Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Final Curtain

The document below is our final synthesis report which draws together our thoughts and observations from the past 6 months or so of the JISC LMS Programme. You can also download the report as a PDF [edit: link has now been changed to a googledoc link. Click 'File' > 'Download original' to access the report in pdf format].

While searching for inspiration for the title of this blogpost I stumbled across the thought provoking and was hit by the thought that maybe we'll meet again in the future as we stroll through a memorial theme park for JISC projects. [We've all got our dreams :)]

Friday, 18 March 2011

Workshop Slides - JISC 2011 Conference

As part of the ongoing dissemination of the JISC LMS programme, David Kay and myself ran a workshop at the recent JISC annual conference. We promised to make our slides available online so here they are:

We couldn't run the session as interactively as we'd planned due to the number of folks who got waylaid by lunch and networking but that's probably just as well given that I could easily have spent the whole time we had available talking about the interesting things which came out of the projects.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Theme Focus: Search

Search functionality is a fairly fundamental element of each of the JISC LMS projects so it would be foolhardy of me to try and document every single blogpost. The blogposts I've linked to below give a good representation of the sorts of issues and challenges that the projects have been tackling.

One of the things that often comes up as soon as you get anywhere near a library search interface is the thorny issue of 'advanced search'. I am starting to wonder whether it is only librarians themselves who can truly love this feature. It would be interesting to look at usage stats to see whether advanced searches get as much usage as library staff think they do/should do [and also whether that usage is changing over time].

Making a user friendly 'advanced search' interface is a particularly thorny challenge. During inhouse training sessions the #SWWHEPSRCH project team got feedback that the iFind advanced search was 'a little confusing'. The #BFCESEARCH team also reported that few users chose to use the advanced search function, and those who did 'found the option boxes confusing'.

When the #BLATHULL project analysed the results of their usability testing they found that opinions were divided on the usefulness of a) a tag cloud and b) a display of 'recently added' bookcovers(they were comparing SearchWorks at Stanford University and VirgoBeta at the University of Virginia). If the users are divided in their feedback then this makes getting the interface right all the more difficult.

Of course, implementing a new search often uncovers all sorts of data conundrums:

The UX2.0 project crafted some indepth technical guides to share how they're implementing faceted search, Apache Solr and Dublin Core Metadata:
- Part 1
- Part 2

The #AQUABROWSERUX project also shared their know how around how you can develop realistic user tests when looking at search functionality.

The #ENCLAVELMS team have written a relevant blogposts on whether wordclouds are the future of search and also their thoughts on what library search functionality could be usefully embedded within their VLE.

Lastly, just to mix things up a bit, here are a couple of high profile and large-scale beta search interfaces that may be of interest:
- British Library search beta

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Theme Focus: Open Source

The key projects with an interest in open source are as follows:
- #OSSVIAB: Project to produce a detailed evaluation of functionality to UK Core Specifications requirements of the open source library system, Evergreen. [project blog]
- #BLATHULL: Case study examining the implementation of the open source Blacklight discovery interface system over the library catalogue at the University of Hull. [project blog]
- #JANGLEFB: Create API connectors (via the OSS Jangle framework) between the Sirsi Dynix library management system and Facebook [project blog]
- #CREDAUL: Project to select and implement an Open Source next generation resource discovery tool ( to contain all the records of Sussex and Brighton Universities. [project blog]
- #VUFINDKEVEN: project implementing a re-skinned VuFind interface for the Kent University library catalogue. [project blog]

There's an associated JISC/SCONUL event happening early next year which you might want to attend if you have an interest in open source and academic libraries. It's a 2-day event which is taking place in Edinburgh from Tuesday 25th January to Wednesday 26th January 2011 as part of Mashed Libraries:
- More information about the 'Haggis & Mash' event
- The registration page for the event

Monday, 13 December 2010

Theme Focus: Usability [part 3]

This is the final part of my theme focus on usability and it's a treasure trove of blogposts and reports which have been written by the good folks at the University of Edinburgh. There are officially two Edinburgh Uni projects within the JISC LMS programme {#AQUABROWSERUX and #ENCLAVELMS} but they are also running the #UX2 project so I've included things of interest from that project too.

It's a bit hard to know how to structure this post so that it doesn't get a tad confusing but here goes ...

This blogpost gives an overview of the thinking behind the user testing and user centred design approach being taken for the UX2.0 and AquaBrowser projects.

As well as sharing their step-by-step guides for developing your own user personas the team have also published their own user personas for you to compare and contrast to yours:
- UX2.0 / AQUABROWSERUX User Personas
- [Part 1] User Research and Persona Creation: Data Gathering Methods
- [Part 2] User Research and Persona Creation: Segmentation – Six Steps to our Qualitative Personas
- [Part 3] User Research and Persona Creation: Introducing the Personas

The #AQUABROWSERUX project produced a full report on their usability testing. It has some particularly interesting findings around the usability (or lack thereof) of the AquaBrowser wordcloud and how useful the participants found being able to view a book's table of contents in helping them decide whether they'd found a book that would be useful for their studies. They also posted videos showing highlights of the user testing:
Video 1: Faceted Navigation
Video 2: Information Seeking
Video 3: Word Cloud

The project team have taken a very reflective approach to their usability testing so there's lots of lessons learnt to dig through:
- Recruitment evaluation and screening for personas
- Realism in testing search interfaces
- SWOT analysis of the persona research phase of the project (which also contains a link to their interview script)

Boon Low's guide to 'in the wild' usability evaluations also makes for good reading.

The #ENCLAVELMS project produced some useful analyses of the UX2.0 and AquaBrowser usability test resport as part of their Work Package 1 Report [pdf].

I don't feel like I can really hope to do justice to all that the project teams have managed to produce so I'd encourage you to have a dig around on the UX2.0 wiki for other hidden gems. The full usability report [pdf] from the UX2.0 project would also be a good place to start.

Tabbloid #11: 10 Dec 2010

Last week's Tabbloid proves that big announcements come in small packages:
- the #ENCLAVELMS project announced that the code for their wordcloud software has been uploaded to sourceforge and are inviting suggestions for how it can be enhanced.
- the #OSSVIAB project shared news that version 3 of the United Kingdom Core Specification has been made available under a Creative Commons licence.

Tabbloid also picked up an interesting post from the UX2.0 project at Edinburgh University which reported on a number of university libraries (in the UK and further afield) which are offering services via mobile devices

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Theme Focus: Usability [part 2]

This is the second installment in my round up of the blogposts and reports which focus on usability. You can read the first installment here and there will be a third and final installment coming shortly which will cover the wealth of usability resources that have come out of the University of Edinburgh projects.

Blackpool and the Fylde College project team has also followed the popular 1, 2, 3 format for their blogposts [#bfcesearch]:
- Post 1 gives a high level overview of the methodology they chose for the usability testing they carried out back in May.
- Post 2 gives some more indepth insight around the results of their usability study. I was particularly interested in their finding that the more confident a user was in searching, the more positive they were towards the interface. There are also some interesting findings around the confusion that was caused by terminology such as 'Search Scope' and the positive response towards features such as tagging once they were pointed out and explained to the participants.
- Post 3 covers what the project team learnt when they asked participants what additional links they would find useful and what format they wanted additional help to come in. The participants were shown the University of Minnesota's Assignment Calculator (which is available to download as open source software) and responded enthusiastically to it. Some users felt that contextualised onscreen help would be more useful to them than having to leave the search page to watch a video tutorial. All interesting stuff!

The Jangle for Users of Sirsi project at Leeds Met University [#janglefb] was all about connecting their LMS to a widget in Facebook so it's no surprise to see that their conversations with users focused heavily on data security and the appropriateness of sharing library data within a social network:
- In this post the project team outline their approach to user consultation (focus groups and a user survey). Their list of stakeholders makes for interesting reading: the Student Union ‘Consumer Testing’ Group, a product consultant from Sirsi, academic staff and students on the Information Management MSc. It's also interesting to note that they were able to take advantage of use cases which have been produced as part of the library's 'User Communications Project'.
- This post shares some of the findings of that consultation. The consultation was on a small scale but enabled the project team to find out that Facebook was the most used of all the social networks amongst their participants. The users discussed their concerns around personal data and also identified mobile access as another route that they would be interested in accessing their library account through.

The Kent University VuFind Enhancement project [#vufindkeven] discovered back in June that £5 is all it takes to cause a 'bunfight' on campus when it comes to recruiting usability test participants. Here are the rest of their blogposts about usability testing:
- The project team reported that the results of the usability testing gave them greater confidence that implementing VuFind was right way forward. They also shared the high level findings on the Kent Uni Library blog.
- The team also ran mini-surveys on users' views about specific topics such as personal tagging. However, there was a disappointing response rate to their survey on social tagging and they've seen little evidence of tagging activity among users so far.

The Library Locator Project [#findmylibrarybook] at the London School of Economics wrote a fairly lighthearted post about how they could find some 'tame' library users and pondered whether they might be able to hijack their library colleagues' idea to run quizzes in the library using QR codes. Neil Stewart kindly pointed them in the direction of the work that Bath University are doing with QR codes.