 2 testers mentioned that a photo or layout of the room might suffice.
    • 3 testers found and used the Check Virgo button. 1 tester called the Virgo popup window “fantastic”.
    • All 4 testers expected an auto-generated email confirming their submission, and that there would be another follow up to confirm the reservation.
    • None of the testers tried to submit both class reservations on the same form. Only 1 tester saw the + option to add another date/time; None seemed to read the instructions below the Reservation Dates/Times heading.


Project Files:



The UX Spring Research Calendar is Full!

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:

  1. LibGuides v2
  2. Manuscripts Discovery (within Virgo)
  3. Libra Open Access needs assessment
  4. 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!

What’s Happening in UX

A lot has been going on in UX here at the Library, and I thought you may like a brief update:

Recent Work:

    • 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.

Upcoming Work

  • 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.

Thank you!