Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

Useability Testing – A Mid-Project Reflection

For the past week, I’ve been in the thick of a practicum project based around useability testing for our school library website. The school library teacher practicum requires us to complete two “minor” non-teaching projects, one in the “administrative” side of things and one in the “technology” realm. 

Useability testing is “a research and development method that involves end users who provide feedback on the web site design.” In essence, I’ve spent this week sitting next to student volunteers, watching them navigate our website and talk through the decisions they are making and the thoughts that are going through their head. This weekend I’m going to start transcribing, comparing, and analysing my notes and the students’ rates of success on the given tasks. 

My mentor librarians and I have so many questions about how the website works in practice: Are the students comfortable using it? Were they taught how to use it effectively? Do they remember being taught how to use it? Have they practiced those skills since? If something in the website is hard to use, can we fix it? (Or is the problem with the EBSCO interface?) Most of all, can the students find what they need? Can they access it once they’ve found it? 

To effectively design and implement this project, I’ve been applying the content I learned in LIS 460 (Technology and the School Library Teacher) as well as outside research. Talking with my non-SLT peers who took LIS 488 (Technology for Information Professionals), it sounds like the coding and website building project also helps build the skills that would be applicable in doing a useability project like this. I’ve only observed six students so far, and we already have adjustments we are going to make to the website. It doesn’t take a very large sample size or high-tech equipment to glean meaningful input from website users. Both the process and the results have been fascinating, I really recommend a useability study. 

Resources used: Norlin, E. & Winters, C. (2001) Useability Testing for Library Web Sites: A Hands-On Guide. American Library Association.