Usability or User Experience

From Designing Better Libraries

First, my thanks to Bobbi Newman (@librarianbyday) for tweeting about Designing Better Libraries and this post Usability And User Experience – There Is A Difference which is an overview of this very interesting article by Frank Guo, “More Than Usability: The Four Elements of User Experience, Part I“.  These concepts aren’t completely foreign to me, but I guess I missed that there are entire fields of study dedicated to them (maybe it’s more of an Academic Library issue).  Regardless, I wanted to look at these four elements in terms of a hypothetical user visiting the library for the first time, rather than a person using a digital or online product or Web site for the first time (which is what he’s actually talking about).

The results of that exercise:

  • Usability – is it easy to do what you came to the library to do?  Can you find what you need? How’s the signage? Do the OPACs work? Can you browse non-fiction?  More traditionally, how easy is it for the patron to use your Web site??
  • Value – does the library provide value to the patron?  What do you offer besides books?  How well have you met the patron’s explicit AND implicit needs?  “A product that does not add value by fulfilling user needs does not provide a meaningful user experience—regardless of how well it might be designed.”  Oh look, another reason to do a periodic User Needs Analysis.
  • Adoptability – once a person uses the library, will they come back again and again?  What can we do to encourage the adoption of DATABASE usage in public libraries? I just had a long discussion about this with the new Director at Linwood…  Like Usability – the easier it is to use whatever service or product you hope is adopted, the greater the likelihood that it will be adopted.  Again, this article is talking about Web sites, but what can we do to make the Library be the FIRST place a person goes for information, book suggestions, or Friday night entertainment?
  • Desirability: Is the Experience Fun and Engaging? – Fun and Engaging – I like that in a library.  Guo talks about how Desirability is about “emotional appeal” – that soft squishy thing that motivates us to do business with people who believe what we believe.  Another good point is that “visual appeal drives desirability” – how visually appealing is the library?  Weeds and signs taped to the window, boxes of donations, and messy work areas visible to the public are common in libraries – how does that impact our desirability??   He also makes the point that desirability is dependent on the user’s context – does the library meet the unique needs of various groups (like teens, seniors, children and young families)?

Unrelated – Bobbi also tweeted a great article from Pew Interent about Broadband chocked full of good statistics.  Only 66% of people have broadband, so libraries are still needed to help the remainder!

Also heard this npr article, “Libraries Grapple with the Downside of E-Books,” on my way to work.  No mention of 3M or the Kansas push to own our content, but the rest of it seemed accurate.