Alpha website usability testing: What have we learned?

What Did We Learn from our Users?

In February, we conducted usability testing of the alpha version of the redesigned main library website. Students and library staff members volunteered their time to complete a series of tasks on the site and offer feedback. In addition, we gathered feedback from librarians and library staff at the UTM and UTSC campuses, as well as from staff at the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation (CTSI). What did we learn? Our findings might surprise you...

Students (and some staff) scroll down to the bottom of the page a lot before looking at the top navigation bar, no matter what device they're using.


Many participants found it frustrating to have to scroll down the page for a long time before finding the liaison librarian of interest to them. They frequently suggested solutions like a search tool or a jump menu, to eliminate the need for excessive scrolling.


Many users thought that the subjects guides (under "Databases: Subjects A-Z") has too much content. Some suggested that the boxes on the page should be collapsed automatically, so users only see as much content as they want to see.


Many staff found the "Request a Title" form very confusing. Common complaints were the jargon in the introduction, not having a "Staff option under "Status," and mistakenly giving people the impression that they can only request monographs.


Most participants never use the "Article Finder" tool. Instead, they use the search box, the "Articles: Advanced Search" tool, or their preferred databases.


Users who tried the "Article Finder" didn't read the instructions on how much metadata the system needed. They only realized they had made a mistake when they received an error message. A common suggestion was to enlarge the font size for the instructions, so they would catch users' attention more easily.


Some users clicked on "Catalogue: Books" to search for library material, only to have the current site return over 7 million results. This happens on both laptops and mobile devices.


On the homepage, a lot of users thought that the shift from two to three columns was messy and overwhelming.


The absence of boxes on the homepage makes it difficult for many users to distinguish between different sections of the page. One suggestion was to increase colour contrast.


On the homepage, many users found the positioning of the Boundless campaign button distracting and awkward.



Next Steps in the Redesign Process

ITS has used these findings and more to inform the next phase of the website redesign process: the development and launch of the beta version of the site. The beta version will be released around early April 2015.

If you would like to be a part of the next round of usability testing in April, please check our Twitter page and the current library website regularly for more information. You can also contact us for more information.

Thank you for all of the feedback that you have offered so far, and please keep it coming. We all look forward to a fresh new face for the main library website!

Facebook icon
Twitter icon
Google icon
e-mail icon
LinkedIn icon
Pinterest icon