Library applications of business usability testing strategies

Publication Date13 Mar 2007
AuthorLeslie Porter
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
Library applications of business
usability testing strategies
Leslie Porter
West Hartford, Connecticut, USA
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate usability testing methods currently in use
outside of library science, primarily in the business world, and to find important techniques that can be
applied to library science to improve usability testing in libraries.
Design/methodology/approach Objectives are achieved through a review of the business
literature on qualitative and quantitative web site usability testing. The approach to the topic is based
on an assumption that businesses are constantly refining their testing methods in order to make a
profit; therefore, their testing methods are evolving and may ultimately be more efficient and effective
than the techniques currently in use in libraries. Because businesses are dependent on consumer
choice, they must provide user-friendly web interfaces developed out of usability testing.
Findings – The findings of this paper illustrate that there are many useful kernels of information
about testing that can be gleaned from the business literature and applied to testing in a library
environment. Testing methods not in use in libraries that are covered include: process-oriented testing,
side-by-side testing, hybrid testing, and unique qualitative data gathering methods.
Practical implications – There are many testing methods discussed in this paper that can be
implemented in libraries. The paper suggests how these methods can be adapted to fit a library testing
setting and improve the current testing process in place in most libraries. Improved testing methods
will ultimately result in improved web site interfaces, which will increase user access to information
and help libraries fulfill their missions to make information and online resources accessible to all.
Originality/value – Usability testing methods currently not in use in libraries are proposed. The
methods discussed can help librarians change and improve their testing methodologies in order to help
libraries compete in the increasingly crowded information marketplace.
Keywords Tests and testing,Learning, Internet, Organizational processes, Academiclibraries
Paper type Case study
For almost ten years, libraries have been building a tradition of usability testing that
serves as an essential resource for all librarians. The rising interest in this kind of
study has been brought on by an understanding of the power of the web; web sites are
serving as stand-in librarians, information gateways, and sometimes as the primary
mode of communication between librarians and patrons. In addition, libraries are
facing competition from non-library related web sites such as Google and Yahoo! that
do not offer the same access to free resources or value-added services that libraries do,
but often offer a more efficient and user-friendly experience. In order to maintain free
and efficient access to resources for all users through library web sites, libraries need to
continue to hone their usability efforts. By doing so, libraries can provide the highest
quality resources and services in order to serve patrons and fulfill the library’s mission
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
The author gratefully acknowledges Simmons professor Stephanie Willen Brown for her
guidance and encouragement during the writing of this paper.
Received 4 April 2006
Revised 1 June 2006
Accepted 24 July 2006
Library Hi Tech
Vol. 25 No. 1, 2007
pp. 126-135
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/07378830710735902

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT