Volume 8 Number 10
Usability and Evaluation
In last month's editorial, I wrote about the launch of our most recent D-Lib Magazine design and the factors we considered in making design decisions. Perhaps that is why usability is at the forefront of my mind as this issue of D-Lib "goes to press". Or perhaps usability is on my mind because usability issues prominently figured in some of the paper presentations at the European Conference on Digital Libraries last month in Rome. (See a report of the conference by George Buchanan in this issue of D-Lib.) Or maybe it is because I have been making travel arrangements and using various web sites some well-designed, others not to register for a conference, order airline tickets, make hotel reservations, and find information about the conference venue.
People who develop online sites and digital collections and services typically believe that their designs are intuitive to use or easy to learn. This is frequently not the case, but very few people who are frustrated or disappointed by a particular online site or service take the time to provide feedback to that site. It is often up to the developers themselves to find ways to evaluate the usability and usefulness of their sites.
The stakes are high. In these straitened economic times, it is even more important that money spent leads to quality results. As Emile Morse pointed out in her September D-Lib article, "Evaluation Methodologies for Information Management Systems", researchers need to consider evaluation at the beginning of the development process rather than as an afterthought.
Fortunately, more digital library research on usability and the separate but related topic of evaluation is being done and reported. In many D-Lib articles and brief items published this year, evaluation and usability are included in the discussion, and, in addition to Emile Morse's article, two other recent articles have evaluation and usability as their primary topics (i.e., Choudhury, et al., "A Framework for Evaluating Digital Library Services" and Bollen, et al., "Evaluation of Digital Library Impact and User Communities by Analysis of Usage Patterns"). We've been covering these topics and will continue to do so as time goes on.
As always, we welcome your evaluation, both of the form of D-Lib Magazine as well as its contents.
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