UX research: balance and iterate

Interesting food for thought in this article published in the Weave Journal of Library UX:

The goal of user experience work, as I see it, is not a purity of methods but a balancing of these methods with a practical effectiveness of outcomes. If ethnography and service design can be understood as poles on a spectrum, with methods on one side and outcomes on the other, then user experience would be my term for the spectrum itself.  – Andy Priestner

I’m not sure I get much out of the idea of user experience as a spectrum between ethnography and service design, but I wholeheartedly agree that the goal of UX work is a balancing of methods more than a purity of methods. This view came up frequently in talks at both this year and last year’s IA Summit. FJ van Wingerde did an especially nice job of synthesizing how all the UX research tools we have are basically problematic, but we still have to use them:

We can do it

I’ve been tracking IT and web design-related jobs in libraries for a while now, but this is the first one I’ve seen that stands out as being so focused on user experience, they even want a terminal degree in HCI or a related field. And just yesterday I was reading the most recent issue of Library Hi Tech (v.29:no.2), which focuses on usability testing. One of the articles in that volume discusses the quality of research being done on user needs in the LIS field. The author, Elke Greifeneder, concludes:

These papers show that the quality of user research in our field is rising, that researchers know how to label and use methods appropriately, and that they are using a greater variety of methods. Finally, researchers seem to acknowledge that user research requires one small step after another. Instead of painting a big picture with a single user study that has many research questions, they do multiple smaller in-depth research projects, which can be interconnected like one big picture puzzle that might, in the end, give a better impression of how our users actually behave and what they really need.

Isn’t this exciting? I hope to see more jobs like the one Purdue has posted. To me, it’s a sign that libraries are finally moving towards seriously integrating UX into all our digital products and services. Maybe one day more than 28% of the major databases we subscribe to might even be accessible to people using adaptive technology?

UX and libraries, HCI and e-readers

This paper offers a nuanced and thought-provoking analysis of e-readers from an human-computer interaction standpoint:

Pearson,J., Buchanan,G. & Thimbleby, H. (2010). HCI Design Principles for eReaders. BooksOnline’10, October 26, 2010.

And this article in the most recent issue of College & Research Libraries News is succinct but  packed with crucial advice for managing library website redesign projects and really, actually focusing on users needs:

Fullington Ballard, A. & Teague-Rector, S. (2011). Building a library Web site. College & Research Libraries News. 72:3, 132-135.

I know I’ve searched for articles on these topics before, but I think the stuff I found must’ve gotten lost in my email. There have to be lots of articles on UX and library websites, right?  If not…I will write one.  One day.  And if I find some nuggets of gold in my email I’ll update this post with citations.  Maybe I should do some research on personal information management too.  :-/

Update: look out for this paper from the CSUN 2011 conference

Belated minor fame

I just checked my notifications on one of my Flickr accounts, and found out that a photo I had been asked to contribute to an online city guide was actually chosen and posted (like 6 months ago). It’s a picture of the Seattle Public Library, and it’s on a page about where to get access to the internet in Seattle. Ha! How appropriate. Here’s the main page for Seattle. This site is weird…apparently you can download their guide books and bookmark places. Actually this is a better description:

We released our first Schmap City Guides in March 2006: initially revised twice a year, our guides are now updated real-time, with local buzz for restaurants and bars from Twitter users, reviews from local residents, local photos from more than 300,000 contributing photographers, plus events, activities and local deals via users of our popular Twitter service.

seattle public library
the photo that will make me famous, along with 300,000 other people

Real-time guide books: that’s a good idea. I’ll have to check it out more when I activate my NEW SMART PHONE. Woo-hoo, welcome to the 21st century.

Random resources

The International Association of Yoga Therapists has bibliographies online relating to various health issues and yoga. It looks like the freely available ones haven’t been updated since 2006, but the variety of sources they include makes them a good starting point for research. There’s also a digital resource library with downloadable full-text of user-posted conference presentations, handouts, and papers.

And via a list-serv posting, I came across this “StreamNet Library: Fish Data for the Northwest“. According to their mission statement, this library serves…

“the scientific community of the Pacific Northwest and those working in cooperation with the region’s fish and wildlife recovery efforts, who are not otherwise served by a specialized library. We also serve the General Public who are interested in the issues surrounding the Columbia Basin and Salmon Recovery Efforts.[…]
The Library provides access to technical information and research on the Columbia River basin fisheries, ecosystems and other relevant subjects for states in the Pacific Northwest.” 

How cool would it be to be a fish data librarian?